Kingfisher Lottery funds a new Kingfisher Bank

The organisers of the Kingfisher Lottery Club are always keen to invest funds into projects that improve the overall experience of both human and wildlife visitors to the nature reserve. So they jumped at the idea of installing a Kingfisher Bank to improve the Kingfisher population.

So what is A Kingfisher Bank?  It is a number of artificially made nesting units installed into a steep earth bank at the waters edge. The units consist of a nesting chamber and upward sloping entrance tunnel. The units were chosen on the recommendation of many websites, including the RSPB. 

The base of the tunnel (1m in length) and chamber is made of mesh to allow drainage, while the main body of the unit is made from a breathable ‘woodcrete’ designed to prevent condensation. 

Where is the Kingfisher Bank?

The steep earth bank to the right of the Cobham Hide pit seems to be a suitable site to install the Kingfisher Bank as there is no danger of erosion or rising water levels. 

Why haven’t kingfishers nested there already?  

Kingfishers prefer a clear flight path into the nest site and over the years dead wood and branches have fallen into the pit. This has now been removed by volunteers. Which also improves the view from the Cobham hide. 

What am I looking for?  

Looking out of the window on the right-hand side of the Cobham Hide, across the pit to the bank, you may be able to see the tunnel entrances. They are approx. 10cm x 10cm so quite hard to see without binoculars.

There are three in total because kingfisher usually have two/three broods per season and build a new nest for each brood, approx. one or two metres from the original nest.   

While the holes are fairly small and hard to see, a kingfisher is hard to miss.  Although small, they are unmistakably bright blue and orange birds. They fly rapidly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches and they make a shrill ‘Toot Toot’ call.

How will we know if it’s successful? 

We are relying on our eagle-eyed bird watchers to record all sightings of Kingfishers seen at Cobham Hide via the sightings board/book in the Visitor Centre and Facebook page.   

In addition, at the end of the year, our nest box survey volunteers will inspect, record and prepare the nesting units for the next season. 

Common terns are back from Africa

At around mid April, we had a keen eye on the migration reports from Portland Bird Observatory and other southern locations as they confirmed that Common Terns were beginning to arrive in the UK, back with us after a long journey from their winter quarters in south and west Africa.

At Paxton Pits we were getting ready to launch the four tern rafts after they had been grounded for cleaning and refurbishment, and sure enough we were just in time. On the 17th April at 10am we launched and anchored the rafts on Heron Lake North. By 10.05am the first tern had settled to check them out, and by 10.06 more had arrived. 

Tern courtship on the rafts at Paxton Pits

Paxton Pits volunteer Janet had a front row seat:

“It was a real treat being out on the water. As we approached the buoys with the first raft in tow, a very brave black-headed gull stood defiantly until we were a few feet away and then it gave up and flew.   

“The Terns were not only quick to land on the rafts but they were also doing that synchronised walk that they do and presenting fish to each other.”

Exciting times now lie ahead watching nature in the fast lane at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, as the terns pair up, lay and incubate their eggs, feed the chicks, give flying lessons and then depart in late summer all the way back to Africa.

The Kingfisher Lottery Club has financed three of the rafts and one has been paid for by donations received by the friends. We are very grateful for all of your continued support as we look after these beautiful birds through their breeding season.

This is an excellent time to renew your Kingfisher Lottery Club membership. The joining form can be downloaded here, is also available at the Visitor Centre. Failing all else, do phone the promoter who will be pleased to send you the form (Martin Runchman 01767 690093).

Joining the lottery club means that we can continue to create further projects to help wildlife together.

Common terns thriving at Paxton Pits

A recent survey of the common terns which nest on the specially-installed rafts on the Heronry North Lake has revealed a bumper brood. Twenty-one chicks were counted this year, across four rafts anchored near Kingfisher Hide, and this is only a minimum as some may have been hiding in the tunnels as it was a very hot day. In 2017, seventeen chicks successfully fledged, so this is a good increase.

The rafts have been made possible by the direct and indirect help of almost all the volunteers involved with Paxton Pits. Whether you’re a Friend, a volunteer who helped build and install the rafts or a player of the Kingfisher Lottery, which provided the vital funds for the project – they couldn’t have happened without you.

The common tern nests on a type of habitat that has been in decline, and the rafts provide a safe, gravelled platform protected from predation from waterborne attackers such as otters by tall, clear plastic sides. It’s a joy to watch these beautiful and elegant birds over the waterways of the reserve, and brilliant that they have successfully hatched so many young this year thanks to all your help.