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. 

Paxton Pits Visitors – big and small!

Martin Runchman reflects on a recent visit to Paxton Pits.

After several days of heavy rain and overcast skies in June it was good to be able to make a visit to PPPNR, with the thought of an update on our summer visitors, the Terns, in my mind.

Having parked the car almost immediately I came across a whole other set of visitors, all hard at work.

A Cooperative Retail Management team were busy in the VC garden. A new flower bed was being built and a fresh coat of paint on the outside walls. Mark Bellamy the regional manager told me that 16 managers from around the local area including Little Paxton were working with the reserve head ranger, Matt Hall, on various jobs.

I quickly moved on as a hammer and nails appeared to be heading in my direction

With these visitors hard at work, and with gratitude for their hard work on my mind, I then encountered an even more joyful sight. Our Wildlife Trust colleagues had some dozen and more 4-5 year olds all with high vis jackets enjoying a nature play scheme. This sight just made me smile. A really great event and introducing children to the wonders of nature.

A few moments later a group of some 10 walkers were just beginning their walk which would take them right round the reserve.

So there we have it – an inspirational set of activities, and all taking place at our Reserve.

I did promise a Tern Raft update – and great news as some 30 plus Terns have been seen “sitting”, hopefully brooding eggs or young, and yes – several young chicks have also been seen. Fingers crossed for a bumper year. And thanks to all the Kingfisher Lottery Players for your support which makes our installation and maintenance of the tern rafts possible.

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.