Sutton Fen bird reserve restored

A two-year project to restore one of the country's most precious wildlife sites to its former glory has been a resounding success. Wardens and volunteers at the RSPB's Sutton Fen reserve are celebrating the completion of major work to improve the unique habitats and restore the site's lost wildlife riches.

A two-year project to restore one of the country's most precious wildlife sites to its former glory has been a resounding success. Wardens and volunteers at the RSPB's Sutton Fen reserve are celebrating the completion of major work to improve the unique habitats and restore the site's lost wildlife riches.

The project has greatly improved the wetland habitat for a diversity of rare birds, insects and plants.

Bitterns, cranes, marsh harriers, water voles, and otters will all reap the benefits of improved breeding and feeding areas.

The work should also boost populations of some of the country's rarest insects, such as the fen potter's wasp (believed extinct for much of the 20th century), swallowtail butterfly, Norfolk hawker dragonfly, and the tiny Desmoulins whorl snail.

The project was funded by a grant of �49,050 from Biffaward, a multi-million pound environment fund, which uses landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Waste Services to fund projects that enhance biodiversity and benefit communities.

Over the two-year time span of the project, RSPB staff, volunteers and contractors removed more than two hectares of scrub to restore fragile fen and reedbed habitats. They created open 'glades' in the fen for breeding bitterns and cranes, and cleared out overgrown ditches to help scarce water plants, aquatic insects, water voles and otters.

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The grant also paid for local sedge cutters to manage the habitats using traditional hand-cutting techniques - keeping this centuries-old skill alive. Cattle corrals and bridges were installed to help the movement of Highland cattle, whose grazing encourages a rich array of fen plants.

Richard Mason, RSPB warden, said “It's remarkable to see the transformation that this work is already making for habitats and wildlife in the reserve. The numbers of rare plants and insects have gone up and more breeding birds are making their home here. We're hoping that some of the lost species that used to breed here will return - it would be amazing to see cranes and spotted crakes breeding here again. ”

Cath Hare, Biffaward Assistant Programme Manager commented,

“Biffaward is keen to support projects which improve our natural environment. This project will ensure that both the local habitat and the community will benefit through our investment for years to come.”