Thursday, 12 January 2017

Ducks, Cuckoos and……Lobsters?

The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve have begun 2017 with a full programme of indoor and outdoor events, so there’s something for everyone.

Every New-year's Day we hold our famous "icebreaker" event during which we take people on guided walks to try and see over 50 species in under two hours. On my walk, I charge 10p per species seen, which works in our favour... if we see anything and if anyone shows up.

The weather is a big factor for visitors and birds. None of us likes a wet dreary day when it starts to get light at 10 am and looks like dusk by lunchtime, but that's what it was like on January 1st this year. All the same, half a dozen people came along on both of our organised walks and we ticked over 40 species of birds. I enjoyed it, but by the time we trudged and dripped along the tarmac road towards the Visitor Centre, all we wanted was a a warm room and a hot drink. The fuggy atmosphere and the cheerful chatter in the centre wrapped around us like a warm towel. (Remind me to bring an actual towel next time.)

The arable fields along the Haul Road are under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and our neighbouring farmer, Mr Rampley, does a great job in attracting flocks of finches and buntings, some of which stray onto our land too. As we walked past we could see flocks of small birds that could have been linnets, goldfinches or almost anything else. There were hundreds of them but we just could net get a good enough view because of the weather. Similarly there were flocks of larger finches and buntings as well as starlings, blackbirds and redwings all feeding in the dense cover of the crop. I'm sure we could have added a few species there, but we had to give up.

Fearing worse weather to come we have planned a couple of indoor events and one that uses our

On Wednesday January 25th at 2:30 pm, our own “Ranger Jim” will give an illustrated talk on the part lobsters play in the culture, history and economy of New England. There will be recipes too! Tickets £2.50 at the door.

The RSPB’s annual "Big Garden Birdwatch" takes place on the last weekend in January. It's a great activity for the whole family to take part in. You can download a pack from the RSPB's website at

As usual we are joining in at Paxton Pits, but in addition, on Sunday 29th January we are running our own “Big Lake Birdwatch”. The event runs from 10am to 3 pm and admission is free. We hope to show you at least 15 kinds of waterbird as well as our regular bird-table visitors. Volunteer guides will be on hand in our birdwatching hides and the visitor centre.

Nick Davies is the man to go to if you want to know about the scandalous private life of the cuckoo. His most recent book on the subject "Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature” is full of fascinating facts and unanswered questions about these mysterious birds. You can hear him speak on the subject on Wednesday February 1st at 2:30. Tickets £2.50 at the door.