2020: an amazing year for wildlife in RSPB reserves

New report reveals good news for rare breeding birds

New report shows that despite Covid restrictions affecting vital conservation work, many endangered species had a rush year in RSPB reserves in 2020. The highlights included breeding spoonbills, herons and rare plants, butterflies and spiders. More than 18,500 species have now been found living in RSPB reserves.

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions affecting access and conservation works in the first half of the year, 2020 turned out to be an amazing year for wildlife in RSPB reserves, with many endangered species having a record breeding season and many other species doing well.

The new report “Wild animals in the RSPB nature reserves 2020” contains all information about the wild animals in the nature reserves of the RSPB and reports on the ups and downs of the bird breeding season as well as other highlights of the wild animals. The RSPB currently manages 224 nature reserves in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These reserves cover 160,358 hectares, an area four times the size of the Isle of Wight.

Perhaps best known for the birds that live there, the reserves are also critical to many other species of plants and animals. In 2020, the number of species registered in the RSPB reserves exceeded 18,500 species, of which more than 3,000 were affected by conservation concerns.

Spoonbill, RSPB Frampton Marsh, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries

RSPB Conservation Director Martin Harper said, “The past year has been extremely difficult for everyone. Like every part of society, nature conservation was affected by the coronavirus and the associated restrictions. Important maintenance work had to be interrupted and much of the surveillance work that we would normally be doing was not possible. However, many of the species our reserves call home have had a successful year. “

Highlights 2020

  • Spoonbills: The undoubted highlight of 2020 was the successful breeding of spoonbills on RSPB Havergate Island. Three pairs nested on this reserve and were the first successful spoonbill nesting in Suffolk in at least 300 years. Meanwhile, at RSPB Fairburn Ings, where spoonbills were first bred in 2017, there have been six or seven nesting attempts that are believed to have produced a total of five young people.
    Great Egrets: Three pairs nested in the wetlands of RSPB Burton Mere in the Dee Estuary that have 11 young cubs. At least three great egrets in breeding plumage showed and built nests in another RSPB nature reserve where they had not previously bred.
    Cattle Egrets: These birds were first bred at RSPB Pagham Harbor, with five pairs of five juveniles escaping. Adult RSV Herons also flew to and from the Heronry at RSPB in Northward Hill, where they first bred in 2019.
    Curlew: 2020 was a record year for breeding curlews in the RSPB nature reserve with the highest number ever recorded. 29 compared to 23 at the same locations in the previous year.
    Rose Tern: The number of breeding birds on RSPB Coquet Island rose to 130 pairs for the fifth year in a row, the highest number since the 1970s.
    Heath Fritillary: The RSPB Blean Woods Nature Reserve has been found to be the prime location for this rare butterfly in the UK.
    Fen Raft Spider: This strikingly marked spider is the largest British spider with a wingspan of up to 7 cm. In 2012, they were reintroduced to the RSPB Cantley Marshes reservation where they thrive, and last year they were found to have colonized the nearby reservation at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen.
    Crane: Over a third of the UK’s breeding population is now in RSPB nature reserves. In 2020, 23 pairs were found in nine locations, including one pair that nested in an RSPB nature reserve on the Suffolk coast. This is the first time cranes have nestled on the coast in Suffolk.
    Beardstone Root: This critically endangered plant was registered on new ponds in RSPB Saltholme in 2020. So far it was only known from locations near Peterborough and the Western Isles.

Despite the continued success of most species, there have also been some disappointments for a small number of other species.

  • Hen Harrier: There was initial optimism at RSPB Geltsdale when there were at least six birds present in March 2020. Then there were two nests with catches of five and seven eggs, both provided by the same male. However, the male disappeared in May, causing both nests to fail. Around the same time, a second adult man who was present also disappeared.
  • Black-winged wagtail: In 2020, for the second year in a row, no pairs were nested in RSPB reserves, although they nest every year from 2014 to 2018.

RSPB nature reserves make a significant contribution to conservation in the landscapes and areas of which they are part and, despite covering only about 0.6% of the UK’s land surface, support more than 10% of the breeding population of 35 species of birds. However, nature reserves alone cannot prevent Britain’s wildlife from disappearing.

Martin Harper said, “Through our amazing network of nature reserves, the RSPB provides vital locations for nature and helps visitors see and connect with nature. However, according to the latest report on the State of Nature, 41% of species in the UK are in decline and 133 species have been completely lost from our shores since 1950. While nature reserves (managed by the RSPB or other conservation organizations) are magical places, your own will never be enough to reverse these declines. To curb the loss of nature and help revitalize our world, governments across the UK must ensure that 30% of the land is protected and managed for nature, while measures are taken to eliminate the direct threats posed by endangered species such as illegal ones Killing or introducing are exposed to invasive alien species. “

Although the UK claims to protect large areas of land (28%) and sea (24%), closer inspection reveals that this includes national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty that are not well managed for nature, as well as areas of Of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) who are in poor health and not adequately monitored. Given the recent reports of a lack of inspection or assessment, as well as species loss at these sites, the amount of land that is protected and well managed for nature could be as little as 5% of that of the UK. New protected areas are announced at sea, but only 10% of them are actively managed.

For more information on RSPB reserves and visits, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves