Lakenheath Fen report by site manager David Rogers

Red Admiral ANL-140718-153255001
Red Admiral ANL-140718-153255001

We never know quite what weather we are going to get here in Britain. Managing a nature reserve, particularly a wetland, I do pay close attention to the weather. We need the rain to keep the reedbeds wet but we also like some dry periods for the wildlife so that we can get our work done. Our weather is so unpredictable. Will we have a glorious summer this year like last year and see a profusion of high summer butterflies during the school holidays or will it be cold and wet? Last June, July and August were warm and dry which was a pleasant change after the cold, late spring we had. This year so far has been the exact opposite.

This spring was early and warm, with little rain. In fact, despite all the rain the country had through the winter we still had a big water deficit from that hot dry summer of 2013 and had to use our river abstraction licence to top the water levels up in the reserve during January and March. Both March and April were much drier than average and water levels started to plummet rapidly, particularly on our wet grasslands. This was not good for breeding waders like lapwings and redshanks.

However, we cannot abstract water from the river beyond the end of March. It would be much easier to have a crystal ball to know what the future holds but that would take some of the excitement out of managing the reserve. May was much wetter however with above average rainfall and things look nice and wet again, if a little late for those early breeding species.

In July traditionally things quieten down in July. Most of the summer visitor migrant birds will have stopped singing and may well be rearing their second brood of young. The adult cuckoos will depart back to Africa leaving their offspring in the care of unlucky reed warblers who will be madly cramming

food into their giant ‘offspring’. With good weather conditions, we may see a profusion of insects including butterflies with July being the months for the browns: meadow brown and gatekeeper in particular. Given the right weather, the reserve will also be filled with dragonflies.

Come rain or shine we have plenty of events on here at Lakenheath Fen.

including our Wildlife Explorers summer club sessions every Thursday during the school holidays starting today. So let’s hope for good weather for those days at least. Details can be found on our website:;