Links | Contact Us | Accessibility | About Us   

Summer 2023

(Click on the images for a larger picture.
If you are viewing Country Eye on a Smartphone or Tablet the page layout may not be as intended, please see Accessibility . )

Can anyone still doubt that we are witnessing the extremes of man induced climate change? Well, it seems that there are still some climate deniers, but maybe only confined to those with interests in fossil fuels?

So, is nature responding to climate change? Well Yes, but not necessarily successfully in every case. A 30 year study by ornithologists from Finland and Sweden of European birds populations documented a shift to the north and east of an average of 100 kilometres.

Great White Egret
Unfortunately, they found that mountain ranges and coasts were natural barriers, often preventing this northern movement, leading to at least local extinctions.

Here in the UK, there is evidence of this. Willow Warblers were probably the most common warbler in southern England when I lived in Essex in the 1970's, but now they are fast disappearing, whereas northern England and Scottish populations are still doing well.

Little Egret

On the other hand, warblers that do not normally migrate such as Dartford and Cetti's Warblers continue to expand northwards. I remember going on a pilgrimage to Stodmarsh in Kent to see and hear my first Cetti's Warbler. Now they are relatively common In Lincolnshire with two territories within a mile of my home.

I have written before about the northerly expansion of Little Egrets, but now that is being emulated by Great White Egrets and Cattle Egrets.

Black-winged Stilt chick

At RSPB Frampton Marsh, Glossy Ibises attempted to nest a few years ago and now, in 2023, this wonderful reserve hosted the first nesting Black-winged Stilts in Lincolnshire. Not just one, but two pairs. The reason for their presence is due to their normal wetland habitats around the Mediterranean suffering intense heat and turning into virtual deserts. Hence stilts and other species fly north looking for suitable nesting habitats.

Black-winged Stilt on the nest
This is where conservation organisations such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and The Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts can play an important role, creating and maintaining suitable habitats for these avian refugees and other wildlife.

Juvenile Black-winged Stilt

Silver-studded Blue

Northern expansion is not just confined to birds. British dragonfly identification guides seem to go out of date as soon as they are published as new species arrive and colonise our shores from mainland Europe. The Willow Emerald Damselfly is now a regular visitor to my garden pond and the Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly (Green-eyed Hawker in Europe) formerly confined to a small area in the Norfolk Broads has now been seen on the coast

Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly
at Titchwell Marsh and is perhaps colonising parts of Cambridgeshire and even southern Lincolnshire. Similarly, my old butterfly books did not give any sites for Silver-studded Blues north of the Thames, but I have seen this heathland specialist as far north as Norfolk.


In previous articles I wrote that The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's Willow Tree Fen hosted the first breeding cranes in Lincolnshire for 400 years, during our lockdown in 2020. The original pair of cranes have bred every year since and this year they were joined by two more pairs on the reserve and another pair that attempted to nest locally. After the first pair nested in 2020,

the trust decided to close the reserve and instead raised the car park to create an observation point from which the entire reserve can be viewed. Considerable management was undertaken to improve the habitats on the reserve for the benefit of all wildlife. This has resulted in the reserve becoming the biggest winter roost for Marsh Harriers in Lincolnshire, as well as an important nesting site for several pairs of these large birds of prey. The reserve also boasts impressive numbers of duck in the winter months and several pairs remain to nest during the spring and summer. One rare and very secretive duck; the Garganey is a summer visitor and almost certainly nests on the reserve. The best time to see them is shortly after their arrival in early spring.


Plans are in place to create more wetland areas on the northern half of the reserve, which could provide nesting and feeding habitat for more refugees from the Mediterranean such as Great White Egrets as well as habitat for the more familiar, but declining Snipe.

If we are to play a significant role in providing habitats for both newly arrived and declining wildlife, we need to create much larger wild areas and link together isolated nature reserves to enable vulnerable species of plants and animals to thrive.

Ian Misselbrook
August 2023


© All Images are the copyright of Ian Misselbrook. For further information, please

Some text may be lost if you are viewing with a low screen resolution - click here for more info