March 24, 2022 8.00 am

New viewing area open at Lincolnshire nature reserve

Cranes have returned for a third year

A new viewing area in the south of the county overlooking a Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve is now open, giving people the chance to see cranes and several other wildlife.

Cranes have returned for a third year to Willow Tree Fen, which is located west of Spalding. After spending the winter in flocks of up to 40 birds in the Norfolk Broads or the Nene and Ouse Washes, they return to their breeding sites.

The Willow Tree Fen pair returned a few weeks ago and have already started to breed. Sightings can’t be guaranteed, but the birds are regularly seen from the new view point.

Over the past couple of weeks, there have also been sightings of hen harrier, marsh harrier, kingfisher, great white egret, brown hare and roe deer.

The car park and view point are open every day from 9am until dusk (or 9pm) when the Crane Watch volunteers are on site. The volunteers will also help visitors see the cranes and other wildlife, as well as answering any questions.

Willow Tree Fen from the viewing area. | Photo: Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust

Over the winter months, work has been carried out at the nature reserve in south Lincolnshire to allow people to visit the site without disturbing the cranes and other wildlife.

A track which cut through the centre of the reserve has been removed and the spoil used to create a raised car park and viewing area.

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust said: “What has been achieved at Willow Tree Fen since the Trust bought the land in 2009 is remarkable.

“It shows the resilience of nature and how it can bounce back if given a chance. Since it became a nature reserve 1,137 species have been recorded including: 162 different species of beetle, 346 species of flowering plant and 173 species of bird.”

Cranes were extinct in the UK for about 400 years. The first breeding pair in the UK bred in Norfolk in 1981 and in Lincolnshire was at Willow Tree Fen in 2020.

The latest crane survey revealed a record 73 breeding pairs in 2021, with 40 chicks successfully fledged, bringing the total population to an estimate of more than 250 birds.