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Rare species seek sanctuary at Potteric Carr

Friday 7th July 2017

Lesser Emperor dragonflyCredit Darren Wozencroft

With sweeping views over a tranquil lake and reedbed, Potteric Carr is the perfect place for a spot of wildlife watching. Wandering deeper in to its patchwork of habitats, stretching around one and a half kilometres from the visitor centre, it’s hard to believe the reserve sits so close to the town centre. Wetland, woodland and wildflower meadows are all carefully managed here; this painstaking TLC has played a huge part in attracting a number of rare and endangered species to the site.

One surprising visitor this summer has been a single lesser emperor dragonfly. Emerald green eyes and a bright blue ‘saddle’ sitting between delicate translucent wings mark out this rare species, which has never been seen before at the reserve. These tiny, agile creatures are annual migrants to the UK but a sighting is uncommon. This one was spotted by a visitor patiently waiting in a wildlife hide, but some species at Potteric are a little more obvious, if only because of their size.

There have been at least 62 species of bird breeding there this year and I expect the number will rise to over 65 as we see young of a few more species. We’re on target to have a very good year.’ Reserves Officer Jim Horsfall  

Two breeding pairs of barn owls have been swooping over the reserve at dusk. These silent hunters only started to arrive at the site last year after nest boxes were put up as part of the Biffa-funded Boost for Barn Owls project, which aims to reverse their decline in the UK. The boxes provide owls with stepping stones between their grassland habitats and natural breeding sites. Recent sightings of breeding pairs are hopefully evidence that the project is succeeding.

Many rarer species of bird are drawn to Potteric Carr because of its reedbed habitat, which is scarce across the country despite being vital for lots of wildlife. Marsh harrier, who traditionally nest in reedbeds, have been frequent visitors recently; these imposing birds can have a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres and are known for their aerial acrobatics. The UK bittern population was almost wiped out in the 1990s, but Potteric Carr hosts around two breeding pairs annually, and lately there have been sightings on a daily basis.

Reserves officer Jim Horsfall said: ‘We get high numbers of breeding birds and migrant visitors at Potteric Carr as the habitat is so extensive and in great condition. There have been at least 62 species of bird breeding there this year and I expect the number will rise to over 65 as we see young of a few more species. We’re on target to have a very good year.’

For more information about visiting Potteric Carr please visit www.ywt.org.uk/visiting-potteric.You can record sightings and send photos taken at the reserve to potteric.sightings@ywt.org.uk.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is one of the lucky recipients of money raised by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, having to date been awarded over £1 million to help protect and restore Yorkshire’s wildlife. This money enables the Trust to continue managing over 100 valuable nature reserves, including Potteric Carr.