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Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, managed by the National Trust, is one of Britain's oldest and most famous nature reserves.
This fenland reserve has a very rich flora and fauna with many scarce and localised species which were once much more widespread in eastern England. Amidst a vast area of open featureless cropland, the dense scrub, reedbeds and open water of Wicken Fen are an important sanctuary for these wetland species.
The importance of the area is maintained only by careful control of water levels or the wetlands will eventually dry out. Polish ponies are now used to control vegetation and keep water areas open. There are extensive reedbeds and sedgebeds, scrub of Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn and the area has long been studied with regard to ecological succession in wetlands.
Although there are extensive lists of plant and invertebrate species and Wicken Fen is ideal for the general naturalist, it is also an oasis for birds in this farmland wilderness.
 Notable Species
Breeding birds of Wicken Fen include wetland species such as Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler with Cetti's Warbler a recent colonist and Savi's Warbler a probable former breeder. Bearded Tit is now resident and other breeders include Great Crested Grebe, Water Rail, Redshank and Snipe. Garganey is an occasional breeder and Barn Owl is often seen hunting over the neighbouring fields.
Wicken Fen also has much of interest in winter with regular Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Sparrowhawk. Rare but present most winters are Bittern and Great Grey Shrike. This season also brings good numbers of finches such as Brambling, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll to the reserve.
Passage periods see the arrival of small numbers of waders including Whimbrel, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper as well as large flocks of hirundines. Spotted Crake has been recorded several times and may even have bred.
Situated away from the coast, Wicken Fen does not attract rarities with any frequency but species such as Night Heron, Great Reed Warbler and Golden Oriole have wandered from the south and Red-footed Falcon, Bluethroat and Barred Warbler from the east.
In May 2003 a displaying male Buff-breasted Sandpiper was present.
Birds you can see here include:
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Great Bittern, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Western Marsh-Harrier, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Hobby, Common Pheasant, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Golden Plover, Northern Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Eurasian Woodcock, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Stock Dove, Common Woodpigeon, European Turtle Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Common Swift, Common Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Skylark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Common Wren, Dunnock, Eurasian Robin, Common Nightingale, Eurasian Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Common Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, (Su), Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Bearded Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Great Grey Shrike, Common Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Eurasian Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Common Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting
 Other Wildlife
There are numerous marshland plants of interest at Wicken Fen including Greater Bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris, Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga, Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris, Ragged Robin Lychnis floccus-cuculi and Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus. Also found here are Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris, Fine-leaved Water Dropwort Oenanthe aquatica, Great Fen Sedge Cladium mariscus and Marsh Fern Thelypteris palustris. In the drier parts are Comfrey Symphytum officinale, Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor, Yellow Loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris and Meadow Rue Thalictrum flavum. Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa grows in profusion along the reserve's paths.
Wicken Fen is also an entomologist's paradise with more than 200 species of spider recorded and more than a thousand each of beetle and moth as well as dragonflies, butterflies and others.
The rare Otter may also be seen here.
 Site Information
 Access and Facilities
The National Trust reserve of Wicken Fen lies about 15km north-east of Cambridge and can be reached on the A10 north out of Cambridge, turning off onto the A1123 towards Wicken after about 15km. In the village of Wicken the reserve is signposted to the right, follow this and park in the car-park on the left.
There is an information centre with leaflets and guide books and the car-park has toilets. Entry is free to National Trust members but otherwise a small fee is payable.
There are two main trails at Wicken Fen each takes under two hours to walk and covers the main habitats and the boardwalk can be especially good.
A tower hide overlooks the mere and there are also hides with disabled access..
 Contact Details
Tel: 1353 720274
 External Links
Content and images originally posted by Steve