12 April 2013
Last updated at 06:45
A fire at Siddick Ponds Nature Reserve near Workington, Cumbria could have a "devastating" environmental impact, according to Michael Heaslip from Allerdale Borough Council, which owns the site. "It is heartbreaking to see the damage," he said. "It's nesting season so this is the worst possible time of year for this to happen."
The large reed beds and open water attract rare and endangered bird species including mute swans, redshanks, sedge warblers, whitethroats, water rail, reed bunting and bittern, which are protected by law due to their low breeding numbers. This view from the north end of the reserve shows the home of more than 155 species of bird with perching posts for cormorants and floating islands for swans and other nesting species.
It took more than three hours for fire crews to get the blaze on 9 April under control. Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said they were fighting flames up to three metres (10ft) high which could be seen from over a mile away.
Siddick Pond is home to many endangered and migratory waterfowl and other birds. Half the reserve's reed bed and meadow was destroyed. Allerdale Council's parks and open spaces officer, Kirsten Mawby, said this would leave many breeding birds competing for space or displaced to other sites. Woodland to the north of the reserve - where owls nest - missed the worst of the fire.
A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), Siddick Ponds is owned by Allerdale Borough Council, which is now reviewing security after the fire. It is managed in conjunction with Natural England and the Friends of Siddick Ponds Nature Reserve, with the assistance of the RSPB and local wildlife groups.
Had the bitterns not left the reserve before the fire they might not have returned next year, Ms Mawby said. This picture was taken in September 2011 - the following shot shows the same area after the fire.
"Reed beds are fragile and yet resilient," Ms Mawby said. "Thankfully the fire didn't go deep into the thatch and so the rhizomes - which the reed regenerates from - are largely OK. The bed should grow back within a year or two."