Review – March Indoor Meeting – John Meed – Nine Wells: a Haven for Farmland Birds 

After winter Zoom meetings that featured trips to Kenya and the Arctic Circle, our first indoor meeting of the year covered very local territory – a fascinating talk about a small area of farmland just south of the city, between the Biomedical Campus and the Gog Magog Hills. The Nine Wells are springs at the foot of the Gogs, feeding Hobson’s Brook, a historically-significant water supply for Cambridge.

John Meed has been studying this patch for more than 12 years, focusing on the birds (over 100 species seen) and also recording other wildlife (mammals, dragonflies, butterflies). In this talk, John first reviewed the landscapes through the year, with some of the wildlife highlights. He then discussed the surprising success of six Red-listed species of farmland birds (e.g Grey Partridge), contrasted against their UK- and Europe-wide declines since the 1970s. Considering possible reasons for this, he noted that about 12% of the site consisted of non-arable habitat (e.g. woodland, stream), and that the landowners were generally sympathetic to using wildlife-friendly practices. Finally, he looked to the future, and the threats posed by the development demands of Cambridge in general and the Biomedical Campus in particular, with a redesignation of the green belt.

This was an excellent, stimulating evening. The photography was sharp at all scales, and the maps and data-slides were clearly presented. John’s well-paced commentary raised some important questions, and these formed the basis of lively discussion after the break. Audience members were clearly surprised by the quality and quantity of wildlife to be seen so close to home, and concerned by the potential fragility of the site.

Tony Corps

To find out more about John’s studies of Nine Wells, go to

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA – image by John Meed
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA – image by John Meed
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA – image by John Meed