This page contains a potted history of Monks Wood, the wood not the research station. We will build on this page with the newest entries at the top.

February 2009.  The following article was written in the 1980s and sparrowhawks can now be seen at Monks Wood on an almost daily basis. Professor Ian Newton FRS, the leading authority and author of many books on this species, was based at Monks Wood for several decades, until we closed in 2009.


The sparrowhawk is a secretive bird which breeds in woodland and hunts small birds.  It is often confused with the commoner Kestrel, which is frequently seen hovering over the grass verges of motorways in search of mice.


Sparrowhawks used to breed commonly in the woods of Cambridgeshire, but died out in the 1950’s when organochlorine pesticides came into wide use. Over the years these pesticides have been phased out, with less harmful ones replacing them, and sparrowhawks have now begun to come back.

At Monks Wood NNR, a sparrowhawk nest was found in 1984 – the first for 25 years!The birds have bred there for three successive years since, and have also spread to occupy other woods in the area.Sparrowhawks are increasing throughout the rest of Britain, but because of the large amounts of pesticides used in Cambridgeshire, it was one of the last areas of Britain to be recolonised.The hawks still have small residues of the harmful organochlorine pesticides in their bodies, but not sufficient to prevent them breeding and surviving. 

The organochlorine group of pesticides contains DDT, Aldrin, Dieldrin and Heptachlor among others, and have been banned from much of Europe by EEC legislation, because of harmful effects on wildlife and concerns over human health.  These findings are just some of the results of research by scientists at Monks Wood Experimental Station, who have been studying the sparrowhawk for over 20 years.

The experimental station at Monks Wood is one of six stations that make up the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (ITE). ITE’s work is concerned with the natural interactions of plants and animals, and the effects of human activities on the environment.The results of this research are available to the government, and to organisations responsible for the protection, management and wise use of Britains natural resources.