News archive

February 2018

Monday, 19 February 2018

Adult bittern wading in reedbed at Lee Valley Country Park

RSPB heralds spring

Despite chilly conditions in some parts, temperatures in January were overall above average, with parts of southern England reaching 15C, enough to trigger a reaction from some early-nesting birds looking to gain a competitive advantage on rivals ahead of the breeding season.

The dawn chorus - nature's soundtrack - is one of the most well known and loved signs that spring is well on its way. Starting with the sweet, simple melody of the Blackbird, shortly followed by Robin, Wren and many others, the dawn chorus builds fast during February, with more places coming alive with the sound of birdsong as the month goes on.

But it isn't just our garden birds that have been exercising their vocal chords. The booming call of Britain's loudest bird, Bittern, was heard as early as mid-January at Ham Wall RSPB, Somerset. While the gruff, far-carrying call of early-nesting Ravens has been heard on a number of reserves as they take to the skies to perform their acrobatic, tumbling displays usually only seen at this time of the year.

Debra Depledge, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: "As we emerge out of winter and into spring, RSPB reserves will become a hive of activity as birds furiously prepare for the start of the breeding season. The warm January conditions will have stirred many birds out of their winter slumber earlier than usual, allowing some pioneering individuals to gain a competitive edge on potential rivals by making a start on gathering nest materials, securing a patch and finding a mate."

The warm January weather also acted as a catalyst for other wildlife. Throughout southern England, there have been a number of reports of frogs starting to spawn and newts heading towards the nearest pond as they emerge from their winter hibernation. The sight and smell of early-flowering woodland plants such as bluebells, primrose and daffodils have also started to greet people in gardens or while walkiing a woodland trail. These plants have evolved over many years to flower before the woodland canopy closes overhead, plunging them into darkness.

Debra added: "February is strictly still winter, but the mild January means that nature's calendar may have advanced by a week or more, making February a month full of great promise. The flowering plants, singing birds and the emergence of many other species act as a beacon telling us spring is on its way. So rather than wait till the clocks go forward to get out and experience the wonders of nature, make the most the reawakening of the natural world after its unnaturally cosy January."

The signs of spring's arrival makes it an exciting time of the year to explore the sights, sounds and smells on the RSPB's reserves, says the charity, from the fresh green shoots pushing through the soil, bumblebees emerging and, of course, bluebells creating a stunning blue carpet in woodland glades. It's also the mating season for many animals, including several early nesting and displaying bird species. To find an RSPB reserve near you and start discovering the inspiring signs of spring, visit

Sunday, 11 February 2018

National Nest Box Week 2018 announced

National Nest Box Week 2018 announced

Valentine's Day (14 February) 2018 will see the start of the 21st annual National Nest Box Week (NNBW), in which people across Britain are encouraged to put up a nest box for garden birds, announced the BTO this week.

Mid-February is the time that birds across the country begin to pair up or get back together for the forthcoming breeding season, and the search to find a safe place in which to build a nest and raise a family begins in earnest.

To help inform the public which nest box to use, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has produced a brand new guide. This contains information on the different types of box, where to site them, plans for how to make them and guidelines on how you can make your nest box count by monitoring the outcome.

Hazel Evans, BTO Nest Box Challenge (NBC) Organiser, said: "It's amazing how much of a difference can be made by the simple act of putting up a nest box. Two of our closest bird neighbours - House Sparrow and Common Starling - have shown dramatic declines in recent years, and by putting up a nest box we can help provide the space they need to breed, while also presenting an opportunity to collect valuable data."

No garden is too small for a nest box, and in the case of House Sparrow and Starling all you need is a little space high up on the wall of the house. Even if your nest box isn't used to raise a family it might still be used as a safe, warm and dry space to roost overnight.

Why not put up a nest box this National Nest Box Week?

You can find the BTO Nest Box Guide online. See here for more information on how to monitor your nest box once it is occupied, and here for more tips on putting up a nest box.