This blog is a celebration of the nature in the South East and highlights ways you can get involved and explore nature in the region. If you've got news of the South East’s nature that you'd like to share, please contact the RSPB South East office on 01273 775333 or email SERComms@rspb.org.uk
How weird has August been? The weather's loopy, lots of people are away on holiday, my garden seed feeders are being depleted as often as they are in deepest, coldest winter and despite the heavy downpours, wetlands remain dry.
Both our Rainham and Rye Meads reserves have struggled to maintain water levels. On the plus-side it means you can get closer to small wildlife, such as water voles, insects and the like. The flipside is that waders and wetland birds are left with shallow puddles or depart for wetter areas. Despite this, numbers of wetland birds on both reserves are doing quite well. In contrast, the latest Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS) found that numbers of wetland birds on the Thames Estuary are down 20% compared with five years ago.
The WeBS findings underpin our argument that a coordinated approach is required to manage land along the estuary to improve habitat for birds. This is our Futurescape vision. It's ambitious, its exciting and its BIG SOCIETY in action.
This land stretches from Tower Bridge, past the Thames barrier and downstream to the mouth of the estuary, marked on each bank by Shoeburyness and Sheerness. Beyond here it merges with the newly designated Outer Thames Special Protection Area, hopefully destined to become a new Marine Protection Zone - an off-shore nature reserve.
Paying for all this work is the tough part. With Government cutbacks and everyone else tightening their belts, grand plans are few and far between. But we do have dedicated supporters who, like us, want to pass a healthy inheritance on to the next generation. Supporters like 14 year old Daniel Whitelegg, who's raised £300 cycling from Walthamstow to the Welsh border. Thank you Daniel.
He started his mega-cycle ride at our Rye Meads nature reserve. Always well worth a visit, the reserve has just welcomed back a male kestrel, which has had a three month break at the Raptor Centre near Cambridge. It had been receiving treatment to a badly injured wing. Which brings me neatly to the story of another holidaying bird. A red kite born in the Chilterns has been spotted 400 miles away in Scotland. We don't know if it will settle there but it's an indication of the success of our reintroduction scheme for this species, once thought extinct in the UK.
The swifts that danced over my house have gone. They'll be half way to Africa by now, but it gives me an opportunity to clean out my old swift box and try to fix it as high up my outside wall as my nerves and ladder will allow.
Hopefully, it will then be a bit more attractive to a passing swift next year.
I've also been humbled this week by a young teenager from Waltham Forest, who's cycling more than 200 miles to help secure the future of the UK's marine life.
14 year old Daniel Whitelegg is spending a week pedalling from his east London home to his grandparents near Newport. He set off with his Dad on Thursday, dropping in to our Rye Meads nature reserve in Hertfordshire, where the picture on the right was taken.
Daniel was inspired to undertake his epic adventure by an article in the RSPB's Birds magazine.
We successfully campaigned for new laws. Now they're in place we need to identify which bits of our coastline and territorial waters should be designated Marine Protection Zones.
Daniel's undertaking is huge and the weather's not in his favour. He modestly says "I'm a bit nervous, but I'm really looking forward to it. It will be a big achievemnent for me, as it's a long way." You can help keep him motivated by sponsoring him online.