June, 2011

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South East

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  • Creating a Euro whine lake

    Working and living in London, it's a joy to visit our reserves or the countryside. Yet I'm all too conscious of the number of fellow Londoners who feel no connection with rural Britain and don't care where the food in our shops comes from.

    It's a sad state of affairs and maybe I and other conservationists are partly to blame. Why are farmland birds important to you if you're struggling to keep a roof over your head and your bank balance in the black? Well, time is running out to make corn buntings relevant, in fact we've less than a week to go.

    On 29 June, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, is due to unveil the EU's budget and one of the big savings planned is the slashing of some funding that is vital for wildlife. Here's the technical bit. Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy pays farmers to manage their land for wildlife. If it is scrapped, the emphasis will move away from custodianship of nature, towards exploitation of nature. It's a short term financial saving but a longterm disaster. Our countryside and wildlife will suffer and while food production will no doubt go up, it can't be sustained.Be gentle.

    Right now I need you to email José Manuel Barroso and let him know Londoners DO give a damn about our green and pleasant land. I want you to trample on his grapes until there's a flood of complaining emails so big, his virtual inbox-cup runs over. More than 4,500 objections have already been sent. The other thing you can do is hug a farmer, but give them plenty of warning, cause they're not used to us townies being supportive.

    After expressing this new found love for farmers and our countryside, please take a moment to enjoy it yourself. Find a green space, sit down and see how many different living things share that space with you. I'm particularly interested if you see a swift or a tree sparrow. We've got surveys underway on both species right now and to help tell the difference between tree sparrows and the more common house "cockney" sparrow, we've put red plastic rings on the legs of every tree sparrow chick hatched this year at their south London colony.

    Beddington tree sparrow

     

  • It's wet... but dry

    There's a drumming on my flat roof .. it's raining heavily and I can almost hear the plants and trees sighing with relief.

    Yet, newspapers and programmes continue to talk about drought. Now look at the lush green field pictured on the right. That's our Rainham Marsh nature reserve seen from the visitor centre at Purfleet. It looks good doesn't it?

    The image is completely wrong. The reeds along the trenches should be green not brown and the lush green field should be under water. This is a site that supports waders and wetland birds. It's going to be hard on them this year.

    It's an interesting week for our summer garden survey too. Make Your Nature Count runs until the end of the weekend. So far we've had good reports of bats. It's too early to offer any real comment but I can reveal that more than half of you who've responded have bats in your gardens. Less surprising with the current downpours is the number of people who've seen amphibians; 54% have frogs in their gardens and 30% have toads.Soggy blackbird pulling a worm

    In my garden, I have a couple of foxes, at least one grey squirrel, a jay, numerous blue and great tits and a soggy looking blackbird (pictured, enjoying a feast of worms brought to the surface by the rain). Whatever you see, please do let us know, even if you see nothing. It's important to know what is out there, but it's equally important to know what isn't there.

    If the showers have alerted you to work that needs doing on your roof, consider stepping-up what you can do for wildlife and install a swift nest box while you're fixing the roof tiles. These nest boxes need to be up high, under the eaves. These amazing birds can remain airbourne for two years or more, but their numbers are falling, so they desperately need our help.