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
When I came home from my Big Wild Sleepout expedition, I found there was something missing.
I felt it intuitively as I approached the front door. Something in the street felt wrong. It wasn’t anything I saw, just the reverse, it was something I didn’t see. Something I didn’t hear.
It took me at least 24 hours to realise that the hole in my life was the absence of swifts. They’d departed for Africa without even leaving a note. Not even a feather. No trace at all.
I was hoping to have an evening where I could sit in the garden, raise a glass and say goodbye to wish them well on their 4,000 plus mile flight to Mpasa in Tanzania or maybe west in Brazzaville on the mighty River Congo.
While I head for the garden to prepare some autumn and winter homes for nature, they’ll be soaring over the jungles and lakes of sub-Saharan Africa, dong their bit to reduce Malaria by gobbling-up mosquitoes and saving crops from other flying buggy pests. Swifts are nature’s pest police. They play an invaluable role in our health and food chains but rarely get any credit.
Another special agent in the UK's secret pest police is the seven spot ladybird. There’s a suggestion from conservation colleagues that this year’s hot and messed up seasons have been bad news for seven spots. That’s very bad news for all of us. Without the right investment, our pest police are undermined, leaving our food crops vulnerable to unchecked infestations and giving disease carrying bugs free rein.
So while the swifts are away, it’s an ideal time to build new nesting opportunities for them in new buildings or to add nest boxes to older ones. Now’s a great time to build water features and acclimatise new plants into pots so they’ll be established come the dormant winter months. Effort now will have a huge impact on how we experience next spring and summer.
A bit of seasonal futureproofing is worth the effort. Think ahead and start planning your 2014 Welcome Home picnic celebrating sun-kissed swifts returning from their African patrols.