June, 2017

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South East

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  • Farming for turtle doves in Sussex

    Laurinda Luffman, RSPB chair of a migrant bird fundraising group, talks about a recent visit with farmer John Ford, to see his work to support turtle doves in Sussex

    Most of my days are office-based at the RSPB headquarters in Sandy, so it’s always a treat to be able to visit projects and meet the people making a difference for our wildlife on the ground.

    In June, I was therefore delighted to travel to the Adur Valley of Sussex, where a group of farmers are working to support farmland birds through countryside stewardship schemes.

    John Ford was introduced to the stewardship schemes by another farmer when he and his wife, Alison, moved to Priors Byne Farm in 1993. Their 500-acre farm is managed conventionally, with a mixture of livestock (Sussex cattle and sheep) and arable crops. But with areas of his Weald land tricky to cultivate, John says the farm is ideally suited to setting aside margins and fallow land for encouraging wildlife.

    Along with RSPB Conservation Advisor, Bruce Fowkes, John shows us a field edge strip where he’s broadcast a wildflower seed mixture. With “loads of yellowhammer and nightingales” around these fields, John says he often talks a stroll here in the evening when it’s getting dark to admire the birds and just “sit and listen”.

    And there’s another bird John is especially looking out for. The wildflower mixture John’s sown – containing plants such as black medick and birdsfoot trefoil – is a special variant designed for turtle doves. John’s pleased to be doing all he can to support the doves in this part of Sussex, one of the remaining strongholds for this threatened species.

    Bruce discusses with John how turtle doves like areas where there are bare patches of soil among low-growing seed-bearing plants. Bruce’s father is a farmer, so he easily slips into the farming lingo as he and John discuss the techniques and machinery used to managed this strip of land.

     Photo: Ben Andrew

    On a lovely sunny day in Sussex, I admire the scenery and listen to their talk, enjoying the feeling that these two men know what they’re about and are doing all they can to support the turtle doves who fly all the way from Africa each year to breed on John’s land. And it’s lovely to meet a farmer who, as well as providing our food, is dedicated to ensuring birds and wildlife are catered for on his land. My only disappointment for the day is that the doves neglect to make an appearance for the hour I’m there. But that’s nature for you!

    In the photo, farmer John Ford and RSPB Conservation Advisor, Bruce Fowkes discuss the best habitat to support turtle doves breeding on the Sussex farm. To find out more about farming for turtle doves visit the Operation Turtle Dove website

  • Shark infested RSPB waters?

    Newspapers today are focusing around our RSPB Langstone Harbour reserve, Hampshire, as a frisherman claims a great white shark is hunting around Hayling Island.

    While many species of shark are native to waters, there have never been any confirmed sightings of globally vulnerable great white sharks off the coast of the UK according to marine experts, the Shark Trust.

    It's far more likely to be one of our UK shark species, which although not dangerous to humans, can grow very large. Around 30 species of shark are thought to live in the UK and many are considered endangered or vulnerable according to data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

    Basking sharks, which can grow to over 20 feet, are often spotted off our coastline. They are the second largest shark in the world, but feast almost exclusively on plankton.

    Sadly, sharks are in massive decline with an estimated 100 million sharks killed globally every year, largely thought to be due to fishing methods, over fishing and sale of shark products. Globally, sharks rarely attack humans and if they do attack, it's more likely to be a case of mistaking humans for one of their regular food sources such as seals.

    The RSPB is no stranger to sharks on reserves though. In 2015, over 50 smooth-hound sharks turned up at our RSPB Medmerry reserve, West Sussex. To watch the footage click here!

    One of the smoothhound sharks in VERY shallow water at Medmerry. Image courtesy of Andrew House.

    One of the smoothhound sharks in VERY shallow water at Medmerry. Image courtesy of Andrew House.

  • Rare tern wow's crowds at RSPB Pagham Harbour

    A rare North American visitor has attracted large crowds to the RSPB’s Pagham Harbour nature reserve this week. The aptly-named elegant tern is near threatened species, and is normally found in America or Mexico during the summer months; but this particular bird has been delighting visitors to the Church Norton area for several days.

     

    “Our staff and volunteers have completed a lot of improvement works to tern habitats at the reserve in the last few years. As a result, we have increased our colonies of common and little terns, making this one of the best breeding grounds for the species in the South East. We were not expecting such an unusual visitor to be attracted to the site as a result though, and will be interested to see if it sticks around.” Roy Newnham, Visitor Experience Officer

     

    The habitat restoration work undertaken at the RSPB reserve has been part of a wider UK effort to save threatened little and roseate tern populations from becoming extinct, and has been funded by the EU LIFE+ Nature Little Tern Recovery Project.