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
Staple, in Kent, is becoming one of the best breeding sites for rare turtle doves after several RSPB members, who live in the village, joined forces to save the species.
The village has been a summer home to migratory turtle doves, which are one of the UK’s most threatened bird species, for over eight years. When their feeding ground was being sold last summer, passionate conservationists David and Ann Tingey and David and Bridget Burridge stepped in, using their own money and donations from friends to buy the plot.
A flock of eight turtle doves and up to three youngsters are now frequently seen foraging at the site, following habitat improvements and help from RSPB. Villagers came together to support the project and a pond, hide and hedge have all been added to improve the site for fledgling birds.
“Digging the pond has paid dividends not only for the turtle doves, it has also supplied water for many other visitors like grey partridge, yellow wagtail, hobby and many, many linnets to name but a few.’’ said the Tingeys.
This July, the ‘Friends of Staple Turtle Dove Summer Field’ have access to the hide to watch the first breed of young without disturbing the sensitive species. The friends include Staple resident Andrew Edginton, aged 14, who was the winner of the RSPB’s WildArt 2016 competition. He is photographing the Staple turtle doves from the hide as part of a stunning series.
Andrew knows he is lucky to have such unusual subjects for his photography: "I love nature and art, so it's amazing to have such rare and beautiful birds right on my doorstep. I feel so privileged but I wish more young people had a chance to see them or to even hear the purring of the doves."
The RSPB will continue to support the village as part of Operation Turtle Dove, a national conservation project dedicated to halting the decline of the UK’s only long distance migratory dove.
“Turtle doves are declining at an alarming rate; this iconic bird has suffered a 93% UK population decline since 1995. The actions of our RSPB members have shown that with a little passion and commitment anyone can help the wildlife on their doorstep, even an incredibly threatened species, and it’s so encouraging that their efforts are already showing success.” Nicole Khan, RSPB Turtle Dove Conservation Advisor
“The sight of so many turtle doves from the hide is really exciting for us and we are extremely grateful for the support shown by villagers, friends and the RSPB for this project.” added David and Bridget Burridge.
The birding world has been very excited, but it's a thrill that's not made headlines or titilated the wider public.
Black winged stilts have bred successfully in the UK with the best results coming at the RSPB's Cliffe Pools nature reserve in north Kent.
These are birds common to southern Europe but traditionally, not of the UK., Things have changed and they are now starting to colonise our fair isles to the extent that this year, 2017, the number of chicks is more than the total number of UK sightings for three decades! Up until last year, there had been 22 confirmed nesting attempts in the UK since 1983 resulting in just three young and I believe those three were killed by predators shortly after fledging.This year, thirteen chicks fledged in the UK across sites in north Kent, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. That figure includes nine on two RSPB reserves, seven of those nine at Cliffe Pools on Kent's Hoo Pensinsula.
Let's apply a little critical thinking here.
I have seen how hard our staff and magnificent volunteers have worked at Cliffe to safeguard these birds. They've mounted 24 hour watches to guard against egg thieves ... and yes, there are still egg thieves in this day and age. Anti-predator fencing has been installed to keep foxes away from the nests, which are made on the ground leaving them extremely vulnerable. The other thing we've had to work hard to reduce is disturbance. If people, other wildlife or changing water levels are constantly threatening the birds on the nest, the eggs would never incubate. It's great news for our staff at Cliffe. Their efforts paid off handsomely and it's great news for the stilts; they have found a new area of land suitable for colonisation, safeguarding the future of the species.
Others will see this as bad news. It's further evidence of climate change and an indicator that our environment, and the wildlife it supports, is being transformed. We can't stop this change, but we can go with it and make the transition as smooth as possible to limit any losses. There is now enough evidence to safely say, there is a northward movement in the ranges of European wildlife, and at some point, that wildlife will simply run out of suitable new land to colonise, some sooner than others.
Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, the news that the avocets, lapwings, egrets and other birds of Cliffe Pools have new and exotic neighbours must surely be worth a headline or at least a few moments of your time to enjoy their elegance? Images courtesy of volunteer Rob Budgen.
Thousands of people will be pitching tents in gardens as part of our annual Big Wild Sleepout! Are you taking part?
Running between 28th and 30th July, Big Wild Sleepout is free to take part in; all you need to do is register online at www.rspb.org.uk/sleepout, to find lots of fun ideas, activities and tips to help you and your family have a really wild night out!
For an extra special sleepout experience, you can even book an overnight stay on one of the RSPB’s participating reserves! Pitches are filling fast, and most events are already full for 2017, but there are still places available at RSPB Pagham Harbour in Sussex. Visit www.rspb.org.uk/sleepout to book your place now!
In South East England, the recent Big Garden Birdwatch survey results also revealed some of the nocturnal wildlife you can expect to see in your garden. Almost half of South East residents have spotted a hedgehog in the last year and 89 per cent have been visited by a fox!
New for 2017, campers can now get even closer to nature by taking the first step towards their Wild Challenge, the RSPB’s new free online award scheme, which encourages families to go out and get closer to the natural world.
By completing activities ranging from minibeast safaris and habitat exploring, to making a compost heap and planting for wildlife, participants can log their achievements on the RSPB Wild Challenge website and collect bronze, silver and gold awards.
Don't forget to let us know what discoveries you have made during your Big Wild Sleepout on twitter and facebook using #BigWildSleepout