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
Visitors to the RSPB Dungeness reserve in Kent can now get even closer to wildlife, thanks to a major uplift to Burrowes pit.
The project hopes to encourage rare terns, as well as more common species, to flock to and breed on the shingle islands overlooked by the visitor centre.
To complete the unique redevelopment project an excavator was mounted on a floating pontoon and ferried into place across the large flooded quarry pit, before excavating submerged shingle from around the foot of the islands. This recycled material was then dispersed across the islands to safeguard breeding birds from rising water levels.
“Through this vital conservation work we hope to improve habitats for several threated seabird species, which have suffered severe population declines in the UK. It will bring real benefits for people too, particularly those with accessibility needs, making it easier to watch birds flock and feed on the islands right outside the windows all year round” Louise Kelly, Visitor experience officer.
The works were due to be completed by late October, when the RSPB reserve becomes a haven for thousands of wintering wildfowl, but were finished over six weeks ahead of schedule. A total of 45 islands were raised and are already attracting early migratory birds, thought to be arriving to the UK as a result of the strong winds in recent weeks. Several spoonbill and a roost of over 500 oyster catchers have already been recorded using the site since the improvement works were completed.
The project is the largest single investment at RSPB Dungeness for over 13 years and funded by money raised from RSPB memberships and visitors to the site, as well as a donation of £48,200 from environmental company, Viridor Credits.
Gareth Williams, Operations Manager at Viridor Credits added: “Improving the UK’s biodiversity is a major aim of both Viridor Credits and the Landfill Communities Fund. We are grateful to the RSPB for helping to deliver this aim through the invaluable work they do for our environment.”
The Whitehead Monckton Charitable Trust donated a further £3,000 to help pay for a boat, which will enable the reserve team to undertake future habitat management on the islands more easily.
RSPB Dungeness was purchased in 1930, making it the oldest existing RSPB reserve, and it was the first RSPB site to employ staff to protect the rare birds nesting there. The visitor centre is open to visitors daily (except December 25 and 26) from 10 am-5 pm (closes 4 pm November - February).
The RSPB is set to benefit from the auction of fine art by acclaimed wildlife artist Archibald Thorburn at Lewes auction house Gorringes later this month.
The collection, which comprises over 20 sketches and paintings, are from the estate of the late Lord Chelwood, Statesman, and longstanding champion of the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds, which he served as a Trustee for 13 years, and then was elected its President between 1966 and 1970.
Lord Chelwood’s passion for conservation was well documented; as an MP he campaigned for the introduction of the Protection of Birds Act 1954, introduced critical amendments to protect waterfowl from exploitation in 1967, and later was active in debates during the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 whilst serving as a member of the House of Lords. Lord Chelwood was awarded the Society’s gold medal for services to bird conservation in 1984.
Stuart Housden, an RSPB Director, who worked with Lord Chelwood in the 1970’s and 1980’s recalls his impact:
“To me, every time I hear a curlew calling, I am reminded of his courage in challenging his own government, and inspiring a cross-party movement to protect wading birds from hunting. Thanks to him the wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 offers many species such as curlews, redshanks and godwits full protection.”
Lord Chelwood’s widow and stepson have kindly offered to donate the majority of the proceeds from the sale to the RSPB, to help continue his conservation legacy.
The auction, which takes place on Wednesday 27th September, will feature sketches, watercolours and gouache paintings of varying species including song thrush, snow geese and marsh harrier by celebrated Scottish wildlife artist Archibald Thorburn.
Thorburn is widely thought to be one of the best birdlife artists of all time. As well as writing and illustrating numerous technical ornithological field guides, he also produced the first Christmas card design for the RSPB in 1899, continuing this tradition until his death in 1935. In 1927 he was elected vice president of the RSPB in recognition of his services on behalf of bird preservation.
Donations and legacies are vital to conservation charities such as the RSPB, and this generous and unexpected funding will help the organisation to act quickly to preserve and maintain rare species and habitats, which are becoming increasingly vulnerable as our natural environment changes.
To find out more about the auction and to view the lots visit www.gorringes.co.uk
Welcome to Keats’ “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”; early morning autumn chills, the smell of nature’s seasonal perfume of mulching vegetation and hazy mornings, and the first crunchy leaf underfoot. But before succumbing to the hibernation urge, there are a number of tried and tested things you can do to help nature survive the ensuing winter.
Don’t manicure your autumn garden
At this time of year it’s really important to avoid the urge to cut back and tidy outdoor spaces too much. Nature benefits from decaying plants and leaves so don’t feel guilty about leaving them in place, where it’s safe to do so! We all know the impact of fallen leaves on train tracks, so do clear pathways. Fallen leaves lying in a quiet corner create a cosy layer for garden mammals and insects to snuggle down in when frost and ice hit. The hollow stems of dead plants and seed heads in pots, window boxes and gardens also provide a safe insect hidey-hole from frosts for lacewings and ladybirds; both gardeners' friends because they eat garden pests.
If you have any dead wood in your autumn garden, or if you’re already sweeping up rust coloured leaves from balconies or patios, gather them into a pile in a corner. Insects and small mammals, including struggling hedgehogs, will thank you for creating a snug home for them.
Ivy wears the crown this autumn
Ivy is one of the best plants for your garden wildlife all year round, urban or rural, but especially during autumn and winter. Whereas most nectar rich plants are starting to die off, ivy’s flowers are only just beginning to blossom, providing a vital late source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Ivy’s evergreen leaves offer crucial shelter for birds and insects even throughout the colder months, when other natural cover is thinning out.
And don’t forget ivy’s ripe, winter jewels; its berries. These are a crucial, calorie-rich source of food for your feathered garden friends, just when they need that extra energy hit to enable them to maintain their body temperatures. If you do one thing this autumn, nurture your garden ivy and if you don’t have one, plant one. Well managed ivy won't kill trees or bring down buildings. Just keep on top of its spread and the plant will reward you with year-round cover and an increase in visiting garden birds.
The garden bird vanishing act
During September and October you may worry where your much-loved garden birds have gone as the well-stocked feeders lay unattended. But fear not, this is a totally natural occurrence at the beginning of autumn. Nature’s hedgerows and shrubs are now studded with berries and fruit which are all delicious to garden birds. Birds will always favour feeding directly from nature’s pantry, so whilst her stocks are bountiful you will naturally see a drop in garden feeder visits.
However, keep their food and water sources topped up, because when temperatures drop the berry crop dwindles and still water freezes over, your favourite garden birds will return to your feeder and bird bath. They rely on your fresh water and high-energy, high-fat winter food to fuel them through the colder months.
New house guest
In the lead up to winter you may spot in your house either a small tortoiseshell or peacock butterfly perched on the wall in a corner of a room, unmoving, having entered their winter dormant stage. But as temperatures continue to drop outside and our central heating is turned on, these butterflies can be woken up too early by the increased temperatures, which fool them into thinking spring has sprung early.
This isn’t a good thing for a butterfly as their outside environment is too cold and offers little nectar for them to eat. If you spot an early rising butterfly in your home catch the butterfly carefully and move it to an unheated room or sheltered outdoor spot from which it can easily escape in the spring.
For more top tips on how to give nature a home, visit: www.rspb.org.uk/myplan