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
The dark-bellied Brent goose is an annual winter visitor to Britain. Travelling from its breeding grounds in Siberia, almost the entire 215,000 population of these Brent geese winter on the northeast coast of Europe, and just under half (98,100) will spend the winter in Britain.
The majority of dark-bellied Brent geese overwintering here will congregate in a small number of estuarine sites in southern and eastern England, where natural foods such as eelgrass, sea lettuce and saltmarsh plants are found. Much smaller than Canada or graylag geese, Brent geese are a similar size to a mallard, and are darker in colour. They fly in loose flocks rather than tight formations.
As pressure to create more housing in the south east increased, land around popular estuary sites was often bought up for housing or agricultural development, reducing the number of natural feeding sites available. A sudden population increase of dark-bellied brent geese, from 22,000 to around 300,000 between the winters of 1960/6 and the late 1990s, meant that there was no longer enough of their preferred food to go around. Forced to adapt, these geese started to feed at other sites, including coastal grasslands and on cultivated cereal crops.
Inland feeding by large flocks of Brent geese has become a regular occurrence at almost all the key wintering sites in the southeast of England. Inland habitats used by dark-bellied Brent geese include grasslands (particularly fertilised grassland), winter cereals, oilseed rape, and even recreation and sports grounds.
Dark-bellied Brent geese occur in internationally important numbers at several RSPB sites during winter, particularly our coastal sites including RSPB Langstone Harbour and RSPB Pagham Harbour, which have been designated as Special Protected Areas (SPAs) to help protect them
On these grounds, we have recently objected to two of the proposed developments at Pagham, which we are concerned would result in a loss of feeding habitat for the threatened Brent geese protected under the Pagham Harbour SPA. You can find our objections in full on the Arun District Council website (search P/140/16/OUT and P/25/17/OUT)
Looking for some outdoor family activities this half term? Why not visit one of our reserves? We have a range of activities on offer below, or pick up a trail guide and explore our reserves for yourself!
Festival of Fungi RSPB Pulborough Brooks
Running until Tuesday 31 October, 9.30 am – 5 pm daily
Come along and explore the wooded heath in search of fairy-tale fungi like the red and white-spotted fly agaric and delicate amethyst deceiver toadstools. Pick up a fungi trail leaflet and spotters guide from the visitor centre and follow our self-guided trail. No need to book
Fantastic Fungi RSPB Pulborough Brooks
Wednesday 1 November, 10.30 am – 1 pm
Fascinated by fungi? We’ll be joined by expert Martin Allison who will help us to distinguish the yellow brain from the yellow stag’s-horn, and the parasol from the puffball! This guided walk is designed for adults with a general interest in fungi and does not focus on what is edible or poisonous for potential foragers. Booking essential – please call the Visitor Centre on 01798 875851
Cost: £15 per person (£12 for RSPB members)
Stargazing Party! RSPB Pulborough Brooks
Friday 20 October, Drop in between 7 pm & 8.30 pm
Experience our lovely nature reserve by night at our Stargazing party! Located within the South Downs Dark Skies reserve Pulborough Brooks is a great place to admire the star studded skies and spot constellations and planets. We’ll keep you warmed up with hot chocolate and nibbles and have binoculars and telescopes for you to use. If the weather is unsuitable we may need to cancel the event – we’ll call you on the day before the event takes place to confirm.
Cost: £5 per person (Adults & children) / £4 for RSPB members. Booking essential – please call the Visitor Centre on 01798 875851. Payment will be taken on the night.
Autumn leaves and Halloween lanterns RSPB Pagham Harbour
Tuesday 24 October, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Discover the different shapes and colours of autumn leaves and learn what trees they belong to, before using them to create your own Halloween lantern.
Cost: £3 per child / £2 members
Seashore Safari! RSPB Pagham Harbour
Thursday 26 October, 10.30am -12.30pm
Can you find sharks on our shoreline? In a special beach-combing event we’ll discover who lives in our seas and on the beach. In the event of wet weather, an alternative activity will be run at the Visitor Centre. Meet at Church Norton car park PO20 9DT.
Cost: £3 per child / £2 members Booking essential
Wild Families - Awesome Autumn - RSPB Dungeness
Tuesday 24 & Thursday 26 October, 11am - 2pm
What do animals do in the autumn? Learn about the importance of this season for wildlife and what we can do to help prepare them for the winter months. Get involved in lots of autumnal activities! Create artwork out of fallen leaves and twigs, pinecones and more. Learn how to make your own bird feeders. Using our very own wildlife as inspiration, this session is all about painting and creating!
Cost: Children £8 (20% discount for Wildlife Explorers) Accompanying adults £1.
Pond Dipping RSPB Rainham Marshes
Grab a net, and investigate what creatures you can find living in our ponds! Don't worry you don't need to bring any equipment, we will have everything you need! Cost: £1.50, just turn up and pay on the day. Pond dipping will be our Marshland Discovery Zone, so leave yourself about 15 minutes to get there! We’ll be here whatever the weather! Tuesday 24th October, 10.30 am-12 noon
Wednesday 25th October, 1.30-3 pm
Thursday 26th October, 10.30 am-12 noon
Woodlouse Safari RSPB Rainham Marshes What creatures are hibernating under the soil? We’ll be searching for mini-beasties in the leaves, and then you can create your own mini monster craft to take home. Cost: £1.50, just turn up and pay on the day. The Woodlouse Safari will be based around the visitor centre. We’ll be here whatever the weather! Tuesday 24th October, 1.30-3 pm
Wednesday 25th October, 10.30 am-12 noon
Thursday 26th October, 1.30-3 pm
Gillingham residents Des and Carol Felix have been awarded the RSPB’s highest honour, the President’s Award, at the charity’s Annual General Meeting.
The RSPB President’s Award is our chance to recognise those volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to help save nature. The husband and wife team volunteer as fund raisers, campaigners and “stalwarts” for the Medway Local Group with various roles including organising events, editing the group newsletter and group publicity officers.
Carol & Des have helped formed the backbone of the Medway Local Group for over 18 years and have been an ever constant source of support in the face of a stream of complex and contentious national RSPB campaigns that have affected their Medway area of North Kent, including the current #SaveLodgeHill campaign to save the best site for nightingales in the country.
“It would be difficult to think of a couple more deserving of the award!”
The list of everything they do is mind-blowing. But it is the manner they do it that adds to their contribution. They are tireless, calm, absolutely dedicated, endlessly efficient, warm, humble, but perhaps most importantly ever ready to seize the initiative. They ensure that our Medway Local Group reaches out into the community, and all our members there see and hear from the RSPB at a local level.
David Saunders, Medway Local Group member says: “It would be no exaggeration to describe them as the backbone of the Medway Group or the glue that holds us all together. Not only do they publish the Newsletter, Carol and Des perform the role as membership secretaries, they run and organise the Hempstead Valley Stall at Christmas, they collect and collate the pin badge box money, and organise volunteers for our events and that is just what I know they do and I’m sure they do much more than that. They have even enrolled their children and grandchildren in the group. It would be difficult to think of a couple more deserving of the award!”
Only six RSPB President’s Awards are allocated each year, recognising the outstanding contribution of volunteers. The charity could not deliver much of its work without such individuals and choosing just six is an annual challenge. Rewarding support and achievement is important to the RSPB and we have lots of opportunities across the UK where people can support our work. For details, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering