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
Are you looking for unusual and ethical gifts this Christmas?
Why not support your local RSPB, and see what handmade goodies you can find in our online shop or at our reserve Christmas fairs? With lots of local traders, festive food and fun, our Christmas fairs are a great way to get out in nature and help us make a difference.
Rainham Marshes Christmas Fair, Essex
Sunday 10 December, 10.30 am-7 pm, free entry to fair.
Crafts and gifts including: jewellery, cards, decorations, bags, cosmetics, wildlife art and photography, children's activities and more! Our RSPB shop will be open too for those essential Christmas gifts for you and your garden wildlife and there will be the opportunity to buy binoculars, telescopes and even a gift RSPB Membership. Keep the kids happy while you browse with children’s crafts. Come along, browse and enjoy the fair and visit our cafe for hot lunch, a piece of home-made cake and a cuppa! Our cafe will be offering a special evening menu to tempt you! Find out more
Dungeness Christmas Fair, Kent
Sunday 10 December. Drop in any time between 11am - 4pm.
Free entry to the fair, but entry fees apply to walk the nature trail.
Join us for a wonderful, winter wildlife fair! We will be hosting arts and crafts activities all day in the visitor centre and there will Christmas discounts in the RSPB shop, food and mulled wine tasting as well as a raffle and a Christmas treasure hunt for the children. Just pop in any time during the day and enjoy a lovely wintery day at Dungeness packed full of activities! Donations are gratefully accepted for the craft activities. Find out more
Can't make it to a reserve before Christmas? Why not give the gift of an RSPB membership?
Our Membership Officers will be headed to some Christmas fairs near you, and will be happy to talk you through the options and benefits of RSPB gift membership. Look out for us at the below events!
25th November - Odiham Extravaganza, Hampshire
25th November - Bentley Christmas Fair, Sussex
26th November - Wokingham Winter Carnival, Berkshire
29th November - Fleet Christmas Festival, Hampshire
1st – 3rd December - Victorian Festival of Christmas, Hampshire
2nd – 3rd December - The Big Christmas Gift Fair, Brighton, Sussex
Britain’s loudest bird, once extinct in the UK, has enjoyed its best year since records began, according to a new survey. The bittern – a kind of heron – is doing well following intensive conservation efforts. One of the best places to spot them in the South East is RSPB Dungeness, Kent.
Bitterns are highly secretive wetland birds and live most of their time within dense stands of reed, making them very difficult to survey. However, scientists count bitterns by listening for the male’s foghorn-like booming call, and this year numbers increased to at least 164, recorded at 71 sites. That compares to 162 at 78 sites in 2016, and is a positive sign that bitterns are back from the brink and thriving.
At RSPB Dungeness, bitterns have only been booming since 2009, but despite the relatively recent appearance, they are now regular visitors to the reserve.
"The best time and place to see them is either in the spring (April-June) when male bitterns are booming in early spring. Later on you’ll have a chance of seeing the bitterns more active in flight as they fish and fly back to the nest to bring food.
We occasionally get a higher number of bitterns in the winter, as some stop here from migration to feed in our reedbed. The best place to see them on the reserve is either from our Christmas Dell hide, Denge Marsh hide, the viewing ramp from the main trail or over at the ARC end of the reserve.”
Louise Kelly, Visitor Experience Officer, RSPB Dungeness
Thanks to funding from an EU life project, habitat works were undertaken to improve the reedbed at the site, and as a result at least two chicks were confirmed in 2012. The reserve team are hopeful there are more success stories hidden in the reeds, as females have been spotted performing feeding flights in other years, but the species are so elusive it is rare to actually glimpse the chicks.
Bitterns were considered extinct as a breeding species in the UK by the 1870s. Following recolonisation early in the 20th Century, numbers of bitterns increased to a peak of about 80 booming males in the 1950s, but then fell to fewer than 20 in the 1990s, with similar declines witnessed in many other countries in Western Europe. By 1997, there were only eleven booming male bitterns in the UK; these were mainly within Norfolk and Suffolk, with a small outlying population at Leighton Moss, in Lancashire.
For your best chance of hearing a bittern boom, the Dungeness team organise special ‘Bittern Breakfast’ events in April, where early risers can take a dawn tour of the reserve and hopefully hear the birds, before enjoying a complimentary breakfast back at the visitor centre. For more information check the reserve events pages in spring.
Image of bittern at RSPB Dungeness, courtesy of Graham Parry.
RSPB Pulborough Brooks is offering free entry to visitors between 25-26th November, to encourage people to discover and celebrate the winter wildlife on the reserve.
The annual free event is always popular, as visitors get to explore the miles of nature trails before warming up with coffee and cake in the café. This year, new wildlife drawing and printing workshops will also be running over the weekend.
“The RSPB are keen to help people see that winter wildlife includes far more than just robins and fungi. The Pulborough Brooks reserve receives special protection because of its winter wildlife, when the wetlands becomes a temporary home to huge flocks of lapwing, widgeon and other wading birds. All it takes is a passing peregrine for them all to take flight and fill the skies with colour. Stoats and mice can be spotted searching the hedgerows for food, while magnificent marsh harriers quarter the brooks.” Said wildlife artist, Emily Summers.
To help you get closer to these breath-taking natural sights, the reserve are offering guided walks from 1.30 until 3 pm on both days (from £4pp). Led by a group of expert volunteers, hot chocolate will be provided to warm you up on route. Specialist staff will be advising guests how to choose the right binoculars and telescopes in the visitor centre.
If you’re feeling creative, book on to one of the new ‘Inspired by Wildlife’ masterclasses and learn to carve your own wildlife-inspired stamp and print your own Christmas wrapping paper, or get to grips with drawing the wildlife out on the reserve. These classes range from £16-40pp and must be booked in advance.
For more information or to book a walk or workshop, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/pulboroughbrooks or call 01798 875851