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
London and the south east of England are on the front line of climate change in the UK, with the region’s birds already reacting to an apparent one degree rise in average summer temperatures since the 1980’s.
Most species are moving north to remain in their comfort zone, meaning some European species, like the hoopoe, little bittern and zitting cisticola are likely to become resident in the not too distant future.
My daughter thinks the zitting cisticola sounds like an unpleasant disease, but it’s a small warbler, which builds nests like cups in long grass, mostly near water. It makes a sound like the snipping of scissors. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we get records of breeding zitting cisticola’s in wet grasslands along the Thames Estuary!
The findings are from the latest analysis of bird surveys and monitoring data called the State of the UK’s Birds (SUKB). It’s produced by a coalition of three NGOs: the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), together with the UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Northern Ireland (DAERA), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Natural England (NE) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW). That’s enough of the acronyms (8 AMBAR*).
Many of our rarer breeding birds are at a high risk of extinction in the UK, based on projections of how climate will become less suitable for these species. These birds are mainly found in the north of the UK and in many cases, such as for the dotterel, whimbrel, common scoter, and Slavonian grebe, population declines have already been considerable. However, the report contains better news for some birds. Collared doves have extended their range into Scotland and species like quail, little egret, hobby, and Mediterranean gull have substantially increased their range as they occupy new northern spaces.
It’s not just changes in range and species that climate change is bringing. One of our most familiar resident garden birds, the great tit is also laying its eggs 11 days earlier than 40 years ago. Another species which has changed its breeding season is the swallow. They migrate to and from southern Africa each year and records show they are arriving back in the in the UK 15 days earlier and breeding 11 days earlier than they did in the 1960s. Swallows and other migratory birds, such as garden warblers and whitethroats are also delaying their return migration each autumn, so some species are now spending up to 4 weeks longer in the UK each year.
You can help us track these changes by taking part in our annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey. This coming year it takes place over the last weekend of January (Fri 27 to Sunday 29). No expertise is required. Just spend an hour recording the most birds you see of each species at any one time. So if you see a blackbird in the first ten minutes, then three blackbirds in the last ten minutes, you record the maximum you saw together, which in my example would be three. Registration for the Big Garden Birdwatch opens on 13 December and forms will be sent out in January in time for the survey.
* 8 AMBAR = Eight acronyms must be a record?
Christmas is a time for sharing, so we wanted to share some of our best 2017 moments with you in the run up to the holidays.
We asked staff from across our South East reserves to send us their own personal ‘wow’ moments from this year, the little triumphs that remind them why they love working for the RSPB, and being part of the bigger picture that you have helped us to build, as members, visitors, volunteers and supporters.
As always; we know we are better together. We don’t just want to share our ‘wow’ moments, we would love to hear yours too! Was it on a visit to a reserve, spotting an unusual Big Garden Birdwatch visitor, completing a Wild Challenge or being part of the Lodge Hill campaign? Do get involved and share your own #MyRSPBmoment with us on social media!
Below are a few reminders of successes you’ve helped us achieve this year; we couldn't have done it without you!
Big Garden Birdwatch –
Our Big Garden Birdwatch event is one of our biggest events of the year, and in the South East alone, 92,029 of you took part to help us count the birds in your garden. This data helps us to track which species are doing well, and which we might need to give a little extra help too. If you missed the results, you can find these here, and don’t forget to sign up for the next Big Garden Birdwatch!
We launched our Wild Challenge earlier this year, and it’s been even more popular than we expected! Sponsored by Aldi, our Wild Challenge was developed to help families to connect to nature and create the conservationists of the future. Already people across the UK have completed over 7740 activities; that’s a great achievement for nature! Our wild challenge is free to participate in, so why not sign your family up and get involved over the Christmas holidays?
Our battle to #SaveLodgeHill, working with groups such as the Wildlife Trusts, hit a high note in September when developers withdrew their planning application to build on this nationally important Site of Special Scientific Interest in Medway, Kent, home to the best UK population of breeding nightingales. It was your efforts in responding to Medway Council's consultation that helped us make the case that losing Lodge Hill just wasn't acceptable. The battle isn't over, as we believe the developers are planning to put in a revised application in 2018 (follow the news as it happens, here) so we're very likely to need your support again in 2018 to make a difference for nature.
Big Wild Sleepout
We always have lots of overnight animal guests on our reserves, but for just a few nights a year, we open up our reserves to some human campers too. This year almost 200 of you took part in our Big Wild Sleepout events at Farnham Heath, Dungeness, Pulborough Brooks and Pagham Harbour, with many more of you taking part at home. Camping out is a great way to get connected to nature and come face to face with nocturnal creatures.
As you may know, the way the RSPB contacts our supporters is about to change.
So unless you say it’s okay for us to do so, we won’t contact you personally with any more important information about our work. We’re doing this because of new regulations and guidance on how best to communicate with you. By asking for your permission, we are restating our commitment to you, because it has always been essential that our relationship with you is built on trust.
We need you to respond because we don’t want to lose touch. You’re part of our family and we want things to stay that way. To tell us how you want to hear from us, you just need to fill out this simple form.
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