Today's blog is by Tim Webb, RSPB Communication's Officer based in our London Office:
My name is Tim, and I am one of three Communication Officers in the RSPB's South Eastern Region - which includes Rainham Marshes.
I support staff on our projects, reserves and in our offices to help share the many stories we have about our work and the remarkable wildlife which surrounds and often sustains us. Whether it's extolling the virtues of sustainable urban drainage; discovering silver studded blue butterflies on our heathlands or boosting breeding numbers of sparrows, little terns and lapwings, I'll be writing, tweeting or sharing imagery of it all.
Recently I have been announcing some of the results of the Big Garden Birdwatch in the South East. Overall, more than 519,000 of you from every corner of the UK contributed to Big Garden Birdwatch in January 2016, counting an incredible 8,262,662 birds. Thank you!
Big Garden Birdwatch helps us build a picture of garden wildlife across the UK. Armed with this information, we can identify what is in danger - and how we can help.
This year the UK's Top Ten Birds were:
1. House Sparrow
3. Blue Tit
8. Great Tit
10. Long Tailed-Tit
For more details about the Big Garden Birdwatch, and the results have a look here.
So I wanted to write something about the Big Garden Birdwatch results in Havering and Thurrock, and how that compares to the overall score, in the areas that surround Rainham Marshes nature reserve.
Havering's Top Ten garden birds have remained largely unchanged over the past three years with only collared doves showing any significant decrease; down 16% compared with 2014. The Big Garden Birdwatch is conducted every January and gives a snapshot of the number and types of birds seen in Havering's gardens. Changes in bird populations reflect changes in our environment and while annual fluctuations can be expected, long term change either up or down, can be cause for alarm. The latest figures suggest all is well with our outdoor spaces and that the alarming decline of house sparrows recorded over the last couple of decades may well be levelling off.
House Sparrow by Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
In Thurrock, the picture is very similar, but it is a stronghold for starlings, has more house sparrows, and goldfinches have pushed feral pigeons out of the top ten table.
Starling by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
The Big Garden Birdwatch started out as an activity for children to enjoy nature, but it soon became apparent the results provided a rare insight in to previously inaccessible spaces; private gardens.
Recording bird populations on nature reserves is easy as they are contained spaces with easy access for surveyors. Habitats are managed to maximise breeding success for the species they support, whereas private gardens are all different, closed to surveyors and yet make up a huge area of land when counted together, especially in urban settings.
At Rainham, water levels, plants, muddy patches, nesting areas and food availability are all carefully controlled to boost the number of birds which rely on freshwater marshland. This approach has paid dividends with numbers of threatened lapwing for example increasing year on year.
Lapwing by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
It would be unusual but not unheard of to see the marsh harriers, lapwing, egrets and other wildlife which thrives at Rainham living in private gardens, but when it comes to nature, expect the unexpected and always enjoy and respect it.
Little Egret by Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com)
Come and visit to find out more about the wildlife of Rainham and what you can do to encourage and support more of it in your own outdoor space. We have high quality food and nestboxes available in the shop; and tasty, home cooked snacks and meals in our cafe overlooking the reserve. Our website offers more information on what you can expect to see on site alongside dates and times of our organised running, cycling, yoga or bouldering activities.
Sunset at Rainham by Tony O'Brein
Our climbing boulders - anyone can climb from children to adults, from beginners to more experienced climbers... Give it a go today - they are in our adventures play area.