News archive

February 2013

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

RSPB's Natural Secrets

RSPB's Natural Secrets

The RSPB's Natural Secrets:
It's not only birds that benefit from the RSPB's works. In this illustrated talk we looked at many of the other forms of wildlife that can be found on and around our reserves - from rare hoverflies to magnificent Red Deer and from the Angel's Wings Fungus to the Scottish Primrose.
Some are common if you know where to look, but others are rare and depend on the RSPB for their future in the UK. With over 13,000 species of wildlife found on our reserves no visit should ever be dull - even when the birds don't show!

Some facts about Peter Holden:
Peter has been passionate about birds and wildlife for as long as her can remember. He joined the RSPB staff in 1969, and while running the RSPB's junior membership he devised the ever popular Big Garden Birdwatch.
Peter's activities are dedicated to taking the magic of wildlife to new audiences. For many years he advised Blue Peter and often appeared in their garden! In 1994-5 he joined Bill Oddie in a BBC 1 series called Bird in the Nest and he has contributed to Springwatch.
Peter has co-authored more than a dozen books, including the RSPB Handbook of British Birds and, most recently, Birds: A Hidden World.
Peter was awarded an MBE for services to Nature Conservation in the 2009 New Year's Honours List.

In this talk, Peter looked at the very first RSPB reserve and he considered why these places are called Nature reserves and not bird reserves. He also dipped into the RSPB film archive for three short gems the RSPB is so good at making.

Peter also posed some teasers for members of the audience:
Where was the first RSPB reserve
How did the RSPB use pebbles to fund its early conservation?
Did you know the difference between a wasp spider and a spider wasp, and also that the RSPB hosts a rare colony of antlions?
Where is the RSPB reserve bought by children?
Who is winning the million year-old 'arms-race' between bats and moths?

Our poster for this talk showed some of the wonderful bird books that Peter has had published - you may well own one or two.

If you click on the 'Download file' link, then you will see the striking poster that David (our Publicity officer) produced to advertise this talk.

Download file

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Report of Valentines Park Guided walk

Report of Valentines Park Guided walk

Daniel Whitelegg, one of our Group members (and now a very welcome new Committee member) went on Mike Condon's and Simon Litt's walk around Valentines Park. Daniel very kindly offered to do a write-up of the walk for the website and this now follows:-

Following up from an excellent talk on Valentines Park by the park warden Simon Litt, we descended on the park to investigate what wildlife spectacles we could find. It was a beautiful, sunny day which increased our chances of seeing more amazing wildlife. The numbers were up from the last walk to 12 despite the early start.
We started from the Mansion and were soon greeted by the more exotic of the parks residents: Wood Ducks (Carolina Duck), Ruddy Shelduck and Mandarins. Unfortunately they were not scarce vagrants, but introduced ornamental birds designed to make the park stand out. However, we did come across: Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan and Canada Goose. The fish pond was mostly made up of Coots and Canada Geese with only one male Tufted Duck.
We then proceeded to the old golf course (pitch and putt field) were there happened to be 3 beautiful Redwings in the trees which was a pleasant surprise. There were also various tit species and some blackbirds too. We were very fortunate to be able to see these birds, as normally this area is closed off to the public.

As we approached the other side of the fish pond a huge clump of twigs and leaves in a tree caught our attention. The Grey Herons had come back to nest. We only saw the female on the nest as the male was off fishing, probably at Wanstead Park. It was amazing to see these amazing birds nesting again after an absence of many years.

Whilst walking down the woodland corridor we came across a rather large looking hole. None of us expected it to be an Egyptian goose nest! Eventually we saw the pair perched on the tree after we had walked down to the Cranbrook Corridor. Whilst we were down that end of the park we ventured into Melbourne Field and saw a pair of Mistle Thrushes and a white headed blackbird (very odd). This was a result of a pigment deficiency in its head feathers. Unfortunately the Mistle thrushes flew off after being disturbed by a determined jogger! There were also a great deal of Blue Tits, Great Tits, House Sparrows and Robins in the Brisbane Road hedge.
As we came out of the field two pairs of Egyptian geese flew over (one pair were the breeding pair and the other pair had yet to start nesting). Lifting our heads (and bins) skywards a chorus of starling, goldfinch, greenfinch and chaffinch burst out. It was great to see a declining species as the starling in such good numbers (30).

Finally we came to the potential highlight of the walk. The boating lake was awash with various gulls, mainly made up of black headed but with a few common and lesser black-backed thrown in. Amongst all the very similar black headed gulls was lurking Valentino (a Mediterranean gull) who spends the winter at Valentines park. However it was virtually impossible (even with excellent guidance by Mike and Simon) to find it amongst 400 Black Headed Gulls. Alas we had to abandon our search instead of losing our sanity! We were however rewarded for searching with 15 very sleepy Pochard resting underneath some trees.

To round off a superb day we gorged ourselves on a quality selection of food from the newly built cafe. In total we had collected 31 different species of birds on our travels, and it was a great eye opener into a lovely park that I am sure many of us will visit again in the future.

We have three Local Group walks in April, the next walk being around Wanstead Flats and Park on Saturday 6th April. We look forward to seeing you all there.