News archive

November 2014

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Robin sitting in grass

Vote for Britain's National Bird

The robin was voted Britain's national bird back in the 1960s but David Lindo (aka The Urban Birder) feels the robin's many decades in power needs to be challenged, so he is fronting a campaign to help find Britain's new national bird. Running alongside next year's General Election will be this alternative Election, which they'd love you to take part in.

It's going to work in two stages. The first vote will be to find the six running candidates. This vote is live now. Simply scroll down, take a peek through the list of 60 worthy nominees and pick the six birds that you think best personifies all that this wonderful nation represents. Each of these species has a special place in the hearts and minds of the Great British public.

The first round of voting will close at midnight November 30th 2014. Thereafter, we will have our final six candidates up for the title of Britain's National Bird and the voting will re-open.

The question is; will the Robin be knocked off its perch?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Jack snipe

Jack snipe

This afternoon a jack snipe was seen at Oare Marshes. These are entertaining birds to watch as they bob up and down! It is also smaller than a common snipe with a shorter bill.

Jack snipe is a reclusive bird so counting passage and wintering populations of jack snipe is not easy but it is thought that a 100,000 overwinter in the UK. They do not breed here, but migrate to northern Europe. They eat insects, molluscs, worms and plant material, especially seeds.

According to Bird Life International they breed from May to early-September in well-dispersed solitary pairs, after which, between August and September, adults undergo a flightless moulting period close to the breeding grounds. The autumn south-west migration occurs from mid-September to mid-November, with the species departing its wintering grounds again in March to mid-April. Outside the breeding season the species remains largely solitary, usually feeding singly or in groups of up to five individuals. Most of its activities are carried out nocturnally or in the early morning and late evening.

Jack snipe has an Amber status for conservation as it is threatened by the loss and degradation of its wetland habitats through afforestation, peat extraction and drainage for agricultural intensification. It also suffers from lead poisoning as a result of ingesting lead shot deposited on wetlands. The species is hunted during the autumn migration e.g. in Denmark.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

News from the RSPB's Weald reserves, Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods.

Hello All!

I shall start of by introducing myself, my name is Matt Twydell and I have joined the Weald reserves team as the new Warden. I have previously been working at Weeting Heath with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. I am excited to join the Wealden team and get to know the Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods reserves. Unfortunately Jamie from the team will be leaving us soon as his contract comes to an end, he has done an amazing job in his short time on the Weald. Look out for myself or any of the team on the reserves and please come and say 'hi' if you see us.

Tudeley Woods

With the wetter weather over the last few days, continue to keep a lookout on the woodland floor at this time of year as it becomes alive with different species of fungi. Tudeley has had an incredible 1500 species recorded! RSPB volunteer Jim Langiewicz took some amazing photographs on our guided fungi walk this year. Follow the link below to see them.

The volunteer team at Tudeley have been munching their way through the ever encroaching heathland scrub and also managed to repair the steps on part of the heathland link trail. They do a smashing job of the practical work over there and are always on the lookout for new recruits. If you've ever fancied doing your bit for nature and getting your hands dirty, and have a free Wednesday or Sunday - please get in touch!

Broadwater Warren

One of the signs of winter at Broadwater Warren is the arrival of several species of thrushes. From October the UK sees the start of a mass invasion of thousands of birds from Scandinavia and other parts of continental Europe. Small flocks of redwing, fieldfare and mistle thrushes have been spotted at Broadwater and Tudeley in the last week, these birds will be searching for berries that can be found on scrub such as hawthorn and blackthorn. Redwings are a classic night-time migrant, listen out on dark clear autumn and early winter nights, and you are likely to hear the thin 'tseep' of migrating redwing overhead.

Other bird sightings at Broadwater Warren include mixed flocks of pipits/larks and linnets, you may see them flitting between patches of heather and bare ground on the heath searching for food. These flocks have also been seen mobbing a kestrel which has been seen hunting for prey over the new areas opened up for heathland restoration.

With the drop in temperatures comes the time for hibernation for some species on Broadwater Warren, particularly the reptiles. Adder, grass snakes and common lizard will all be going into hibernation now. As well as the reptiles another species that will go into hibernation is the dormouse. They would have spent the last few months increasing their fat reserves for the coming winter eating a mixture of berries, seeds, flowers and nuts, and they will now be creating nests near to the ground and in coppice stalls to survive the winter months.

This year's forestry work is well under way with the harvester on site opening up the latest area for heathland regeneration. The forwarder has also recently arrived to begin to collect the timber and brash for processing and already several timber loads have gone to their varied sawmill destinations. As well as creating vitally important habitat for threatened heath species like our woodlark and nightjar, the work this year will open up amazing views from Broadwater Forest Lane, over the wet woodland valley and right across the Wealden landscape.

Nick and Chloe have also started to coppice small glades in the sweet chestnut at the SW corner of Broadwater Warren. Coppicing is an important management tool in woodland management. It has been around for thousands of years and would have originally been put into place for commercial or personal use, such as fire wood/charcoal or building materials. Coppicing actually prolongs the life of trees so that in most instances the coppice stools (stumps) are several hundred years old. Rotational coppicing of an area provides a mixture of structures and diversity in a habitat for a number of species such as fritillary butterflies, dormice and a range of woodland flowers.

The volunteers have been carrying out some important habitat management of our woody heath compartments by creating glades to open up areas for the benefit of nightjar, woodcock and dormice. They have also done a brilliant job in removing scrub and pine saplings, and controlling the bracken on the heath. Unfortunately good work has been marred slightly by a few incidents involving verbal abuse and threatening behaviour from visitors towards members of staff. This has come about after members of staff have requested dog owners to look after their dogs properly. Broadwater Warren is first and foremost a nature reserve, and we are there to ensure the regeneration of vital habitats not only for the wildlife, but for all visitors to enjoy. It is an important time of year in regard to birds feeding out on the heath, and dogs running loose will cause the birds to 'flush' from the ground. This causes the bird to expend energy and reduces the amount of time it is able to feed, increasing the likelihood of death, either by predation or by the environmental conditions during . A big thank you to all those who visit Broadwater Warren with their dog and promote responsible behaviour.

This winter only two areas will be permanently blocked off for safety and security while the forestry work takes place: the loading bays. All other path closures on site are temporary and should allow visitors to enjoy other routes around Broadwater Warren while the work takes place.

I shall finish by saying congratulations to Alan Loweth who received his President's Award at the RSPB AGM. Alan is in integral part of the team here at the Wealden reserves and received his award for all the amazing volunteering work he has done for the RSPB.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Our programme for the coming year - our 40th season

Here is an easy to keep programme for all our events in 2014-15.

On 21st January we are holding a special meeting particularly aimed at involving the general public. Our speaker will be Peter Holden, who earned an MBE in 2009 for his lifetime's work enthusing the public about birds and nature in general. Peter kicked off RSPB children's groups, originated the annual Big Garden Birdwatch, and has appeared on TV with Bill Oddie and in Springwatch.

To make this evening particularly special we will waive admission charges, and offer refreshments free of charge during the interval. Do invite your friends to join us.

The next indoor meeting is on Wednesday 19th November. The next field trips are to Elmley on 22nd and 26th November. Do come and join us.

Download file

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

State of the UK's Birds report

The State of the UK's Birds report is published by a partnership of eight organisations: RSPB; British Trust for Ornithology; Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust; Natural Resources Wales; Natural England; Northern Ireland Environment Agency; Scottish Natural Heritage; and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

The south east's migratory birds wintering in Africa face steep declines. Two species which used to have a stronghold in the south east, turtle doves and swifts, are particularly affected, says the State of the UK's Birds report published recently
"Turtle doves, whose numbers have fallen by 88 per cent since 1995, are also affected by conditions in Africa where they roost for winter, on migration, as well as facing challenges in the UK," said RSPB Conservation Advisor Hayley New.

"The decline in the availability of seeds, which turtle doves have traditionally fed upon, means that they can struggle to find food after flying hundreds of miles to their breeding grounds. This further jeopardises the survival of a bird which is already one the fastest-declining species in the UK."

Species wintering furthest south such as swifts, also show a substantial decline since the
early 1980s. Between 1995 and 2012 their numbers dropped by 38 per cent in the UK nationally and declined by nearly 50 per cent in the south east.

"Migration is part of the swifts' life cycle and conditions on the way, or once they arrive in Africa, will make a difference to the birds' chances of survival, " said RSPB Conservation Projects officer Richard Black. "Swifts travel huge distances and are hard to track, but it is obvious from the decline in their numbers that they are facing difficult conditions and it is having an impact."

The latest annual State of the UK's Birds report includes a migratory birds section, including trends for 29 migrant species which nest in the UK in summer and spend the winter around the Mediterranean, or in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.