News archive

February 2014

Thursday, 20 February 2014

National Nestbox Week

National Nestbox Week

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is asking you to put up a nest box in your local area to help increase the number of suitable nesting spaces for birds. Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are 'tidied' and old houses are repaired.

Anyone can take part whether you're a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club. You can put up a nest box at any time of the year, though early spring is the best time. It is also a good time to clean out the nest boxes you already have, ready for their next incumbents.

The RSPB reports that the record number of birds found roosting in one nestbox is 61 wrens! So you never know what you might find in yours.

Further information on making, buying and putting up a nest box is available at the BTO site:

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Field Trip change of reserve

Stodmarsh reserve is under water so it has been decided to change the destination for our February field trips. The Saturday trip will be to Cliffe and the Wednesday trip to Rye Harbour. This means March and April trips have changed too.

Saturday 22nd February is at Cliffe RSPB Reserve.
Wednesday 26th February will be at Rye Harbour.

Saturday 22nd March is at Stodmarsh.
Wednesday 26th March is still at Cliffe RSPB Reserve.

Saturday 19th April will be at Rye Harbour.
Wednesday 23rd April will be at Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry.

See the Events page for details.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

News from the RSPB's Weald reserves

News from the RSPB's Weald reserves

Broadwater Warren

Work planned for this month is quite varied and will be happening all over the site. If it ever stops raining, we will be resurfacing some of the muddier paths. Meantime, be careful - I lost my welly in an exceptionally muddy patch the other day! The last of the brash from this year's conifer harvest will be chipped and taken as wood-fuel.

Another 500 trees are going to be planted in selected areas around the site, as we progress with making our woodland areas more diverse, both in structure and mix of species. Before the site was planted with conifers in the mid-1900s, it was a rich blend of open heath and native woodland. After the Second World War, not only was the heathland planted on, but parts of the woodland were cut down to make way for plantations. We are gradually taking away the non-native, closely planted pine from the ancient woodland areas, and re-planting with species like oak, rowan, hazel and spindle.

Wildlife is returning to the site, with bird song filling the air on the drier days. Already in the first week in January, male woodlark were heard singing out on the eastern heath areas. They are now making their appearance in earnest as they set up territories. Seven snipe were seen near the new wetland area on the main heath, three buzzards were circling overhead last week and a sparrowhawk was seen manoeuvring silently through the larches. Spring is in the air! Do tell me about any sightings in the weeks to come.

We've been putting up quite a few new information signs recently. I'm trying to provide answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently when I'm out on the reserves, and explain the work we are doing. If you have a question about anything at Broadwater or Tudeley or can think of a place that needs some information then please let me know, because chances are you're not the only one thinking it!

The other signs that have gone up are the ones for our "dogs on leads" policy. From 1st February, anyone visiting the nature reserve with their dog must have them on a lead at all times, to keep disturbance to wildlife at a minimum. Many thanks to those people who have taken the time to send kind words to me about the issue, and for the responsible dog owners who are supporting us.

Tudeley Woods

The volunteer team at Tudeley have been busy checking the kilometres of footpaths that criss-cross the reserve for fallen trees after all the extreme weather. It's a laborious task and certainly gets the heart rate up with the tracks being so muddy, so we are very grateful to them for lessening the amount of time we have to trudge around carrying heavy equipment to deal with blocked paths! The work parties are carrying on with ride side coppicing (even through the rain) so if you'd like to give it a try, please let me know.

February is the best time to spot one of our rarest resident woodland birds - the lesser spotted woodpecker. These beautiful little drummers are only sparrow sized - tiny compared to the more common great spotted woodpecker.. Lesser spots usually use the higher, smaller branches of trees, so when the canopy comes back into leaf it's very difficult to see them, and to tell their sounds apart from the great spots takes a keen ear. With that said, we are looking for people to help out with the monitoring of these lovely little birds, especially through the next few weeks. If you are interested, please let me know.

Another opportunity on the horizon for any keen naturalist to lend a hand at Tudeley is adder surveys. In the summer months, reptiles will be making appearances all over the heathland areas, and we want to know exactly what the populations are. We already know that there are healthy numbers of grass snake, common lizard and slow worm, but adders have been surprisingly elusive so far. If you would like to be involved in our surveys, just get in touch with me.

As the warmer months approach, please keep an eye on our website and notice boards as we start to put on more events. We have bird walks, butterfly searches, flower ID days and more coming up. If you have any ideas for events that you'd like to see happening at the reserves, please let me know as we may well be able to make it so!

Thanks for taking an interest and as ever, feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions, stories or comments to share.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Cuckoo perched in tree

Thoughts of Spring

With all the wet weather we have been having in the UK, it is encouraging to learn that the BTO tagged cuckoos have already started out on their journeys back to us.

The most northerly cuckoo is currently David who has now crossed into the Central African Republic after a journey of some 500 miles, and is clear of the block of more or less continuous closed canopy forest of the Congo Rainforest. He is on a very similar schedule to last year and may spend time feeding up now before moving further north.

Chris is one of the two cuckoos who went as far south as Angola, where he spent mid-winter. It's the first time during the project that birds tagged in Britain have been to Angola. He started moving north about a fortnight ago and was last known to be not far from Brazzaville in the Congo. It will be interesting to see if he continues to the north of the Congo Rainforest, as our British cuckoos do each winter or whether he will remain to its south for a while, like the Scandinavian birds have after wintering in Angola.

The details of all twelve cuckoos can be seen on the BTO web site and you might like to bookmark the site so you can check who is going to be first to arrive in the UK!