News archive

March 2014

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch Results

Big Garden Birdwatch Results

7,274,159 birds were counted altogether! The top three birds seen in gardens this year were: 1. Sparrow 2. Blue tit 3. Starling.

This year in south-east England 92,000 people took part in Big Garden Birdwatch. The house sparrow remained the most commonly reported bird, with an average of three in each garden. Blue tits swooped in at number two, appearing in nearly three-quarters of all gardens, whilst the starling was the third most spotted bird.

Goldfinch swooped in at no. 7 and great spotted woodpecker has made it into the top 20 for the first time. House sparrow, greenfinch, starling and song thrush have all declined drastically since the first Bird Watch. Look at the birdwatch web-page for more details.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Adult female blackbird on garden lawn

Which bird is the most common playground visitor?

A UK-wide survey of birds in schools has revealed that the blackbird is the most common playground visitor for the sixth year in a row.

85 per cent of schools that took part in the survey in the Big Schools Birdwatch saw blackbirds, with an average of five birds seen per school, slightly down on 2013 figures.

Starlings held onto the number two spot, but carrion crows moved up two places from fifth in 2013 to third this year. Carrion crows were spotted at more than half of all schools; the average counted during the hour-long survey was four.

More than 70,000 pupils and teachers counted the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day between 20 January and 14 February. Their sightings contribute to the results of RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch - the biggest wildlife survey in the world.

Overall, average numbers of birds spotted appear to be down this year; however experts at the charity believe this is more likely to be because of the mild weather. Availability of natural food sources in the wider countryside meant birds didn't need to visit school grounds to feed.

The Big Garden Birdwatch results will be revealed on Thursday 27 March 2014.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

World Sparrow Day

World Sparrow Day

Did you know that today, 20th March, has been designated World Sparrow Day?

According to the BTO, in the UK House Sparrows are laying their eggs around 9 days earlier than in the 1960s. In the new BirdAtlas they show a striking east-west difference in abundance, with declining numbers in the east and increasing numbers in the west and Ireland.

SEO/Birdlife, the Spanish Ornithological Society, is celebrating 'El Día Mundial del Gorrión, and say the Spanish sparrow population has declined in the last decade to 14% in rural areas.

A number of people in India report that sparrows have vanished from their area and The Times of India reports that an environmental science expert team attributes their disappearance to the electromagnetic fields and radiation effects created by mobile phone masts and mobile phones.

Birdlife Australia also reports that once abundant the world over, the cheerful little House Sparrow is now disappearing.

The link below shows a world distribution map for sparrows - give it a while to load and sightings will appear.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Spring has arrived

News from the British Trust for Ornithology:

The high pressure system over the UK during the last few days brought the forecast spring-like conditions, and the expected rush of long-distance summer migrants. Wheatears made it as far north as Mull, Argyll, and the first house martins joined sand martins and swallows but it was a reeling grasshopper warbler and a couple of yellow wagtails that were most surprising amongst the common migrants. The average arrival date for the former is 13 April and 7 April for the latter, according to BirdFacts.

Birds seen in Kent include a Hume's warbler in Ramsgate and a hoopoe which was seen in Snodland.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Red Kites and Chiffchaff

Red Kites and Chiffchaff

One RSPB member told us he has been watching a pair of red kites flying along the edge of the Shipbourne forest at the bottom of his farm. He had heard them for a number of weeks, and seen one at the end of January, but this was the first view of a pair flying togther.

Another member heard chiffchaff singing on the Tonbridge Water Meadows this weekend - the first summer migrant to arrive.

If you want to know what to keep an eye out for as migration continues, take a look at the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) Migration Blogspot.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

News from the RSPB's Weald Reserves: Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods

News from the RSPB's Weald Reserves: Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods

Here's all the latest from the Weald Reserves from Tom Pinches, Assistant Warden.

Wildlife
Woodlark that tentatively started singing in January are now in full display at both Broadwater and Tudeley Woods, lifting off from the ground and slowly ascending, while giving their repeated, descending melody. The best place to experience woodlark is at Broadwater along the main track from the car park through our burgeoning heathland.

A pair of lesser spotted woodpeckers was recently seen calling and displaying around the meadow at Brakeybank. This is a rare sight and is becoming more so as lesser spots continue to decline. The RPSB are researching the cause of this decline and ways of reversing it. So far we've found that lesser spots are failing to raise as many chicks as they used to because many are starving.

The first of the year's butterflies are beginning to emerge: small tortoiseshells have been seen at Broadwater Warren, while brimstone butterflies have been spotted in the local area. Both species spend the winter as adults, tucked away in your garage or cracks in your wall. Getting out early is quite risky though because if there is a cold spell, or if there aren't enough flowers around they may struggle to survive.

Bumblebees are also starting to fly. Those around at the moment may seem larger than normal and that's because they're all Queen Bees (so show them some respect)! With bumblebees, it's the queens that have to survive the winter, which they do underground, lying on their back with legs in the air.
Upcoming reserve management

We'll soon be starting to plant trees all across the reserve. A lot of the attention has been on removing non-native conifer plantation and restoring ancient heathland, but half the reserve will remain as woodland, and we'll be enhancing its diversity by planting it with native trees. Watch the spaces - they'll soon be filled with trees!

One thing rain hasn't hampered is the enthusiasm and dedication of our amazing volunteer team. At Broadwater they've been creating spaces in areas of dense conifer for our new trees to go, while at Tudeley they've been widening woodland 'rides' to allow plants and scrubby nesting habitat to develop.
Also a big thanks to all those dog walkers who are keeping their dogs on leads during this crucial time for wildlife. We continue to receive many positive comments and support from people on this issue.

Finally, the RSPB has recently launched a new Science section on our website, highlighting all the research we've been doing including over 1200 publications from the last decade. Follow the link for details: