News archive

April 2014

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

BTO cuckoos

Skinner arrived back in the UK and one of the Belarusian cuckoos and 2 of the German birds are also safely home. The other BTO cuckoos with live transmitters are either on the very northern tip of Africa or crossing the Iberian peninsula.

18 birds were still transmitting in mid-winter (UK - 10 birds, Germany - 5 birds and Belarus - 3 birds). Their positions varied enormously. Two of the Belarusian birds stood out as they wintered far to the south of other cuckoos in South Africa and Mozambique. The remaining birds wintered in Democratic Republic of Congo (6), Republic of Congo (5), Angola (4) and Gabon (1).

Friday, 18 April 2014

Red Kite

Red Kite

Great excitement last night as a red kite flew over Tonbridge Water Meadows. It was flying north, so may have been one of the pair from Shipbourne we reported in March.

Some interesting facts about red kites from the BTO:

Number in Britain: 1600 Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status: UK: AMBER
European: 2 Concern, most in Europe; Declining
Global: Near Threatened
Status in UK: (AC3) Resident/Re-introduced Breeder, Passage Visitor

Length: 63 cm
Wingspan: 185 cm
Weight: M: 1000 g, F: 1.2 kg

Scientific name from Latin: milvus=a kite

World Distribution: Locally throughout Europe & NW Africa
Habitat: Pasture, open woodland, forest
Diet: Scavenger on carrion, scraps, will take small live prey

First Record: Recorded in Anglo-Saxon times [Fossil evidence from Ipswichian (last) interglacial, c. 125,000 years ago]
This was once a common bird in London (Shakespeare referred to kites no fewer than 15 times), where it scavenged for scraps, and old rags for nest-building.

Breeding and Survival
Number of Nest Records: 8
Clutch Size: 2 eggs
Age at First Breeding: 2 years
Typical Lifespan: 4 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 20 years 1 months 15 days (set in 2005)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Cuckoo perched in tree


A cuckoo has been calling for the past three days on Tonbridge Water Meadows. Swallows have been seen but were probably passing through, using the Medway as a route guide, as they are not still around.

Butterflies seen on the Water Meadows include peacock, tortoiseshell, comma, orange tip and green-veined white.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Spring Migration

Keep your eyes to the skies as the weather stays warm - you never know what might be arriving!

The first willow warbler of the year has been ringed at Northward Hill with a few chiffchaff and blackcap. Swallows have been seen in several places in Kent and one or two whitethroat. KOS report a nightingale singing and a cuckoo has been seen at Warden Point on Sheppey and also at Medmerry, the reserve you heard about in our latest newsletter.

One of the BTO tagged cuckoos, Skinner, has crossed the Sahara Desert and was last known to be in Morocco. The rest are still south of the Sahara.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Quiz Night

We are pleased to announce that we raised about £1100 for the RSPB's education and conservation work.

Many thanks to all those who came and joined in the fun and to all those who contributed to our raffle. The quiz would not happen without our wonderful quiz-master Alan Dane and number cruncher Frances Dane. Special thanks also to Carol Goulden who put in a great deal of hard work to make everything happen smoothly.

The photos kindly supplied by Mary Hansford have been uploaded for you to enjoy.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Nightingale singing

Planned development in Medway

Last November Lodge Hill, the former military training school in Medway, was confirmed as the first ever protected area in the UK for nightingales. Nightingale numbers have declined severely in recent years so Lodge Hill, with possibly the largest number of nightingales in one place in the whole country (over 85 singing males), is a very precious site.

For some time, however, the site has been earmarked by Medway Council as the location for up to 5,000 new houses. An independent Government Inspector advised Medway in June last year that Lodge Hill shouldn't be developed on because of its natural value, so much so that she called on them to withdraw the over-arching housing strategy she was assessing and look for alternative places to put these houses. Medway Council withdrew the strategy but continue to support plans to build on Lodge Hill.

Now the developer have updated and re-submitted their planning application. They still intend to go ahead with this destruction of a now designated protected area. The proposed development would not only destroy the nightingales' habitat, but would be contrary to government planning policy, creating a deeply dangerous precedent for building on protected sites for nature.

Our Lodge Hill casework pages have more information about the situation and details of how you can help.