News archive

July 2014

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Big Butterfly Count - 19th July to 10th August

Big Butterfly Count - 19th July to 10th August

You can sign up to the Big Butterfly Count newsletter and download and print out their handy Butterfly Chart to help you identify and record the butterflies you spot. Then simply count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny). Records are welcome from anywhere: from parks, school grounds and gardens, to fields and forests.

If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) - this is so that you don't count the same butterfly more than once . If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

You can submit separate records for different dates, and for different places that you visit. Remember that your count is useful even if you do not see any butterflies or moths.

You can send in your sightings online at or by using the FREE big butterfly count smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.

You never know what might turn up in your garden and as Sir David Attenborough says butterflies are "one of the most splendid things you can see in the natural world in this country".

Tuesday, 15 July 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.

Hello everyone!

My name is Nick Feledziak (Fell-er-jack) and I will be replacing Tom as an assistant warden at the Weald reserves. I join you from Staffordshire, having previously worked for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the National Trust. I have spent the last year as an assistant warden on a lowland heathland site and am overjoyed to be now working for the RSPB at the Weald reserves. Jamie Smith has also joined us from RSPB Rainham Marshes as an assistant warden on a temporary basis. You may have already seen him at Broadwater engaging with visitors and carrying out essential maintenance work. Look out for us on the reserves and please come and say 'hi' if you see us.

Broadwater Warren
Broadwater Warren is reaching the halfway point of its heathland restoration project and it is showing encouraging signs of success. It's been a great year for heathland bird species: we've recorded five nightjar territories, six tree pipit territories and six woodlark territories.
Now that we have reached the halfway point, we are continuing to monitor our progress through an ecological audit. We will be working with our ecological consultants to ensure we are carrying out our site management work sensitively and effectively. By carefully timing our work, we can minimise disturbance to protected wildlife such as dormice and bats.

A lesser spotted woodpecker has been spotted by the Decoy pond, and the pictures taken and kindly shared by one of our eagle-eyed visitors are on the blog to prove it. If you are lucky enough to get a photograph of any wildlife, we would be thrilled if you could upload it to our Broadwater Warren blog. (You will need to join as a member first.)

Wildflowers have appeared along the rides in places they haven't been before. Keep an eye out for areas of tormentil, common centaury, purple self heal, and heather. There are three species of heather on the reserve, bell heather, cross-leaved heather, and ling. All three should be in flower by the end of July, so visit in August for stunning displays of purple.

More open heath management will soon be taking place at Broadwater Warren. Watch out for contractors who will be spraying, bashing and pulling encroaching bracken and scrub regrowth. As the tree felling programme comes closer to completion, the focus will shift onto the open heathland vegetation. Undesirable pioneer species like bracken are likely to take over cleared areas unless they are carefully managed. Eventually heathland flora will gain dominance, improving the biodiversity and restoring the habitat to its former glory.

There have been sightings of a wide variety of dragonflies and damselflies around Broadwater this year, including two species that are new to the site, hairy dragonfly and black darter. Other highlights include beautiful demoiselle, blue-tailed damselfly, golden-ringed dragonfly, black-tailed skimmer and the largest British dragonfly the Emperor.

Finally, three more Exmoor ponies have been released on Broadwater to aid us with the ongoing site management. These ponies are here to eat up the tasty vegetation around the site so we ask that you discourage anyone attempting to feed them, as this could make the ponies ill.

Tudeley Woods

At Tudeley Woods, the meadow is looking great with lovely orchids and other impressive flora springing up. The area is a haven for invertebrates including species of grasshopper, bush-cricket, bumblebee and butterfly. If you have ever wanted to know the difference between a grasshopper and a bush-cricket, the easiest thing to look at is the antennae length. Bush-crickets will have antennae longer than their bodies, whereas grasshopper antennae will be shorter. You can also learn to recognise individual species by their sound, just like with birds. If you would like to learn more, visit the Orthoptera Recording Scheme website where you can access a wide range of information.

Sticking with invertebrates, Tudeley Woods was also the location for sightings of dingy and grizzled skippers, which were seen in May on Yew Tree Field and Sandhill Field. Both of these butterfly species are in decline due to changes in farming practice; however, they have good strongholds here in the South.

Thank you to everyone who has responded to the 'Fix My Street' appeal. As many of you are aware, there is an ongoing problem with fly tipping on the lanes around Tudeley Woods. Much of this mess has been cleared up since we asked you to report problems to the website, however there are still issues to sort out, so we encourage anyone who notices anything to continue to report problems.

Ride management is taking place at with the help of volunteers and the Hadlow estate. We have seen good numbers of white admiral and silver washed fritillary, which have also been seen along the rides at Broadwater Warren. Look out for the second broods of commas and peacocks too. Commas have a very interesting (and complicated) life cycle. Most of the offspring from the first brood have dark undersides and will not breed before overwintering (overwintering is like hibernating for bugs), however some will have a light underside and will go on to produce another generation that then go on to overwinter. The form with a light underside is known as "hutchinsoni", named after Emma Hutchinson who discovered the behaviour.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tracking Cuckoos

The BTO reports: "The cuckoo is one of the UK's fastest declining migrants and, until recently, was one which we knew least about once it left the UK.

We have lost over half the number of cuckoos in the UK over the last 25 years.

We have been satellite-tracking cuckoos since 2011 to find out more about their routes, important stop-over sites and wintering destinations on the way to and from Africa.

We hope this will give us vital information to help save our cuckoos."

Only two BTO tagged cuckoos remain in the UK, both of them in East Anglia. The rest have already crossed the Channel and are heading south and south-east. Already five of them are in Spain and two are in Italy. Four are in the Netherlands. This year there are twenty-two birds with active signals at present.

To keep an eye on how they make their way south, follow the map on the BTO's website.