News archive

December 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Adult male siskin on feeder

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

Here's all the latest news from the RSPB Weald Reserves...

With winter upon us you might think it's a quiet time to hear and see wildlife on the reserves. But keep your eyes and ears peeled for flocks of tits and finches in the woodland. Species that would normally keep apart in the breeding season come together into mixed flocks in winter for several reasons. One is protection from predators; an alarm call from any member of the flock will provoke an instant response from all its members to flee the danger. Secondly, flocking is believed to increase the efficiency of foraging, an important consideration during the short days of winter when limited time is available for feeding.

Species you may see together include long tailed tit, blue tit, coal tit, great tit, treecreeper, goldcrest, nuthatch and if you are lucky bullfinch, marsh tit and lesser spotted woodpecker! We also have mixed flocks of finches including siskin, goldfinch, lesser redpoll, and chaffinch and once again if you are lucky you may be able to pick out the odd brambling or crossbill.

Broadwater Warren
New Year Work Party
With Christmas fast approaching you might want to book onto our New Years Work party event at BWW on Saturday 9th January. It's a chance to burn off those mince pies and do something great for nature at the same time. Join us for a day of practical conservation and spend a morning getting warm doing some practical work, have a bonfire cooked jacket potato for lunch then take a stroll around the reserve to spot some winter wildlife. No experience or equipment is necessary. All are welcome. For more information and to place your potato order, please contact the Wealden team on 01892 752 430

Now that the major heathland restoration work has been completed we have decided to change some of the forestry tracks to seasonal paths. This will mean that instead of the heathland being split up
into several blocks we will have one continuous 32ha of heathland and woodland providing an even better place to give nature a home.

But don't fear as you will still be able to enjoy panoramic views of the flowering heather and witness darting dragonflies and the parachuting song displays of tree pipit and woodlark across the heath. Several views points and new ponds will be created on the edges of this area to provide people with a place to sit and enjoy the wildlife.

Another event to keep an eye out for is the guided walk that we will be coinciding with the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch event at the end of January. On Saturday the 23rd of January bring your empty Christmas sweet tins, because along with a guided walk, where we can show and help with identification of garden birds, we will be giving out some free bird seed to help fill your feeders. You can also pick up some survey forms so you can take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch event. This citizen science event is a brilliant way of collecting information on how garden birds are doing across the country, which helps provide data for conservation science.

We are now in the next phase of heathland management at Broadwater Warren and part of this includes carrying out some scrub coppicing and pine pulling. The last month volunteers have been doing a brilliant and busy job pulling pines in the south east of the reserve and at the rate they are working this compartment should be completed this winter. A scattering of pines will be left as song posts for woodlark and tree pipit across the heath. While helping pulling pines I was lucky to come across this harvest mouse nest. Harvest mice are listed as a BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) Species because they are thought to have become much scarcer in recent years so it's good to see they are present on the heath and scrubby margins.

Work in the woodland has been mainly focused on ride management in the last few weeks. With the
help of volunteers we have been creating scallops and glades along the rides to pen them up. The
coppicing work will benefit a range of spring and summer flowers including bluebells, violets and honeysuckle which in turn will help pollinators such as bees and some of our woodland butterflies including silver washed fritillary and white admiral.

Tudeley Woods
The restoration of Brakeybank meadow should be finished by Christmas. Further work has been carried out to restore the pond and scrape the nutrient rich litter layer off. The way markers for a new trail will be placed in the spring to allow visitors to enjoy the wildlife found on the meadow. Wild flower meadows have decreased by 90% in recent years; they are such an important habitat for a range of pollinators and other species, so it will be interesting to see how the wild flowers return over the next few years. We will also be holding an event in the summer to show people the wildlife found on the meadow and you will also be able to help out with green haying. The event is being held as part of the National Meadows day.

The volunteers have been busy carrying out ride management in the Plants and Brakeybank woods. Maintaining an open ride network is vital to support several species of butterfly including silver washed fritillary and white admiral which you should hopefully see next summer.

After a meeting about pearl bordered fritillary butterflies (a nationally scarce and declining species) with several organisations including Butterfly Conservation, we were provided with a best practice management plan for the species. We have discussed the information and the best coppice cycle with one of the woodsman who works in the Plants and are now implementing the plan. The hope is that over the next few years the mixed coppice and ride network will improve to the point when the habitat will be suitable for a release of pearl bordered fritillary butterflies!

We have now been sent the results from the Fungi Foray from October where 37 species were recorded that day including a new species for the reserve. Another new species was recorded recently on Brakeybank bringing the total recorded at Tudeley Reserve up to an amazing 1150 species!

Our reserves are always in need of the generous help of volunteers who can help with a range of practical tasks or surveying, please do get in contact if you are interested even just for one day, we would welcome the extra hands.

Hope you have a good Christmas and New Year!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Curlew standing on weed, County Cork, Ireland

Curlew added to British Red List

Shocking news from the BTO that the curlew has just been added to the British Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern as it has been in sharp decline over the past two decades.

They say: the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) shows a 46% decline across the UK in the last two decades, with this figure exceeding 50% in Wales and Scotland. Critically, the UK holds 28% of Europe's breeding curlew, meaning that declines here represent the loss of a substantial portion of Europe's total breeding curlew population.

The UK's population of wintering curlew is also of global importance, representing nearly one-fifth of the world population. Resident breeding curlew are joined in winter by birds from the Continent and Scandinavia. However, the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) estimates about a 20% decline in curlew numbers over the last 15 years.

To unpick the causes of curlew population decline the BTO is planning a ground-breaking programme of research, analysing existing datasets to investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation and utilising revolutionary new technology to track wintering curlew.

Further details are here: