News archive

March 2015

Friday, 27 March 2015

Cuckoo perched in tree

Tracking Cuckoos to Africa... and back again

The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) has been tracking cuckoo migration since 2011 using solar-powered tags. We've lost over half the number of cuckoos in the UK over the last 20 years and they are trying to find out what happens when they are not here. They have learnt lots of vital information which will to help save our cuckoos but, there is still more to discover.

Most of the 17 cuckoos that have been tagged are now on their way back north and are currently moving into West Africa. Chris is one of the few birds who has not gone west and is still in the Central African Republic. There are only four that are 'lost' and it's possible that they will be picked up again later.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Early returning migrants

March is a great time to look for early-returning migrants. The year's first wheatear has already been logged at Portland, Dorset; sand martin and little ringed plover will start arriving very soon too.

Ongoing research using BirdTrack data shows that migrant arrival timing is advancing. For most species studied, this is by a few days over the last 50 years. First arrival dates remain consistent between years, so you're still very unlikely to find a willow warbler before the last week of March or hear a cuckoo before the second week of April, for example.

An interesting table on the BirdTrack website shows average arrival dates of 24 spring migrants at four bird observatories

Thursday, 12 March 2015



We are continuing our 40th Anniversary celebrations with a Wildlife Fair at Tonbridge Castle Lawn on Saturday 28th June from 11am to 4pm.

There will be plenty of stalls with wildlife experts from the Kent Wildlife Trust, the National Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Folly Wildlife Rescue and many others.

There will also be fun and games for all the family! - sack races, build a bug hotel, I-spy trail, RSPB sales table.. and much more!

To volunteer to help on the day or with organisation please contact Martin Ellis (

Saturday, 7 March 2015

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

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

March brings about the start of surveying season, with birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies all warming up for the breeding season. Look out for the first emerging adders on warm spring days, coming out of their hibernation chambers in log piles and hollow tree stumps. Look for toad and frog spawn in ponds and puddles at this time of year. Both amphibian species lay their goopy eggs straight after emerging from hibernation. On warmer days, you might see the first butterflies of the year too, likely to be red admirals, small tortoiseshells and peacocks. These species live through the winter in their adult form, hiding in sheltered spots like caves, fissured tree trunks or even your house.

On our web pages for Broadwater Warren and Tudeley Woods, you'll now be able to find a 'Recent Sightings' section. Matt will be putting up weekly wildlife reports to keep you informed of the species present on our reserves. If you see any interesting wildlife at Tudeley or Broadwater, or need help identifying things, please do get in touch with us!

Broadwater Warren

Matt, Nick and I carried out our first bird surveys of the year, targeting our 'Priority Species' - the ones in most need of our help. We are mapping their breeding territories to better understand how they are using the reserve, and where we can make improvements. We counted 14 woodlarks and 8 yellowhammers singing that morning!

Woodlarks are our earliest heathland breeders, singing to mark and defend their territories from early February. Their beautiful song can now be heard from a long way away either sung from a tree or the ground. Their Latin name Lullula arborea is onomatopoeic - their song is made up of 'lu-lu-lu-lu' notes.

Yellowhammers are traditionally thought of as farmland birds, associated with hedgerows and scrub next to open ground. The gorse and alder buckthorn bushes that edge the wide tracks at Broadwater are perfect for them. You can spot the bright yellow males trying to attract the much drabber females, belting out their infamous song which supposedly sounds a bit like 'little-bit-of-bread-but-no-cheeeeeese'.

Ride widening work has continued with the help of our super volunteer work party. Paths along our joined boundary with Sussex Wildlife Trust's Eridge Rocks reserve are being coppiced to open them up to benefit sun loving butterflies, dragonflies and plants. The trees that have been cut will grow back as bushy, multi-stemmed 'stools', providing much needed variation in the woodland structure.

Broadwater has a fascinating history as a military training area from the 18th century up until the Second World War, backed up by archaeological evidence such as the firing range and practice trenches that cross the heath, but also in the form of unexploded munitions. Our emergency plan swung into action recently when during a work party a volunteer came across a suspicious object. It turned out to be a World War Two British smoke mortar that our experts eventually assessed as safe but requiring proper disposal. To our inexpert eyes there was no way of knowing that the mortar was no longer a danger and it underlined the advice we give to all our staff, volunteers and visitors: if you find something suspicious, don't touch it, move at least 100 metres away and contact the Wealden Office and the police.

Tudeley Woods

Ride work has also been continuing in the Plants and Brakeybank areas at Tudeley. You will start to see the pale yellow blooms of primroses along the track edges - a sure sign that spring is in the air! Look for emerging bluebell shoots, pushing their way through the leaf litter too.

Our intrepid volunteer bird surveyors have been criss-crossing the reserve in the search of the elusive lesser spotted woodpecker. The name isn't an indicator of how frequently they are seen; it's all about their diminutive stature in comparison to its larger relative, the great spotted woodpecker. About the size of a sparrow, LSWs are more likely to be found in the high braches of oak woodland. At this time of year they are setting up and defending their breeding territories with displays of drumming, and are easier to see on the bare branches.

There's been a recent spate of fly-tipping along the lanes around the Tudeley reserve. We appreciate all reports of these odious acts, so thanks for your vigilance. If you spot any problems like fly-tipping, vandalism the website is a very efficient way to report them and get a response from the local authorities.