News archive

April 2015

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

WILDLIFE FAIR - 28th June 11am to 4pm

WILDLIFE FAIR - 28th June 11am to 4pm

Learn more about your local wildlife in the beautiful setting of Tonbridge Castle.

With educational stalls, family-friendly activities and a wealth of experts on hand, the wildlife fair offers something for everybody interested in the natural world.

There will be stalls representing RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust, Medway Valley Partnership, Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group, Folly Wildlife Rescue and many more.

Hot and cold refreshments and Kentish produce will be available.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Cuckoo perched in tree

Cuckoo!

The cuckoo on Tonbridge Water Meadows is now calling more regularly, though first heard over a week ago. Other migrants are also now flooding in with the change in weather, with the first blackcap and swallows arriving.

The BTO is concerned about the rapid decline in house martin numbers and is running a House Martin Survery over the next two summers. This will help identify why they are declining and provide scientific evidence to help inform policy decisions that could reverse the decline. You are invited to get involved by monitoring a square - follow the link for details.

The BTO is also helping turtle doves.

In 2014, Dove Step saw a small but perfectly-formed team of dedicated conservationists walk 300 miles through the UK summer range of turtle doves. To raise more awareness and to raise funds for the conservation of this rapidly declining species, the team have upped the ante this year! Starting later this week, they will cover 700 miles of our turtle doves' migration route to and through France in just a fortnight, by kayak, bike and on foot.


Monday, 6 April 2015

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

Tudeley Woods

Volunteers have been working hard to get the last of the ride work done before bird nesting season. 'D' shaped scallops have been cut into the ride edges to provide a sheltered microhabitat where wildflowers and pollinators will thrive. There are areas of shade and varying light throughout the day, log piles have been left to cater for deadwood insects and hibernating reptiles, and the 'D' shapes help prevent the rides from becoming wind tunnels. These rides are then managed on rotation; creating scallops in new places year on year until returning to cut this scallop again when it has grown back enough. This means that all the scallops are at different growth levels, providing maximum diversity.

Brakeybank meadow has been cut in preparation for spring. Removing these nutrients from the meadow prevents it from becoming nutrient rich grassland, which has less diversity and ecological value. For the botanists amongst you, keep an eye out for southern adders tongue, yellow vetchling and heath dog-violet.

The small area of heathland south of the Pembury bypass has had a bit of rejuvenation. Birch scrub and bracken that had taken over has been cut and removed from the area. The ground has then been scraped and put into bunds to allow heathland dwarf-shrubs to take their place. Amazingly, the new look of the area has already attracted the attention of stonechat and woodlark which have been spotted there.

March has been a bumper month for bird sightings. Woodlark has been heard singing on the heathland ridge and in Yewtree field. Lesser spotted woodpeckers have also been about, and our warden Matt claims to have seen a hen harrier.

Other notable finds last month include many sightings of treecreepers and marsh tits, common lizards out and about, and the ponds filling up with frogspawn. Fungi species number 1140 was also found at the reserve last month. The addition to the list is Niptera ramincola which appears as a small blue-grey disc on spruce cones.

Broadwater Warren

This year's restoration work is finally coming to an end. The mulching and scraping was vital work required to expose dormant heather seeds to the light and warmth required to burst into life, but unfortunately it was delayed due to the area being waterlogged for some time.

Extensive work has gone into clearing vast quantities of invasive rhododendron from the reserve. Volunteers and contractors have been working tirelessly to remove the non-native shrub that was introduced to this country by the Victorians. If gone unchecked, rhododendron takes over large areas; outcompeting most other native plants. The clearance has exposed an old quarry that was not visible before the work. One of our volunteers has kindly offered to put her geology skills to the test, with the help of a local expert, to determine the possible original purpose of the quarry. We have also coppiced some birch on the southern side of the quarry to expose it to light and warmth that will benefit mining solitary bees and wasps, as well as possibly sand martins...

Chiffchaff and blackcap have arrived and have been heard singing around the reserve! These birds have probably spent their winter in Western Europe and the chiffchaff is the first spring migrant to arrive back once it starts to warm up again. Other bird highlights include the continued presence of woodlarks and yellowhammers, the sighting of a brambling, and the return of grey wagtails to the island in the decoy pond. This is the second year in a row that grey wagtails have been found on this island, having nested there in 2014.

Bee surveys have started on the reserve. We have seen the first of the bumblebees flying about foraging on the flowering gorse, mostly buff-tailed bumblebees and tree bumblebees. Tree bumblebees are recent colonisers from France and have slowly been making their way North. These are the bumblebees that are most likely to be nesting in bird boxes. We have also recorded some solitary mining bees on the survey. Solitary bees have a completely different lifecycle to the more familiar social bees, but in fact contribute a lot more to the pollination of plants. There are no workers or queens, only males and females, and once mated, the female lays her eggs in a suitable nest site and seals them up until (usually) the following spring when they emerge. The scientific names of the species recorded are Andrena clarkella and Andrena bicolor. Clarkella is often the first bee to emerge in the spring, flying as early as mid February. Bicolor is an example of a bivoltine bee, which means it has two generations in one year.