News archive

May 2015

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Bug Hotel Competition

Bug Hotel Competition

Join in the fun and make a Bug Hotel for the competition at our Wildlife Fair on Sunday 28th June. Bring it along on the day - judging will take place at 3:30 pm. Prizes for each age group: 9 and under and 10-16.

A Bug Hotel is somewhere small creatures can live, take shelter or hibernate during the colder months of the year. They can be made in all shapes and sizes from a range of materials such as bricks, logs or even old pallets. A sunny spot in the garden is best to keep the inhabitants cosy.

For our competition, think small. Your creation should be no bigger than an average-sized shoe box. There are two age groups: 9 years and under and 10-16 years. Only one entry per person.

See the attached entry form for further details.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

WILDLIFE FAIR - 28th June

We are getting excited about our Wildlife Fair next month - it will be a lot of fun.

To be really successful we need to advertise far and wide, so could you display the attached poster, or ask someone to display it for us in a prominent place? We should be delighted if you can help ...

Look forward to seeing you there!

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Thursday, 14 May 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.

Across the woodlands, the canopies are filled with birdsong, amongst which the delightful melodies of the scrub loving species like blackcap, whitethroat and willow warbler stand out.

Spring butterflies like speckled wood, orange tip and holly blue are now on the wing, emerging from cocoons after spending the winter as a caterpillar or pupa. Some orange tip females lay their eggs on cuckooflower, the pretty pale pink plant blossoming along roadsides, tracks and everywhere else. They lay a single egg on each stem and because butterflies taste with their feet they can tell as soon as they land if another female has already beat them to it - no faffing about wasting energy; they can flutter straight to the next available flower.

Broadwater Warren:

Bar a couple of piles of wood chip to be taken away, the last stage of the heathland restoration has now finished, the machinery is off site and all the paths are open - huzzah! After taking a few questions from baffled visitors about the 'revetments' that have been created in the new area, I feel an explanation is due...
Heather and other heathland plants are slow growing, and need very nutrient poor soil so they aren't out-competed by faster growing species like bracken, bramble and birch. Heather seeds that have been laying dormant under the shadows of the conifer plantations at Broadwater just need to be exposed to the sun and they will burst into life. The large machinery that harvests and collects the timber is very good at churning up the soil and exposing some of them, but to maximise the amount of heather regeneration we have to scrape off years of needle litter and forestry debris. Normally, this is a straightforward exercise where the 'lop and top' (leafy, smaller top branches) will be separated from the timber and piled in the loading bay for processing, leaving about 10cm of litter and debris to scrape into bunds or banks. These banks provide loose material for burrowing mammals and reptiles, as well as mining insects, and will be managed as scrubby islands for birds like yellowhammer, linnet and tree pipit in future years.

This year however, the heavy machinery began to sink because of the wet ground conditions, so the brash had to be used to 'float' the machinery over the mud. Because it got so churned with earth, it could no longer be chipped for biofuel and we had to come up with a new plan. Rather than leave the heather seeds buried under material about half a metre deep, the brash was mulched to reduce the volume and then scraped into a series of bunds and banks. The sheer volume of material has meant that there are many more bunds than we would usually have and innovative designing has been called for to make sure that there will be big enough areas of regenerating heath, as well as new ponds and wet scrapes amongst the bunds. It's a dynamic landscape, continuously monitored and managed accordingly, so it may change again yet. It will be a fascinating area to watch develop so keep an eye on the wildlife as it returns.

Broadwater has been rife with heathland bird activity over the last couple of weeks. Tree pipits seem to be everywhere, especially on the stretch of track from the crossroads towards the larches. You can see them singing and parachuting from the tall perch trees, joined by yellowhammers and willow warblers. Woodlarks appear to have reared their first brood successfully as a family group has been spotted. They will be singing again soon, to mark the start of their second nesting breeding attempt. This is a great time to hear the difference between the woodlark and tree pipit, as the songs of both birds fill the heath. On some days you may hear the skylark joining in too!

Other birds to look out for are the grey wagtails at the Decoy pond, which should be rearing their first chick of the season anytime soon. Birds of prey are filling the skies: Three kestrels have regularly been seen across both heaths; a family group of four buzzards can be seen soaring up high; a pair of peregrine falcons over the reserve was reported to Sussex Ornithological Society last week and a red kite was spotted gliding over the main heath yesterday. We've had good views of a lesser spotted woodpecker at the boardwalk over the iron pools, and marsh tit activity is on the up throughout the wet woodland. Hopefully the spotted flycatchers will return again this month as well.

This year will be the first time amphibian surveys are carried out. As part of the amphibian data capture, we recently carried out a newt survey across several ponds. Rather disappointingly, we only got three male palmate newts this time - but we'll try again next month! April to September is the main time for amphibian activity and you can see all the different life stages through the season. Look for the tiny tadpoles in Decoy pond now and witness metamorphosis in action as they transform into frogs over the next few weeks.

Reptiles have awoken and are moving around on the heath and grassland. Our volunteer surveyors have now picked up records for all four common species at Broadwater and lizards and slow worms at Tudeley. Look out for lizards and slow worms basking on sun baked logs, and watch out for adders and grass snakes slithering through vegetation at ride edges.

Tudeley Woods:

There was another sighting of a red kite, at Tudeley this time as it glided over the car park a couple of weeks ago. Several buzzards can be seen soaring over the woodlands and kestrels are regular hunters in both Yewtree and Sandhill fields.

The kestrels have certainly got a bounty of prey to choose from in the fields according to the reptile surveyors that carry out refugia checks there. So far this season, there have been more records of small mammals than reptiles under the mats! The tussocky grass there is ideal for small mammals, with records of field mouse, harvest mouse, common shrew, pygmy shrew and bank and field vole already this year. They can make nests and shelter in the dense growth, making tunnels or runs through the sward to remain hidden from view. Or so they think... owls and kestrels with their incredible visual spectrum can pinpoint exactly where their favourite prey of voles is hiding amongst the grass.

The volunteers have successfully cleared the face of the sandstone quarry which forms part of Tudeley's geological SSSI. The quarry had invasive buddleia smothering the sandy face and the roots were beginning to cause structural damage. The team managed to cut back a significant chunk of degenerate vegetation which can be managed much better for wildlife.

We still have places on our Early Birds and Sleepy Dormouse events later this month.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Don't forget to Vote!

Start practising for the General Election and vote for our National Bird It's difficult to know which bird to choose, but much more fun!

The choice has been whittled down to ten: Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Wren, Puffin, Hen Harrier, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Mute Swan, Red Kite and Robin. It's a simple procedure - just click on the button and enter your email address - you can opt out of receiving any further marketing information.

As in any Election, you won't be able to complain about the outcome if you haven't voted yourself!