News archive

June 2015

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Such fun! Our leader Martin Ellis has emailed all those who helped with the Wildlife Fair to thank them for their hard work and to say what a success it was. Everything went smoothly and all the stallholders seemed very happy with how things had gone.

We had a steady stream of visitors and it was lovely to see so many families coming in. Lots of children enthusiastically took part in the Penguin Sack Races and Egg 'n Spoon races. The RSPB recruitment stall signed up three new members and there were many interesting stalls to visit. A personal favourite was the woodpecker nest on the RSPB stall. The tree trunk containing the nesting chamber had been cut open so we could see how beautifully it had been chiselled out.

Many thanks to all those who took part and supported us.

Friday, 12 June 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.

This month we welcome Andy Daw as our new Sites Manager who will be leaving Northward Hill to take charge of all our reserves.

Broadwater Warren:
The Exmoors returned on 15th May, this time as a herd of 11 and again loaned out from the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust. These hardy ponies are bred as descendants of the ancient horses that would have roamed the landscape centuries ago. They are well designed to face extreme weather conditions and will forage hard to find enough food. This is what makes them great managers of the heath - they will eat the invasive birch scrub, keep the purple moor grass from dominating and nibble the heather. This combined with trampling the bracken patches and poaching the earth creates a fantastically varied sward height out on the heath. Species that benefit from managing the vegetation this way include the tree pipits, skylarks and woodlarks that have bred again this year, and are still very visible out on the eastern heath. A female wheatear spotted last month takes the tally of bird species to 88 that have been seen at Broadwater since the RSPB bought it in 2007!

Other creatures taking advantage of the sunny summer days are the reptiles: adder, grass snake, slow worm and common lizard. One of the snakes in last week's survey was a melanistic 'black adder'. A genetic flaw has led to an over production of the pigment melanin, which results in black or very dark skin.

Another first for Broadwater was a record of a dingy skipper butterfly. Although they are fairly widespread, these fairly drab little butterflies are declining due to a lack of their favoured larval food plant - bird's foot trefoil. We also had 10 dormice in total for May, alongside many blue tits and even two marsh tit nests.

Tudeley Woods
Our butterfly surveyors have picked up numerous counts of both dingy and the similar looking grizzled skipper. The fields are full of beautiful wildflowers, including their favoured birds-foot trefoil, common vetch, thyme-leaved speedwell, tormentil, wild strawberry and heath bedstraw.

In the Brakeybank area north of the car park and at the Decoy pond to the south, spotted flycatchers have been...well, spotted. We had one record of a turtle dove at Tudeley in May and another at our smallest and secret reserve, Rowlands Wood, then very surprisingly another at Broadwater. Last month we entered into a supplementary feeding trial to try and establish whether the tragic decline of these gorgeous birds can be reversed. Research has shown that they just haven't got enough food when they arrive from Africa. The lack of field margins with arable weeds when they get here means that they can't get into breeding condition until very late in the season and consequently raising fewer and fewer chicks. Not so long ago, turtle doves were spread across the UK and their soft purring song was a familiar sound. Now it's likely that without radical changes to the way our countryside is managed, turtle doves will be extinct in the UK within the next 10 years. Find out about the attempts to turn things around for the turtle doves by following the link below.