News archive

July 2015

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Big Wild Sleepout 7-9 August

Big Wild Sleepout 7-9 August

The Big Wild Sleepout is all about spending a night in nature's home and connecting with the natural world all around you.

From 7-9 August 2015, we're encouraging families throughout the UK to sleepout overnight, either in their own garden or as part of an organised RSPB event. Locally both Northward Hill and Rainham RSPB reserves are involved.

How you take part is up to you. You could pitch a tent, build a shelter or, if the weather's kind, spend a night under the stars.

Wherever you live, nature comes alive at night - what will you see, hear and do?

Visit the website for tips on camping and activities, or sign up for your free Big Wild Sleepout explorer pack containing all the info you'll need to take part.

Have a wild time!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Big Butterfly Count!

Big Butterfly Count!

All you have to do is choose a place and spot butterflies and moths for fifteen minutes, then submit your sightings. You can send in your results by post, using the Butterfly Conservation ID chart or online.

Sightings are already coming in and you can view a map online to see what's been seen in the Tonbridge area.

Wednesday, 15 July 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.

The sunshine has been wonderful and boosted the wildflowers into full bloom along both heathland and woodland rides. The invertebrates seem to be making the most of them, with tons of bees, butterflies, beetles and more filling the air on warm days. The birds might have quietened down as their territories are made but are now more visible as family groups flit through the trees and feed on the ground. Here's hoping that we have a long hot summer yet!

Butterflies are fluttering by on all three reserves. Look out now for more of the browns - ringlet, meadow brown and gatekeeper. Adults drop eggs amongst long, tufty grasses in summer and after about three weeks will hatch into caterpillars which hibernate over winter. In spring the caterpillars feed at night before pupating in early summer, and emerge as adults from about June. They're quite tricky to tell apart at times when they're all fluttering along the rides at top speed! Other butterflies to look out for along the dappled woodland rides are the monochrome white admiral and bright orange silver-washed fritillary. These large specimens glide along wide rides, both striking with their bold appearances and strong flights. The silver-washed fritillary caterpillars feed on dog violets while white admiral caterpillars feed on honeysuckle, but both adults feed mostly on bramble flowers. Blackberry bushes are the best place to spot them at rest.

A common day flying moth to look out for is the cinnabar. The black and red adults and the yellow and black caterpillars are both garishly coloured to warn predators that they are poisonous. This is because they feed on ragwort, the much maligned yellow-flowered weed. While it can present a problem to livestock if eaten in vast quantities over many years, it is actually not the villain it's portrayed to be. It's a fantastic nectar source for many bees, butterflies and other invertebrates and 33 invertebrate species rely on ragwort exclusively!

Other wee beasties filling the air are dragonflies and damselflies. After the larvae have emerged from the ponds, the new adults fly away from the water to hunt and build up strength for the brief mating and egg-laying season ahead. You'll see dragonflies hawking for insects over the heaths and along woodland rides. Easy species to look out for are the two largest: the slender black and yellow striped golden ringed and the bulky and bright blue and green emperor, and also the chocolate coloured brown hawkers which live up to their name - even their wings are brown. Damselflies are weak fliers and delicate little things, so tend to flutter in clouds near the water's edge. Large reds and azure blues are the two most abundant species, but there are plenty more. Can you help us find out more about the insect life at our reserves by sending in your photos? The most efficient and effective way to identify what's out there is through photographs. Even if they're a bit blurry, it can help us build up a species list and build up the information about the health of our wildlife populations.

We had a great spot of a lesser spot last month when Matt found a nest in the woods at Broadwater. This is one of two territories for the lesser spotted woodpeckers here, and we were fortunate enough to have the BTO come and film this nest with a special endoscope-type camera.

From our evening surveys this year we've been able to conclude that nightjars are at their highest number at Broadwater since we took over the site in 2007, with seven territories over the eastern and western heaths. We're hoping that we can build on this number even further when the final restoration work is completed this winter. You can still hear some churring and have pretty great views of them if you go to the reserve at dusk. See how many glow worms you can spot along the ride edges too!

Wildflowers have certainly added a splash of colour to the landscape this month. Pink common centaury, vivid purple self heal and bright yellow St. John's wort are all attracting the attention of insects along the track edges. The fuchsia flowers of cross-leaved heath and dusky pink blooms of bell heather can be seen in clumps amongst the common ling that carpets the heathland in lilac later on in summer. Honeysuckle is blossoming in the woodlands, filling the evening air with its lovely scent, and fields, verges and hedge banks are full of vibrant bird's foot trefoil flowers.

In the sphagnum paddock at Broadwater heath spotted orchids can be seen amongst the grasses and sedges. If you're an orchid fan, perhaps you could help the Natural History Museum with its new orchid observers project. It aims to identify and record our native orchids to study the effects of climate change. They're calling on people to send in photos of wild orchids and to help identify the photos of others.

Mini-beast Safari
Saturday 18th July, 11am - 1pm
Nick and I will be indentifying interesting invertebrates and learning more about the little creatures that prop up the ecosystem. We'll be using nets, beat sheets and pooters to help us get a closer look. Please get in touch if you'd like to know more or to book you're place on this event. It's free, but with a suggested donation of £2, and suitable for amateur nature enthusiasts and families.