News archive

May 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

News from the RSPB's Weald reserves

News from the RSPB's Weald reserves

Summer feels like it's just around the corner (even though the weather doesn't always seem to agree!) with nightjars and spotted flycatchers returning to the reserves, cuckoos calling and parents seen feeding their young.

Dragonflies and damselflies are now starting to appear, with broad bodied and four spot chasers on the ponds and butterflies such as green hairstreak and orange tip being seen.

One of our volunteers Alan Loweth has recently received his well deserved 10 year badge. He has too numerous volunteer roles to mention for the RSPB, so a big thank you for all that you continue to do for the Wealden Team.

Broadwater Warren
Wildlife sightings this month include the first nightjar on the 10th of May, spotted flycatchers, woodlarks with their first fledged chicks, stonechats seen feeding young, a pair of ravens, lesser spotted woodpecker in the woods, a wheatear was on site for over a week at the start of May and a cuckoo has been seen flying and calling near the crossroads. Highlight on recent butterfly transects include 73 brimstones and 4 green hairstreak that were seen between the crossroads and decoy pond.

The Exmoor ponies arrived back from their winter site on the South Downs last week. 15 ponies are on site this summer. They do a brilliant job of creating structure on the heath and keeping areas of Molinia grass short which creates feeding areas for birds such as woodlark and yellowhammer.

Unfortunately there have been a few dog incidents recently at Broadwater Warren. This time of year it is important to keep dogs on a lead and off the heath as ground nesting birds such as woodlark, skylark and tree pipits will have chicks and nightjars will be on nests. On 3 occasions in recent weeks the same two dogs (a grey Weimaraner and a collie/spaniel cross) have been found running out of control through the woodlands and across the heaths. They are undoubtedly disturbing ground-nesting birds and woodland wildlife. The owner hasn't been in sight on either occasion and we are keen to speak to them. If you see anyone with two dogs of this description could you please let us know where and when.

Tudeley Woods
Wildlife sightings at Tudeley this month include woodlark, a pair of displaying ravens, lesser spotted woodpecker in Brakeybank and spotted flycatcher and marsh tit near the decoy pond. A great tit has also been seen feeding young on a nest in an unusual place...inside the barrier to the car park! Green hairstreak butterflies were recorded in Sandhill Field and common lizards, slow worms and grass snakes have all been recorded on the reptile surveys.

Unfortunately turtle doves have declined by 91% between1995 and 2013 (BTO Breeding Bird Survey) and have recently been upgraded to globally 'Vulnerable' to extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Reasons are complex and not completely understood and whilst factors will be operating across the species migratory route as well as on wintering grounds, current research shows that reduction in breeding productivity in the UK is a major contributing factor. A change in diet from mainly seeds of arable plants in the 1960s to mainly crops (probably available mostly as spilled grain rather than in situ) by the late 1990s due to changes in agriculture has occurred concurrently with a reduction in breeding attempts.

As such the RSPB is conducting supplementary feeding trials at a number of sites, one of which is being carried out at Tudeley Woods. Two plots have been chosen, one being a control with no seed, whilst the other will have seed scattered across the bare ground. Hopefully the data collected at the end of the breeding season will help contribute to understanding the decline. If you do see any turtle doves on our reserves please let us know.

The volunteers have been busy this month installing fire beaters and new way markers across the site as well as installing several benches. They also carried out some much needed tlc around the entrance to Tudeley near the car park (which is only opened upon request at present) including the hazel fence around the wildflower bed.

Volunteering Opportunities
We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to engage with our visitors at Broadwater Warren. If you have a little spare time, and are passionate about nature, you may be the person we are looking for to become a Visitor Experience Volunteer. One of our current volunteers, Rosy, has moved on to pastures new. You will have seen some of her work in the form of temporary interpretation around the reserve. This means we are looking for new people to take the reins, and show our visitors the amazing wildlife that's about. If you are interested helping out in any way, have a read of the tasks involved below and get in touch at or phone us on 01892 752 430. No previous experience is required, and wildlife knowledge can be built on as you go.

The role would involve:
Ensuring fellow nature enthusiasts know where and when to go to see our finest species
Answering questions and providing information about the work the RSPB is doing. Assuring people that comments, concerns and suggestions will be passed onto RSPB staff.
Making sure all our visitors know how special Broadwater Warren is for people and wildlife
Acting as an ambassador for the RSPB.
Being our eyes and ears on the reserve, reporting any problems.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Local birding news

Locally spring is in full throttle. Nightingale are singing, turtle dove have paired up, the cuckoo continues to call and common terns have been seen fishing in the Medway. Three hobbies came up river yesterday - a thrilling site as they wheeled around, put food into their beaks with their legs outstretched, and stooped after prey. Swifts have come up river in large parties, with a few staying around, but most flying on. The swallows still appear to be collecting mud for their nests and kingfisher have been seen speeding down the river.

All the tagged cuckoos in the BTO project have now returned, but they have all moved further north than Kent. Stanley is the nearest, having returned to the Cranwich Heath area in Norfolk after a journey of 3000 miles from the Ivory Coast.

THE BTO is appealing for funds for its BirdTrack Research Project, trying to understand why so many of our summer migrants are in decline. The Project will enable their expert team of researchers to analyse millions of BirdTrack records in new ways to answer some of the most pressing questions about our summer migrants and why they are disappearing. This vital research will deliver fresh insights into bird population and distribution trends, habitat use and migration patterns across a range of species throughout the UK and beyond.