News archive

June 2016

Thursday, 23 June 2016

News from our local reserves

It's shaping up to be a very wet month, but in the intermittent periods of dry weather, wildlife is still flourishing out on the reserves. Bird sightings include lesser spotted woodpeckers, bullfinches, spotted flycatchers, and even a flock of 8 crossbills. We have also been graced with sightings of dingy skipper and green hairstreak butterflies, as well as an abundance of orchids including greater butterfly, common spotted, twayblade and bee. At Tudeley Woods, brakeybank meadow is currently carpeted with common spotted orchids, and I have estimated there to be roughly a kajillion of them.

Broadwater Warren
June is always our best month for nightjar spotting. These nocturnal birds return from Africa in May and the males quickly begin making themselves heard through the mechanical "churring" noise they produce at dusk. Our annual public nightjar walk proved a success with 45 visitors enjoying spectacular views of nightjars and woodcocks, as well as being treated to some glow-worms upon arriving back at the car park. Despite their name, glow-worms are in fact beetles. The flightless females advertise their location to males by producing a greenish glow from their abdomens. Once mated, the females 'switch off' their glow, lay their eggs, and then keel over.

The new way-marked trails are now in place. There are still a few tweaks to complete, and we are awaiting the arrival of thousands of new trail guides, but with a little bit of initiative you should be able to find your way around. When originally installed, the old trail showcased the best wildlife on the reserve, but now that our work has restored large areas of heathland and woodland habitat, we have much more wildlife to show people. For this reason we have installed the 3mile green "heathland and woodland" trail. We have shortened the current white "nature trail" to cover 1.5 miles of the reserve's heathland and wet woodland highlights. Both trails leave the car park in opposite directions, so please use the eastern kissing gate for the nature trail and the western kissing gate for the heathland and woodland trail.

Tudeley Woods
On the topic of way-marked trails, the visitor refresh at Tudeley Woods is nearing completion. As part of the Brakeybank meadow restoration project, we have been improving the way-marked trails on the reserve and restoring the car park. Once we get enough sun to dry the tracks out and enable trailer access down the steep ride into the meadow, we shall be installing some new benches overlooking the meadow and restored pond. The pond has already attracted some wildlife since being opened up over the winter, with broad-bodied chaser and emperor dragonflies being seen this summer. New and improved trail guides have now arrived and shall be displayed on the reserve soon to help navigate your way to the best wildlife. We shall also be holding a National Meadows Day event on the 2nd of July to celebrate the meadow restoration.

Volunteers are gearing up for the beginning of bracken bashing season. Bracken is a native fern, but one which we have to control in heathland areas due to its ability to dominate open habitats. To encourage dwarf shrubs such as heather and gorse, which are used for nesting by heathland birds, we spend much of the late summer tackling the bracken in a variety of ways. Volunteers will be cutting large areas by hand in attempt to force the bracken to regrow and use up its energy supplies. This reduces the dominance of the bracken, and after a few years other plants will start to take over. Another method used is to spray bracken with a specially selected herbicide which is specific to ferns and doesn't affect other plants. This is not our preferred method and we aim to reduce our dependence on spraying with herbicides where possible.

There are a number of events for the summer at both Broadwater and Tudeley. Check the RSPB website for each reserve for details.