News archive

March 2018

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Chiffchaff standing on gorse

Local Spring migrants

On Wednesday a 'WillowChiff' was seen in Haysden Country Park on the edge of Tonbridge, but it was not until Sunday, 25th March, that a few fragments of song were heard, proving it was definitely a Chiffchaff. Both nuthatch and treecreeper were also seen, looking very smart in their spring plumage and a thermal towards Bidborough Ridge contained a total of eight buzzards. A tortoiseshell butterfly was also seen in the sunshine on Wednesday.

Chiffchaffs have also been heard and/or seen at Oare Marshes, Snodland, Lower Halstow, Horsmonden and North Foreland, according to the Kent Ornithological Society bird news. It is worth taking your binoculars with you when you head out to see which of the new arrivals you can spot.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

News from our local reserves

News from our local reserves

February was a month of finishing up all the felling ready for the breeding season. Felling has now stopped, contractors are off site and the paths have been repaired in Broadwater Warren. We are all looking forward to seeing the number of wildlife sightings increase over the coming months.

However, the Beast from the East did not seem as keen on giving wildlife a chance towards the end of February. Frogspawn had started appearing, woodlarks started singing and butterflies begun fluttering by, but the storm over the last few weeks could be enough to catch these species, and many more, off guard... but fear not!

Wildlife always has a way of fighting back. Frogspawn is unlikely to survive if it is covered in a layer of ice but the eggs in the centre of the spawn may be protected by the outer eggs. Failing that, if all the eggs are unsuccessful then frogs may lay a second batch. Woodlarks would have been forced to postpone nesting but now the weather is back on the rise we will be hoping to see improved numbers. Butterflies are able to shelter in hollow trees or buildings and even produce alcohol within their blood to stop them freezing.

Broadwater Warren
 
Another month another sighting- courtesy of Matt, we have been able to add Hawfinch to the species list making a total of 96. With the survey season beginning, it has already been an exciting month of increased bird song including a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that was heard on the 6th March and the first solitary bee (Andrena clakella) has also been spotted.We have already counted 12 singing woodlarks male which is very promising for the coming season.

A lot of deadwood has been retained within the woodland for ecological reasons; studies show that up to 40% of species in a woodland (including fungi, lichens, mosses, invertebrates, birds and mammals) have an association with dead wood. Many beetles are on the brink of extinction due to a lack of their habitat which is hollow, dead, decaying wood and old trees.

On the 28th March the interns at Broadwater Warren will be sharing what they have been doing during the Walk with a Warden event.

Tudeley Woods

We have had a contractor in to create 4 scrapes of bare ground on the heath. This bare ground creation will benefit a wide variety of species including invertebrates, reptiles and birds by providing a warm, dry place to bask and hunt. Nesting woodlark will take advantage of the increase in invertebrates attracted to the warmth of bare ground; predating them to feed their young. The soil that was taken from the scrapes has been piled into bunds, which will provide habitat for burrowing insects and may provide nesting places for burrowing solitary bees and wasps.

Spring is most definitely arriving at Tudeley with many wildflowers emerging throughout the site. Some of the species that have been spotted are dog mercury which is an ancient woodland indicator (due to its stress tolerance and slow dispersal rate) and one of the earliest flowering plants getting its flowers between February and April. Other species that have been seen are bluebells and primrose and soon we will be seeing wood anemones. Keep an eye out for queen bumblebees including the early bumblebee and buff-tailed bumblebee and butterflies including commas and peacocks.

Our Internship by Kirsty Baker and George Curd

George Curd
I have been a volunteer intern for the past 6 months along with Kirsty and we have been trained in the practical management of the three Weald Reserves; Broadwater Warren, Tudeley Woods and Fore Wood by the expert knowledge of the Weald team.

At the beginning of the internship, I was able to choose a project that I was interested in managing over the 6 months. I chose to lead 100m of ride management in the form of two coppice scallops on Broadwater Warren. As soon as I passed my chainsaw assessments I, and most importantly the team of volunteers, got straight to it. Trees were felled to create habitat refugia, that would increase the numbers of invertebrates - resulting in an increased food source for priority bird species. The wider team of volunteers did an amazing job to completely clear and burn all the brash that was created and pile all the logs. Thanks to this help my two scallops were completed in no time and allowed me to extend the horizons of my project...

I did this by researching the requirements of butterfly species found on the reserve. I decided it would be a good idea to develop a management plan with the aim of creating and maintaining appropriate habitat for priority butterflies. My plan focused on three species previously recorded at Broadwater warren (Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, White Admiral and Silver-Washed Fritillary). I am now in the final stages of this project, consulting with the reserves ecologist.

As we approach the end of this internship I have been relentlessly applying for relevant jobs each week to which I have received many rejections in response and some interview offers. I was lucky enough to attend an interview with the Kent High Weald Partnership for the role of a Green Spaces Officer and I was successful. I am happy to say that I will be continuing to contribute to the conservation of nature reserves and wildlife education across Kent immediately following the internship.

I would like to thank Nick, Matt, Andy and Alan for making this valuable internship beneficial in so many ways and allowing me to learn as much as possible about the management of habitats I have experienced. I would also like to thank all the volunteers I have met through surveys and work parties that have made me feel welcome on the reserves for the last 6 months. I hope to continue to be a regular face on the reserves.

Kirsty Baker

During the summer we had the opportunity to tag along on different species surveys. The first was a hazel dormice survey with Matt and Alan, this involved checking dormice boxes placed all through Broadwater warren. The dormice were very cute, and you get a good view when they are weighed in sandwich bags. On one of the dormice surveys we were lucky enough to find a mother with tiny pink infants in a perfectly spherical nest made of grasses. The next survey we went on was a butterfly transect walk at Tudeley woods, the day was bright and warm, ideal for seeing butterflies. We were able to see many species including, holly blue, and the uncommon clouded yellow butterfly. We also got to go on a couple of reptile surveys also at Broadwater, we saw slow worms, common lizards and grass snakes. The highlight of the reptile surveys was seeing an adder as I have never seen one before and we got to watch it for a few minutes as it was distracted by a small, unsuspecting toad.

In the autumn we did a two day brushcutter course which started in the workshop where we learnt how to maintain the saws and the theory behind using them. In the afternoon and next day we spent time brushcutting bramble. The course was well done and we all passed. The next course to conquer was the chainsaw course, which I was a bit apprehensive about beforehand. But everyone completed the 5-day course and passed the assessment first time. After we had our chainsaw certificate the other intern and I were given the chance to choose and manage our own projects. Mine was to coppice a plot of sweet chestnut around some future veteran oaks, this included different elements of woodland management.

For my project I identified and chose 3 future veteran oaks that were to be haloed around. A future veteran oak is an oak with a large crown that has the potential to provide habitats for many different species including fungi, lichen, invertebrates, bats, and birds due to the fact they have a complex structure, dead wood, and cavities. Once I had identified the oaks I completed a survey of the surrounding sweet chestnut to record any evidence of bats. Examples of potential evidence of bats are holes and cracks in branches and trunks, bark that is peeling away from the stem, and an abundance of ivy on trees. Any trees with these features were retained.

Once the area was surveyed for bats it was time to organise when I and the 3 other volunteers could work. After this was arranged we started to coppice the area. During the coppicing I decided to retain some broadleaved tree species to allow for a more mixed woodland in the future. After seeing how much we had completed on the first day I estimated that the coppicing would be completed in 5 days with another couple of days for volunteer work parties to burn the brash and pile the logs to create dead wood and habitat piles for invertebrates and birds. One of these volunteer work parties was the Christmas work party in which the volunteers and ourselves had jacket potatoes and sausages cooked on a fire along with an array of cakes and chocolates brought in by the volunteers to celebrate the hard work they do throughout the year. Although a few trees were hung up along the way the project was completed successfully, and this was one of my biggest accomplishments during my internship!

Events

Walk with a warden - Broadwater Warren
Wednesday 28th March

Dawn chorus walk - Broadwater Warren
Saturday 5th May

Early Birds Wildlife Walk - Broadwater Warren
Tuesday 15th May

Sleepy Dormouse Hunt - Broadwater Warren
Sunday 19th May
See the RSPB Broadwater Warren website for details.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Keeping the birds fed and watered

Keeping the birds fed and watered

The RSPB has a useful web site all about the best way to give our feathered friends a chance of surviving this cold weather.

It's important to remember both food and water.

Let's do what we can.