News archive

April 2020

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Urgent News on Graveney Marshes

Urgent News on Graveney Marshes

Time is running out for us all to save an unspoilt landscape near Faversham from being destroyed. The proposed Cleve Hill Solar Power Station would see a vast industrial power station built on Graveney Marshes. These marshes are just across Faversham Creek from Oare Marshes, one of our favourite places to bird.

What's threatened is an area of diverse wildlife and flora, a precious haven for over 300 species of wildlife including protected species such as marsh harrier, lapwing, skylark, Brent goose and the critically endangered European eel.

Follow the link for more information and how to help avert this danger.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Nightingale singing

Is that song something special

One of our community has reported hearing a corncrake calling at the edge of a farmer's field. He's also reported a nightingale. We can't say where, because that might result in people gathering which would not be good for Covid-19 control, but do keep listening when you're out exercising, that unusual song or call might be something interesting.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Concern over potential release of sky lanterns

Concern over potential release of sky lanterns

Following suggestions that sky lanterns should be released to show support for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic, a number of organisations have asked the public not to do so.

Sky lanterns, even those made from eco-friendly materials, can cause fires, littering, and injuries to domestic and wild animals.

"While we all want to show our gratitude, appreciation and love for our NHS heroes and so many other key workers right now, sky lanterns are not the way forward," says broadcaster and scientist Dr Ben Garrod, Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Science Engagement at the University of East Anglia.

"Having been linked to devastating fires, indiscriminate littering of our countryside and the killing of wildlife, these things are a wasteful menace. These things are not only being sold irresponsibly, they are putting those we want to honour right now under even greater pressure. The last thing our emergency services and hospital teams need is to deal with the added burden of these fiery killers."

Fire services are warning people not to release sky lanterns, explaining that the lanterns pose a fire risk which would take up the time of emergency services.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

New website for birdwatching in Europe

New website for birdwatching in Europe

The health crisis caused by the Coronavirus forces most of us to stay at home as much as possible. In these difficult times, for the good of the community, it is better to stay at home. But you can keep on birding. On the new website you can discover hundreds of bird-watching areas all over Europe online, with the information you need for some fine hours of virtual birding.

You can also place your own favourite bird areas on the map. Just click on "Add a birdingplace" and follow the instructions. It's easy and fun to do with time on your hands when you have to stay at home in these times of self-isolation.
The website is made by and for birders and non-commercial. It's an easy-to-use platform that connects bird watchers from all over Europe, allowing you to discover prime locations to observe birds in the UK and the rest of Europe. When you log in, you can also leave tips and comments, check out the "Birdingplaces League" or use the "Find a Bird"-tool. It's all free!

Saturday, 18 April 2020

What to do during lockdown

What to do during lockdown

Some observations and activities during lockdown from our community.

Anna has been enjoying watching great spotted woodpeckers in her allotment in Tunbridge Wells and was thrilled to see two together, possibly in a courtship.

David writes: "We have just repainted our garden shed. I have recently been drilling assorted size holes in an unwanted fence post that has been lying for years at the top of our garden. It is now cut up into 3 pieces, laid roughly in a wild patch to attract wild life. I was given a bee home at Christmas for solitary bees and we had our first customer today! I have also collected and kept some hollow plant stalks, bundled them up tightly together and hung them in the eves of the shed. I have also taken great delight in the number and variety of bumble bees, hoverflies and wasps that have been buzzing around.

We have been feeding birds throughout the winter, but winding down now because I fear that parent birds will take easy food from feeders, but not the right type of food for young chicks. I would like to know how others approach this issue."

- That's an interesting and much debated question. There is research that suggests that blue tits provide the right sort of food for their chicks, even when other food is easily available. Perhaps feeding provides the parents with welcome nutrition so all the insects etc. they catch can be fed to the chicks. What are your thoughts?

David continues:
"Just before lockdown, we had an exciting visitor to our garden: A red legged partridge! Just a strange blob right at the top of our garden for just a few seconds, and then gone, An hour later, and our neighbour across the road had the same visitor in her garden".

Susan writes :
"A friend emailed me to tell me how she watched a Carrion Crow catch and fly off with a mouse which had been nibbling crumbs at the bottom of her bird feeder. It's very likely there is far less carrion around as fewer creatures suffer mishaps on the road without so many cars about. Last Friday as I was dropping shopping off in a porch in Crowborough, I looked in my rear view mirror to see 4 young magpies harassing a woodpigeon in the road. They were pulling at its feathers and the distressed creature couldn't fly away. I didn't stay to watch the gory end. I guess the magpies were very hungry. They must use up more energy catching live prey.

I've had a couple of feral pigeons visiting my garden recently which often approach me as if waiting for me to throw the odd titbit. Without people out and about in town or feeding pigeons in parks there are not so many scraps of food dropped for them. They are having to look elsewhere!"

- We too have had a feral pigeon hanging around the garden, no doubt for the same reason.

Do keep your observations coming

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Sea eagles over Kent

Sea eagles over Kent

The white-tailed eagles recently introduced to the Isle of Wight have been travelling all over the country. One made a tour of Sussex and Kent at the beginning of the month. Follow the link for more information. Red kites have been spotted over Tonbridge, too.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Bird picture quiz

Bird picture quiz

Can you work out the bird names hidden in the pictures? I hope so, because I haven't got the answers!

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Nightingales' wings getting shorter

Nightingales' wings getting shorter

You may have heard on BBC news that a study by scientists at a Madrid University has shown that, in response to climate change, nightingales' wings are getting shorter. The study was carried out on nightingales in inland Spain, where climate change has made summer droughts more severe and so shortened the spring breeding season. The idea is that the limited time to breed means that parents with smaller broods and shorter wings are more successful in these conditions.
Unfortunately, shorter wings reduce the success of migration, important for nightingales which winter in sub-Saharan Africa. It's a difficult trade-off.

Interestingly, a study of 2015, published in Ecology and Evolution, found that nightingales which bred further east - in Turkey and eastern Europe - had longer wings than those breeding in western Europe. This was found to be related not to the length of the migration journey, as might be supposed, but to the shortness of the spring in eastern regions with a more continental climate. A shorter spring requires the birds to get there at just the right time for optimal success.

So shorter springs in the west favour shorter wings, while shorter springs in the east favour longer wings. Seems that more research is needed!

The effect on our nightingales is unclear. Climate change in our area seems to be making the breeding season longer, so would that favour shorter wings, for the opposite reason from the Spanish study?