RSPB Newsletter April 2019
Cattle return onto the marsh.
In early April, small numbers of cattle were bought back on to the marsh. Initial turn out of cattle always involves small numbers, to ensure the risk of nest trampling is minimised. It’s a fine balance, between reducing this risk, but having some cattle grazing to keep the sward short and tussocky which is how the nesting lapwing and redshank like it. Numbers of grazing animals will slowly increase later in the spring, once the peak time for nests has passed.
The breeding season is underway, with lapwing nests now present, and lots of displaying redshank. The first full survey of the year will take place over the next few days. The relatively cool weather has seen a delay in the number of migrants returning – only a few swallows, sedge warblers and yellow wagtails so far. Hopefully the second half of April will see more coming back, and then the reedbeds and marshes will be alive with bird song.
Education visits and young people.
March has been a busy month for school visits – over 800 children visited the reserve. Our award winning outdoor education programme, which is linked to the national curriculum, remains very popular with local schools.
We have also started a regular young wardens event, one Saturday every month. This is proving popular with youngsters keen to find out more about working on a nature reserve. Several Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme youngsters have also spent time with us.
Our two predator fences got their annual thorough check in February – over 8km of fence inspected very closely for any problems. The fences are checked regularly throughout the year, but this pre-season check is an important one, as it gives us confidence the fences are working well as we go into the breeding season. Where necessary, vegetation has been cut back in early March to prevent the fences shorting out.
At Rainham West, path sides have been cut back, and the full width of the tarmac paths has been re-exposed. Similar work has been completed on the Sustrans bike route near the visitor centre. Several of our work and storage areas have been tidied, allowing unwanted materials to be disposed of, and making these areas much better organised and safer to use.
White stork overhead.
On Friday last week, a single white stork drifted over the marshes, for about 20minutes, mobbed by gulls and crows, before it drifted off high to the north-west. These large birds, which nest widely over much of the continent, including nearby Holland, are still not common visitors to the UK.
Big Garden Birdwatch – the 2019 results.
This was the Big Garden Birdwatch’s 40th year, with 472,758 people taking part. Full details here… https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/results/
We can now reveal 2019’s results. Once again, the house sparrow has in the top spot. At number two is the starling, closely followed by the blue tit and the blackbird.
The woodpigeon flies in at number five, followed by the goldfinch, great tit, and robin at number 8. The top eight remain the same as last year, so it’s a battle for numbers nine and 10. The chaffinch has seen off the long-tailed tit to be at number 9, and the magpie has crept in at number 10.
Senior site manager