Join me at Elmley Marshes Nature Reserve

6 triumph over the daddies

I celebrate all things Sheppey at Elmley Marshes this Saturday.

There is still time to book onto Saturday’s walk at Elmley Marshes which is stunning at any season. Please book your place and I will attempt to thrill and delight you with some wildlife sightings!

Sheppey Shorelines Festival

On the Marshes Walk,
August 10th 2019,
10.00am – 12.00pm,
Elmley Nature Reserve

The walk is free but the Elmley Conservation Trust request a £5 parking charge.
Booking Essential – email msep@medway.gov.uk to book a place.

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Help save out swifts

A single swift would make for a very sad summer. They are one of those birds that form a backdrop to our lives but spend theirs so far above our heads that we wouldn’t notice they were in trouble until they were gone.

Our Swifts are in trouble. Their numbers have dropped by 53% in the last twenty years and in many places in the UK the summer skies are silent.

One of the main problems is the loss of nesting sites. Swifts are sociable and loyal. They mate for life and the pair meet each year at the same location to nest. Once there, they gather together nesting material from the air and create a nest in the cavity by sticking together the feathers, straw and paper with salvia.

I love this image. I love the fact that if I brush my hair outside and stray hairs go floating up towards the clouds they may end up making a nest for young swifts. I love the idea of swifts travelling the world and meeting up at the same hole in a old building down the road from me.

Problem is, in this age of house renovations they may return to find their historic nesting site is no more. Developments, particularly of old churches, pubs and houses, means that there are less and less places for swifts to nest. Yes, there are swift nest boxes but it’s not easy to attract swifts to use them. Yes, we most certainly should be making all new developments swift friendly by installing swift bricks below the eaves but we can also do more to protect those places the swifts know and love.

A stroll along my street over the last few days has revealed that swifts are living in all manner of old houses, probably unbeknown to their occupants. Inside these tiny crevices in the brickwork young swifts are practicing press ups on their wing tips to help strengthen the muscles. I wouldn’t want to see them evicted.

Look out over the next few weeks for tell tale signs. Swifts screaming low over roof tips. swifts vanishing into walls, droppings down the outside of buildings with holes in the brickwork or crevices under the eaves. Report your sightings on the RSPB swift survey.

This survey is easy to fill in and makes planners and developers aware of swift hotspots and hopefully protect them.

I for one am delighted to discover that my road still provides a home for these amazing birds, let’s work together to keep them in our summer skies.

On the Marshes walk

14 collapsed and dans dock

The hair’s gone crazy but the scenery’s atmospheric at Dan’s Dock on the Isle of Sheppey.

On the Marshes Walk,
August 10th 2019,
10.00am – 12.00pm,
Elmley Nature Reserve
As part of the Sheppey Shorelines Festival I am taking a morning stroll around this lesser known part of the Elmley Nature Reserve. Join me as I relive my daddy-long-leg horror on Elmley Hill and tell you a little about the history and wildlife of this lesser known corner of Sheppey.
The walk is free but the Elmley Conservation Trust request a £5 parking charge.
Booking Essential – email msep@medway.gov.uk to book a place.

A day in the life of an environmental consultant – June 2019

chick at Keith Studds spring 2019Just what is going on this year with our waders?

As I write this, it is the beginning of July. I should be reflecting on the end of another season of wader surveys on the North Kent Marshes. Yet out in the fields things are a long way from over. Day old chicks wander around, many weeks from being safely fledged and birds appear to still be on eggs.

 

surveying on pevensey levels taking a break

I contemplate what’s happening with our waders while taking a coffee break on the Pevensey Levels.

Pevensey Levels at the start of the month. My third visit found 18 fledged young on Horse Eye and Down, a very good level of productivity. This shows what can be achieved in this area if more fields held water in shallow scrapes throughout the breeding season. I am looking forward to going back to Pevensey this autumn to talk to farmers about the results and how we can replicate this in other parts of the levels.

So why are things so late in North Kent? This is a question I put to Dr Jen Smart, Principal Conservation Scientist for the RSPB, when she came to visit along with the RSPB’s Coastal and Wetlands ecology team. It appears that the chicks we are seeing now, are probably second broods, with first broods succumbing to the lack of insect food in wet mud caused by the dry spring or possibly from predation.

Strangely I never saw any signs of early chicks so potentially broods could have been lost at the egg stage. Dr Smart told me that second broods are often weaker and have less chance to survive, so I am keeping my fingers crossed and continuing to survey the sites for signs of fledged birds throughout July.

The Coastal and Wetland team were visiting to find out the recipe for success for farming advice, as it appears, North Kent is one of the few places that waders are increasing outside of reserves. I was happy to give them my ideas on what works and what doesn’t along with Sheppey farmer Keith Studd.

more enlightenment from Graham white

Graham White, RSPB Head of Reserves Ecology learns my secret recipe for successful farming advice.

Keith and I both highlighted recent loss of good will from farmers towards countryside stewardship schemes. Hardly surprising as some farmers are waiting years for late payments and are being penalised by the Rural Payment Agency for doing the very things that their agreements encourage them to do. Lack of communication, faceless officials, mind boggling paperwork and at times shear arrogance is creating a situation where some farmers feel inclined to cut their losses and drop out of environmental schemes altogether.

The future for our wildlife cannot lie in reserves but in cohesive landscapes where conservation bodies and farmers are working together. We need a well funded, farmer friendly scheme which encourages a good take up and gives people targeted face to face advice.

RSPB ecology field trip at North Quarry

The RSPB Coastal and Wetland team discuss plans for a quarry near Cliffe. 

With this is mind it was fantastic to see the exciting plans for landscape scale conservation on the Hoo Peninsula and Isle of Sheppey. Here there is the potential for great swatches of countryside to being managed for the benefit of wildlife. There are some great opportunities to work with farmers, aggregate companies, the RSPB and the drainage board to create a cohesive network of dynamic wetlands. As part of this we visited a number of quarries and heard about the plans to create reedbeds and lagoons for wonderful species such as black necked grebe.

Exciting times hopefully lie ahead.

 

War on Plastic

P1040203Inspired by the BBC One programme, War on Plastic, I took great delight in giving all my single use plastic back to Asda yesterday.

Asda are one of the worst offenders and I don’t often shop there, choosing instead to get my veggies from the farm shop down the road, but not everyone has the luxury of time to do this.

Our supermarkets need to take responsibility for the role they play in creating plastic waste. Listen up Asda. I don’t want recycled plastic or compostable plastic I just don’t want the plastic in the first place. Sell things loose and let me bag them up myself

Please send a similar message to your supermarket and post a picture to #ourplasticfeedback.