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Shoveler Anas clypeata, drakes in flight, Norfolk, AprilLovely weather for ducks as a record number lands at RSPB Cliffe Pools

The North Kent Marshes are a vital winter retreat for European ducks and waders that escape the frozen north, a birdwatching spectacle that has drawn ornithologist Murray Orchard to Cliffe Pools for the past forty years. This month Murray counted 720 of one of the UK’s most attractive ducks, the Shoveler, dispersed across the flooded clay pits.

Murray said, “This count is probably the highest at a single site in Kent since 1961. In my experience, the last two winters have seen the largest gatherings of waders and ducks in the history of Cliffe Pools. I have never before seen so many Shoveler in one place at one time; the total is four times the national threshold and almost twice the international threshold for conservation significance.”

The male Shoveler has an enormous beak and striking plumage and is normally seen in much lower numbers, less than a hundred, than the other species of duck.

The clay pits became an RSPB reserve in 2000, and are unique in the Thames Estuary for their saline lagoons. Murray lived near Cliffe for thirty years and regularly travels down from his home in Hertfordshire; counting birds on this scale takes experience and patience, skills Murray has honed since the age of 12 when he started birdwatching in his garden. Murray said, “Seeing these Shoveler was a great pleasure but they were hard to count, taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend will be a much simpler task.”

Cliffe Pools recently attracted 10,000 Dunlin at high tide, which Murray described as “twisting and turning like a huge cloud of smoke over the pools,” and 9,000 Black-tailed Godwits were recorded last winter. The information gathered by enthusiasts such as Murray, and all those participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, provides a finger on the pulse of nature in the UK, buying time to respond to conservation threats before long term damage is done to UK wildlife.

false_false_widowsNews stories about false widow spiders are an annual occurrence, but this year the coverage has been far more persistent, with more sensationalised, unsubstantiated and downright nonsense stories than usual. With over 650 species of spider in the country but very limited public awareness there is little appreciation of the diversity of spiders, and any spiders vaguely resembling false widows (and some spiders looking nothing like false widows), are being identified as such by the press and subsequently members of the public, and vice versa since it seems fact-checking by journalists is rare. Having said that, false widows are fairly common and widespread in the South, and have been around for some time. Read More

kwthighcowWith the increasing amount and variety of livestock that the Trust owns or loans conservation grazing is becoming an increasingly important management tool. Thanks to recent project funding, many of the chalk downland reserves in the Darenth Valley are being grazed by sheep and cattle this winter, and this year for the first time we will be using goats to control invasive buddleia and silver birch at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. Read More

PRESS RELEASE issued by AirportWatch a copy of the letter is at the bottom of this press release

Campaign groups representing communities threatened by airport expansion have joined forces in writing to Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, calling upon him to safeguard all the threatened communities against blight.

The Airports Commission is due to produce an interim report at the end of this year and, if it concludes that the UK needs more airport capacity, it will publish a shortlist of options. The Commission’s final report and recommendations won’t be published until mid-2015, after the next general election and it will then be for the Government of the day to take any final decisions. Read More

Photo credit and copyright Sam Baylis

Photo credit and copyright Sam Baylis

Tue, 01/10/2013 – 7:30pm Illustrated talk by Malcolm Jennings. A look at the amazing communities of insects that live in the tiny worlds that surround us. Organised by North West Kent group. Venue location Mick Jagger Centre, Dartford Boys Grammar School, Shepherds Lane, Dartford, Kent, DA1 2JZ Suggested donation £2.50. Suitable for wheelchair users. Suitable for people with limited mobility. 01622 662012

Harpella forficella by Ross Newham

Harpella forficella by Ross Newham

A species of moth not previously seen in Kent and known only by its Latin name Harpella forficella has been discovered at Kent Wildlife Trust’s Holborough Marshes nature reserve, near Snodland. This striking cream and brown moth, native to Europe, was found by amateur naturalist and Trust volunteer, Ross Newham. Ross undertakes moth recording at a number of Trust reserves across West Kent, with all records helping to build up a detailed inventory of the species in the area. Using this information, conservation bodies can then study the biological records available to plan the management of sites. More

Kent Wildlife Trust have a fantastic event for the week begining of the 27th May at Blean between Canterbury and Whitstable. Click on the link below to visit their page with all of the information you need. Fun and learning activities for all the family.

http://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/whats/blean-woodland-festival
blean_festival_queens_of_the_forest

Highland cowsMajestic golden Highland cattle are set to become a familiar part of the Holborough Marshes landscape.

The livestock is being introduced by local grazier, Norman Coles of Roundoak, to the Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserve, situated on the southern banks of the River Medway between Snodland and Halling. More

Adder (c) Jason Steel

Adder (c) Jason Steel

Kent Wildlife Trust welcomes the recognition of Lodge Hill – earmarked as a 5,000 home development site – as a nationally important site for wildlife by Natural England, the Government’s advisor on the natural environment.

On 13th March Natural England, the Government’s advisor on the natural environment, notified Chattenden Woods and Lodge Hill on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

SSSIs comprise some of the country’s best wildlife sites, including our most spectacular, important and beautiful habitats, and Natural England has a duty to designate such areas under national legislation that protects them for future generations.

Chattenden Woods, a large area of ancient woodland and grassland, was originally designated as a SSSI in 1984 under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. More recently, investigations into the adjacent Lodge Hill site as part of proposals for a significant housing development, have highlighted that this area is also very important for the same reasons.

The site supports communities of bats (six species), lizards, grass snakes, adders, slow worms, newts, frogs, toads, badgers and rare insects such as the shrill carder-bee.

It has a significant breeding bird population, most notably nightingales, which were found to be widespread across the proposed development site, and the new SSSI supports at least 1.3% of the national population of this declining species. The new SSSI encompasses the old SSSI and the important areas of Lodge Hill. More

This is a fairly short video showing the importance of the type of countryside we have here in Kent. And in Kent we are lucky enough to have a larger range of environment types than most other counties in the UK, from chalky grassland to marshland and mud flat, from light sandy soils to heavy clay, we have something of everything.

Please watch this video, some of the flowers would leave you believing that you were in the tropics

The weekend of the 5th December saw a huge amount of activity down at the RSPB Reserve around Cliffe Pools, More

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