Get an exclusive insight into our work in the south east region and meet some of the people who make it possible.
“That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees, In some melodious plot Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease.”Ode to a nightingale John Keats (1795-1821)
There’s no bird that carries the song of summer quite like the nightingale. Nightingales have been arriving back in their UK breeding grounds over the last couple of weeks, to our collective delight!Small plain brown birds, sitting only slightly larger than a robin, with a broad tail, nightingales are not much to look at. However, hearing their rich, mellifluous song ring out from an unassuming thicket or a patch of dense scrub, it is easy to see why the nightingale has been the poet’s bird of choice for centuries.The nightingale song is incredibly powerful. They are the masters of the dawn chorus, and sing during the night too, giving them their name. They are, however, notoriously difficult to spot.And with nightingale numbers falling by a massive 60% in the last 15 years, it is getting even more difficult to spot a nightingale.Their decline has been attributed to a number of things, habitat loss, changes in habitat quality, deer grazing, and impacts experienced by nightingale on their migration route and in sub-Saharan Africa where they spend the winter months. Nightingales are ground-nesting birds, so as well as the direct loss of habitat, nightingale populations can be impacted by recreational activity and cat predation in their breeding grounds. Breeding nightingales are now mostly limited to south of the Severn-Wash line and east from Dorset to Kent, the highest densities found in the south east: Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex. You may have heard about Chattenden Woods SSSI in North Kent, where the woods and surrounding scrub supports more than 1% of the UK population of nightingale. The nightingales there are threatened by an urban development of 5,000 homes.We have been stepping up for nature, working to ensure this population is protected. Many of you have also stepped up, writing to Medway Council voicing your concerns about the potential impacts of this development on the nightingales.
If you've never heard a nightingale sing - or even if want to enjoy it again - some RSPB reserves which are particularly good for nightingales include: Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex, and Blean Woods, Northwood Hill & Cliff Pools which are all in Kent.
Photo: Nightingale, by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Last summer I graduated from a good university with a good degree, but as I threw my mortar board into the air, like in a film, the world went into slow motion, the hazy glow of the day turned grey, the smile on my face faltered and reality struck. “Oh my God,” I thought, “I’ve got to find a job!”
Finding a job was no easy feat, according to the news. 'The economy’s bad!', 'No where’s hiring!', 'Youth unemployment is rising!'
And there I was, a fresh-faced graduate, right in the middle of all of this. Not that I expected to get offered a job as soon as I stepped from the graduation ceremony stage, degree certificate clutched in hand, but where do you start in the job market when your C.V. is comprised of weekend jobs and waitressing? (Though being able to pour a really, really good pint is a life skill we should all aspire to.)
It turns out a good place to start is interning. Yes, you work for free, but you also gain experience in a work field that otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be able to get, and experience is king in the job hunt.
I have just completed a six month placement with the RSPB South East Regional Office as their Media and Communications intern and the experience that I have gained as been invaluable. I have been able to do a variety of different things including helping to set up the region’s social media networks (including this blog!).
It was great to start a project and work through it, and I was given a lot of space for trialling new ideas. It has been really interesting using social media as an official channel, rather than just socially.
I was also given the opportunity of writing press releases and liaising with local press contacts, as well as helping to promote campaigns and events.
I have learnt a lot of new skills in the last few months, and have made achievements that I think will really help me in the future. The prospect of job hunting doesn’t fill me with a cold dread anymore. I think I know what I’m doing, and I think I can do it. And, to top it all off, I can pour a pretty nice pint.
Spring is my favourite time of year to be out on farms. Skylarks are singing above green lush fields, and bluebells and cowslips add a welcome splash of colour after the drab months of winter. Warm sunshine brings bees and butterflies to life as they begin their important pollination role on the emerging plant life. But the most enigmatic sound of spring for me, is the pee-wit call of the lapwing as they perform their tumbling display flight.
Lapwings can be found throughout South East England, with one important population on the chalk soils of the South Downs in East and West Sussex and Hampshire. In 2002 and 2007, the RSPB with help from members of the public, farmers and landowners, undertook a survey of this area to see exactly how many birds there were. Results showed 119 and 123 pairs respectively, all nesting on the network of spring crops and fallow land that contributes to the areas landscape patchwork. A further five years on, we are running the survey again to see how the population is faring.
Due to the vast areas involved, we are unable to survey all of the likely spots, but this is where you may be able to help. If you are walking, bird watching, biking or just out enjoying the Downs and see any signs of lapwing, we would love to hear from you. Records can be phoned through to our office on 01273 763621, or e-mailed to SouthDownsLapwing2012@rspb.org.uk. Extra information including grid reference, numbers of birds and habitat used will be really helpful, and will assist our team of volunteers in following up any sightings.
As well as providing an overall count of the number of nesting pairs, the survey will also help us to identify the key areas for lapwing on the South Downs. This is really important, and will enable us to continue our work with farmers and landowners in core areas to managing land that not only produces food but also benefits wildlife.
I’ve got my fingers crossed for a good season, so why not get out there and see if you can hear that enigmatic sound of spring!