We’ve had a jam packed couple of weeks of activities on the reserve! Both Cub Scouts and Brownies have visited and had a wonderful time pond dipping and exploring the reserve learning about wildlife.
Brownies with a newt tadpole
We also hosted 3 Wild Families events which included; pond dipping and searching for animal tracks, minibeasts, dissecting owl pellets, building dens and bug hotels and making potions!
Children handling a common lizard
Owl pellet dissection
Water scorpion caught during pond dipping
These past weeks we have had some fascinating sightings on our reserve! A stone curlew was seen in the Hayfields last week and our volunteer warden, Paul, saw a diamond dove on Saturday (which was also seen again yesterday) which we believe is an escaped one from an aviary as these birds are native to Australia! This is a quick snap he took of it whilst on duty.
Other wildlife highlights this week include a spotted flycatcher on the feeders, lots of waders including greenshank, curlew sandpiper, spotted redshank, wood sandpiper, knot, ruff, snipe and little stint on Burrowes pit as well as kingfishers, cuckoos, whinchats, wheatears and garden warblers.
Image: spotted flycatcher (Andy Hay rspb-images.com)
We have also seen grass snakes, great crested newts, a common toad, medicinal leeches, a water scorpion, a great green bush cricket, common lizard and lots of peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies!
Peacock butterfly on ragwort
Come and visit us on the bank holiday, with this warm weather we are seeing so many invertebrates including huge dragonflies and beautiful butterflies.
Don’t forget to put out a shallow dish of water for the wildlife in your garden! Frogs, birds, hedgehogs and insects will all benefit from a drink and a place to cool off!
Other facinating bird sightings this week include barnacle geese, a pair of garganey, little, great white and cattle egrets as well as a spoonbill that was seen flying through the reserve yesterday! Juvenile cuckoos and yellow wagtails have been spotted, willow and garden warblers have also been seen. Wheatears and lesser whitethroats have also been spotted frequently on the reserve too!
This week we had our first 'Wild Families' events of the summer - learning about our brilliant bees. We caught 11 species of bee around the reserve, assisting Dr Nikki Gammans (Bumblebee Conservation Trust) with her valuable bee research. Afterwards we made bee houses for the families to take home with them. Hopefully they will be giving our endangered solitary bees a home this year!
Next week we have our Wild Families - Murky ponds and Muddy tracks - which is exactly as it sounds! Explore our ponds and learn more about how to track wildlife by their footprints, poo and pellets!! Children £8 and £1 for accompanying adults. Monday 15th and Friday 19th 11am - 3pm. Please bring your own lunch and sensible footwear. Please call 01797 320588 to book in advance for this event.
We were so excited to be able to host the Big Wild Sleepout at RSPB Dungeness for the very first time this year. Although we have been supporting the campaign over the years, it was finally time to take part!
41 people turned up to our fully booked event on the Saturday to set up their tents in our Discovery Area. They were given their activity packs and the children, armed with nets and bug pots, set off round the area to catch minibeasts whilst the parents set up the tents and prepared dinner. Jacket potatoes were also cooking on the campfire and people gathered, ate and relaxed around it before our first main activity – an evening walk of the reserve.
During the walk we discovered what creepy crawlies hid in the ponds including newts, water boatmen and our favourite – medicinal leeches. We also saw great crested newts crossing the paths, giant green bush crickets, common terns, damselflies and emperor dragonflies, a tawny owl and a great silver water beetle larvae. There were signs of badgers but sadly we didn’t get to see any.
After the walk we were rewarded with hot chocolate and marshmallows to roast over the campfire. A few of us went off exploring in the dark to look for night time wildlife such as moths and bats. We came up trumps with a glow worm! It was so amazing to see this bright little bug up close!
Soon after, the fire died down and as the night became cooler it was time for bed. Sleeping on the Dungeness nature reserve was a magical experience with the chirruping of crickets in the background and the rustles of rabbits around the tents.
The next morning we were up early and after a cup of tea and some breakfast we were ready for a morning walk to a different part of our reserve for some bird ringing! We were lucky enough to see lots of birds including a tree sparrow, a linnet, a reed bunting and a greenfinch!
We also checked last nights moth traps – what a good outcome! It was a still warm night, perfect for moths and we had plenty of them to pass around to people including the impressive garden tiger moths and the poplar hawk moth.
Sadly our sleepout drew to a close and it was time to head back to the campsite to pack up the tents. In between, we had another bug hunt and found lizards, newts, grass snakes and a toad as well as hundreds of damselflies, crickets, beetles and some butterflies! It was a beautiful warm morning and everything was out, busying about. What a lovely way to finish an amazing event. Roll on next year!