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Wildlife successes at Broadwater this year - despite the weather

Last modified: 24 August 2012

Male white-tailed bumblebee on new heather at Broadwater

Image: Steve Wheatley

Woodlarks successfully bred at Broadwater Forest this year, the first time since 2003.

These migratory birds immediately settled in the new heathland areas created by the RSPB at their Broadwater Warren nature reserve.

The woodlark’s beautiful song was enjoyed across the heath from late February, and the unseasonal weather in May and June did not stop them breeding or finding enough food for their chicks.

Another new arrival to take advantage of the newly created heathland areas were tree pipits. After a noticeable absence over the last few years, they returned this spring in good numbers.

Sadly, the weather is believed to have had a negative effect on some species. The number of nightjars was down at Broadwater and across many other heathland sites in the south east this year. 

The poor spring weather is thought to have delayed their flight to the UK, and once here insect food was scarce.

Other migrant species such as Turtle Dove and Cuckoo did make it across from Africa though, and could frequently be heard announcing their summer territories.

Steve Wheatley, RSPB Broadwater Warren site manager, said: “The other wonderful new arrival to the site this year has been 5 Exmoor Ponies.

“These beautiful animals have been busy all through the summer, chomping their way around the 150 acre enclosure created for them.

“Exmoors certainly aren’t bothered by the rain. Their thick coat and mane make them ideally suited to such conditions. They have been a hit with visitors and seem to fit perfectly into the High Weald landscape.”

Some of the reserve’s other wildlife has also had mixed fortunes this year.

Butterflies and moths have had a poor season, while after a slow start there are now good numbers and varieties of bees visiting the new carpets of heather which have flowered. 

The number of slow worms recorded on the reserve has also gone through the roof – perhaps because of the increase in their food source of slugs.

Work is now starting at Broadwater Warren on the next phase of the RSPB’s exciting restoration project.

The site is being restored to the mix of heath and woodland that would have existed before huge areas were planted with conifers in the 1950’s.  The long-term aim is to create almost 300 acres of heathland and restore 150 acres of mixed woodland.

As well as removing trees to create heath and woodland glades, the RSPB is also planting trees such as oak, hazel, rowan and willow, making the woodland richer, more diverse and more pleasant for visitors.

Although many of the migratory birds are now leaving to spend the winter in warmer climates, when they return next spring, they will find even more potential areas for nesting.

Grants from SITA Trust, Biffaward and Veolia Trust are providing important funding towards this work.

The RSPB hopes many people will also come to Broadwater Warren in the spring and they are already planning an exciting series of events to help people experience the wildlife. 

RSPB Broadwater Warren is open to visit all year round.  There are over 5 miles of paths, plus visitors can pick up a leaflet from the information board in the car park and follow the self-guided Nature Trail or History Trail. 

For further details on the reserve or its events, please visit

or contact the site manager Steve Wheatley on 01892 752430 or via email:


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