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Berkshire birdwatchers reveal county's top five birds

Berkshire birdwatchers are seeing less blackbirds in their gardens Credit: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Berkshire birdwatchers took part in the world's largest garden wildlife survey, watching and counting birds during the 37th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

The annual survey uncovers interesting changes among the most popular garden birds.

The Berkshire spotters found a drop in the numbers of blackbirds and starlings. There was an increase in the number of sightings of the house sparrow and goldfinch - in some cases by up to 33%.

Berkshire's top five most common garden birds in order are:

  • Blue tit
  • Woodpigeon
  • House sparrow
  • Blackbird
  • Starling

A lot of our favourite garden birds are struggling and are in desperate need of help. Gardens or outdoor spaces are an invaluable resource for many species. They can provide a safe habitat with food and water; having a significant effect on their populations."

– Ben Andrew, RSPB Wildlife Advisor


Close encounters and bird discoveries

WWT Arundel Wetland Centre are helping people discover their birds this weekend. The video below (courtesy of WWT Arundel Wetland Centre) shows the birds they keep and examples of artwork created by people who have been inspired by the birds.

Wildlife bonfire safety plea

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue treating this baby hedgehog Credit: East Sussex Wildlife Rescue

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue is asking people thinking of having an autumn bonfire to take care not to cause injury to local wildlife.

It is unclear how may hedgehogs and other wildlife die in bonfires each year, mainly because they rarely get found afterwards. Numerous families have unfortunately had their bonfire celebrations ruined after finding escaping hedgehogs and other wildlife crawling out from bonfires burnt or injured.

East Sussex WRAS has published these Top Ten Bonfire Safety Tips to help keep not just our declining hedgehog population safe but also other wildlife like bats and birds.

WRAS’s Top Ten Bonfire Safety Tips:

  • 1) Re-site the entire bonfire pile before being lit where possible
  • 2) Use broom handles to lift the bonfire up to check for wildlife sleeping inside before lighting the fire. Use torches to check underneath and listen carefully for any signs of life.
  • 3) With larger bonfires, erect a mesh fence with an overhang round the bonfire to avoid small wild mammals getting inside
  • 4) Light the bonfire at one side rather than all round so that any animals or bird inside have a chance to escape
  • 5) Move bird feeders and other food left out on the ground for wildlife away from the bonfire site for at least a week before building a bonfire
  • 6) Light bonfires away from over hanging trees and bushes
  • 7) Use fireworks away from trees and woodland
  • 8) Place a hedgehog house or simple small hutch with clean and fresh straw, hay and hand shredded paper to provide an alternative home for any animals which might be visiting your garden
  • 9) Have a bucket of water available in care you need to put out the fire or an animal on fire
  • 10) Know who to call if you find an injured wildlife casualty.

Wildlife sites across South at risk from HS2

Wildlife areas across our region could be affected by the new rail development Credit: ITV Meridian

As many as 500 wildlife sites have been put at risk by plans to build a high speed rail line through the South East.

Wildlife Trusts have proposed that the HS2 scheme could destroy more wildlife habitats than it will replace.

A report by the Trusts, who oppose HS2, called on the Government to back the creation of a ribbon of natural areas running the length of the route to protect and restore the countryside and communities, if the project goes ahead.

The Wildlife Trusts director of England, Stephen Trotter, said: "Currently, people and nature stand to lose if HS2 goes ahead which is why our opposition to the proposed route for HS2 remains. Like other affected groups we will be petitioning against it."

Some 150 existing and 43 proposed local wildlife sites would be affected, including 43 ancient woods and nine Wildlife Trust nature reserves.


Rare monkey born at Howletts Wild Animal Park

The newly born Francois Langur Credit: Howletts

Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury, is celebrating the arrival of one of the world’s rarest primates. The newly born Francois Langur is the first ever of its species to be born at the park.

Rare both in the wild and in captivity, the monkeys are listed as endangered. The species is native to northeast Vietnam and southern China, where they live at a slightly higher altitude than most langurs.

They inhabit semi-tropical monsoon forest and well-sheltered areas in limestone ranges, but due to major changes in land use the population has diminished. As a result of hunting and habitat loss, their population in the Guangxi Province in China alone has decreased by 85% in recent years.

"Pining" for Christmas, the big cats that can't get enough of our old trees

It's probably fair to say that Christmas is well and truly over, and no doubt you've all taken your decorations down by now. But what did you do with your Christmas tree? Have you ever thought of donating it to lions and tigers?

Yes, you did read that right. The Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent is appealing for people to donate their trees as toys for the big cats. Andrea Thomas has been speaking to keeper Briony Smith.

And if you want to donate your Christmas tree, you can get in touch with them directly:

Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Headcorn Rd, Smarden, Ashford, Kent TN27 8PJ Tel: 01233 771915

The sanctuary is not open to the public, but it does hold open days in July.

Dormouse recovery due to habitat improvement

A dormouse at WWT Arundel Wetland Centre Credit: WWT

Work on the Arun Riverlife project involved cutting trees close to some hedgerows where dormice nest and this work was licensed by Natural England.

In the UK the dormouse has been protected since 1988 by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

During the tree work, licensed dormice handlers on the WWT Arundel team did daily hand searches of sections to be cut to ensure no dormice were in these zones.

Wildlife experts welcome return of "Ratty"

A recent survey of nesting boxes at the wetland reserve found four live dormice and 8 dormice nests inside the 61 nesting boxes onsite.

Two of the dormice found were nesting in boxes on the edges of the recently completed Arun Riverlife project.

WWT Arundel Wetland Centre Manager Dave Fairlamb said: “It’s great news that wildlife like dormice are moving back into the revitalized habitats of the Arun Riverlife project so quickly after the project was finished last June.”

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