We can do more for nature when we work together! We've pulled together some great examples of how businesses, partners, supporters and individuals have helped us achieve even more for nature in 2018.
The effects of climate change on our reserves is becoming more apparent year upon year. From rising sea levels at RSPB Dungeness, to threats to heathland at RSPB Blean, we’re facing new challenges all the time to try and preserve our wildlife and the habitats that it is dependent on.
With help from The Landfill Communities Fund (LCF), we’ve been able to undertake a number projects over the years. The Government introduced tax on landfill waste in 1996 to reduce the amount of land-filled waste and to promote more environmentally sustainable methods of waste management. The LCF allows Landfill Operators to contribute a portion of their overall tax to community and environmental organisations. This scheme has allowed many charities and organisations to undertake important projects that may not otherwise have gotten off the ground. Here are a couple of projects that we have managed to complete this year thanks to the Landfill Communities Fund:
Biodiversity blooms at RSPB Blean
RSPB Blean Woods is an ancient woodland near Canterbury, Kent. If you visit in August you will notice the bright purple of the heather and coconut-scented gorse. These heath areas were once non-native conifer plantations but are now the breeding and feeding grounds for nightjars hunting moths at dusk. They’re also one of the best places in the country to see the Heath Fritillary butterfly, one of the country’s rarest and most threatened butterfly species.
The reserve has been traditionally managed using ancient coppicing techniques, but extra funding has enabled wardens and volunteers to work with contractors to achieve more in a shorter time span.
Money from the Landfill Communities Fund has allowed wardens to expand the area of woodland they coppice at RSPB Blean Woods, creating new and improved rides and clearings.
Over time, this habitat maintenance has increased the abundance of common cow-wheat, the heath fritillary caterpillar’s main food source. The yellow-flowering plant needs open sunny glades in order to grow and can take three years to start thriving once the glades have been cleared! The Heath Fritillary is one of the many benefactors of this work, which was carried out with funding from Viridor Credits.
The warden of Blean says: “The old idiom of not being able to see the wood for the trees is being made reality here as the way we coppice or thin growth is enabling a much healthier and biodiverse woodland. Cow-wheat only truly thrives in the first three to ten years after an area has been coppiced. Making sure there’s always enough woodland in the right condition is essential to maintain and grow our heath fritillary population here at Blean.”
Coppicing is the cutting of trees with stumps left to regenerate until the new stems are large enough to be harvested for firewood, timber or other uses. It makes use of the natural regeneration properties of many trees, including native oak, hazel, sweet chestnut, lime and ash.
Gareth Williams, Operations Manager at Viridor Credits, says: “improving the UK’s biodiversity is a major aim of both Viridor Credits and the Landfill Communities Fund. We are grateful to the RSPB for helping to deliver this aim through the invaluable work they do for our environment.”
Reducing climate change risks for terns at RSPB Dungeness
Visitors to the RSPB Dungeness reserve in Kent can now get even closer to wildlife, thanks to a major uplift to Burrowes pit. Funded by money raised from RSPB memberships and visitors to the site, as well as a donation of £48,200 from environmental company, Viridor Credits, we have raised 45 islands with RSPB ecologists advising on the specialist nesting requirements for a number of threatened species, including little terns and Mediterranean gulls.
Terns need raised shingle in which to nest, but in previous years the shingle islands have been submerged during breeding season as water levels have risen in the old quarry. Using shingle excavated from below the water level on the reserve, we have been able to safeguard breeding birds from rising water levels. The project has encouraged rare terns, as well as more common species, to flock to and breed on the shingle islands overlooked by the visitor centre.
To complete the unique redevelopment project an excavator was mounted on a floating pontoon and ferried into place across the large flooded quarry pit, before excavating submerged shingle from around the foot of the islands.
The Whitehead Monckton Charitable Trust donated a further £3,000 to help pay for a boat, which will enable the reserve team to undertake future habitat management on the islands more easily. The works were due to be completed by late October (when the RSPB reserve becomes a haven for thousands of wintering wildfowl) but were finished over six weeks ahead of schedule.
Many migratory birds, including spoonbill and a roost of over 500 Oyster Catchers used the site over winter, and this summer the reserve fledged its highest number of tern chicks since the early 1990’s!
Going solar at RSPB Rainham Marshes
One of our biggest projects at RSPB Rainham Marshes has been the installation of three solar powered water pumps on the nature reserve to ensure breeding conditions are perfect for wetland waders this coming spring.
Staff have been battling the effects of climate change in recent years, struggling to keep the site conditions just right for breeding waders, but had to stand and watch as nests failed, as the marsh just hasn’t been wet enough. After much research into saving our threatened bird species in an environmentally friendly way, RSPB staff found a solution in the Netherlands - in the shape of solar pump manufacturers, Aqua Delta. The project won generous funding, primarily from Veolia Environmental Trust through the Landfill Community Fund and also from the Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The introduction of the pumps means that water can now be moved around a network of specially created ditches and channels, ensuring conditions are right to allow chicks to fledge. We’re now looking forward to increased numbers of young lapwing and redshank after next years’ breeding season, proving the time, effort and the £50,000 investment were not in vain!
RSPB Rainham Marshes site Manager Andrew Gouldstone says: “We’ve really struggled over the past couple of years to keep this area on Wennington Marsh wet or damp through spring and early summer. Wet, muddy areas are crucial for lapwing and redshank in the breeding season as they are rich in insects, allowing the parents to successfully feed and raise their young. Both species have seen population crashes and need our help. These environmentally friendly pumps are the difference between death and survival for lapwing and redshank chicks here.”
Paul Taylor, Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust said “We’re glad to be able to support this innovative biodiversity project with a grant through the Landfill Communities Fund. Managing wetland landscapes and delicate habitats such as those at Wennington Marshes is vitally important, and we’re looking forward to seeing an increase in wetland waders as a result.”
You can find out more about this project in our short video
This blog was written by one of our South East volunteers, Libby Morris. If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities visit our website
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