• Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-August - mid-September

    Last month I touched on the resurgence of the brimstone.  Well, now it’s official:  this has been the best season in 38 years of monitoring for this large and attractive butterfly, as the graph opposite shows indisputably.  The line is now approaching verticality, and it will be interesting to see if it starts to level off next year, as such a meteoric rise is unlikely to be sustained for much longer. 


    With just seven…

    • 17 Sep 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-July - mid-August 2019

    Michael Walters' latest report:

    In the plant world, the flowers with the greatest charisma, panache and pizzazz are undoubtedly the orchids.  While we can’t boast the dramatic epiphytic orchids that grow on trees in the tropics, there are about fifty species to be found on these islands, and we can even claim five of them at Blean Woods, although two (pyramidal and southern marsh) were only ever present as single…

    • 16 Aug 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-June - mid-July 2019

    Michael Walters' latest report:

    Butterflies have been very much to the fore in recent weeks, starting with a minor invasion of painted ladies;  I qualify the influx as “minor” in order to distinguish it from the 2009 inundation that overwhelmed the countryside, when many millions of painted ladies reached our shores from north Africa.  This migration is achieved by a succession of generation hops – adults…

    • 18 Jul 2019
  • Butterfly walk - Saturday 29th June

    (Brimstone - photo by Lesley Brown)

    We are hosting an afternoon walk at the RSPB Blean Woods National Nature Reserve to look at a selection of the 25+ species that call the reserve home. We will look at the wildflowers and grasses that the butterflies feed on and keep an eye out for the rare heath fritillary!

    £3 for RSPB members and students. £5 for non-members. Under 16's go free!

    To book phone 01227…

    • 25 Jun 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve Mid-May to mid-June 2019

    Michael Walters latest report:

    Last month I mentioned the unwelcome find of a clump of Spanish bluebells in the wood;  I am therefore grateful to a reader who drew my attention to a post on the BBC website which suggested that the Spanish bluebell may itself be a hybrid, and is less fertile than our native bluebell, so unlikely to hybridise it out of existence.


    A surprising sight on 27th May was of a flock of about 80…

    • 24 Jun 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-April to mid-May 2019

    Michael's latest report:

    Rewilding is very much in the news these days, with landowners allowing the whim of nature to dictate how a habitat develops, nudging to one side the contractors with chainsaws and bulldozers.  Instead the land managers are livestock, preferably old breeds of cattle, horses and pigs, which eat some of the developing scrub, create a seedbed by churning up the ground and stop ponds from disappearing…

    • 18 May 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-March to mid-April 2019

    Michael's latest report:

    I was listening to Broadcasting House on Radio 4 this morning (14th April);  a listener had sent in a nice recording of a blackbird singing in his garden and wondered if anyone could identify it for him.  The presenter was unwilling to stick his neck out, having been proved wrong on the programme too many times before, but his co-presenter hazarded a guess at robin.  Later, suggestions from listeners…

    • 23 Apr 2019
  • Guided Walks 2019

    Guided walks

    Sunday 5th May: Dawn Chorus (5:15 - 7:15am) - Those brave enough to face the early start will be treated to the sounds of nightingale, willow warbler, song thrush and many more! - FULLY BOOKED!

    Saturday 1st June: Nightjar walk (8:15 - 10pm)  - An evening walk in the woods looking for the elusive and mysterious nightjar. Look out for woodcock overhead and tawny owls calling in the distance. FULLY BOOKED!

    Saturday 8th…

    • 16 Apr 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-February to mid-March 2019

    Fieldfares have been more in evidence than usual this winter and, like almost everything at present except perhaps the weather, this may well be Brexit-related!  The Brexit connection is that UK fruit growers had become largely dependent on an annual influx of east Europeans to pick fruit but, amid all the uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with Europe, that flow of workers has been drying up. Consequently…

    • 26 Mar 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve - mid-January to mid-February 2019

    My late-January bird count was undertaken on a chilly, misty morning.  The damp air drifted slowly through the tree canopy, mist tangling with the bare branches, and gathering into larger droplets, before finally falling to the ground.  Walking through the wood I heard the apparent sounds of rain on all sides, yet when I emerged onto an open ride, I was back into swirling mist, without the raindrops.  It was as if I had…

    • 5 Mar 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-December 2018 to mid-January 2019

    Following on from last month’s mention of mistle thrushes and their association with mistletoe, while in Cambridgeshire at Christmas I was interested to see mistletoe growing abundantly on roadside ornamental apple trees in a very suburban setting.  What particularly intrigued me was that several of the globes of greenery had established themselves on the slender trunks only a foot or two above the ground – with…

    • 18 Jan 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-November to mid-December 2018

    Michael Walter's latest report:

    Approaching the reserve car park the other afternoon I was greeted by the dry rattling call of a mistle thrush.  Noticeably larger and greyer than blackbirds and song thrushes, they have the same penchant for fruit as their cousins at this time of year, and this bird was gorging on the berries of a hybrid whitebeam/rowan tree beside the car park.  The concept of a bird’s territory has…

    • 21 Dec 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve - mid-October to mid-November 2018

    Michael Walter's latest report:

    It sometimes seems as though the wood is in a foreign country, so heavily has it been invaded by alien plants, from the larger sycamore, sweet chestnut and rhododendron right down to humbler species such as feverfew, New Zealand water stonecrop, Pyrenean cranesbill and stinking hellebore.  A fairly recent coloniser from gardens in Rough Common is the pheasant berry (Leycesteria formosa…

    • 15 Dec 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve - Mid-September to Mid-October 2018

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    My last routine task of each day is to go outside to take the maximum and minimum temperature readings. On the evening of 12th October it was still a beautifully beguiling, sultry 20° at 10.15pm and a check the following morning showed that the temperature hadn’t dropped below 18.5°C during the night. With a slight mental shudder, I was instantly put in mind of the night almost…

    • 22 Oct 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve - Mid-August to Mid-September 2018

    The latest report form Michael Walter

    Late summer has proved an extremely uninspiring end to the butterfly season.  Bread-and-butter species, such as gatekeeper, meadow brown and ringlet, appeared in only moderate numbers, but as they faded away in the second half of August the expected flush of colourful Nymphalid butterflies (peacock, red admiral, comma and the occasional small tortoiseshell) failed to materialise. 

    • 20 Sep 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve - Mid-July to Mid-August 2018

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    The territory maps have now been drawn up, so we can see how many birds of each species there were this spring, and compare the results to last year - and what dismal reading it makes!  Wren, nightingale, garden warbler and spotted flycatcher have all performed very poorly, and some others, while not far below the long-term average, have been present in much lower numbers than last…

    • 24 Aug 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve. Mid-June to mid July 2018

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    How much longer can it last? I have recorded no rain whatsoever since 7th June, and that was only 2.8mm. The last significant rainfall was on 29th May, nearly seven weeks ago, which is probably unprecedented in the 37 years that I’ve been keeping records here. Remarkably, most of the vegetation is standing up to the searing weather pretty well, although some of the birches are losing…

    • 16 Jul 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve Mid-May to mid-June 2018

    Regular visitors to Blean Woods will be aware that, while it may be famous for its nightingales and heath fritillaries, the same cannot be said for its floristic appeal. Yes, bluebells, wood anemones and primroses all occur here, but for the most part not as breathtaking displays. However, there is one plant which, while not drawing botanists from miles around, is quite a feature of the wood at this time of year, and…

    • 18 Jun 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve Mid-April to mid-May 2018

    The latest report from Michael Walter:


    You know it’s spring when you can smell the bluebells, and I endeavour to make the most of that delight in Blean Woods because they aren’t very abundant. Intrigued by their patchy distribution, in 2016 and 2017 I plotted all the colonies I could find, large and small.  The resultant map is interesting as, with a few exceptions, all the bluebells occur near the woodland…

    • 17 May 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve March - April 18

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    So far the signs for this year’s breeding season are not auspicious.  Last month I wrote about the dearth of wrens and, while their position has improved a little since then, numbers of these diminutive birds remain far lower than expected.  Another worrying species is the song thrush.  Not one to be reticent about showing off its vocal talents, on a normal spring morning you…

    • 20 Apr 2018
  • Guided walks at Blean Woods 2018

    With bird song starting to fill the woods, it seems like the perfect time to start thinking about this years events at RSPB Blean Woods. Once again we will be hosting our annual guided walks during the spring and summer to show off some of our star species! Booking is essential for all of these, so don't hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in joining us!

    Guided walks

    Sunday 6th May: Dawn Chorus (5 - 7am…

    • 16 Mar 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve February - March 18

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    Snow is never going to be good news for birds, but the freezing rain on 1st March may have spelt the death-knell for many.  Under abnormal conditions a warmer layer of air can develop some height above ground;   snow falling through it melts to rain, which instantly turns to ice on impact with ground that is below freezing (when this happens on roads it is referred to as lethal “black…

    • 16 Mar 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve January - February 18

    The latest report by Michael Walter:

    Last autumn an influx of several thousand hawfinches into the country got birdwatchers excited. The breeding range of these large finches extends as far east as Japan, but they are commonest in the forests of central Europe, and it is probably from this closer area that these refugees came, forced on the move by a likely failure of crops of their favoured food – seeds of hornbeam…

    • 23 Feb 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve December 17 - January 18

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    2017 ranks as the second driest in the 36 years that I have been recording rainfall in Rough Common;  only 2011 was marginally more arid.  I doubt if this will have much impact on our overwintering wildlife, but the risk is that the water table will be low going into spring and summer this year, and that if we experience the deadly combination of drought and a heatwave, vegetation…

    • 15 Jan 2018
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-November to mid-December 2017

    The latest update from Michael Walter:

    Some people claim that winter is their favourite season, but it beats me how anyone can enjoy days with a bare seven hours of often leaden light, when the wind is icy but wet, and the countryside is devoid of colour and life.  To my mind one of the few redeeming features of this time of year is that it becomes easier to understand the wood - summer’s barrier of foliage has been blown…

    • 18 Dec 2017