• Blean Woods National Nature Reserve Mid-May to mid-June 2020

    The good news is that the heath fritillary has enjoyed another splendid season, marginally better than last year’s excellent total.  The graph below shows how numbers have built up rapidly over the past three years from a nadir in 2016-7.  Although populations collapsed at several normally reliable colonies, these losses were more than made up for by healthy numbers at other sites, and by strong colonisations of several…

    • 17 Jun 2020
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-April to mid-May 2020

    Roll out the good news!  After last year’s poor showing of just thirty nightingale territories, the provisional figure for this spring is a far healthier 42.  Interestingly, several of the sites are in what I would normally consider sub-optimal habitat – narrow strips of scrub, and coppice that is at least ten years old (the normal age range of chosen coppice is around three to eight years old).  Nationally…

    • 18 May 2020
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-March to mid-April 2020

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    When the birds of a wood, albeit quite a large one by southern English standards, have been recorded for 38 years, you do tend to be running out of surprises;  in that time I’ve recorded ten species of wader, rarities like wryneck and Arctic redpoll, and, most bizarrely, fulmar, but nothing had prepared me for the latest addition to the reserve list on 2nd April – a white-tailed…

    • 14 Apr 2020
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-February to mid-March 2020

    The latest update from Michael Walter:

    Keeping databases seems to be a largely male fetish, and I have to admit to my fair share of them (databases and fetishes!), but they aren’t necessarily a sign of an obsessive compulsive disorder, and these rows and columns of figures can have their uses. So, for example, when the press says that this has been the wettest winter on record, I can turn to my weather statistics and…

    • 18 Mar 2020
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-January to mid-February 2020

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    It seems to have been an extremely quiet period for most species that usually grace the reserve for at least part of the winter:  two small finches, the siskin and redpoll, are virtually non-existent, at least when I visit the wood;  and our two wintering thrushes – redwing and fieldfare – have been in extremely short supply, even in the orchards locally.  The mild weather…

    • 22 Feb 2020
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-Dec 2019 to mid-Jan 2020

    The latest report from Michael Walter:

    One of Blean Wood’s hidden gems is its heathland and, if you’ve visited the reserve, you’ll no doubt have followed a waymarked trail through a two-hectare heath.  Delightful though this is, especially in late summer when all the heather is in drowsy, honey-scented bloom, it is quite a small area.  A second heathy block, six times the size, is tucked away down the…

    • 17 Jan 2020
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-Nov to mid-Dec 2019

    The British Trust for Ornithology annually mobilises thousands of volunteers to carry out counts in a variety of habitats as part of its Breeding Bird Survey, which monitors the health of the UK’s birds.  There is an inevitable time lag between the data being collected and the results published, but we now have the figures for 2018.  One interesting trend is that for nuthatch;  nationally, the population has been rising…

    • 17 Dec 2019
  • Blean Woods National Nature Reserve Mid-October to mid-November 2019

    Unsurprisingly, given that it is our smallest bird, the goldcrest is easily overlooked, but there are actually quite a lot of them in the wood at the moment.  This is because, perhaps even more surprisingly, it is a partial migrant;  that is to say, some goldcrests remain here all year round, but others arrive here in autumn from Scandinavia, along with redwings and fieldfares, which are all escaping the harsh winter climate…

    • 18 Nov 2019
  • Fungi Foray at Blean Woods!

    On Saturday 9th November (10am - 12pm) we will be hosting a 'Fungi Foray' at Blean Woods. Our local expert will lead a guided walk, delving into the hidden world of fungi! You will learn how to identify different species and separate the fact from the fiction. 

    A magnifying glass will be handy, but is not mandatory.


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

    • 22 Oct 2019
  • RSPB Blean Woods National Nature Reserve mid-Sept - mid-Oct 2019

    The latest report by Michael Walter:

    Returning from a few days’ holiday in a glorious part of the Lake District in mid-September, I was quite surprised to note that the development of bracken’s autumn hues of yellow, orange and bronze were more advanced in Blean Woods than in the harsher climate of the exposed fells.  I can only assume that the much greater stress from heat and drought down in the soft south…

    • 18 Oct 2019
  • 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