Visitors this winter may have noticed the yellow excavator working around the reserve, particularly around some of the ponds. One of the tasks this excavator is the removal of reed rhizomes (roots) from the ponds for the benefit of great crested newts.

Excavator works - Craig Edwards

Great crested newts are found at Dungeness in nationally important numbers. It is believed that one of the reasons they are so prevalent here is down to the shingle that dominates the landscape. This shingle, particularly around the edge of the pond warms quickly in the sun and transfers this heat to the water which makes it more to the newts liking.

Willow and reed not only shade these ponds out and prevent other marginal vegetation from developing, which the newts rely on for shelter and egg laying, but they can also dry the ponds out as well.

The reserve team have been working incredibly hard over the past two winters to reduce willow coverage around pond margins and now the excavator can access the ponds to remove the reed. There is no waste with this work with the majority of the reed rhizomes being moved to other lakes on site to encourage reed development.

It is not just great crested newts that benefit from this work as some of our resident and winter ducks have been seen feeding on the open water created and even egrets have been seen hunting around them.

Little egret - Louise Kelly

Areas of willow have also been cut back at the ARC, from the path between Makepeace and Scott hide and from along the bend on the entrance track. This is mostly to enhance the views and/or widen the path in these areas, but it also allows for different types of plants to grow (as well as fresh willow) to create a more biodiverse area.

Two brave toddlers came to our first Nature Tots event of the year. We had great fun today, learning all about birds nests. We collected nesting materials outside for the birds at home (and splashing in the puddles of course!), then warmed up inside by making our own cosy nests to sit in whilst enjoying a story!

Wildlife highlights over the last few weeks have been the firecrests, seen fairly regularly and up close from Firth hide. A red-necked grebe has also been around for over a week at the ARC. 7 turnstone briefly visited us on Burrowes Pit today and we've also seen ringed plover, knot, ruff and curlew this week. Goldeneye are still around but the wintering smew seemed to have left us now. It won't be long before we start seeing the first spring birds arrive!

Red-necked grebe - Michael Linklater