New species welcome on Ashdown Forest Reserve

Male White-tailed Bumblebee on new Heather at Broadwater
Male White-tailed Bumblebee on new Heather at Broadwater

WOODLARKS successfully bred at Broadwater Warren on the Ashdown Forest this year, the first time since 2003. These migratory birds immediately settled in the new heathland areas created by the RSPB at their Broadwater Warren nature reserve.

The woodlark’s beautiful song was enjoyed across the heath from late February and the unseasonal weather in May and June did not stop them breeding or finding enough food for their chicks.

Another new arrival to take advantage of the newly created heathland areas were tree pipits. After a noticeable absence over the last few years, they returned this spring in good numbers.

Sadly, the weather is believed to have had a negative effect on some species. The number of nightjars was down at Broadwater and across many other heathland sites in the South East this year.

The poor spring weather is thought to have delayed their flight to the UK, and once here insect food was scarce. Other migrant species such as turtle dove and cuckoo did make it across from Africa though, and could frequently be heard announcing their summer territories.

Steve Wheatley, site manager, said: “The other wonderful new arrival to the site this year has been five Exmoor Ponies. These beautiful animals have been busy all through the summer, chomping their way around the 150 acre enclosure created for them. Exmoors certainly aren’t bothered by the rain. Their thick coat and mane make them ideally suited to such conditions. They have been a hit with visitors and seem to fit perfectly into the landscape.”

Other wildlife has had mixed fortunes this year. Butterflies and moths had a poor season while after a slow start there are now good numbers and varieties of bees visiting new carpets of heather which have flowered. Numbers of slow worms on the reserve have also gone through the roof, perhaps because of an increase in their food source of slugs.