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In decline...

Several people have written to me recently with turtle dove sightings. But it's pretty clear there are very few left breeding in the RX area, how many years before we no longer hear their summer "purrring"? So make sure your sightings get passed on to the county bird recorder. Click here for Sussex or here for Kent. This photo is from Dorothy & Ron Nash (TQ92D) - "this turtle dove visits our garden.  Unfortunately, we had to take it through the kitchen window as it is very shy and being early evening the light was rather poor.  We throw out a mixture of small seed and wheat on the grass for the birds to eat and as we had just cut the grass, I think it was finding plenty."

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A picture paints a thousand words

Take a look at the scene below.  Note the horizontal direction of the grass stems.  We are at Dungeness, on a typical windy day!  As you drive around the area you might wonder why Romney Marsh was so good for bumblebees, as all you often see from the road is acres and acres of arable field or close-grazed sheep pasture.  It was not always so, as this picture reveals, for tucked under the grass stems you can see the abundant yellow blooms of meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, together with smaller amounts of tufted vetch Vicia cracca (purple) and red clover Trifolium pratense.

This amounted to a massive supply of pollen and nectar, hence the bees.  In recent decades much of this got converted to arable, suffered high sheep-grazing pressure, or management was abandoned, or the fields were dug up in the names of gravel extraction or bird conservation, hence the bees vanished, until recently.

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A nice little initiative

One species that rather neatly sums up where we are conservation wise these days is the beautiful dyer's greenweed Genista tintoria.  This small shrub is found on old lowland grassland on calcareous to slightly acidic clay soils.  The loss of these meadows since the 1940's has resulted in this species undergoing a significant decline in the south-east. 

I got used to seeing this plant whilst I was surveying for natterjack toads on parts of the Cumbrian coast in the 1980's where it grows in a different habitat, dune slacks, however in the south-east if I associate it with any habitat it has to be roadside verges.  And here it has been the beneficiary of a neat little scheme to conserve relict areas of grassland growing by the road side and protect them from damaging mowing regimes.

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Several plants have the specific name angustifolia which means "narrow leaved". There are at least two in the RX area Typha and Galeopsis. The latter is red hempnettle, which is critically endangered,   and it has just come into flower, growing on the shingle. It is the foodplant of the endangered beetle, Dibolia cynoglossi, featured on the old RXwildlife site recently.


Can you help..... survey for the rare jumping spider Pellenes punctatus at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve? This striking species was discovered on one small area of the Beach Reserve in 2011 but could occur elsewhere and we are looking to use a small group of volunteers (perhaps four or five people) to help us find it during mid to late July and perhaps early August. If you are interested please contact me by e-mail at or by phone (01797 227784)