A Little Further Afield.. News from RSPB The Lodge, Sandy

The RSBP’s UK Headquarters is at The Lodge Nature Reserve and Gardens in Sandy. It is a very special place, offering an exceptionally rich combination of wildlife and heritage experiences. The woodland, heath and acid grassland cover an area of some 220 hectares, and now form the largest stretch of heathland in Bedfordshire.

Chiffchaff John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

Heathland is a key habitat at The Lodge, home to breeding hobbies, ravens, common lizards, green tiger beetles and other invertebrates of bare, sandy soil. RSPB is restoring it for breeding nightjars and woodlarks and it is already one of the best inland sites for natterjack toads.

The hilly, oak-dominated woodlands offer a rich natural experience to those exploring The Lodge’s network of winding trails, with sunny rides and glades where spotted flycatchers catch food for their broods, and a developing under-storey is alive with bird song and insect life. Standing and fallen deadwood is an important microhabitat, used by deadwood insects, occasionally the scarce lesser-spotted woodpeckers, and many of the 600 fungi species found on site.

We asked Mark Brandon from The Lodge to tell us what we can expect from a visit this May…
“After the unseasonably cold and wet start to the year, spring migration has started very slowly. The first blackcaps and chiffchaffs to arrive on the reserve weren’t seen until March 28th, almost two weeks later than they’d normally be here, and as I write, there’s only been the occasional swallow over the reserve, and the sand martins and wheatears that we’d normally expect haven’t been reported here as yet.

Weather systems with cold winds have been keeping the birds further south, and as I’ve recently returned from a birding trip in Morocco, I know that migration has also been slow through northern Africa, with no nightingales, golden orioles or any large movements of raptors seen by our birding group, and only a couple of cuckoos and turtle doves noted passing through.
We should expect a big surge of spring migrants arriving on our shores when the winds change and the birds start to move northwards to return to their breeding grounds again this month.
We have recently replaced all of the old way marker signs around the reserve trail network and have re-named our three main trails as woodpecker, buzzard and nuthatch, with respective colour coding for each trail, to make navigation easier and more fun. Come along and give them a try!

Keep checking the skies for the swallows, martins and swifts flying overhead this month, as they feed up after their long journeys back from Africa and listen out for the first cuckoos!.
RSPB The Lodge reserve is open every day of the week, from dawn to dusk (the car-park barrier is shut at 8 pm), for everyone to enjoy and there are plenty of organised events.

Our website; www.rspb.org.uk/thelodge is the place to look for all of the events you can enjoy here at RSPB The Lodge including a half term trail and self-led activities available every day during the holidays. These include den building, journey sticks, wildlife challenge sheets and dragonfly making.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity. In England and Wales, no: 207076.In Scotland, no: SC037654
Just under 1/2 an hour from Royston by Car. See website for entry fees.

The Lodge Nature Reserve, Gatehouse,
The Lodge, Potton Rd, Sandy SG19 2DL
01767 693333