Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Reading RSPB Group

THE annual meeting passed without controversy — the accounts were adopted and the existing committee duly re-appointed unopposed.

The formalities were over in 20 minutes or so and, after a short coffee break, the guest of honour Martin Harper, conservation officer of the RSPB, took centre stage to entertain the audience.

His talk, lasting an hour, encompassed an overview of the RSPB’s current project but focused on the difficulties our summer migrants face on their journeys to and from their winter land.

In recent years, birds such as the cuckoo and osprey have been tagged with radio transmitters to record their journeys and this has revealed there are at least two different routes to the wintering grounds.

Two cuckoos were so tagged a few miles apart in Norfolk — one headed south on the traditional route through Iberia and across the Straits of Gibraltar whereas the other ventured through Italy and across the Mediterranean.

The latter bird then crossed the Sahara to end up in the Gola Forest in West Africa only a few miles from where the bird taking the western route had taken up residence.

At the end of May members of the group travelled in a minibus to the Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve in West Sussex. This reserve consists of areas of wet meadows, pools, woodland and heathland, so contains a good range of habitats for birds and wildlife.

During the morning walk around the woodland and heathland, there were good views of a great spotted woodpecker taking food to a nest in a hole in a tree while a female kestrel sat still on a branch for prey.

A range of tits, finches and warblers were also heard and sometimes seen.

A viewpoint over a pool at the end of the woods revealed a redshank and greenshank, which are very similar birds but, as their name implies, with different coloured legs.

The café at Pulborough provides excellent fayre and after lunch there were excellent views of chiffchaff and willow warblers.

These are similar-looking birds with different coloured legs but are best distinguished by their song.

The hides allowed views over pools where shelduck, mallard, gadwall, shoveler and teal were present as were lapwing, which had small chicks with them.

A rufous brown bird flew past and was soon singing nearby, confirming it to be a nightingale.

On turning towards the visitor centre, there was a pile of pallets that had been turned into a mini-beast habitat and here was the highlight of the day — a female adder lying on top soaking up the sun.

The group’s next meeting will take place at Pangbourne village hall on Tuesday (June 12) at 8pm when George Noble will deliver an illustrated talk entitled “Antarctica”.

Visitors are welcome. For more information, visit

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