Northward Hill in Kent is located on a a ridge overlooking the Thames.
nature reserve is an excellent place for bird watchers boating one of the largest
heronries in the UK
chorus - be sure to get there by 5am! |
As well as
its heronry, Northward Hill contains a diversity of woodland birds as well as
offering a stunning selection of springtime wild flowers.
The ridge is part
of the bigger North Kent Marshes area which boasts a diversity of habitats including
marshes, ponds and the Thames estuary, all of which are excellent for wildlife
such as Frogs, Eels and Water Voles.
reserve's most distinctive bird is the Heron which roosts in the tops of ancient
oak trees close to the Thames estuary.
The birds love this location because
of its close proximity to mudflats and marshes which are rich in food.
a constant stream of Herons flying overhead at the reserve and it's possible to
see them from two viewpoints.
The exact number of Herons varies year on
year, having peaked in 1983 with 234 pairs.
Today there are over 150 pairs
nesting in the treetops.
These large birds start nesting early with up to
10 nests up a single tree.
Perhaps surprisingly Rooks nest right next
to the Herons and the two species are quite happy as next-door neighbours.
RSPB is also planting trees to expand the wood to create new nesting areas, but
the middle of Northward Hill is ancient woodland.
is when Little Egrets return to the reserve - there has been a colony at Northward
Egrets are a type of heron, although they are smaller than the
There used to be very few in the UK with only 23 recorded before
Millions of birds were killed for their feathers - used to decorate
hats - a society formed to stop this which eventually became the RSPB.
possibly because of global warming, there are more than 1,000 Egrets around the
British coastline and 55 pairs at Northward.
In the breeding season the
Egrets develop a lacy plume on the back of their head and breast.
be found on the reserve are Turtle Doves, the only members of the pigeon family
that migrate to the UK.
They spend most of their time in Africa, arriving
on British shores in the spring.
And a Nightingale
the heart of the woodland can be found the Nightingale, one of the best singers
in the bird world.
Other woodland birds which can be spotted in spring are
Robins, Blackcaps, Song Thrushes, and Willow Warblers.
Flowers in the shape
of bells with narrow leaves.
Perennial plant with a strong,
to deal with shady conditions created by woodland canopies.
shoots appear in January, giving bluebells a head start over other woodland plants.
number and density of the flowers give the impression of a blanket of blue.
the 17th Century, tree planting was uncommon so a wood surviving from before this
period has grown naturally.
As a result Northward Hill is blessed with a
variety of cover which is perfect for all sorts of animals and plants.
especially good for wild flowers and the wood is renowned for its springtime carpet
There's also a huge variety of other flowers including
Dog's Mercury and Yellow Arch Angel.
The woodland is a perfect habitat for
Greater Spotted and Green Woodpeckers who love old wood, which is why many dead
trees are left by the foresters.