Last year, we welcomed more than 250 people to the grounds of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum for one night. We went searching for bats, learned about moths and butterflies, enjoyed some marshmallows round the campfire and looked to the stars from inside an inflatable indoor planetarium (yes, you read that right!).
This year, the Big Wild Campout is back, and bigger than ever. We're taking over the Ulster Folk Museum for two nights, Friday 8 and Saturday 9 August, and we'll be pitching up at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh on Saturday 23 August. We'll have our friends at Cotswold Outdoor there, ready to help you put up your tent, as well as lead us in some bushcraft activities. Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland will be there too, as will the Northern Ireland Bat Group. We also have some stargazing, story telling and torch-lit bug hunts to look forward to - how will we ever fit it all into one night?
Tickets for the Big Wild Campout are on sale now, and are selling fast, so get yours quick (click the image below for tickets)!
But if you're still in two minds, read the blog below from Sasha Barrett-Ferris, who came along last year with her parents as volunteers and campers.
Big Wild Campout
Back in August 2013 on a hot summer’s afternoon my family and I set up camp in a very unusual place – in the grounds of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Help was readily available if you needed any from the team from Cotswold along with members of the RSPB (including me).
We quickly settled in and made our way around the site to look at all the activities that were on offer. There were exciting crafts in the schoolroom, a bat walk after dark, the indoor planetarium, moth collecting and cinema to name but a few. I particularly enjoyed the indoor planetarium experience.
Cooking was done outdoors in a lovely cobbled courtyard where later in the evening hot chocolate and folk music were available. We even had a large camp fire where we toasted marshmallows (perfect for that little pick me up).
It was an incredible experience in a unique setting which we all thoroughly enjoyed so much we are coming back for a second year.
We can't wait to see you all there!
Last week was National Insect Week, so today on the blog we’re celebrating the vital role played by the 24,000 different species of insects which make their homes in the UK.
The tagline for the Royal Entomological Society’s awareness week is ‘little things that run the world’ – a statement which is no exaggeration!
Insects, from butterflies to beetle to bees and everything in between, can be found in almost every habitat and are the most diverse and ecologically important group of animals found in our gardens, acting as important pollinators, pest controllers and a vital food source for birds and other wildlife.
You can provide all the right conditions for insects to feed, breed and shelter naturally in your garden.
Retain dead vegetation, leaf litter and log piles. They will be used as hibernating and breeding sites, particularly by ladybirds.
Plant nectar-rich flowers or simply let a patch of grass grow wild and avoid using pesticides.
If you’re feeling creative, you could also build a ‘bug hotel’ from natural materials - insects will love making their homes in the dark and damp nooks and crannies.
For more tips on how you can help insects in your garden, visit rspb.org.uk/homes.
If you want to learn more about our winged wonders then why not come along to the Big Butterfly Count at Portmore Lough on Saturday, 19 July?
Dozens of species of butterflies and moths can be seen on the reserve’s hay meadows during the summer.
You will be able to enjoy a tour of the reserve from 10.30am to 12.30pm with Catherine Bertrand from Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland on hand to count and identify what you see!
The event costs £5 for adults/£3 for RSPB members and £2/£1 for children. Booking is essential by emailing email@example.com or calling 028 9049 1547.
Late last month we got very excited as the once familiar call of the corncrake was heard on Rathlin Island for the first time in more than 15 years.
The bird’s arrival was testament to the hard work of RSPB staff and volunteers, as well as the co-operation of local landowners, who have been working hard to create a suitable habitat for this shy and elusive summer visitor.
Rathlin Island is directly on the flight path for birds returning to breed on the islands of Islay, Colonsay and Oransay to the north, and to hear there was a calling bird on the island was just fantastic news. The longer he stayed the more likely it was that we could have breeding corncrake on Rathlin once again.
Unfortunately the excitement was short lived. On 1 June, nine days after the bird was first heard, a private-hire helicopter landed in an uncropped hayfield where the corncrake had been calling from. Although the helicopter was immediately asked to leave by RSPB staff, it’s thought the level of disturbance caused the corncrake to leave the area.
With permission from NIEA, we employed a calling system at the site last week to see if the bird would call back to mark his territory but sadly his distinctive crex-crex call was not heard.
It is common for male corncrake to go quiet for around a week if they have been successful in attracting a mate. However that time has now passed and there is no sign of the bird.
However, we're still hopeful that he, and other birds, will return in the future.
The disturbance caused by the helicopter was very disappointing for everyone involved in the corncrake recovery project and we would appeal to anyone visiting the island, especially during breeding season, to be mindful of the birds and wildlife which rely on its habitats.
Since 2010 volunteers have dedicated more than 1,500 hours to the Giving a Corncrake a Home project on Rathlin by carrying out work like bramble clearance and collecting nettle roots to plant on the island to provide breeding habitat. RSPB is committed to continuing with this work to help bring this threatened species back to Northern Ireland.