Life in the Midlands Regional Office has been rather hectic of late as we prepare for the beginning of Love Nature Week. Love Nature Week kicks off on Saturday 28 May but the team in the office have been preparing for months! And now it has finally arrived and collections are taking place all over the UK in garden centres, supermarkets and streets – who knows, you may well spot one in your area!
I'll be out collecting during Love Nature Week myself – returning to Leamington Spa (sans Owlbert, who will be strutting his stuff at the famous Hay Festival in Wales) to help raise as much money as possible for the RSPB! Having never done a bucket collection before, I'm looking forward to seeing just what exactly will happen on the day. In particular, I am excited about meeting a variety of different people, the opportunity to raise awareness for the RSPB and of course, raising plenty of funds for a fantastic cause.
All of my kit has arrived – including a bucket, a PayPoint card, stickers and of course the “How To...” handbook. If like me you are collecting for the first time, or indeed are contemplating collecting for us in the future – this is the essential guide and tells you absolutely everything you need to know about collecting for the RSPB. I found it exceptionally useful as it answered any queries I had about street collections, and I will no doubt read it again just before my collection.
This week we've been telephoning all the volunteers just before their collections so that we can wish them the very best of luck and answer any further questions they may have. It promises to be an enjoyable week for all involved – great fun, plenty of money being donated and hopefully some fantastic weather too!
Aside from collections, I've helped to devise our brand new Love Nature Bird Quiz that you may well have seen on offer at some of our reserves, or at our Date with Nature sites. It's definitely worth entering – with the prize on offer being some of our very scrumptious Love Nature Fudge! We’re also having our very own fancy dress day next week, taking on the movie theme – which we in the Community Fundraising Team are particularly excited about as we have a Top Secret plan for our costumes.
For those of you collecting, donating, or participating in Love Nature Week – thank you very much for your support!
The reserve is fortunate, largely due to its location, in not suffering from a great deal of vandalism or anti-social behaviour, unlike other reserves situated close to urban areas. Apart from the occasional insensitive dog walker we haven’t had that much of a problem at Old Hall. However, the ongoing problem of marine revellers at the eastern quarters spit reared its unwelcome head once again.
What is the logic behind deliberately choosing a wonderful spot to enjoy and then trash it a few hours later?
One of our no landing signs uprooted and thrown on one of several fires that had evidentially been lit recently on the east quarters spit.
I started my Love Nature Fundraising Internship at the Midlands Regional Office in Banbury at the end of March. I joined the Community Fundraising team in preparation for the big Love Nature fundraising week, taking place all across the UK, from 28 May to 5 June. The internship interested me for a variety of reasons – primarily the chance to make a difference and raise awareness for such an important cause. The opportunity to learn new skills, as well as further develop existing ones, also appealed. There was the element of intrigue and surprise too! The variety of tasks offered by the internship, and the fact that no two days appeared to be the same made it particularly appealing... I was to find out about this particular factor very early on!
No sooner had I sorted out my desk and familiarised myself with the office, I was back out of it again. I was going on the Owlbert Tour! Are you familiar with our giant feathered friend? Unlike most owls he appears to prefer daylight to the night-time, which makes him incredibly useful in this instance.
The week was spent with Owlbert and his binoculars – not looking for other wildlife forms, but for volunteers! We travelled to various towns and cities across the Midlands – taking in Birmingham, Oxford, Banbury, Hereford, Worcester, Coventry and Leamington Spa. We encountered most of the elements on our way but while Owlbert felt the hard rain in Hereford, he also basked in glorious sunshine in Oxfordshire and Leamington!
Owlbert was very well received – taking in plenty of high-fives, hugs, photo opportunities and of course, volunteers! Owlbert (aka Stuart Nelson from The Lodge on this particular day) also managed to secure a radio interview on BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire whilst on his travels – spreading the message of Love Nature Week and the RSPB through the airwaves to thousands of potential volunteers.
It was certainly an interesting and fun-filled week – from being mobbed by groups of holidaymakers in Oxford, to dancing in the rain in Hereford, to crouching in the quiet carriage of a train to Birmingham in full owl attire! It was enjoyable and heartening to see the reactions of the public and newly signed-up volunteers, and certainly made the week’s efforts worthwhile.
Owlbert will be flying to Scotland next, so if you’re in the around those parts be sure to look out for a giant owl with a rather large pair of binoculars – I am sure he’ll be looking out for you too!
The coming weeks will see me talking to the volunteers that have already signed up, recruiting many others, and being trained in some of the systems that we use here.
Not only that but I shall be looking to sign up for one of the collections in my area myself!
The Midlands region Love Nature team have so far signed up over 160 volunteers to help with the week taking place from 28 May - 5 June. But they're still looking for more! So if you can spare as little as two hours that week why not call Mark, the man himself, on 01295 676462 and find out how to get involved.
The remainder of August was largely spent on the reserve replacing old fencing and installing new gates around the reserve. We haven’t had any sheep grazing the improved fields this year, so cattle have been put in some of these fields instead. Before the cattle were moved in we had to make sure the old fencing was strong enough for a herd of cattle and the odd raging bull! A few extra gates were erected to separate the herds and rotate the fields to prevent overgrazing. Normally the cattle would be solely residing in the grazing marsh areas of the reserve.
Gate installation Warden style
You beauty, you can’t beat crowing about a new bit of fencing you helped put up and the gate has a wonderful action too
Eh up, Yorkshire Tea, marvellous. Just one thing missing those fig rolls, when’s Pete back in again?
In August I was lucky enough to spend the day with Paul, Suzanne and Neil Fuller, an Ecologist from English Nature, who was given a tour of the reserve. Neil was at Old Hall looking at the ecology of the reserve in order to assess our current SSSI status. It was fascinating to see the framework used to assess a Site of Special Scientific Interest and to see so many plants I hadn’t even heard of before or noticed for that matter. Needless to say I learnt a great deal that day and thankfully our SSSI status is secure for another few years at least.
Later on that week a personal battle of heat, fatigue, accompanied by my poor sense of direction and nine foot high reeds blocking the route markers, hampered what should have been a relatively straightforward bearded tit survey in the reedbed. The survey took over four hours and I was felled a few times by hidden anthills. Fortunately though, there was nobody mad enough to be in the middle of the reedbed at the time to see me splashing around like a hippo on heat. The rest of the day was nice and relaxing, brushcutting the viewing screens and pathways.
Right, remember what my friend RAF Rowely said “Pain is weakness leaving the body”
I carried out my first hydrology survey of the reserve with Suzanne, which was excellent. I was equipped with some brand spanking new waders that didn’t leak! I checked water levels and took measurements at set points. I also had a very high tech piece of kit that measured the salinity of the waterways and took a number of readings at various locations. The data was then collected and put on our database with about 15 years’ worth of similar data. Somebody at some point in time is going to have fun analysing all that information.
A typical scene - a Borrowdyke beginning to dry up in the grazing marsh.