Leaky baths, bug hotel wardrobes and 'bog' gardens.... All in a day’s Volunteering!
The RSPB 2015 show feature at BBC Gardeners World, Birmingham NEC, aimed to inspire the visitors with quirky ideas for DIY homes for nature and show them inventive ways of using old furniture and recyclable goods — and of course there was an abundance of beautiful, wildlife-friendly flora! No matter how big or small your outside space, everyone can make a difference and create a home for nature. We aimed to show the visitors of BBC Gardeners World exactly that by taking them on a tour around the rich garden that was made to look like a human home.
A big thank you
The show feature was built in a huge barn at our very own 'Hope Farm' in Knapwell, Cambridgeshire, where a team of wonderful Events Volunteers were grafting away for 14 weeks, building a 'home' for nature. Rescuing old furniture, teaching the Events team how to use power tools (poor guys) and getting creative to make each room of the house look realistic. Without their ingenious ideas, hard work, creativity, gardening skills and dedication, we just wouldn’t be able to create these awe inspiring, educational stands that we deliver year on year! Our Events Build Team volunteers have won an abundance of awards for their fantastic efforts – and long may it continue......
....That’s where you come in ......
If you want to get involved and become an Events Build Team Volunteer, we are now looking for new people to join the team. We have some big challenges ahead this year, and are taking responsibility for two large features; one, a show garden, at BBC Gardeners World Live, Birmingham NEC and one an interactive display about the importance of connecting with nature, at BBC Countryfile Live, Blenheim Palace.
If you (or someone you know) are free on Thursday’s, from January to August 2016, live in Bedfordshire or Cambridgeshire and have DIY skills/ gardening skills and creative flair, then we want to hear from you!!! firstname.lastname@example.org 01767693695
The Presidents Awards, given out at the RSPB's prestigious AGM held this year on 10th October, are awarded to our most valued volunteers in recognition of their time given and dedication to the work of the RSPB. Whilst we value all our volunteers equally, these individuals have been selected by their respective Line Managers for special praise in light of their continued and tireless work for the RSPB and their local communities. Here are a few words in praise of this years winners:
HQ Winner - Pip Goodwin
Pip combines a passion for nature, with knowledge and experience of environmental law. Often working with RSPB and BirdLife colleagues, Pip has led on important policy research into how well the Directives have been implemented, and how their implementation should be improved. Pip’s great work in this technically complex area demonstrates the level of professional and technical expertise that volunteers can bring to the RSPB’s work in a far from conventional volunteering role.
David Baynes - SHQ Winner
David Baynes has volunteered at Loch Leven since February 2010 and is a true inspiration to the whole Tayside team. Initially quite quiet and keen to learn about the reserve, David has since become a key member of the volunteer team. No challenge is too big, too small or too unusual and David’s enthusiasm for the reserve is boundless, even after a long day volunteering; he often rounds off the afternoon by heading down to the hides to enjoy the wetland.
Brian Foster - SWRO
Brian is an exceptional member of the Aylesbeare reserve team. Brian runs the reserve’s workshop repairing and servicing everything from tools to tractors. He can turn his hand to anything and is the mainstay of the Wednesday workparties, always cheerful and willing in any weather. He takes the new residential volunteers under his wing and supports and guides them whilst also making sure that the workaholic warden doesn’t drive the other volunteers too hard!
Allan Dawson - NRO Winner
Allan says he first volunteered at Bempton Cliffs reserve to say ‘thank you’ for all the years of enjoyment he’d had as a member of the RSPB’s East Yorkshire local group. He loves being outdoors on the cliff tops and is most at home on his favourite viewpoint, Jubilee, enthralling visitors with thrilling tales of climmers or fascinating puffin facts. He may have started volunteering to say thank you, but after nine years of fantastic service, it’s our turn to thank him!
John Oliver - SERO Winner
‘I honestly don’t know what we’d do without him’ has been said of John! For 15 years John has been an integral part of the RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve team focusing predominantly (though by no means all) on the co-ordination, recruitment and support of reserve volunteers. He’s also the reserve’s energy efficiency champion and building maintenance supervisor, but never one to rest on his laurels, John has also volunteered with the Brighton & District Local group, booking speakers for their indoor talks evenings.
Brian Nobbs - SERO Winner
Brian has certainly packed a whole lot into the 37 years he’s been volunteering for the RSPB - from his involvement with the Guildford local group between 1978 to 1991 where he organised bird watching weekends for the group and liaised with the local press, to his work, following a move, with the Sevenoaks local group as newsletter and website editor and organiser of the group photographic competition. Brian’s dedication to giving talks to local community groups across the South East region has seen him give 384 talks and raise upwards of £10,000!
Many congratulations to our winners and if you would are interested in volunteering with the RSPB then please follow this link http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/volunteering/ to find a variety of roles and locations where you can join our team!
RSPB Scotland’s Northern Isles manager, Pete Ellis, praises a local Shetland volunteer for four decades of service and other dedicated volunteers.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to present a good friend of mine with a prestigious accolade – a golden eagle long-service award to mark his astonishing commitment to helping save nature.
Dave Okill has been an RSPB member and volunteer for over 40 years, since before he moved to Shetland in 1975. Since then, Dave’s enthusiastic ringing activities have given him an unrivalled knowledge of the breeding biology of a large range of Shetland’s breeding birds. He has happily shared this insight with RSPB Scotland staff and other volunteers as well as helping RSPB Scotland with reserve management, open days and many other aspects of our work.
Pete (left) presenting Dave Okill (right) with his golden eagle long-service award. Photo by: Jim Nicolson.
Over the years, Dave’s work has included two particularly important discoveries: In 1984, he found a shocking scene on one of his routine visits to ring Arctic tern chicks on Papa Stour. At the time, this small island off the west coast of mainland Shetland was home to Shetland’s largest colony of breeding Arctic terns. In the previous summer, over 1,800 chicks were ringed, but in 1984, Dave found just a handful of live chicks, together with many starved, dead ones. This was the first occurrence in the UK of the catastrophic seabird breeding failures that have become a feature of many areas in the last 30 years and the first indication of how climate change affects the UK’s marine environment.
Arctic terns have the longest migration known to man – they travel a staggering 43,000 miles each year from northern breeding grounds to wintering off of Antarctica. Photo by: OddurBen.
Dave also pioneered the use of data loggers on red-throated divers in Shetland and in 2012, his expertise allowed RSPB Scotland in partnership with the Shetland Ringing Group and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to fit data loggers to red-necked phalaropes breeding in Shetland. It was Dave’s long experience in ringing that allowed him to obtain the licences that were needed to do this with such a rare breeding bird.
Female red-necked phalarope. Phalaropes are famous for their reversed roles - the females take the initiative in courtship and then leave the males to incubate and care for the young, while they go searching for new mates. Primarily an Arctic breeding wader, they occur in small numbers in the UK, particularly Shetland. Photo by: Malcie Smith.
The aim of this work was to test whether the phalaropes that breed in Shetland spend the winter in the Arabian Sea like those that breed in Scandinavia. In 2013, one male phalarope returned to Shetland carrying its data logger and we made a startling discovery! This bird had made a round trip of 16,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and spent the winter in the eastern Pacific off Ecuador and Peru. This journey had never before been recorded for a European breeding bird.
Map of the phenomenal phalarope migration.
Dave, George and Malcie Smith (RSPB Scotland) with the bird and its tiny tag.
Dave’s commitment to the RSPB and nature conservation continues. In recognition of Dave’s 40 years of volunteering, he was presented with the RSPB’s Golden Eagle Award at the Shetland Bird Club meeting on 19 September. Helen Moncrieff, RSPB Scotland’s Shetland Manager was at the event and saw Dave receive his award. She said “I have never seen him lost for words and he was surprised and touched by the recognition”.
You’d think that 40 years volunteering was a rare achievement and it is, but back in February this year another amazing volunteer, Heather Sykes, received her golden eagle award of recognition. Heather is a member of the RSPB Helensburgh Local Group which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. In the early days of the group Heather was an active Committee member involved in the coffee mornings and bric-a-brac sales they had to raise money for nature conservation. Heather continues to be a key group member supporting the work of RSPB Scotland locally and preparing the group’s newsletter.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say a HUGE thank you to Dave, Heather and to everyone else who volunteers with us to help save nature whether you’ve been doing it 40 minutes or 40 years.