Blogger: Kim Matthews, Membership Development Officer
Am I the only one that deletes, unopened, their LoveFilm "Your next rental is on its way..." email? Quite probably, but the reason behind this small symptom of madness is that I like the surprise when I open the envelope.
When it comes to wildlife encounters I feel the same way. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting my nearby reserves where I am almost guaranteed to see something, be it animal, vegetable or mineral! But there is nothing to compare with the hit you get from a surprise encounter somewhere less expected.
I had one such encounter a few weeks ago whilst trudging around a muddy Holt Country Park with my lurcher, Kes. Now I know what you are going to say, a country park is packed with wildlife so where is the big surprise? You are of course right. But mostly it stays out of sight, heard but not seen, teasing the senses with sound but never quite revealing itself. There have been some great moments over the last 7 years during which Kes and I have been exploring its pathways. An adder silently slipping away into the vegetation, a tawny owl perched high in a tree regarding us impassively, or the sudden rush as a deer streaks across the trail, all startled eyes and flicked-up tail. But this encounter was something different, instead of a drizzle of nature this was a veritable flood!
We were somewhere along the back fence of the park. Kes was lost in her own little world of scent and I was revelling in the soft sunlight filtering through the canopy and the kind of peace and solitude that makes such a great personal battery charger. A sudden screech and the sound of wing beats alerted me to a jay over head. I tried to follow its flight through the gaps in the canopy but it had soon disappeared. As my eye line returned earthwards I spotted a small bird flitting about in a holly bush just feet away. Never mind small, it was positively teeny!
It turned towards me and there was a bright, startling flash of orange gold on top of its head. A goldcrest! I hadn't seen one for years. As he skittered from bush to bush on the other side of the fence I tagged along a few feet behind. When he turned and headed back the way he had come so did I, much to the confusion of the dog. High up in the canopy I heard the angry chunter of a squirrel, and turned away from my little feathered companion to look. Nothing could be seen of the disgruntled creature so I turned back only to find myself practically nose-to-bill with a treecreeper on the oak tree right in front of me.
"I don't believe it!" Victor Meldrew's trademark exclamation popped into my head. I can't even remember the last time I saw a treecreeper. Whilst it was spiralling around the base of the tree I tried to locate my goldcrest again and found not one but three or four in the bushes around me. Meanwhile the treecreeper was still deeply engrossed in bark exploration. Looking up to try and spot the squirrel again I realised the canopy was filled with long-tailed tits. Could this get any better? The squirrel chose this moment to scamper into view, its tail twitching frantically, rapidly followed (or chased!) by another.
By the time their antics had taken them out of sight the rest of my cast of characters had also vanished. The moment had seemed suspended in time; it felt like I had been holding my breath. A small squeak brought my attention back to the dog waiting somewhat impatiently a little further down the path. The moment had passed. It all seems so unreal in hindsight, but every time I think about it my spirits lift and what more could you ask for from a wildlife encounter than that.
Photo of Goldcrest. Credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer
There's always something going on at home. Always someone driving up the long track and parking up in the courtyard to drop something off, pick something up, walk a dog or return home. We hang out of car windows and tractor cabs to shout hello's to one another or stop to banter about recent goings on. Is your car fixed now? What do you think of this rain? The red deer were out in the field again yesterday. Did you see the barn owl flying at dusk? There is always some new item appearing too. Paving slabs where I usually park, a delivery of gravel left in the driveway, a bike, a collection of old tools, that compost bin I thought you might want. The appearance of these new objects describes our lives to each other as much as we do in our conversations. Like that old cliché, actions speak louder than words.
If this old adage holds true, then Spring has definitely started to tell its story over the past week or so. It was just after that week of winds that we had, and in clearing the plant pot wreckage from the garden, that I first noticed a yellow bead of colour bursting through the bare February soil. A winter aconite curling up to the surface to unfurl its frilly collar of leaves. Then the delicate white threads of crocus stems and the jabbing leaves of daffodils appearing sword like from their bulbs. You wouldn't have thought, would you, from the purple-grey bruising of the sky and the numbness of your finger tips if you venture out without gloves on, that warmer weather is on the way. But the blue tits have started fussing around the nestbox now. Peeping in, sitting astride it, flitting back and forth like a dog prepares its bed, padding around it in circles.
And it doesn't seem probable to most, what with all that over-the-fence chatting that I would actually describe myself as a quiet girl. In truth, I'm not one for an excess of words and like to have time to escape to the gentle rhythms of home. Maybe that's why I feel such an affinity for this time of year. The paisley patterns of a red admiral in flight or the neon of an orange tip are yet to be seen. The fluorescent blue of a ceanothus in bloom, the richness of a dawn chorus are all for the coming months. The season isn't immediate yet, instead it's quietly showing flashes of brilliant green newness. Nature is gently creaking out of the slowness of winter with few words, but some magnificent actions.
Join the RSPB in the east facebook page and let us in on your garden's springtime secrets www.facebook.com/rspbintheeast
Article seen in Eastern Daily Press on 26th February 2011. Credit Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Helen Leach, Receptionist (Eastern Regional Office).
Every week I pop along to my yoga class hoping to relieve myself of life’s stresses and achieve that, sometimes seemingly elusive, state of total relaxation and connect with myself again.
Last week the class started as normal talking about our focus for the session and then after over an hour of bending, twisting and inverting my body into what looked like impossible positions for a human body to get into, the time came to be still, meditate on the present moment and capture that feeling of complete contentment in the here and now. As we settled down pulling on socks and blankets to keep in the new warm energy, our teacher slowly turned up the relaxation music with the sound of waves lapping against the shore and bird song calling over it.
As I lay there my mind slowly became transfixed on the soothing sounds with no outside thoughts entering to interrupt it. I was so absorbed that I felt quite perturbed when the time came to bring my awareness back to the room and how my body was feeling.
The following weekend I was walking through my local park when I was struck by the stunning sound of birds singing in the trees and immediately the same feeling of inner calm, freedom, and contentment washed over me as if I’d just done over an hour of yoga all over again. I stood there relishing in the moment with dog walkers and cyclists moving past me in slow motion, holding onto the sensations for as long as I could.
In life we experience numerous types of connections and associations with people, music, books, sentimental trinkets; the list can go on forever. Now every time I hear a bird song I will be connected with those special feelings that bring true contentment to my life and the best thing is I can get that every time I walk outside my front door. The best things in life really are free!
Credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Jon Reeves, Site Manager for the Ouse Washes
The ideal conditions on the Ouse Washes last week, which resulted in fantastic birding opportunities, are now a memory. High tides coupled with rainfall in the catchment area has resulted in a rising flood which is now bank to bank and making bird watching more of a challenge. Farmland birds can be viewed from the visitor centre are continuing to delight, with often over 100 birds feeding in close proximity at any one time, these include, tree sparrow, house sparrow, reed bunting, yellow hammer, brambling, gold finch, green finch and chaffinch.
For more information about our reserves find us at www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/
Credit: Adam Murray - RSPB
Blogger: Murray Brown, RSPB Volunteer Project Coordinator
The RSPB's St Albans 'Date With Nature' got off to a flying start last weekend. The project aims to show people the nesting grey herons on the island in the lake and some of the other wildlife that calls the park home. Despite the weather being somewhat "British" on Saturday, RSPB volunteers and staff were out there with a throng of nearly 100 visitors watching the spectacle. We were delighted that this crowd had risen to well over 300 on Sunday!
Why not take a leaf out of the heron's book during this wintery weather and get active? There is plenty of activity at the heronry, with birds rebuilding last year's nests, displaying and courting. One pair evidently started proceedings early in January as they already have chicks in the nest! Although this seems early, the Herons' breeding activity has been relatively late in the last couple of years due to prolonged winter cold spells. The current estimate for the number of occupied nests stands at...drum roll... 14.
If these splendid herons with their lofty stature are not your thing then there are plenty of other birds that are winter visitors to the park on the lake, including large numbers of black-headed gulls, drake pochards and tufted ducks, who are looking especially handsome. If you have never seen a shoveler, with their comedy beaks then you could have seen the three amigos seen around the north island. A cormorant was at the lake on Saturday and resident green and great spotted woodpeckers were both recorded over the weekend. The local sparrowhawks are providing a bit of excitement every now and then and a kestrel treated visitors to a flyover on Sunday.
Thanks to our lovely volunteers, some telescopes and binoculars and fun activities - you can really take a sneaky peak into this world of long legged beauties.