Blogger: Becky Ingham, Face to Face Team Manager
I have a white car, occasionally.
Strictly speaking, for the 2 days a month after cleaning it. In between times it reverts to its traditional Norfolk winter plumage of muddy brown, with odd insults scrawled in the back. This is the downside of life on the Norfolk coast in the winter months and I have to say, it's not a bad price to pay for some of the amazing wildlife I see on a daily basis. The first part of my commute takes me through the old marshes which fringe Hickling and lead to the coast. Most evenings and mornings I see ghostly barn owls, patrolling the field edges and almost glowing in the watery winter sunshine.
A couple of days ago I was driving home with my two girls in the back of the car (they're still young enough to find owls more impressive than electronic toys). We drove past a white farm-sign on the side of the road, which caught my attention as it looked a little taller than normal in the half-light. I stopped and slowly reversed and as I did so all three of us gasped as we came eye to eye with a magnificent barn owl, about 4 feet away from the car, and staring right at us from the top of the sign.
After about 15 seconds it bored of us, lazily swooping along the side of the road. Driving slowly off, it flew parallel to the car for around 500 yards. It was only after it banked and flew over the field that we stopped and realised we had all been holding our breath. My five-year old summed it up.
'Wow, mum. That was coooool!!!'
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.
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: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
They're a bit like Colin Firth really aren't they, crows? I'm not talking about his charming good looks, his wonderful articulation and his knee-weakening exit from the 'pond' scene in Pride and Prejudice, but the way people quickly jump to conclusions about him. Only recently did my trip to the cinema to see The Kings Speech, leave me wanting to tell everyone I know about how amazing my new best friend, Colin, was. For years, I've typecast him as a king of the romcoms, but really nothing to write home about. And then he goes and pulls out a performance like that! I didn't see it coming.
I know what you're thinking, what on earth do crows have in common with Colin Firth? Well, let's face it, rooks, crows, ravens, probably the entire suite of corvids, aren't exactly given an easy time of it. Historically they've been associated with bad luck, death, darkness, all kinds of doom and gloom. Not exactly the best start in the world! But recently, I've started to make an effort with these supposed 'outcasts'.
It all came about when I tried to work out a fail safe way of distinguishing one species from another. Walking into work, I might see a black something dart above my head, seemingly the swoop of a black cloak. But no, I've learnt that rooks have this unique feathering at the top of their legs, making them look like they're wearing a pair of baggy jeans! They're also smaller than crows and often seen in large numbers, especially on a sunny winter's day. A gathering of rooks on a late autumnal evening is truly a sight to behold. You'll turn the corner to see thousands of them perched on overhead wires, chattering so loudly you think you've just stumbled into a nightclub. As your eyes slowly follow the chaotic movements of the birds, you can't help but mistake the ground-swell of rooks as a messy oil spill. The iridescent coat of thousands of slick, squawking birds is mesmerising.
Crows on the other hand are actually considered to be among the most intelligent animals in the world. You will often see crows alone, moving and flying a lot slower than the rook. It is believed that crows have the ability to distinguish one human from another and will use any tools at their disposal to grab a good meal. Their seemingly hardy attitude and ability to adapt to any new urban environment we throw at them is remarkable and still they remain an integral, yet often overlooked, part of our natural environment.
Now, when I see a crow or a rook, I always take a second to watch it. Perhaps even admire it. After all, Colin would be most upset to know how much i'd initially undervalued him!
Article found in Eastern Daily Press on 13 Feb 2011
Blogger: Gena Correale-Wardle, RSPB Community Fundraising Officer
Last week I spent a lovely week on annual leave in sunny Tenerife. Not only were my friends and I excited about relaxing by the pool and basking in the sun like lizards, we were looking forward to seeing some too. With over 100 endemic species of fauna, more than 50 bird species and several reptile and mammals inhabiting this volcanic island we were expecting great things from the natural world during our trip.
Imagine our disappointment then, to have a week with no mammals or reptiles and the only birds spotted being collared doves! The closest we came to the sound of the dawn chorus was Charlotte's bird whistle bought for 40 cents in a toy shop. Only 'El Drago', the fabulous ancient dragon tree of Tenerife (shaped more like a big broccoli!) lived up to our nature expectations.
Coming back to grey England seemed an unsavoury prospect by the day of our departure, but on our drive back to Norwich from the airport we were welcomed home by sweeping bats, a jumpy deer, two beautiful barn owls and lots of rabbits out having a night-time snack!
It's easy to forget the wildlife we have on our doorstep sometimes, but coming back to this host of evening creatures reminded us all of the amazing sites we take for granted on a daily basis. So next time you're jealous of a friend or colleague off on a sun-holiday, remember you might be enjoying more nature in one night than they will be in a whole week!