Blogger: Rachael Murray, Media Assistant
A local resident in Suffolk had an early Easter surprise this week after discovering a rather unusual egg in her back garden. Avril Sciocco, from Sudbury, was taking advantage of the sunny spring weather to hang out her washing, when she spotted a glinting article coming from her former vegetable patch, now the stony bottom of the garden.
Avril describes: "I wanted to make sure that there was nothing dangerous in the garden that might harm my children, so went a bit closer, only to realise that the gleam was coming from under a sleeping bird in a nest. To ensure I didn't harm the bird, I retreated to the dining room where the kids were getting excited, and we got the binoculars out to take a closer look.
"We couldn't believe what we saw! There was a beautiful bird in the nest, clearly a proud mother protecting her eggs, and I realised that what had caught my eye was the glint of foil encasing a Cadbury's crème egg!"
After calling the RSPB Eastern England, a member of their conservation team went to survey the scene. The bird discovered was identified as a stone curlew, usually found nesting on acidic grassland, where the grass is short and pocketed with bare, 'stony' patches. Stone curlews are rare summer visitors to southern England, often found nesting on farmland in the Eastern Region. They are the size of a crow, with bright yellow eyes, and are predominantly active at night.
Erica Howe, communications manager for the RSPB in Eastern England says: "It is unusual to find stone curlews nesting in gardens, but it has been known to happen, particularly in rural areas, when they have wandered off course from their farmland home and found a suitable habitat nearby. What is most strange is that this bird adopted a Cadbury's crème egg! We can only imagine that this particularly broody bird found the foil wrapped egg near her nest whilst out and about at night in the dark, and mistook it for one of her own."
Avril added: "My children were so excited to find such a special bird nesting in our back garden, and loved chatting with the RSPB when they came to visit. This experience has reminded me to get them out and about a bit more often to see what other special birds and wildlife we have in our area. And I'd better replace that crème egg next time I go shopping!"
The bird has now been safely re-homed and is nesting happily back on suitable farmland in the area, sadly without its foil wrapped family member.
Blogger: Murray Brown, RSPB Volunteer Project Coordinator
Swallows have arrived in the park and are busy feeding over the lake with the occasional house martin. 'Our' swallows winter as far away as South Africa and yet all of a sudden here they are...amazing isn't it? The males look particularly elegant as they sport much longer tail streamers. Strangely no sand martins have been recorded as yet but we've got our eyes peeled.
To the delight of visitors, some of the heron nests now contain sizeable chicks that are easily visible through the telescopes provided by the RSPB. One cheeky pair of mallards has taken over a disused heron nest right in the middle of the colony. They may feel safer there at the moment but the risk is high as ducklings are occasionally taken by grey herons as a natural part of their diet.
There are already a few mallard ducklings on show, especially on the River Ver which runs through the park and it will be interesting to see whether any of the remaining tufted ducks stay to breed. The shoveler duck pair also continues to linger and can usually be found around the north island. However, about ten days ago, Dave, our friendly Park Ranger, pointed out that the pochards had gone. Sure enough, we've not seen one since then. They will be bound for their breeding grounds, perhaps heading as far as Scandinavia or Russia.
Last week I had a call from our very own stalwart volunteer, Barry Tennessee, to say that he was looking at an oystercatcher on the bank of Verulamium Lake. Unfortunately I was in Sussex but Barry knows his waders and I promptly posted the sighting on the Herts Bird Club website, allowing some local birders to come along and see the bird which only stayed for that day. Walking the dog later, I did pick up a cracking jewel of a male firecrest on the South Downs as compensation but to be honest I was pretty miffed to have been 'gripped off' by Barry (as we birders say)! An oystercatcher at the park is very unusual indeed.
Our species list hit 60 on Wednesday when Shaun, the RSPB Membership Development Officer, Barry and I found a male reed bunting on the heron island during a quick walk around the lake after the exhibition trailer had been closed up for the day. We need five more species in (or over) the park to beat last year's 64...your help would be much appreciated, so if you have seen something out of the ordinary then let us know!
Photo Credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer
The most recent acquisition to our household has been a shiny black Labrador called Rose. She moults massively, rolls in fox musk, digs underneath the compost bin and eats cow poo but is one of the most courteous and patient beasts I have ever come across. She is also continually positive. A motivational guru dressed with a thick tail, stocky frame and triangular ears cut from black velvet. It was only the other day that I benefitted from her buoyant attitude on a long awaited day-off.
My big mistake with 'days off' is that I pack even more than usual in to them and end up more tired than I otherwise would be. After an early start, I'd spent a morning trawling up and down the swimming lanes at the 'Victory' pool in North Walsham. After an hour or so spent there I felt less that perhaps the location name was for the slightly more ambitious than I. I do love swimming - I love the weightlessness and calm - but that day I had felt cold and resisting on the way in to the water whilst the humid, chlorine air had sent me dizzily and clammily stumbling to get changed on the way out.
Luckily, it was striding out in to the countryside with Rose on arrival home that set me right again. The sun was a lemon bon-bon in the sky, blackthorn buds sprang frothily from the hedgerows and woodpeckers bounded through the sky, laughing as they went. A stoat gambled and played just for the joy of it. He tumbled from his hedgerow climbing frame, somersaulting and chasing his tail. Everything was full of an eager freshness, the plough a shining chocolate furrow and far removed from the blue plastic goggles and stickiness of the poolside.
Rose loved it too. She was a picture of bounding health. She followed the deer trails over the fields and their plunges through ditches to the woodland. She plummeted after her ball over dew laced, rabbit-cropped paddocks and reminded me why the outdoors is a far greater pleasure than the humming, artificial world of the gym.
So stride out and take a step in to nature! It's there just waiting to soothe your aching muscles and fill your lungs with new air and vigour. Listen out for a chiffchaff arrived to sing us the song of Spring, watch for yellow-headed cowslips and creamy carpets of primroses. Nature is their for you, could you step up for nature?
Step in to nature at RSPB reserves www.rspb.org.uk/reserves. Want to do more? Visit www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup
Photo: Chiffchaff. Credit: John Bridges (rspb images)
Article in the Eastern Daily Press on 2nd April 2011.
We often get interesting phone calls at work. Some of the conversations I over hear on the phone are wonderful. I suppose it’s the nature of what we do, but it’s also testament to just how much people are moved by the natural world around us. So moved, that they can’t wait to tell someone about it. One such phone call last week was no exception.
Image by Andy Thompson
The scene was set. It was a delicate sky, with strokes of wispy white cloud. Three specks sitting high against the blue backdrop started their decent downwards to catch a glimpse of the world beneath them. They were of course buzzards, but although seen more and more here in the East, not everyone is familiar with this impressive bird of prey. Its size and often inconsistent colouring can cause much confusion amongst keen birdwatchers and countryside lovers. Although this particular caller was slightly disappointed to find out that her sighting was not three eagles circling her local patch, she could be forgiven for thinking so.
These three magnificent buzzards swaying over a patch of woodland in north Suffolk were catching the wind like paper planes set off by excited children, making that soft flight upwards unaware of how many people had stopped in their tracks to make admiring noises. It would seem that the beautiful day and the warm sun had brought buzzards out all over the region and we were soon busy picking up the phone to other tales of exciting buzzard sightings.
They’re not rare birds and their presence in our region is gradually becoming more and more talked about. After a period of heavy persecution and the misuse of certain farming pesticides, buzzards are a growing population and a much-loved one at that.
The conversations we have with many of you are really encouraging; how excited your kids get when they see such a huge bird up above them, how you might need help identifying this large, mysterious flying object over your back garden, questions about what our birds of prey might be eating, among many other wonderful observations!
It never ceases to amaze me, even though they are at the forefront of the work I do everyday, how much influence bird life has on us. Birds of prey especially, evoke such feelings in people. Seeing a buzzard or any bird of prey for that matter flying up above your house, instantly connects you with nature. Seeing something so intricately linked to our natural world can be mesmerising and something that we should never take for granted. I for one, however many buzzards we have here in the East, will never ever tire of seeing them soar through the sky.
As featured in Sunday's EDP
We got desperate the other night. We were having one of those 'after dinner pudding cravings' which saw us rooting to the back of the cupboard where we had stashed the Easter eggs ready for the weekend. Paul's egg was in fact a giant white chocolate Easter bunny. The bunny now no longer has ears or a face. We felt bad, momentarily, for the demise of poor Peter but, hey, it's Easter time! A time for ribbons, and bright foil-wrapped eggs and sunshine and treats.
It's at this time of year that everything turns blue for me. Not because I'm feeling sad - far from it - but because I remember my art teacher once telling me that his favourite colour ever had to be duck egg blue. Since then, Easter has always been a lovely shade of soft turquoise-blue in my minds eye. But it's not often that you'll see signs of a blue egg. The shards of egg shell that we find flung in to the garden as a hungry chick barges its way out of it's casing are usually white or speckled-brown. Or there are the tiny rows of yellow eggs glued to the underside of cabbage leaves deposited by weightless white butterflies and the crisp black packages known as Mermaid's purse that you find washed up at the beach; in fact the egg cases of sharks or skate. Isn't it amazing how nature has found so many different shape and sizes for eggs - something for all occasions and for all beasties.
Avocet checking on the next generation. Photo Credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
So, this Easter do as Mother Nature does and think outside the (egg) box. Sit up, take a breath and take the next step. Already an RSPB member? Join us as a volunteer! A seasoned Big Garden Bird Watch participant? Have you tried Make Your Nature Count? First time visiting our reserves? Donate and buy one of our lovely pin badges!
Have a great long weekend and regardless of the weather make the most of this Easter time!
All the best from your Communications Team in the East - Erica, Aggie, Adam, Rachael & Janet