Blogger - Janet Moorse, Communications Volunteer
We were on holiday in Suffolk last week and I took the family to Minsmere. Obviously the sunshine helped, but what an adventure for my nine and 11 year olds? Pheasants in the car park, sand martins beside the tea rooms, we didn’t need binoculars. The birds threw themselves at us as we headed for the beach.
After a flock of tripods and excited pointing fingers, we had seen our first nightingale. He even sang for us! Walking through raised walkways beside the reedbeds, catching glimpses of a finch sized bird, a family passing in the opposite direction said: “We’ve been told it’s a willow warbler.”
Onward to the East hide, my nine-year old stood next to a grey-haired granddad with a big tripod and telescope and boldly starts up a conversation instantly. In minutes he’s pointing out barnacle geese, pintails, shovelers, pochards with great excitement. Is it a passing ruff? No it’s a redshank. It’s a skip and a jump through the dunes to the next viewing point; boys don’t walk anywhere! There’s two avocets swimming around each other, stretching their necks and generally showing off. Beside them is an oystercatcher protesting about how noisy all the gulls are.
Back on the dunes and we see our first yellow brimstone butterfly of the season. We stop by the sluice, where engineer Dad explains the process and there on a visitor signpost is a swallow; long tail twitching, he practises his display above our heads and then off he goes along the coast.
As we walk towards the South hide, my nine year old sees a common lizard on a stretch of fencing beside the hide, he shares his find with a passing man, who points it out to his family and suddenly there’s 10 people enjoying a sunbathing lizard. Amidst all of this, a crazy lapwing is attempting to join the red arrows display team as he throws himself noisily across the sky with wild enthusiasm.
Heading towards the woods and we can hear a bittern booming, a great noise, so distinctive, soon all 4 of us are soon practising our bittern calls. The leaves are still in bud, so we can see into the canopy where there’s lots of nest building and activity going on. More finger pointing and we’ve seen a spotted woodpecker, lesser or greater, not sure, but pretty great for us. He head butts the tree and gives us the familiar sound we’ve heard from our garden.
I’ve sat here writing with a bird book open beside me and already I know I’ve forgotten some of the birds we saw last week. But I’ll remember the enthusiasm and the sharing of knowledge by strangers we met on a sunny day in Suffolk and I’ll remember all my family saying: “We must do this again”. We’ll be camping near Cromer in the summer hols, maybe RSPB Titchwell Marsh next!
BLOGGER: Rachael Murray
‘'Owlbert' in Bedford streets to find nature volunteers!
A giant owl called ‘Owlbert’ is flapping around Bedford with his huge silver and green binoculars today. But rather than hunting for voles and mice, he’s searching for nature lovers who may want to raise money for local wildlife projects.
We're aiming to raise £10,000 during our Love Nature Week (28 May to 5 June) and are looking for around 200 volunteers to get involved at 80 street collection sites across the Eastern Region .
Most collectors will raise around £20 during one hour, which is enough to buy bug hunting or pond dipping kits for Bedfordshire youngsters visiting nearby RSPB nature reserve The Lodge.
He usually lives in a large tree by the Thames. But Owlbert’s flap around the county is part of a two-month UK tour, which takes in Scotland and ends during Love Nature Week at the Hay Festival, Herefordshire.
Anyone wanting to volunteer for Love Nature Week should chat to Owlbert in Bedford today, or visit www.rspb.org.uk/lovenatureweek.
Owlbert hooted: “What a hoot, I’m just flying with excitement and can’t wait to meet lots of nature lovers keen to step up for nature and sign up for Love Nature Week. Come and give me a hug!”
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
My birthday tends to fall either side of the Easter weekend which, when i was younger and at school was always a real bonus. It meant we had two weeks off, time to play outside and if we were lucky, lots of chocolate!
My memories of this school holiday always make me smile. The sun constantly shone and we never ever stopped having fun. My brother and I always wore our adventure badge with pride; permanently grazed knees, something we regularly showed off. Time in our back garden only came to an end when the sun went down or when tea was put on the table.
A particularly sweet memory of mine from our annual Easter holiday is the baking! I’m certainly no Nigella Lawson, but I reckon she’d have been at the front of the queue waiting for our treats. The recipe was simple; shredded wheat, stirred into vast quantities of melted chocolate and moulded into the shape of a nest, left to cool for 30 mins and served with a healthy portion of mini-eggs! They were simply amazing, if slightly indulgent.
Nowadays, i’m less guided by school term times and more watchful of my waistline. As an adult, i’m always amazed at how quickly those school breaks come around. But, this weekend, I bet kids everywhere will be rushing out to make their own variation of chocolate Easter nests. And while they are busy getting covered in melted chocolate, i’ll be having my own nest adventure. Our delightful blue tit couple have been putting the finishing touches to their own nest and it’ll soon be ready for some real eggs. They’ve been using all sorts of nesting material too, shredded wheat isn’t anyway near posh enough for these little birds! Twigs, bits of fur, hair, grass, leaves have all been added to their comfortable new pad.
If like me, you too have a nest box in your garden, and you’ve noticed that the birds have been much more active, then this weekend could be prime egg-laying time. They’ll be getting their home ready for their new family, making sure it’s safe and comfortable and doing all kinds of funny checks. My male blue tit has spent a lot of time tapping round the edge of the nest box hole. This is his way of showing off to his new partner. Sometimes the female will also do this, just to make sure the wood is good enough to provide her and the family with a safe nest site.
Whether you’ll be indulging with a recipe book or watching your own nesting birds at work, take some time to enjoy the outdoors this weekend. Visiting an RSPB reserve near you will offer a great Easter experience for all the family, with plenty of time left for making chocolate treats on your return!
Article in the Eastern Daily Press, 23 April 2011
Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer
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
We are putting out a final call in the East for applications for this year's Nature of Farming Award. The competition aims to recognise and reward farmers who are making efforts on their land to help threatened countryside species.
After the closing date, entries will be shortlisted to eight regional winners. A panel of experts will decide which four should go through to the national finals, and then the UK public will decide the winner by casting their votes online via The Telegraph or at country shows throughout the summer.
The judging panel will include (not the ubiquitous Simon Cowell you will be pleased to know):
Darren Moorcroft - RSPB Head of Countryside Conservation
Martin Warren - Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive
Victoria Chester - Plantlife Chief Executive
Fergus Collins - Countryfile Magazine
This year will have a 'Highly Commended' category for the first time - awarded by our judges to farmers demonstrating excellent conservation management. So if you know a farmer - and there are many in the East - or you are one of these great individuals then find out more and fill in and send the entry form that can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/natureoffarming.
Species that need your help in the East; (top to bottom) skylark, corn bunting, lapwings, stone curlews. Photo Credits: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)