Blogger: Niki Williamson, Fenland Farmland Bird Adviser
Have you ever wondered why flowers make people smile? Many things that make us happy are things that promote our survival - a good square meal, a thirst-quenching drink on a sunny day.
But what about flowers? Sure they’re nice to look at, but you can’t really live off them, or use them to fight off predators. But I love walking to my front door through the colourful blooms alongside the garden path. And on those rare occasions when my fella brings me a bunch of flowers, my grin lasts all evening! So if we’ve evolved to feel happy about flowers, maybe they’re more than just a pretty face.
Farmer Andrew Brodie obviously feels the same. He’s managing nearly four hectares of nectar rich habitat on his Cambridgeshire farm, through a Higher Level Stewardship scheme.
The habitat consists of patches of flowering plants, chosen especially with nectar-feeding insects in mind. Clovers, Lucerne, Sainfoin, Black Medick and Birdsfoot Trefoil flower alongside each other, splashing the farm with colour.
But by planting the mix he is not only growing flowers, he’s feeding bees, butterflies and beetles. In turn they’re eating aphids which would otherwise be spreading disease in his crops. They’re also pollinating crops like oilseed rape and beans – pollinating insects are thought to be worth £430 million annually to the UK farming industry. They’re also producing lots of yummy caterpillars which Andrew’s resident corn buntings, grey partridges and lapwings can feed to their chicks.
Andrew is not new to Stewardship, having been in the Entry Level Scheme since it began. He planted some of these patches back in 2005 and they are still going strong, thanks to his careful management. By cutting half the area in June he extends the flowering season, and by cutting the whole lot again in autumn he is continually removing nutrients from the system that would otherwise encourage grass to dominate the flowers.
With help from RSPB advisers, Andrew is stepping up for Nature. “It’s crucial that modern farming goes hand in hand with environmental concerns,” he says as we stroll through the flowers, surrounded by lazy buzzing. “We’ve got to look after our bugs, bees and birds so we can carry on ourselves.”
Andrew Brodie loves Nature. And he’s saying it with flowers.
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
Last Sunday was very much like most other Sunday mornings in our house. Alarm ringing out at 6am and a mad dash out of the house. Sandwiches made, energy drinks prepared, book packed, bike kit in the boot, sat nav programmed in and a big cup of tea for the journey! Ok, so perhaps it’s not the calmest of ways to spend your Sunday morning, but I really love it. My other half, Mike, races his bike most weekends and I go along to watch; trying to be supportive and help where I can. Although this does mean incredibly early starts and no Sunday morning lie-in with the papers, it does have a few benefits.
As we drove along the A11, with Essex as our destination, the sky was a calm pale blue as if it too was anticipating the day ahead. It can be quite intoxicating, driving along an open, empty road. The rooks lined the edges of the fields, busying themselves with chitter chatter while a kestrel hovered overhead as if trying to hear the whispers beneath him. Suddenly, interrupting the lush green verges of Thetford Forest, stood a small, gentle muntjac deer, quietly snacking on grass and leaves. It’s creamy brown coat and kind face was totally oblivious to the concrete junction it was approaching, let alone my cries of astonishment at how beautiful he was! There were three of them in total, lined up as if having an early morning quick snack before the day really kicked in, and they were simply gorgeous.
In the split second that we were both able to enjoy the sight, it left us thinking about how much nature can boost your spirits. In all it’s simplicity and beauty, it can leave you totally captivated and after this extraordinary sighting, I was suddenly awake; my heart beating hard and goosebumps appearing on my arms!
In reality, nature and wildlife is hugely dependant on us, from feeding our garden birds to growing nectar-rich plants in our gardens. But my heart tells me the opposite. Surely we are more dependant on nature than it will ever be on us? From the air we breathe and the crops we grow, to the basic, fundamental wellbeing of us as humans; nature enriches our lives for the better.
These stunning deer may have only been in my vision for a mere few seconds, but they have made a lasting impression – I shouldn’t ever take nature for granted. They put a smile on my face when I least expected it (more than not because it was 6am!) and I feel privileged to have seen them.
We would love to hear about your wildlife sightings at www.facebook.com/rspbintheeast
Photo Credit: Muntjac deer by Liz Cutting (RSPB)
Photo Credit: Latest wildlife spot at RSPB Fowlmere by Adam Murray
Article in Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 16th July 2011
Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
Being in charge of our wedding i-Tunes playlist was a joy but a big responsibility. You always remember wedding with dodgy music. I like a bit of cheese but not a fan of the chicken dance or pushing pineapples or shaking trees. As our wedding was next to the beach we had a lot of great oldies that were marine related. My lovely lady joined me with Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin, we had The Sea by Morcheeba, Underwater Love by Smoke City and even Octopus’s Garden.
This got me thinking if I was to make a RSPB playlist what little gems could I have on there? So here is an eclectic mix for starters:
I would even have KISS in there not because of any bird or wildlife related pun but because there are many candidates out there in the bird world that could even be considered for the masked rocking crew.
If you want something a little more sedate and relaxing than KISS then check out Kate Doubleday’s Hide Tour across our sites in the East. Tickets are selling fast so get in there quick this week for the following gigs: 20 July at Frampton Marsh, 21 July at Titchwell Marsh and 22 July at Minsmere.
Photo Credit: RSPB images
Last night was my second appearance onto BBC Radio Norfolk to fill in for our local celebrity farmer Chris Skinner! I love doing these slots, they really are a lot of fun and although the sick feeling in my tummy builds up from about 3 hours before, it soon disappears and the time in the studio flies by! Matthew Gudgin is an excellent presenter and always gives us a great opportunity to tell lots of wonderful wildlife stories.
Last night we talked about a whole host of things, from powder down marks left by owls on patio doors, crows attacking people, the beautiful terns of the Norfolk coast to cryptic rural riddles and kestrels with UV vision!
I always try to prepare as much as I can for these slots, but something always comes up that pleasantly surprises me! Last night, one of the callers described how every year she has a young greater-spotted woodpecker that flies straight into her patio windows! Apparently she’s tried everything to put it off, but it keeps happening. One man called in to say that he puts an evil looking teddy bear in his window to deter suicidal birds from flying into the windows! It is certainly an interesting solution!
No matter what the topic or who the caller is, the show is always a great success and it would seem that people really do love to talk about wildlife in their local area. Norfolk certainly is a hotspot for RSPB and i’ve always been really proud to say I live here, amongst the swallowtail butterflies, the bitterns, the broads and the city centre, but appearing on BBC Radio Norfolk really is a fantastic experience. Up there with Alan Partridge, it’s great to have such a strong relationship with the folk of Norfolk.
Till next time ....
Proud of coming from and living in the East? We need you. We are calling on members of the public to decide if Robert Law, a farmer in Eastern England, is the UK’s most wildlife friendly farmer.
After months sifting through hundreds of entries from farmers doing wonderful things for nature on their land, the judges for this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award have made the tough decision and whittled it down to four regional finalists, one of which is from Hertfordshire.
Now it’s over to you to decide their fate as voting opens today (Friday 22 July).
The RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award aims to celebrate farmers who do wonderful things for wildlife and single out the one who has done the most on their land to help special countryside wildlife. Robert Law from Royston in Hertfordshire has a 1,500ha conservation grade farm and is a shining example of the integration of wildlife friendly farming into a successful commercial business. His land includes, chalk grassland, woodlands and 1,200ha of arable production. Key species like, corn bunting, grey partridge, lapwing and skylark abound, and careful sheep grazing allows rare chalkhill blue butterflies and pasque flowers to flourish on the heath.
With a recent survey finding 93% of people value the countryside for relaxation, fresh air and peace, and 94% think it’s as important as ever to protect it, the RSPB is more determined than ever to reward farmers who work in an environmentally-friendly way.
Simon Tonkin, Senior Farmland Conservation Officer for the RSPB said: “Robert Law is an exceptional farmer. He combines farming practices with specific management for farm wildlife with real passion. He has thought carefully about how to locate important wildlife measures on the farm for specific species, whilst maximising the advantages to the farm business. For most this would be enough, but Robert also understands the wider environmental issues, such as carbon output, and is planning measures to combat this. It is clear that Robert is an enthusiastic advocate for farming and for protecting the wildlife on his land, which means that others can benefit from his knowledge and enthusiasm. Robert is a true guardian of the countryside, not just for the wildlife that shares his land, but also for the people that enjoy it.”
From building beetle banks and planting hedgerows to restoring wild flower meadows, managing woodland and adding skylark plots – many farmers like Robert across the UK are putting passion and dedication into protecting the habitats of all kinds of native wildlife – and not at the expense of food production and commercial success. You are invited to decide the UK winner by casting their votes by phone, post, online, via The Telegraph, or at various country shows until the end of August. Information on how to vote can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote and everyone who votes in this year's competition will be entered into a prize draw to win a two night break for two people at a luxury hotel.
Votes can be cast until 31st August 2011 and the winner will be announced in September.