Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer
‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’ Shirley Conran famously said. I couldn’t agree more Shirley, but it’s not too short to ice a cupcake or twenty. In fact it took me a whole morning of craning over the kitchen counter, spatula in one hand, handful of Smarties in the other to minutely decorate cakes and prepare dishes full of delicate treats for Robin’s third birthday party.
My own mum has always been a bit of a party food genius. I remember cakes as beautiful as they were delicious and I wanted to at least try to emulate her successes for Robin. I think I did OK. The cupcakes went down a treat with the grown up’s and children alike. It has to be said however, I’m no domestic goddess and it was the more wild bits of the party that I felt most ‘at home’ with.
If you walk down beside the house you come to a glade fringed by ancient trees. The day was bright with an occasional warm wind and as we threaded our way through the knots of velvety grass and the purple globe-heads of thistles, the glowing shadows of trees shone across us, coming and going in time to the clouds as they scudded across the sky.
In the clearing in the wood, laid deep with bouncing leaf litter, we set about creating our dens. Paul had strung together an ‘A’ frame of wooden poles and the children gathered crackly old branches and sticks covered with the grey smears of lichen to form crooked, uneven walls. Then whole hands of whippy lime twigs bearing yellow-green, heart shaped leaves were laid over the sticks creating two perfectly camouflaged hideaways.
We crawled our way in to them and sat sheltered from the wind, then burst back out to gather bugs, or balance precariously along fallen trees or collapse, laughing amongst the moss with an arm slung happily around the dog.
After all the party bags had been passed around and the last strawberry eaten, I reflected on the day with a welcome cup of tea. My fond memories of birthday cakes once eaten perhaps aren’t just for the cakes themselves but also for what they represented of my childhood. Of July days spent outdoors amongst spires of gladioli and lupin. Of riding bikes in the sun or lying on warm banks of grass listening to the bumblebees.
Maybe I’ll never be a domestic goddess and maybe I’ll always rely on Smarties to make my cakes look ‘proper’ but I hope always to provide Robin with days spent in the freedom of the great outdoors, laughing and making dens. There is no better recipe for happy memories.
Photo by Nick Upton (rspb-images.com)
Article in Eastern Daily Press on 20 August 2011
Blogger: Laura White (on behalf of all the A Team)
On the very rare occasion that the office based administrators have some spare time, they go and sit in our reception, that’s the place to be to find out what’s really going on.
There’s always something to be wondering about, sometimes the suspense is unbearable What will the new staff member be like? Who will make use of the hot desk? What will happen when the seven members of the admin team (affectionately known as the A team) are all in the same place at the same time? Chaos will ensue that’s what!
There’s always a question being asked, what will happen if we run out of milk? Is there a brochure which tells people all about us? Do you sell hedgehogs or have any dogs left? How can I help the birds in my garden? Is it gooses egg or geese eggs? What can I do to ‘step up for nature’?
And where there’s a question there’s always an answer and the A team members will be the people who know it.
People become crabby when they can’t make their tea so we never run out of milk. There is a brochure which is kept in our cupboard which gives all the info you’d need about the RSPB and our reserves. We don’t sell hedgehogs and would never condone this type of behaviour and as for stepping up for nature, that’s as easy as ABC and everybody can do their little bit, you can even do one small thing today by clicking here and signing our marine pledge.
Picture credit: Adam Murray
Blogger: Charlotte Pledger, Youth, Education and Families Officer
Last Friday saw me at one of Fen Drayton’s family events. I arrived feeling very good about my carbon footprint, having got there by train and the shiny new Guided Busway! The bus stops on the doorstep of the reserve so no excuses for not going for a visit to this beautiful part of the world.
The ‘Deadly Dozen Bug Hunt’ advertised on the Fen Drayton web page had intrigued me, as well as many local families and the event had been booked up well in advance. The hunt started and the sharp-eyed children soon started finding many bugs, including huge numbers of harvest spiders and hover flies. Neil let them know if they were deadly predators or not. After an hour, although we had found a lot, there were only seven classed as predators. However, in a last minute rush, orb and wolf spiders and ladybirds were discovered to make a grand total of 15 deadly bugs. Not all bugs were predators but amongst all the impressive finds was a HUGE caterpillar, later identified as an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar (pic below).
The staff and volunteers at Fen Drayton provided an excellent opportunity for children, parents and grandparents to find out so much more about the creepy crawly deadly creatures around them. Many were going home with their ID sheets to see what predators lurk in their gardens.
Pond dipping events have also proved very popular at the reserve and speaking to some of the families, they had already booked to try this out or had been the previous week. If you would like to go down to try your hand at bug hunting on land on in the water have a look here The RSPB: Fen Drayton Lakes: Events. There are even free children's places available on production of a Cambridgeshire Guided Busway ticket and voucher from the busway press.
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
This week, I’ve been working on an incredible RSPB project. Our Minsmere reserve is having a bit of a make-over and in the new year we will have a fantastic, dedicated learning centre for youngsters and families to come and be inspired about nature.
And then, the riots happened in London and my attitude shifted. Not about the project I must add; I feel passionately about our role in inspiring our future generations about the natural world. But, what really made me sad was starting to think about the future that we will be leaving for our children and grandchildren to grow up in.
I think it is safe to say that we have an ever increasing split in our society. One where young people are either driven by stealing clothes from Top Shop and abusing Blackberry messenger to mobilise mob looting or by climbing trees and getting on Facebook to sign a petition to safeguard sea-life.
In the world I see everyday, working for the RSPB, young people of all ages, are inspired to explore and have adventures. To get their hands dirty and discover bugs and stag beetles, and to be wowed by a red kite flying over head. It seems to me that we have two, very different, diverging attitudes conflicting with one another.
When I saw the rioting taking place in London, a place I know and love, I was appalled. Totally sickened by the prospect that mindless acts of vandalism were dominating our society. And for what? What exactly will be achieved through such rage and aggression?
Whether there was a motive or not is totally irrelevant in my mind. Behaviour like this makes a mockery of everything that we have in our lives that is so precious. Our natural environment, our health, our futures.
So, what’s changed? Why are some young people so withdrawn from the natural world; one of the fundamental things that makes the word go round?
Blaming social media outlets like Twitter for this is not fair and isn’t an accurate reflection of this media forum. The RSPB uses Twitter everyday and it helps us to mobilise positive support for key conservation campaigns in a constructive way. A way that is listened to and taken notice of.
Inspiring people to take action in the right way has driven some key conservation successes over the years - the marine bill, the legal protection of our birds of prey, the wildlife and countryside act, and the list goes on.
For the children and families who will be coming to our new Minsmere learning centre and discovery zone next year, I hope that we are able to inspire them about the world they live in. Inspire them to become the naturalists of tomorrow and the conservationists who will really make a difference. Perhaps then, they will form that majority of society and have a greater impact than a mindless minority.
Photo credit: Carolyn Merrett (rspb-images.com)
Article in Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 13th August 2011
Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
My Dad is a clever man, a bit too clever sometimes but clever none the less. However, when it comes to summer timeyou will see him flailing around his garden getting crosser and crosser. With gusto you will hear him shout ‘What's the point of b*!?@y wasps?’. This is a question that many al fresco diners may ask themselves this summer as they panic, clutching their fizzy drink, rushing to put the lid on the ketchup or trying to cover up their burger.
But I believe wasps have many redeeming features and should be celebrated - much to my Dad's dismay. Life is tough if you are a wasps - they are only after a sugar fix. Worker wasps feed on sugary liquid secreted by their larvae, but in late summer this starts to run out and they are forced to search elsewhere for their sugar supplements, such as at BBQ’s and picnics.
Get this Dad...wasps play a vital role as pollinators and in the natural control of pests in the garden.
Often called ‘jaspers,’ wasps fall into one of two main categories: solitary wasps and social wasps. It is the social wasps we are most familiar with around the picnic table. Social wasps are also incredible nest builders, and make their homes from chewed up wood fibres moistened with saliva which feels a bit like papier mache. Their nests are intricate and complex, often with many tiers, and are extremely light.
Continuing the theme that wasps have a tough time, they are also a valuable food source for other wildlife, such as flycatchers which bash them against branches to remove their sting and guzzle them down. Dragonflies will take their chances with wasps as a snack too. There are just eight species of social wasps and around 230 species of solitary wasps. Adult solitary wasps live and operate alone, in contrast to social wasp colonies which number up to several thousand.
So this summer, instead of the usual advice of stop fussing around a wasp that is sharing your outside dining, stop and think that if it wasn't for them what would I have to be smug about with my Dad.
For more information on wasps visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife. For the more knarly ones amongst you who want to encourage these down trodden stripey gems visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw.
Photo credit: Common wasp by Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)