Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
It’s not often I go clothes shopping. No really! But, last weekend I braved the crowds and the shops and headed for the high street. I needed to buy some shorts. Now I know it’s not exactly the height of summer, but I just couldn’t find any at all. The shops were full of big knit cardigans, scarves, winter boots and snuggly jumpers. All lovely and rather tempting but not what I needed.
It’s certainly been unusual weather for October, but we can’t deny that the colder months are creeping up on us all. As I bike to work, the roads are littered with fallen leaves, scattered across the pavements; crisp and orange and crying out to be childishly kicked around.
And, while we get ready to stock up for winter with the usual hearty ingredients, there is one extra little thing we must think about doing. Feeding the birds. I know it sounds very Julie Andrews (and as I write this I’m thinking about going home to indulge in watching Mary Poppins with the excuse of ‘research’), but it is one of the most important things that you can do to help your garden birds survive the winter. Sadly, our blue tits, green finches, robins and the like, don’t have weekly trips to Topshop to don the latest warm knitwear. Our garden birds have to turn their food into energy quickly to keep warm and they are most vulnerable to the cold first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It is at times like this that these tiny little creatures need to find food, and fast. A blue tit weighs the same as a 20p piece, and although this seems unbelievably light, it does mean that every drop of food it consumes is immediately used up as energy to keep going.
There are some really cheap and easy ways that we can all help our garden birds and trust me, they will love you for it. Apples and pears will be gobbled up by blackbirds and robins, Nyjer seed is a favourite of siskins and goldfinches and peanuts are fine for the really cold months, but be sure to check that they don’t come from your local pub or have salt in them as this can be dangerous to birds. And with Christmas just around the corner, it’s really easy to make good use of any food scraps you might have. Garden birds absolutely adore things like, dried fruit, pastry, cake, raisins and mild grated cheese.
Perhaps you might be heading out to the shops this weekend to buy a new winter coat or some trendy gloves. If you are, spare a thought for your garden birds and pick up some bird food for them too. It will certainly give them a helping hand and you’ll have them as loyal visitors to your garden for months.
Article in Eastern Daily Press on 8 Oct 2011
Blogger: Malcolm Key, RSPB Woodbridge Local Group
If you are the habit of voting on things then why not vote for one of our local groups new innovative projects “Six RSPB Suffolk Coastal Reserves Book”.
The project will update and extend a previous, unique publication produced by the RSPB Woodbridge Local Group, which is now out of date and out of print. The booklet will provide the reader with historical and environmental information, with a seasonal structure, for six Suffolk RSPB coastal reserves (Boyton Marshes, Dingle Marshes, Havergate Island, Minsmere, North Warren, and Snape Reserve). This approach will help the reader to plan a visit to see specific seasonal activity. A completely new chapter will be written to describe the Snape Reserve (Snape Warren/Abbey Farm/Botany Farm) for which no visitor information is currently available.
The six reserves described in the new book are all within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The publication will illustrate clearly and comprehensively the character and special qualities of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths region and the importance and scale of these RSPB reserves which lie within this designated area. The reserves contain examples of all the habitats which make this AONB special, including Salt Marsh and Intertidal Mudflats, Coastal Levels, Valley Meadowland and Estate Sandlands. Each reserve will have its own chapter where a detailed habitat and facilities map and reserve description, will enhance the visitor understanding of the site and its wildlife. These special habitats are fragile; the environmentally sustainable management techniques required for them to maintain and protect them are explained within the book to provide the reader with a better understanding of the local area. The two pictures show management in action by two very different methods: people and ponies. There will be a new section on climate change and coastal erosion and how this is likely to impact on these reserves and their wildlife in this AONB.
The book will have contact details to establish the current programme of special events and how to participate in them.
The plan is to print 3000 copies of the booklet and distribute a free copy to all schools and libraries in the AONB and all the money raised by the sale of this book will be used to further improve these wonderful reserves for wildlife and people.
Vote here: http://communityforce.natwest.com/project/3096
Blogger: Rachael Murray
With our gorgeous landscapes and big skies as inspiration, it’s no wonder this region has such a burgeoning population of creative types. And we’ve found one more to swell the ranks!
Budding Bury St Edmunds-based wildlife photographer, Ben Hart, 12, has been announced the winner of the under-13’s category of UK-wide RSPB photography competition, WildPix.
Each year, we encourage young people to let their creativity run wild, as they seek out and capture images of wildlife’s wonders right across the country.
With the 2011 competition receiving more entries than ever before, Ben impressed judges with a close up photograph of a dunnock peering up through the undergrowth on the look-out for a tasty snack. Dunnocks can often be found nesting and feeding in our gardens, and Ben was lucky enough to get a snap of this beautiful bird in his back garden in Rattlesden, Bury St Edmunds.
Ben says: “My dad sparked my interest in wildlife when I was young, because he enjoys bird watching and has encouraged me over the years. I love observing birds and other animals whilst out on walks around our home and watching wildlife programs on TV.
“I'm very happy to win the competition this year because I never thought it would happen! Winning has given me the confidence and encouragement to do even more photography.”
As well as winning £100 and a day out with professional wildlife photographer, Andy Hay, Ben’s winning snap will soon be featured on the front cover of one of the RSPB’s junior membership magazines.
A large part of our work aims to encourage young people to widen their enjoyment and understanding of the natural world by swapping their Nintendos for nature and their PCs for puddles, so we’re really glad to hear that Ben is setting a great example by hiding under his bird table in cammo gear to get those winning pics!
The annual WildPix competition is just one way the RSPB inspire young people to embrace the outdoors. Why not visit www.rspb.org.uk/youth or contact Charlotte Pledger at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about events and practical activities organised for young people by the RSPB.
Blogger: Rachael Murray, Media Officer
As I awoke last weekend, with the sun sparkling on my window pane and the house feeling unseasonably warm, it was hard to believe that it was October already. So, my original plan of a fortifying autumnal walk on North Norfolk’s beautiful Holkham Beach was scuppered.
I was forced to have a summery beach walk instead! So, I swapped my trousers for shorts, my fleece for a t-shirt and made sure I coated every exposed piece of my skin with industrial strength sun cream (a sun burn related incident earlier in the year had left its mark, both mentally and physically, I was taking no chances!).
My journey to the coast took me through a patchwork of arable fields and along windy hedge-lined roads punctuated by chocolate box villages, cottage gardens, ice-cream shops and sun dappled dog walkers.
I suppose it was a bit of an omen as I passed through Guist, I just didn’t know it yet.
On arrival at Holkham and the endless expanse of beach stretched out before me, rather than embrace this wondrous natural environment, I couldn’t help but be distracted by a sound that could only be described as similar to a group of small agitated donkeys. But as I walked closer to the glittering sea, my curiosity about that strange sound left me. The sand dunes embraced me into their golden folds as I was drawn towards my flip-flop clad adventure to Wells-next-the-sea. And all memory of it had disappeared as I tucked into a slice of Battenberg sponge at the Beach Cafe.
It was only on my walk back from Wells that I was reminded of that incredible noise. There it was again, but it was getting louder. As my eyes were drawn upwards, I saw the grid-like formation of over 500 pink-footed geese overhead, transforming what had just a second earlier been a big cloudless Norfolk sky.
Honking enthusiastically, with their characteristic feet trailing like miniature airborne pink kites, I could only imagine what they were all communicating to the myriad ‘V’ shaped groups of their fellow birds. ‘Wait for me!’ perhaps. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ maybe. Or my favourite, the rallying cry of ‘Honk if you want to go faster!’.
Every autumn, tens of thousands of pink-footed geese travel from Iceland and Greenland to spend a milder winter on the coasts of the UK. One of their favourite places is at RSPB Snettisham, on the North Norfolk Coast, where there is the perfect habitat for well protected winter roots, and nearby fields filled with sugar beet for lunchtime foraging during the day. That day I witnessed what will be just one of many communities of geese arriving in the east, and there are many more on their way.
Soon, there will be up to 40,000 birds found at Snettisham, where they will be running ‘Big Pink Breakfasts’ offering us an early morning adventure watching the dawn flight of tens of thousands of pink-footed geese as they leave their night-time roost on The Wash. To find out more about attending a Big Pink Breakfast, visit www.rspb.org.uk/snettisham.
And if you have a twitter account, you can help us as we track the geese as they arrive. Just tweet brief details of your goose sightings, including #goosewatch in your message, to help us find out more about our wintering geese populations this year.
Photo credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
I do, because Richard Mason, our warden at Sutton Fen taught me. And here he is taking quiet but giant steps for nature over on the reserve this month. Richard is a big supporter of our 'Steps for Nature' this month having started out as a residential volunteer himself.
Do we want more Richard Masons? Of course we do! Lets help plenty more budding conservationists Step Up for Nature and start helping to manage some of our incredible reserves through the residential volunteering scheme.
For greater detail about October’s Steps please scroll below the photo.
Do: Put up a nestbox October is traditionally all about Feeds the Birds Day but whilst you’re out there filling up your feeders why not go that extra Step and put up a nestbox. It will provide a cosy place for roosting and be ready for birds prospecting nesting places come spring time. Instructions on how to make a nestbox are here http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/nestboxes/smallbirds/making.aspx
Give: Marine appeal All around the coast of the UK, seabirds and other wonderful marine wildlife are in danger. But unlike on land, there are very few protected areas at sea. Our target is to raise £535,000 to help fund the urgent work needed to protect our wonderful sealife. Your donation will allow us to research seabird declines, as well as continue our work to protect the places where seabirds and marine wildlife live. We'll also be counting the number of donations we receive to show ministers how strongly people feel about the threats to our sealife. Together we can show government that they must step up and and protect our precious seas. Go to https://www.rspb.org.uk/applications/donations/single/index.aspx?dt=APLITH0318 to make a donation.
Volunteer: Residential Volunteering Residential volunteering is your chance to have a break, try something new or get some experience for your CV. There are over 40 different places to stay and hundreds of things to do. You can spend a week or more on a reserve, and you can do it alone or bring a friend. We'll provide you with accommodation, new skills and some great memories. For more information contact Annie Sadler on 01603697504
Campaign: Planning e-action The Prime Minister has made a personal intervention into the highly contentious debate on the future of England’s planning system. His comments are both timely and reassuring – but they are not enough for us to breathe a sigh of relief and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. In a letter to NGO’s Mr Cameron has said that any reforms will maintain current protection for the greenbelt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks. However, Sites of Special Scientific Interest – those areas protected specifically for wildlife and the natural environment – are notably absent from his assurances. It is essential that the planning system support, not undermine, the UK Government’s ambitions to restore biodiversity. To this end we will continue to step up for nature by calling on the UK Government to maintain the existing protections afforded our finest wildlife sites – please step up with us by signing the e action at http://campaigning.rspb.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=13&ea.campaign.id=11417 you can also sign the National Trust’s planning campaign at https://www.planningforpeople.org.uk/
Thanks all and happy October.