January, 2012

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Pear trees not just for partridges

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communication Officer

    You may find yourself humming the classic Christmas line about a partridge in a pear tree this festive season, but pear trees can be a great gift for all sorts of other wildlife too.

    We are encouraging people to think about planting pear trees now, to benefit birds and other garden wildlife in the future.

    At the time when most of us are thinking about all the chocolates and mince pies we have been eating, why not think about a healthy, fruity start to the New Year for our wild garden visitors. 

    In early spring, pear flowers are brilliant food sources for hungry honeybees, solitary bees and bumblebees.  Providing sources of nectar and pollen early in the season can really help these insects. During summer and autumn birds like thrushes and blackbirds will benefit from the fruit as windfall. The foliage is nibbled by many caterpillars, which later turn into beautiful moths. The adult moths are great food for bats.

    Adrian Thomas, wildlife gardening expert from the RSPB says, “What I REALLY like about pear trees is that they are good for us and wildlife – they look great in blossom; the pears taste great, and wildlife can share the bounty.”

    Kate Merry, Project Development Officer for Butterfly Conservation, said: “Pears and other fruit trees are fantastic feeding stations for our butterflies and moths. The caterpillars of a number of moths such as the Dark Arches and Vapourer moths feed on the foliage. In the autumn, Red Admiral butterflies can be seen drinking the juices from the fallen fermenting fruit.”

    A well-planned garden can provide a mix of areas for wildlife by using plants of different shapes and sizes.  This will provide wildlife with a variety of places in which to feed, shelter and nest. Planting a mixture of different trees and shrubs is a natural and sustainable way to provide year round food for wildlife.

    The best time to plant trees and shrubs is right now.  ‘Bare rooted trees’, those not in pots, are the cheapest ones to go for and are best planted before the end of December.

    If you don’t have a huge garden and think a tree might take over, follow the example of many urban gardeners and train it alongside a wall.  More and more urban allotments and community gardens are adopting this tactic as the best use of limited space.

    The wildlife will still benefit, no matter what shape the tree ends up!

    For more information on the RSPB’s Homes for Wildlife, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw

  • Woodland in grave danger

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer 

    It’s a sad day when you have to point out the glaringly obvious! Today, The RSPB is expressing serious concern over potential damage to one of Suffolk’s most ancient areas of woodland. You would think that in a time of such overwhelming environmental concern, this kind of thing would not be allowed to happen.

    You can read about this in today's  EADT:

    http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_pylon_worry_for_ancient_woods_1_1176158

    The proposal for National Grid’s preferred route for the new Bramford to Twinstead power connection in the county would mean that the power pylons cut right through the heart of this special woodland. Should be a no-brainer right? Sadly, the National Grid is looking at this as their ‘preferred route’ for the power line.

    A new overhead line through Hintlesham or Ramsey Wood would require the destruction of parts of this ancient woodland – irreplaceable habitat which we cannot afford to lose. To put this into a bit of perspective, there is documented evidence that the woods have been in existence since at least the twelfth century – a mere 900 years. Ely Cathedral was built around the same time – can you imagine the outrage that would kick off if there was a proposal to knock that building down? 

    The woods are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, meaning they are among the cream of the UK’s wildlife sites.  They are one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in Suffolk, and are nationally important for the diversity and range of plants, animals and insects they support.

    Fragmentation is more technical term for this and it is considered one of the greatest threats to habitats, especially ancient woodland. In this current environmental climate, emphasis should be placed on reconnecting woodland blocks so that wildlife and flora and fauna can thrive in their natural habitats.

    There is some really cool wildlife in the Woods. Here's some of our favourites:

    Birds, those that sing...

    Nightingale, bullfinch and song thrush are some of the most prevalent species or in the case of Marsh Tit and Nuthatch, large populations that are very important to Suffolk.

    Moths, the winged kind...

    Pauper Pug, which mainly eats Lime. Mocha is a Nationally scarce mopth and this one eats Field Maple.

    Plants, simply beautiful ...

    Some of the most important tree species in the woods are: Wild Service and Small-leaved Lime

    In terms of plants, you can find: Herb-Paris, Green Hellebore, Violet Helleborine, Wood Sorrel, Wood Anemones. There are also bluebells, one of our favourites!

     The creepy crawlies ...

    A Red Data Book (very important!) beetle called Mesosa nebulosa is found in the woods and its larvae live in dead wood in the canopy.

    A flat-backed millipede that goes by the name of Polydesmus testaceus is also one of our favourites fiound in the woodland. It was discovered about five years ago in Hintlesham Wood and was the most northerly site in Europe to have such a milipede (the only site in the country where all five species of Polydesmus millipedes were found. Would you believe it!)

     Archaelogical features, the old stuff...

    There are mediaeval (hand-dug) woodbanks that would have acted as boundary markers on this site. After digging tyhese out, the locals typically  would have had a hedge planted on it or a fence constructed to keep cattle/sheep out (it stopped your coppice being nibbled).

    These woods have been in existence since at least the middle ages, if not the last Ice Age, and we simply cannot re-create their splendour elsewhere. National Grid need to acknowledge the importance of such a site, for wildlife, for the environment and for the health of the local communities.  

    Rest assured, we will fight hard to ensure that another route is used for this power line and that where possible, the line is buried not blighting the countryside.

    We also recognise that options for the transmission line are still being assessed, and we are engaging with National Grid, Natural England and other organisations to ensure an alternative route is selected.   

    Watch this space.

     

  • Did you go BIG with your bird watch this weekend?

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer

    With a few days of January left all I can say is it has been a funny old month! I’ve seen people out and about wearing flip flops, I’ve even seen folk out in the city with shorts on. I’ve seen people eating their lunch outside and I’ve been out on my bike with only a few light layers on. Hardly typical behaviour for January. Then again, looking out my window it has started to snow.

    Here at the RSPB, we’ve also had a few ‘odd’ wildlife reports throughout the month. Frog spawn has been discovered and ladybirds have become more active because of the mild weather.  I think it’s safe to say that this weather is turning everything  topsy-turvy.

    Perhaps, and even more surreal, this weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch - The world’s biggest garden bird survey! A weekend where historically we’ve battled snow, gales and torrential rain to sit and watch the birds coming in to find respite in our gardens. Seeking comfort from feeders packed full of goodness and nestboxes left for shelter from the elements.

    This weekend was exceptional to say the least. With temperatures up to 8 degrees, fog and rain on its way, we’re in for an interesting time of surveying!

    Big Garden Bird Watch is a fantastic thing to take part in; you grab a cuppa, a sandwich and take a relaxing hour to watch your garden wildlife with your family. With so many pairs of eyes watching and recording their garden birds on the same weekend, we gather a lot of data – in fact, a huge amount!  By analyzing all your counts and comparing results across all years, we can find out how our garden birds are faring. Your counts inform our important conservation work since it helps us to identify what species most need our help.  We can then prioritize our research work and identify measures to help the species, which are shown to be struggling.  So, it might have seemed like a relaxing, enjoyable way to spend an hour this weekend but it’s also fundamental to the conservation work taking place across the UK. Your small step really does make a huge difference.

    The data from past Big Garden Bird Watches have helped us to understand that once common birds like house sparrow and starling have declined greatly in the last 25 years.  Song thrush too is a well known and much loved garden bird, but it's certainly not as familiar as it once was.  It is amazing to think that Big Garden Bird Watch and similar surveys have shown the UK populations of house sparrow have declined by over 60% and starlings by 78%!  In time, we hope that declining species will recover and we and future generations will be able to continue to enjoy their company in our gardens. 

    So let us know how your Big Garden Bird Watch went and send us your photos on our RSPBintheEast Twitter or Facebook pages – the best ones get a FREE bird feeder.

    Article in Saturday 28 January Eastern Daily Press

    Photo: Dunnock by Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)