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.

     

  • Two Turtle Doves (the science behind the numbers)

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    TURTLE DOVE FACT FILE:

    Description:  The gentle cat-like purr of the turtle dove is an evocative sound of summer, but has become increasingly rare following rapid and sustained population declines. The species is now included on the Red List of conservation concern.

    Where to see them: It is mainly a bird of southern and eastern England, although it does reach as far as Wales. Best looked for in woodland edges, hedgerows and open land with scattered bushes.

    When to see them: Arrives in late April and May, leaving again between July and September. 

    Movement and migrations: A migrant that leaves Britain between July and September will pass through North Africa in large numbers in September and October wintering in areas such as Burkina Faso.  The return migration starts in February and March and it reoccupies its breeding territories in Britain in May.

    Habitat: Breeds where there are open woods, copses and tall, thick hedges on farmland, commons and in parkland.  Feeds on the ground in fields or other cultivated areas.  In winter in Africa, it lives in agricultural areas where there are tall trees.

    Estimated UK numbers: 44,000 pairs breeding annually, but this is still declining

     

    The national decline

     The purring song of the turtle dove is disappearing at a faster rate than any other farmland bird

    Turtle doves are now the UK’s most threatened farmland bird, according to official figures released in November this year.

    The migratory birds, which rely on seed-rich wildflowers and weeds in our countryside, have an important place in British folklore and feature in the traditional Christmas song the 12 Days of Christmas.

    According to the figures turtle dove populations fell 21 percent between 2009 and 2010 (more striking still it declined by 51.9% between 2004 and 2009 (that just 5 years and half of them have vanished!) Numbers have been falling since the 1970s, and it is now estimated there are only seven turtle doves for every 100 there were in 1970; a decline even greater than other struggling farmland species such as tree sparrows and corn buntings.

    Urgent work is underway to investigate the cause of turtle dove declines and create measures to help them. The RSPB is in the middle of a three year project working with farmers to test trial plots of seed rich plants and monitor nearby turtle dove populations.

    The overall indicator for all farmland birds has fallen again, meaning farmland bird species are at their lowest levels since records began in 1970 (see note 1).

    As well as turtle doves, other farmland species whose decline are causing concern for conservationists include familiar farmland birds such as yellowhammers, yellow wagtails and skylarks.

    The figures released today show that farmland birds are at 50 percent of the level they were at in 1970. Grey partridges, tree sparrows and corn buntings are all at similar low levels to turtle doves although the doves’ current rate of decline is steeper.

    The regional decline

    The East of England holds 47% of the UK breeding population with the possibility of still finding them along the North Norfolk coast, Brecks, Broads and coastal Suffolk and Essex from May leaving as early as July on their perilous journey back to their wintering grounds. Given the parlous state of turtle dove populations it is conceivable that it will be lost as a breeding bird in the region within ten years if the current rate of population decline continues.

    So rather than ‘2 Turtle Doves’ in the 12 days of Christmas we should now be singing ‘0.14 Turtle Doves’ or even, in the future, ‘no turtle doves’.

    Photo Credit: Andy Thompson