You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Blogger - Erica Howe
I’m house sitting at the moment while our friends are off on a holiday of a lifetime! It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? I’ve left the city, living in the Norfolk countryside, in a bigger house with a garden – sounds like a holiday itself? Well, sort of!
It’s funny when you step into the shoes of someone else, live their life for a brief moment. That’s what it feels like when you live in someone elses house. It felt a bit wrong for a while, like was trespassing or living a double life. But, in my second week, i’m starting to get used to it. Actually, enjoying it!
Now, the thing with house sitting is that it comes with a set of rules that you should really follow. Put the bins out on the set days. Check. Water the plants. Check. Walk the dogs. Check. Feed digestive biscuits and raisins to the birds. What???? I’m not joking, this is exactly what we’ve been doing for the last fortnight. And do you know what, i’ve never seen hungrier birds! They love it. At least three times a day i have to replenish the stocks. And it’s all kind of birds too. Fieldfares have been hanging around, woodpeckers, blue tits, great tits, green finches, black birds, wood pigeons, sparrows, the occasional bird of prey too! It has been a breath of fresh air (quite literally) living out of the city, but wow the birds are demanding!
But, what a delight it is to look out of your kitchen window and actually see wildlife, real, live wildlife enjoying your garden, flying above your rooftop and more importantly, relying on you for dinner. I only have a short time left at the house and going back to my town house terrace in the city will take some getting used to.
It is funny when you find out the quirky habits other people have in their own homes, and i was the first person to giggle at the thought of feeding the birds with digestive biscuits and raisins, but I have been converted! Whatever you feed your garden birds (I was on a radio phone-in once and a lady called in to say that her birds like parmesan cheese!!) take the time to enjoy it and relish the fact that they’re frequenting your garden.
Blogger: Emily Field, RSPB Volunteer & Farmer Alliance Team
The Sunday before last, it was a beautiful sunny morning and with my husband home to watch the children, I finally got round to setting up my telescope on a patch of "wild bird seed mix" (a crop on farmland planted to feed the birds) by my home, a few miles west of Norwich. In the 15 short minutes I spent there before breakfast: enjoying the spectacle of 80+ linnets and 60+ yellowhammer, chattering away above me in the trees and swirling in and out of the mix, with the odd sparrowhawk fly by, and lapwing calling atmospherically in the distance, I had three interesting conversations with passers by.
The first, a dog walker asked me what I was watching, and whether I knew why the farmer hadn’t knocked the crop back, I of course relished the chance to big up the farmers efforts to help farmland birds & insects.
In this small field which had previously been a damp bit of farmland set-aside which walkers used to cut off a corner on the road, two thirds had been providing a spectacle all summer long of purple flowered phacelia, teeming with bees (photo below) and other insects. This was to provide chick food for farmland birds including the yellowhammer, skylark and even lapwing which nested in the neighbouring sugar beet field.
Now the seed bearing plants were coming into their own on the other third. This contains plants like barley & linseed, (and kale- a biennial which will provide seed next winter) and farmland birds flock to it in their hundreds in late winter when food elsewhere is scarce, to feed on the seeds which fall to the ground.
The farmer receives £30 of public money per hectare farmed for using a small percentage of the land to support wildlife in this way. Suddenly seeing that public money is providing real public interest, brightening up our mornings with the sound of chattering linnets and bright flashes of yellowhammers, this dog walker wasn’t so miffed about losing the short cut once enjoyed across the field- if it meant more to see while walking round it!
The next dog walker told me that his friend who lived opposite the mix was also a keen birdwatcher and had been monitoring the numbers of linnets & yellowhammer, swelling to a couple of hundred by mid-February, as more & more birds honed in on this lifeline in the coldest hours of winter.
Then a chap with a smart pair of binoculars around his neck, on the way to a nature reserve stopped his car and exclaimed- are you from the village? I didn’t know there were any other birders in the village!
Isn’t it nice that this little bit of seed, sown by a local farmer can bring so many people in a community together?
Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer
I went to boarding school. It was a funny old place. There were the metal-framed boarding-house windows that didn’t quite shut, lumpy horse-hair mattresses and thick canary yellow socks. We marched in to lunch to a band and had study on every day of the week.
Sounds a bit austere, doesn’t it? Except for the socks perhaps. But despite memories of rain sodden woollen uniforms, a large degree of ‘rigour’ and of missing home comforts, we did have some fun times. Watching cricket in the sun, secretly roller blading in the ‘day’ rooms and putting on plays in the professional theatre. All in all, I was privileged to a great education that, incredibly, was free as well. I was lucky.
This week I have been trying to understand when and why it became personally necessary to work in conservation. When did I become inspired by the outdoors and nature? Was it a certain teacher, my A level in Biology or reading a particular book? Through this thought I have realised that for all the great scientific minds that taught at my school, and the place’s general academic merit, the teachers that influenced me most were the ones that quite simply offered us pupils time to muse.
I remember a lesson in coppicing. What a fine art coppicing is and to how much do we owe the woodsman! The heart shaped leaves and bright yellow crowns of our spring messenger, the lesser celandine. Carpets of creamy primroses or pungent ramsons and the purple ear-lobes of common dog violet. The hammering of woodpeckers, the urgency of a nuthatch calling, great flocks of tits flitting in crowds amongst the branches.
But I haven’t come to know this because of my school lesson in coppicing. In fact I still, to my dismay, can remember little of the practicalities of this craft. I was too busy answering the questions on my worksheet and getting the maths right. And then I would have been too busy racing off to my next task, my next netball match or my next lesson to become inspired by what I had just seen.
But I also remember Mr Reid. He took us to the woods on the hill beyond the playing fields and let us sit there. Bluebells carpeted every inch of the glades that we explored or simply mused upon. The lesson involved no right or wrong, no outcomes or expected results but gave us time to ask ourselves, ‘are you interested?’
Perhaps some of my peers weren’t inspired by that woodland excursion and more structured study suited them far better. But I hope that for those of us that need to ponder, the current curriculum will give time to just that. Here is to Mr Reid. May many more teachers follow his path.
Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Article on 18 Feb 2012 in EDP