Blogger: Emily Field, RSPB Volunteer & Farmer Alliance Project Officer
The other day was walking home from school with Tommy (age 5) whinging in the usual way "come on Tommy what's keeping you?”
he replied "I'm looking at the bees going into the ground mum!"
I go back and find, with Tommy, to my surprise, lots of tiny little bees, with shiny tails, and orange legs, digging holes into the sunny sandy bank where they've planted a new hedge outside the doctors. You could feel the warmth coming off the bank, and smell the sweet scent form the heather in the doctor's garden... the perfect place to set up home if you're a little digging bee!
Photo: Tommy pointing at the hole.
Photo: Close up of the bee burrow
To give you little context, last weekend, Tommy had a major panic attack when a wasp walked over the seat next to him, and screamed so loud that we all thought he'd been stung.
So you can imagine my delight at his new interest. Of course the mum in me saw this as the perfect opportunity to combat his misplaced fear of flying insects... with a little research homework.
"wow- lets go home and look in the book to see if we can find out what they are..."
"remember they've got white stripes mum!"
We find my rather tatty old 'A Field Guide to the Insects of Britain' and quickly find a contender catchily named 'Dasypoda hirtipes' - so uncommon the poor thing does not even get a common name. Now, as the field guide is decidedly sparse on the details or habits of the species, to make sure, we decide to go back and take some photographs. When we go back, rather than busily digging as before, they seem to be buzzing around erratically, and flying up every time I put my little camera anywhere near them!
After a while Tommy got bored and made friends with a dog outside the surgery and declared he was going to sit on the bench and wait for me. I'm amazed by how few people asked why I was sitting on the pavement staring at a bare bit of soil with a camera (hopefully they don't all already think I'm mad!).
Tommy proudly showed a few friends the bees he'd discovered anyway, and one friend asked whether they were some kind of solitary bee, I said that's what we hoped to find out, and pointed out what I thought to be a male hovering around, and a female digging (it is a cruel fact of nature that the women always have bigger bottoms and do most of the housework!).
Photo: bee male hovering towards female
I finally got some great pictures of a bee digging, and we took the camera back home to double check our identification- there was nothing else that fitted the bill, so in our naivety, we decided it must be it! We decided to look it up on the internet just to make sure, and, found a picture that seemed to confirm our identification on this website.
So here is the science bit...On checking their distribution map for Dasypoda hirtipes, we see that the nearest 10km square with them is about 20 miles away, so we decide we must record our important sighting straight away! Here is where I have to thank the lovely chap from the records centre, who patiently explained that Dasypoda hirtipes only comes out in July- but it sounds like one of the 60 Andrena Species. This is Andrena flavipes, female (the males are much thinner and less clearly marked, can be very hard to name with certainty). Diagnostic features are the orange hairs in on the rear legs coupled with the bands of white hairs on the abdomen (be careful, there are other orange-legged species). You photos show these very well. Be careful of pollen on the rear legs as this can hide the hair colour.
Photo: Tommy's Bee ID book Andrena species
We feel really lucky to have been helped, via the magic of the internet, by someone so knowledgeable and patient, spending his evening helping some novices choose which of some 200+ different species of solitary bee found in the East they spotted on the school run!
As these enthralling little bees, have helped to cure Tommy of his fear of black & yellow winged beasts, I hope our record helps to makes a difference for them- and is the first of many steps for nature for Tommy - my very own budding entomologist!
[Editor's Note: Find out more about what our partners at Bug Life are doing at the moment here.]
Photos by Emily Field.
Blogger: Helen Leach, RSPB in the East Green Team
Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be plunging themselves into darkness tomorrow by switching off their electric lights for Earth Hour!
Earth Hour is a big deal! It's a symbolic statement of the need to do something about climate change. Last year 5,200 cities in 7 continents were involved, with some of the most famous world landmarks, like the Empire State Building in New York, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, going dark for an hour to show their support. Earth Hour doesn't mean no light at all. It's okay to light candles, or to use innovative non-electric, non fossil-fuel ways to get some light.Lighting accounts for about 19% of global energy usage, which is why Earth Hour's plan to get as many people as possible to turn lights off is a big deal. But what happens when the lights go back on? Earth Hour is great, but it only means something if we change our habits for good, not just for 60 minutes.
Why not start to change your illuminated ways from tomorrow night by ‘going dark’ and see how you can reduce your electric light use for the rest of the year.
Find out what to do with your hour with the lights off here.
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer
Did anyone else get caught out by the clocks going forward or did you welcome it in with open arms? For some of you, this is a pretty depressing thought. A whole hour less in bed, an hour snatched away from that precious Sunday morning lie-in. However, if you’re beaming with the thought of lighter evenings, and longer days then the hour sacrifice seems a little price to pay. For the last few months, i have been driving home from work in a lethargic state; confused about why it feels so near to my bed time and yet it is only 6pm. Headlights have appeared as if rolling along a hypnotic conveyor belt and getting home means that I close my front door, cook something warming and delicious and curl up on the sofa.
But, things are about to change! Being outdoors is not something I have to rapidly squeeze into my lunch break anymore and my winter coat is starting to feel a little bit overkill. I will be able to clock off from work, get on my bike and head out along the Norfolk roads until at least 8pm, enjoying the sights and sounds of Norfolk wildlife also coming out to play. Roadsides and roundabouts will start sprouting daffodils and crocuses as if someone has flicked a switched and woken them from their winter slumber. And of course, the butterflies will start adorning garden bushes and shrubs as if getting ready for their own spring party.
Last weekend I was out and about, enjoying the simple pleasure of rolling countryside, a blue sky, the company of friends and chit chat as we stood in the sun’s rays. My friend’s daughter was over the moon that she had learnt how to make a daisy chain. And even more thrilled that in picking a choice selection of daisies for her new ‘bracelet’ she had found a tiny, wriggly worm that she was handling with such care it could have been a little piece of gold. We decided that the worm would probably prefer being back playing with its friends so we let him go and carried on searching out round, bright daisies. For those few hours, the thoughts and pressures of every day evaporated and my energy levels soared. My skin was warm and glowing and I felt a huge amount of comfort from the space of the county-side and its fresh air.
Being outside can be anything you want it to be. A respite, an adventure, a jungle, a sanctuary, a beauty treatment, a natural healer or perhaps just a way to spend some time with someone you love.
Here at the RSPB, we would love to know what outdoor adventures you’ve had this weekend, why not share them with us at www.facebook.com/rspbintheeast or www.twitter.com/rspbintheeast ?
Article in EDP on Saturday 24 March 2012. Photo Credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Sean Locke, a Volunteer Bird Surveyor at Strumpshaw Fen Reserve
Winter Hues of sadness paint the tired sky.Suffocated by grey clouds.Tears shed heavy.Soaking the skin of this lifeless land. The breath of Winter lingers.An icy grip, harsh strangle on the throat.Silver light of the moon shimmers.The shadow of night creep quickly to cast. Black knarly fingers entangle,Skeleton-like, empty of life, pointing to the heavens,Towering bodies of trees,Their flesh cold and damp.Hush is this land that lies deathly still.Slumber through Winter's long stay-Until the warmth of the sun is reborn.
Photo by Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Gena Correale Wardle, Community Fundraising Officer
Sunday is my favourite day of the week – a real lounge day when I like nothing better than to get the Sunday papers and spend the day cooking, reading and watching TV. Last Sunday I spent the morning cooking up a storm in the kitchen with my new favourite thing – my organic veg box!
The previous week one of the papers had run a promotion so you could get one of these fabulous little organic vegetable boxes for half price and I’d jumped at the chance to start getting my veg delivered from a local organic farm. All Thursday I waited in anticipation to see what had been delivered and when I got home I wasn’t disappointed – lush greens poked their way out of the cardboard, potatoes, still covered in soil greeted me from within a paper bag and leeks fresher and thicker than any I’d seen in a supermarket were tucked in the bottom.
I was totally like a child at Christmas and I really couldn’t wait to use it all! The best thing was that it was all in season, locally sourced (where possible) and all organic. It meant that when I was cooking my Sunday lunch yesterday I could have whole roast carrots, without peeling them, safe in the knowledge that no nasties had passed through their skin. I did leeks and cabbage cooked in wine and cream and lovely roast potatoes, it was a delight to the senses! The best thing is there’s still plenty of veg left to see me through the next week or so – although I’m not quite sure what to do with my fennel – ideas on a postcard please!
Although I didn’t realise it, my veg box fits in perfectly with National Climate Week. This year's focus is low carbon food and a spotlight on greener eating! Suggestions include eat less meat and dairy, eating local, seasonal ingredients and making sure not to throw any food away where possible.
I know I shall feel quite smug tonight when I cook up my Sunday leftovers into a delicious bubble and squeak – no meat, local ingredients and using up my left over food. I’m doing my bit without even trying!
To get your juices flowing have a look here for some simple ideas about how you can lower your carbon footprint and eat well, with some recipes suggestions from celeb chefs too - http://www.climateweek.com/eat-low-carbon.
Your tummy will appreciate it and you can feel happy in the knowledge that sometimes it’s not as hard as you think to be a conservation hero!