You can find inspiration anywhere. To illustrate that I'm going to have to share a guilty secret: Sometimes I find myself watching repeats on more4.
I know it's fashionable to have not switched the TV on for ages, to not know that 24 hours in A and E is on on channel 4 at nine o clock on Wednesdays. Interesting people certainly don't glimpse snatches of Come Dine with Me as they flick for something worth watching. The thing is though; having a child under four is tiring and sometimes some boring telly is just what's in order to wind down and get a decent night's sleep.
So it was in this way that I found myself watching an old Grand Designs. Now, this isn't something I'd usually watch. All the couples followed seem to build the same house be it in the middle of London or the rolling Cotswold hills. Square boxes made of grey steel with wooden slats stuck to the outside. Usually built in to a hill side or alongside a traditional building. Floor to ceiling windows are a must, as are spiral staircases and open plan 'living spaces'. This time however was different and I soon became glued.
Ed and Rowena live on their small holding with their four children; eight acres of south facing land in the hills of Herefordshire, which makes for pretty spectacular views. They aren't rich and scraped together the money for the land and their £80,000 budget for building their house from savings. Ed works as a country estate manager so isn't in the big bucks. But they have an aim and that is to be as self-sufficient as possible; year–by–year they get closer to their goal.
You'll have to watch the episode to get the full measure of the patience, diligence and dedication that Ed and Rowena take to their task (http://bit.ly/oBs1jW.) Not one furrow in either brow. Through inclement weather, money difficulties, pressure from the children, all remains calm. They let Kevin McCloud do all the worrying for them with his chirpy asides to camera and his modern ways. So, Ed and Rowena were an inspiration. An inspiration to carry on doing what you do because you see the need, and because that's the kind of world you want to live in. They are thinkers, but also do-ers.
Perhaps it's the do-ers that we are looking for to enter the RSPB in the easts Stepping Up for Nature awards (www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup/do). We want to hear about the people that have decided to get out there and do something to save nature and our wildlife. There are six categories to enter and you can either nominate yourself or someone else for the awards. We think showcasing the 'do-ers' might go some way in helping others Step Up and start 'doiung' themselves. Go on, help us in our cause.
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer
What is it that makes you proud to live in the UK? Is it the football team you support, the heritage, the fish and chips, the landscape? There are many reasons to feel proud of the country we live in and as a nation we’re blimmin good at celebrating. Talking of which, I was invited to a Eurovision party on Saturday evening! It was a first for me and although I’ve never really paid a huge amount of attention to the annual competition of cheesy pop songs from all over Europe, it was genuinely good fun. It involved a lot of giggling at the entries, eating pizza, drinking the odd glass of wine and flying the metaphorical flag for the UK, luckily we did get more than nil point – en francais!
It is one thing that as a nation, we exceed in; celebrating the things that make us ‘Great’ Britain. And working for the RSPB means I hear about many of these first hand.
There are a team of RSPB staff, volunteers and farmers who come together every year to make sure that one, very special creature has a future. The stone curlew isn’t a well-known bird, but should certainly be held up as a symbol of success. There are a little over 300 stone curlews in the whole country and the majority of those live right in the heart of the Brecks; a dry, unique landscape with habitat that suits these birds down to the ground, but they do need a bit of a helping hand. For a few months every year, the birds nest on bare open ground and become vulnerable to disturbance. So, the team works with farmers to locate nest sites so that they can be avoided while farm operations take place. A stone-curlew’s natural reaction to danger is to sit still, which isn’t a good strategy when a large farm tractor is heading in its direction!
With the help of this dedicated team, the population of this bird is once again on the up. Something that we should certainly raise a glass to. And, in true underdog style they’re rather quirky looking creatures. With big goggly eyes and knobbly yellow legs, they definitely have character. The chicks resemble something similar to a pair of comfy, fluffy slippers and you can’t help but fall in love with them. Something that Engelbert Humperdink would surely welcome.
So, whilst sitting on the sofa with my glass of bubbly, enjoying the guilty pleasure of the Eurovision and our poor result, I was pondering about the fantastic conservation success that is the stone curlew and beaming with pride that it is right on my doorstep. That deserves 12 points if you ask me.
Who are the top songsters across the countryside?
The East is alive with songbirds belting it out all across the East. And with Eurovision nearly upon us, It’s time for us to celebrate the top songbirds in the region.
Presenting, from Suffolk, the RSPB Wolves Wood Reserve, which has a thriving population of singing nightingales. Nightingales in the UK declined by 57% between 1995 and 2009, but thanks to dedicated woodland management work, which includes blocking ditches to keep water on site, we are helping to have a positive effect. Warden, Mark Nowers says, “Ground-feeding birds like nightingales thrive in damp conditions. This year, there are eight nightingales singing in Wolves Wood, which is the most we have had on site since the start of the Millennium. Woodlands come alive in the spring with beautiful plants and bird song and it’s a privilege to hear nightingales back in these woods.”
Next up is the Broads, presenting the loudest booming bittern in the East. At RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, the recognisable call can be heard for miles.The bittern is an incredibly secretive bird and with less than 100 birds breeding in the whole UK, it is a rare sight. However, their loud booms are iconic and a sure-fire way of attracting a mate. At this time of year, bitterns are active and marking their territories with their calls.
The next regional star is the sedge warbler, found singing at RSPB Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk. The sedge warbler is the beat boxer of the bird world. Its song is made up of a variety of scratchy notes and is faster and louder than many of its rival songsters. Jaz Atkinson at Titchwell Marsh said: “These tiny creatures have arrived all the way from south of the Sahara, where they have travelled over 2000 miles to be here. No song is ever the same so they always give us a unique performance! They shuffle up a single reed stem, right to the top where they will deliver their erratic and hectic song. Sedge warblers can also do cover versions and imitate other wetland bird calls and songs!”
And finally, drum roll, presenting from Hertfordshire at the RSPB Rye Meads Nature Reserve is the Cetti’s warbler. This bird likes to be heard and not seen; they are tiny little creatures. The nature reserve now has 6 pairs singing to its visitors, a bird that was never previously heard in the area.
So whether you are a big Humperdink fan or have been turned off since the departure of Sir Terry - be inspired by the Eurovison Song Contest this Saturday and get outdoors and see who you can hear singing their little hearts out. To find out where you can go to hear these birds throughout May and June then visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves
Blogger: Sarah Green, Project Coordinator - Natura People Partnership Project
The flowers are blossoming, Eurovision is just around the corner and the days are getting longer, it must be time for another Natura People partner meeting!
Every 6 months we (myself and colleagues from Provincie Zeeland, Provincie West-Vlaanderen, Natuur –en Recreatieschap de Grevelingen and of course the RSPB) get together to discuss progress of our shared work, known as Natura People.
What is this Natura People? Well, it’s the name of an Interreg funded project that allows partners across the UK, Netherlands and Belgium to share and develop new ways of engaging with visitors, businesses and politicians. Our work will allow us to improve our nature reserves, save nature, teach more people about the importance of nature and, pretty important this one, convince the powerful folk that make the decisions that they should invest in nature reserves and conservation, as an environment rich in wildlife benefits people’s health and brings in money! (It’s true – see our Natural Foundations report found here).
So, what did we do on this latest set of meetings? We met near Lake Grevelingen in the town of Scharendijke in the Netherlands. A calm ferry crossing from Harwich to the Hoek Van Holland and a short drive later found us at the lovely Resort Land en Zee. The partners joined us the next day (having only had an hour or so to travel) and we got on with the important business of discussing our work and project progress.
We are nearing completion of our economic model which will show the (positive!) economic impact of nature reserves and will provide guidance on mobilising funds for investment in nature reserves. We have just appointed CE Delft to carry out case study work on the partner sites to back up the model, and each partner is working with local businesses to improve tourism to the region.
We also discussed developments at each partner’s reserve. Minsmere has undergone a complete renovation with a new shop, new cafe, new reception centre, new hide and new family area – the Wild Zone. Zwinis at an earlier stage in their redevelopment, but things are picking up and work will start soon. The same goes for the Grevelingen project. Waterdunen’s visitor centre has now re-opened for the summer and promises to be an exciting day out for all the family.
The project website is now live (http://www.naturapeople.eu) and will be regularly updated with news from all four partners. But it wasn’t all meetings. We did get to have a look round Lake Grevelingen, where I discovered jellyfish! Pretty little pulsating things with delicate, translucent tendrils, which I have tentatively identified as this species:
Our boat trip out to one of the islands showed just how huge this Lake is. It’s the largest saltwater lake in Europe, separated from the sea by the Brouwersdam. It’s home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, and is a really beautiful, peaceful spot, but is in desperate need of work to reverse the decline in water quality. Natura People is the start of a much wider project to reinvigorate the lake.
Do you like the sound of this Lake? Fancy finding out more about the partner sites? Visit the links page (http://www.naturapeople.eu/en/content/links) of the Natura People website to find the relevant web pages.
Are you a local business and would you like to know more about this project? Would you like to work with us to help save nature in your area? If so, please contact Sarah Green, project coordinator on 01603 697 597 or on email firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been a bit like a James Bond movie at work of late. Either that or I’ve been watching too much Homeland on TV! Over the past few weeks, we have been preparing a rather 007-like project. There have been phone calls with code acronyms, urgent meetings, file notes and tight deadlines. Sadly, Daniel Craig didn’t turn up to the office, but nonetheless it’s an exciting time.
The mission that we have taken on is called Operation Turtle Dove, code name OTD! Together with partners, we have a simple task to do - save the turtle dove from likely extinction.
It sounds simple I suppose and in essence, it should be. However, the stark reality is that this beautiful bird is on a downward spiral. Now, I only caught a glimpse of my first turtle dove last year. I was out and about on a visit to RSPB Fowlmere nature reserve in Cambridgeshire and we could hear a deep, soft purring. It was coming from a nearby tree and it literally mesmerised us. As we stood listening, being soothed by this gentle sound, it occurred to me that this is a bird that I might witness go extinct in my lifetime. I was suddenly filled with sadness. That soft, gentle purring now sounded like a desperate plea.
Our brief for this mission is this: Turtle doves have declined by 91% since the 1970s and now there are just nine for every 100 there were 40 years ago. The cause of the population crash is not fully understood, but a study in the 1960’s showed that the birds’ diet consisted almost entirely of small seeds of wild plants. Changes in farming practices have led to the loss of such plants from our countryside. Which brings us to today, the Operation Turtle Dove mission.
The project partners on this mission are the RSPB, Conservation Grade and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and together we plan to reverse the dark trajectory of the turtle dove. To do this, we need to work fast and build on our research of the bird and its feeding habits. But, we also need you. We need people to help us and we need farmers to understand how much of an important role they can play in the future of this bird.
Seeing a turtle dove on that summer’s day last year was memorable for many reasons. Not least because I was overcome with a feeling of vulnerability. The natural world that continues to inspire us generation after generation is threatened constantly. I feel incredibly proud to work for an organization that is prepared to stand up and give nature a voice, and I’m even more proud that I get to be a part of Operation Turtle Dove, a mission with a real difference.
Find out more at www.operationturtledove.org
Article in EDP on 12 May 2012