This week has been National Insect Week! It doesn’t mean that all the insects in your garden gather at the local pub for a drink and put the world to rights. But It means that we get the opportunity to celebrate all those creepy crawlies, bugs and butterflies that often get neglected when we swoon over the wonderful wildlife of the UK. The good folk at the RSPB in the East put on a series of fun, interesting events all week for their visitors to pay homage to all kinds of beasties and they went down a storm.
One of the cool things that i've discovered this week is that there are around 25,000 known species of insects in the UK! And most of us encounter some of these every time we step outside our front doors. Next time you head out (even if it's to the pub), take a peek in your garden or local park to see what you can find - Insects are a vital part of our countryside, so it’s entirely fitting we’ve been celebrating them all week.
Take Antlions for example! Now, when I first started work at the RSPB and I heard about this creature, I misheard and thought they were called ‘Ant Lines’. What is so special about lines of ants, I kept thinking! Seriously, they’re just lines of ants! Now, after the revelation that 'Antlions' were in fact the creature being talked about, a big lightbulb appearedand I was stunned to learn some quite amazing facts about them.
So, here goes:
Antlions can be found RSPB Minsmere on the Suffolk coast and were first found nesting in UK in 1995 at Minsmere with only three previous records.
Antlions have a rather unusual hunting technique. The larvae dig a pit, sit buried beneath it, then wait for an ant to fall in. As the ant scrabbles to escape, the larva flicks sand at it to knock it back down then grabs it in its powerful jaws.
So you see, much more exciting than lines of ants! Happy National Insect Week everyone!
National Insect Week happens every two years and is supported by more than 50 national partner organisations, including the RSPB, concerned about natural history and biodiversity.
Blogger: Gena Correale Wardle, Community Fundraising Officer
I’ve recently moved house and now live at the top of a hill overlooking some of Norwich’s most iconic places. From my bedroom window I can now see the magnificent spire of Norwich Cathedral, home to the Norwich peregrines who had two chicks fledge recently. To the left I can see Carrow Road football ground, home of the canaries, Norwich City Football Club who have also seen some of its stars fledge recently, but let’s not dwell on that!
But the most exciting thing I can see from my new vista is not the famous birds of Norwich, but the garden birds living around my neighbourhood. As our new house is at the top of the hill, our upstairs windows are in line with the rooftops of the next street down, giving me unprecedented access to the secret rooftop lives of our garden birds. It’s like having my very own hide for the urban scenery!
Before now I only really saw our local birds at low level, sneaking peanuts out of the feeders or hopping on the grass in search of tasty morsels below ground. This new backdrop provides a totally different view of the life of our urban birds. Every morning I open my curtains with anticipation as to what will be out there, from blackbirds scrambling across the rooftops with beaks full of food for their chicks to a jay eyeballing me from the top of the orange blossom tree.
Swifts screeching was a common sound in my old house, but I very rarely saw them. Now I get to watch the soap opera of the swifts dashing in and out of their nests under the eaves of the Victorian terraces and really get to study them as they occasionally come to rest on the telegraph lines and rooftops. Their swirling sky dancing is almost hypnotic some mornings when I come to open my curtains, although the weather hasn’t exactly been favourable to them. I hope they have plenty of shelter in the rain.
My favourite new sight from my bedroom look-out has been the goldfinches which congregate in the fir tree next to my window. The fir seems to be popular with a lot of local birds, I’ve seen lots of juvenile great tits, sparrows and even some long tailed tits in there but the goldfinches are just magnificent. With their colourful markings they look like they are wearing little red masks and their movement is so sharp and swift, each bird is like a feathery Zorro. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have these birds in my previous garden and they are one of my favourite garden birds, so this feels really special, being able to spy on their life as they eat, preen and play with their mates in my fir tree.
I think sometimes we get complacent with our urban birds and forget to appreciate the amount and variety of wildlife we have on our doorstep. Why not take 10 minutes this week to sit and watch the birds – no need to count them or do anything for us – just enjoy them for your own pleasure, see what’s living in your neighbourhood and use your house as your own little wildlife watchpoint.
Photo: Gena - not your average urban birder
Blogger: Anna Sadler, Volunteering Development Officer
The Volunteer & Farmer Alliance (V&FA) provides farmers with a free farmland bird survey, undertaken by trained and sympathetic RSPB volunteers. Along with their results, the farmers are encouraged to seek further advice and put into place specific management for farmland birds. Through this, they experience positive contact, generate trust and build working relationships with the RSPB.
There has been a dramatic decline in farmland bird populations since the 1970s and this is largely because of the Common Agricultural Policy. By providing farmers with a free survey of the birds present on their farm, we hope that together we can improve conservation management for farmland birds. The following prose come from our very own Annie Sadler, Volunteering Development Officer, who practices what she preaches and volunteers her time as part of the V&FA. What follows is a brief description of some of the beautiful experiences of being a V&FA volunteer.
I feel glad
The warm, comforting smell of a sea of ripening barley, rippling beautifully in the breeze
Sky larks sing joyously over-head
Families of blue tits constantly chat in the hedgerows, bright and boisterous
Hares gamble at my feet, unconcerned, their gangly legs looking like they might snap
A lone yellowhammer pierces a few seconds silence
Red poppies brighten a field of oil seed rape, and forget-me-knot subtly hide in the field-margins
Clouds race across the sky
A pair of barn owls glide silently from their nest in a dead tree, just a metre from my head, making me gasp with surprise
The sun warms my skin and the butterflies start to flit in front of me
And I feel glad to be alive!
For more information of volunteering in the East give Annie a shout on 01603 697504
Image by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
This is my new bike!
Now, for those of you who know me well, this is not the kind of bike i usually ride! My current bike is carbon, has blue tyres and cost the same amount as a small car! But this is my new favourite. Yes it has rust, yes it’s heavier than a bus, and yes, it needs a lot of TLC, but it is truly beautiful! For Bike To Work Week this week, our office has been remarkable in it’s efforts to change our commuting habits. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you have or how fast you can ride it, what matters is that you get your bum on that saddle and enjoy the feeling of freedom that only a bike can give you. Riding my bike makes me truly happy and if i haven’t been out for a few days then i start to get itchy feet – i can’t describe it, it’s like the minute you get out and feel that breeze on your cheeks, something feels right.
Let’s start the cycling revolution and join the peddle power. So, whatever you do this weekend, come rain or sunshine, see if you can spend half an hour out on your bike and let us know about it!
Blogger: Jane Warren, Green Team Representative
I have a lot of affection for my first bike. It was red, my brother’s was identical, but blue. We spent long summer days cycling round the Norfolk countryside, or so I remember. Come adolescence, the bike got parked in the shed. It wasn’t till I was at uni a few years later that I rediscovered the joys of cycling. A touring bike with drop handlebars that one summer took me from San Sebastián to Bordeaux. Part and parcel of that rediscovery was a reconnection to that child peddling furiously along narrow country lanes. The freedom. The speed. And the delight of staying upright on two wheels.
Since then, there has always been a bike in my life. The current model is a dependable hybrid - blue this time. Yesterday morning, it helped me transport bagsful of croissants and rolls for the office Bikers’ Breakfast.
The breakfast is part of our National Bike Week celebrations, free to all staff who dumped the car and cycled, walked or took public transport to work. Around 20 of us gathered at the Thorpe Road office in Norwich and managed to get through a fair few croissants and pains au chocolat. Amazingly, the weather held, and we breakfasted outside in glorious sunshine.
Bike Week, the UK's largest mass participation cycling event, provides an annual opportunity to promote cycling for fitness and fun – and reduce our carbon footprint. It’s all about encouraging ‘everyday cycling for everyone’. Not to mention that cycling to work in the morning is the best way to really wake up!
The RSPB is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. We have set ourselves a target to reduce carbon emissions by 3% each year. Climate change is the biggest single threat to wildlife, and it is estimated that transport accounts for around a quarter of the UK's energy use and carbon emissions. Reducing fuel usage and greening transport to and from work is all part of our environmental message. Travelling to RSPB reserves in a green way, instead of by car, is also a great way to help the environment, and improve health.
Me and my bike. I like to think that we’re doing our bit to reduce carbon emissions too. What about you? If you don’t have a bike, and want to cycle to work, find out about the Cycle to Work Scheme here.