I've just been for a very wet walk. It didn't rain, although it certainly did this morning; the heart-shaped petals of the dog-rose that dot the hedgerows have been battered by the heavy raindrops and are now stuck to the roads and tracks like thin scraps of crepe paper. No, it wasn't the rain that soaked me but the huge swathes of grass; the deep purple seeds of yorkshire fog and the furry meadow foxtail that has grown tall and thick along the footpaths. I managed to get so far along the track by rolling up my trouser legs and edging sideways along it but soon realised, as the grass grew thicker and impassable, that I'd have to do better than that. Unfortunately by then I was at the point of no return. Either i got wet going one way or possibly wetter going the other. I ended up walking home with my jean legs like great wet flaps of cloth stuck to my legs.
One thing however made this journey entirely worth while. On the track towards home there is an oak tree. About halfway up its trunk is a swollen, uneven oval scar where a great branch has cracked off and the tree has healed the wound. In the middle of the scar is a hollow pocket and in this pocket sat three steel grey kestrel chicks, each one peering out at me from above. I had noticed them because of the racket they were making. I could hear them chirruping from the end of the drive.
You'd think it couldn't get much better than that, but today it could. As I stood staring up at the chicks their uncannily brave mother or father flew in from apparently no where carrying a baby rat (it was mouse sized but had the unmistakeable thick tail of a rat). The three chicks stretched and wobbled upwards, straining for the first 'go' at lunch. Within the blink of an eye the kestrel had gone, no doubt to catch more food, leaving the chicks squabbling noisily in their oak tree bedroom.
Nature is entirely and awe-inspiringly amazing. Help the RSPB keep it that way.
Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
This year’s Summer Solstice happens today, June 20 at 11:09pm. It notes the longest day of the year and the first day of Summer.
"The date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun's energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light."
It also means that I have a day off with my good wife and it gives us 16 hours 38 minutes and 20 seconds of day light. What are we going to do with all these rays? The clock starts kicking with sunrise 4.43am (maybe even earlier in the East). Here is what I think my day will endeavour to look like:
The day will hopefully finish up at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen outside Norwich to see the sunset at 9.21pm. With my streak of luck at the moment we should witness some jaw-dropping WOW moments:
However, this is not the day when the sun rises earliest in the morning or when it sets latest at night. As we'll see - the date of earliest sunrise or sunset varies from location to location around the planet. Do keep in mind the Pagans view of the Summer Solstice, they are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter (talk about glass half full).
Start the clock. Between now and August 20 the Great British Summer is up for grabs – what can you do with your time? Do let us know here in comments on our Facebook or Twitter pages. Happy Summer.
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer
I was swiftly bumped back down to reality last week with the post bank-holiday blues as I sat at my computer watching the emails slowly clogging up. The grey Wednesday morning drizzle wasn’t doing too much to lift my spirits and i was already wondering when i could watch a repeat of the Jubilee concert to get me back into the party mood. After all, it was quite the celebratory weekend. Whether or not you were involved with a local street party, packing the bunting around your telegraph poles and beckoning neighbours to crack open the bubbly or you were nestled into the crowds in London, wearing the latest pac-a-mac and waving for the cameras, it certainly made me feel proud to be British. It’s all too easy to fall into a cynical stupor about the state of the country, but taking a step back and letting a little pride creep in is refreshing.
So, after spending most of Wednesday morning procrastinating and drinking copius amounts of tea (in honour of her majesty of course!), a phone call was all it took to put a smile back on my face. It’s the start of the Nature of Farming Award season and it marries two of my favourite pastimes. Getting competitive and celebrating! Simon Tonkin who is our Farmland Conservation Officer at the RSPB, called to tell me he was heading out to judge some of the regional entries. The East region is always up there amongst the best, battling for a place in the final four and the crowing title of ‘UK’s most wildlife friendly farmer’. And this year, Simon is feeling confident. It’s no secret that farmland birds have taken an epic turn for the worst, with 300 million birds wiped out in the last 30 years across Europe alone. But, farmers are hardy souls and fight they can. As custodians of our countryside, they know only too well how important it is to make sure that our skylarks are thriving and that bees, butterflies and creepy crawlies are well catered for. And they do all this whilst managing a healthy farming business.
Declines of farmland birds on this scale can and must be tackled with better policy and more effective targeting through the Common Agricultural Policy. Nevertheless, on the ground we, together with farmers have to pioneer new ways of reversing declines so as to have the evidence to influence policy and to make a local difference.
Farmers in the East are working against the odds to do amazing things and to protect our countryside for future generations. There can’t be many things more worth celebrating than that? The regional Nature of Farming candidates will be announced very soon so look out and get voting.
I am a 70s baby, early 80s child (as the song goes) and I am getting very nostalgic at the moment what with reminiscing about the 1977 Silver Jubilee and collecting Ebay He-man and Ghostbusters figures for my 18 month old son. I am also looking into buying him his first tricycle and it took me back to 1983 and the struggles of learning to ride my bike (with stabilisers), my younger brother having to show me how to do it (the E.T in the front basket didn’t do the job).
I do like a good coincidence and with all this reminiscing about pedal power, would you believe it but next week is National Bike Week. Call it serendipity or a good excuse for a kick up the bum but I think it is time for me to buy a new bike. When you start looking at all the bicycle options out there it can be a bit bemusing - just look at some of the ones I found:
With keen triathlete folk in our office with very definite opinions on pretty looking bikes like my fave beach cruisers and single speeds there is a lot of pressure to make the right decision. Or then again I may be putting off digging into my pocket, spending the money or even more likely the thought of doing some more strenuous exercise. So thank you oh great cycling gods who have brought us National Bike Week, you have given me an excuse to buy the bike and get out there into the glorious countryside of the East (at least it is only slightly undulating).
Even more fortuitous is that my dear colleagues Gena and Steve are organising the Suffolk Coast Bike ride on Sunday 5 August 2012. Easily enough time for me to get my legs in gear and then spend a summer's day with friends and family cycling in some of the most stunning scenery eastern England has to offer. The ride will takes us past heathland blooming with purple heather, through country lanes teeming with wildlife, ancient woodland and along a coastline that will simply take our breath away.
Fancy joining us? Whether you regularly wear Lycra or more of a lazy-day-potter-type biker then dust off your bike (whatever style it is) and come along. But before we set off, we have the opportunity to raise sponsorship to help protect the fragile landscape and wildlife that makes the Suffolk coast such a special place. There’s no minimum amount but the more generous your sponsors are, the more good conservation work we can do.
If I can do it (I fainted the last time I went for a bike ride) then anyone can. So for the love of the bicycle, the memory of me and my E.T. in the 1980s, and the East of England, join us.
Adult entry is £17, children £8. Team entry (6 or more) is £16 per person. This fee covers only the cost of the ride - so please raise additional sponsorship! It will help us to continue our important conservation work.
To book your place and to receive a sponsorship pack, visit the bike events website or contact Gena using the details below.
The ride (35 or 60 mile routes)
Start times: between 8 am and 10 am at a time to suit you.
The start and finish is at the elegant Glemham Hall with both short and long routes heading north before splitting at Sibton. The short route then swings east to Dunwich, while the longer continues north to Covehithe.
Following the coast south through Southwold and visiting our Minsmere nature reserve, the long route rejoins the short at Dunwich to finish at Glemham Hall.
Throughout the day there will be special RSPB activities to entertain families and friends who are there to support you at the race. There will also be live music and an Adnams beer tent for thirsty riders and spectators!
Gena Correale-Wardle Community Fundraising Officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgPhone: 01603 697521
Blogger: Kate Blincoe - Communications Manager
Slugs keep eating my sunflowers, weeds grow as fast as I can pull them, and watering my thirsty sweet peas keeps emptying my water butt. After an hour or two of gardening, it is definitely time for a sit down and a glass of wine.
Making my handkerchief-sized patch into a pleasant place for my family and a haven for wildlife can be a labour of love at times. Blending the needs of people with those of nature is always a balancing act. Of course, it is all worth it when the bees buzz happily round, the children whiz down the slide and the baby starlings squawk happily in the birdbath.
As I sit back with my glass of Merlot, the light starting to fade, I can often still hear the nearby hum of a tractor working into the evening. Looking after my tiny garden is put into perspective by the scale of work carried out by our nation’s farmers, putting food on our plates and acting as custodians of our countryside.
Thanks to agri-environment schemes, food production is increasingly carried out alongside farming for wildlife. This leads to benefits for farmland birds and the patchwork landscape which we all celebrate as truly British. Nevertheless, the hard, ongoing work farmers do to maintain our countryside is often overlooked as we rush by in our cars. Even in a rural county like Norfolk, we have become increasingly cut off from our farming heritage. Many young children don’t know that beef comes from cows or lamb really is those fluffy leaping creatures we coo at in springtime.
Open Farm Sunday on 17 June aims to celebrate all things farming and give us the opportunity to get out into the countryside and discover the living, vibrant landscape on our doorsteps. You’ll get a chance to listen to the birds, soak up the scenery and experience the sights, sounds (and smells!) of a real farmyard.
Each event is unique with its own activities, all based around the farm’s own individual story. Activities during the day may include a nature trail, tractor and trailer rides, pond dipping, a mini farmers market or picnics. For more info and to find a farm near you look at www.farmsunday.org.
Farmers are our heroes and we want to celebrate their work for wildlife. We’ve joined forces with The Telegraph, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation for the 2012 Nature of Farming Awards, to look for the top farms for wildlife across the UK. We’re looking forward to sharing the regional shortlist with you and raising a glass to our local farmers.