I’ve read all the jokes, heard all the parody songs and seen all of the comedy sketches. People love to make fun of us East Anglians! My teachers used to say that people who take the mickey out of you are simply jealous, and I can certainly believe that. I would envy people who lived here if I didn’t myself. Although, with over 70% of the land in East Anglia farmed, I can understand how we are easy targets! But, it’s one of my favourite things about living here. If ever I go away for the weekend, the sight of Norfolk approaching in the distance on my return home is always welcome. The patchwork fields, the regimented hay bales, the quirky farm houses sprinkled across the countryside. And of course the farmland wildlife. I always keep my eyes peeled to the sky when I take the train home. Always in the hope that I’ll see a crane glide past, or a barn owl waiting patiently for a dinner catch. Farmland is such a dominant part of our county and it plays an incredibly important part in the health of our countryside, especially when farmed in a wildlife friendly way, but we mustn’t overlook how valuable our own spaces can be for the same purpose. Whether you have a large house with acres of garden or you live in a city centre town house, your garden is your very own patch to farm in a wildlife friendly way.
Across the whole of the UK, our garden space adds up to over half a million hectares - that’s the size of Norfolk! It is no secret that some of our garden birds are struggling. If we could all make that half a million hectares a little more wildlife friendly, we could be well on the way to turning their fortunes around. It might seem cold and miserable outside, but with the snow melted and the turn of the month upon us, it is a great time to get outdoors and into your garden. One of the easiest things that you can do is to put up a bird box. Now is the perfect time to do this too as all sorts of birds start looking for potential nest sites and smaller garden birds look for some shelter in the cold evenings. Snuggling into a bird box helps them to conserve energy and stay safe while the bitter winter nights take hold. As well as this, planting nectar rich flowers and shrubs is another great way of keeping your garden alive with butterflies and creepy crawlies, always great for keeping a garden healthy.
It may not be spring just yet, but when it comes to our local wildlife, planning ahead is warmly welcomed. And looking to the spring will certainly help to lift our spirits too. For more information on making your garden a home for wildlife, visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw/
Submit Big Garden Birdwatch and Big (and Little) Schools Birdwatch results & put up a nestbox.
Did you know February 14th is the start of National Nestbox Week? Check out your local reserve to see what's on in your area.
Join the RSPB and make a small, regular donation to help us plan for future richer in wildlife.
Join before the end of March and receive this nestbox as a welcome gift. Perfect for getting ready for Spring.
Ask the Prime Minister to Vote For Nature with our Wildlife Friendly Farming online petition.
Volunteer for a Date with Nature.
As Spring approaches we're gearing up for some fantastic events to showcase the best of British wildlife. Volunteering with your local event is a fun and social way to get involved.
Hope is a small word, yet one which carries huge meaning: nothing less than our dreams and aspirations for the kind of life we want to lead and the kind of world we want to live in.
Hope is also the name of a farm in Cambridgeshire where the RSPB puts into practice what it preaches about wildlife-friendly farming. Here, on 181 hectares of prime arable land, we have not only increased our crop yields but we’ve also seen a 200% increase in farmland birds that, in other areas, are rapidly disappearing from our countryside.
Hope Farm by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
And we are not alone; farmers right across our region and the rest of the UK are achieving similarly fantastic results through adopting wildlife-friendly farming practices. But, as we have already blogged about here, none of this could be achieved without the funding support of agri-environment schemes.
A huge amount of our money, yours and mine, goes into the EU Budget and the vast majority of that goes to the Common Agriculture Policy (find our wildlife-friendly farming FAQ here). Yet only a tiny pot of that money goes towards rural development and agri-environment schemes, despite those areas providing the greatest value for money and the greatest return on investment in terms of natural services such as clean air and water, carbon storage and pollinating insects.
Hoverfly by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
But surely the true value of our environment goes above and beyond whatever economic price tag we pin on our countryside. What price would you put on the soaring song of the skylark that so lifts the heart, or the soft purr of a turtle dove that so few people now get to hear? And what price would you pay to bring them back if we allow them to disappear?
Whenever our Government is faced with yet another decision with major implications for the environment I can’t help but be hopeful that maybe this time they will make the right choice. Not just because it makes economic sense, or because it will increase their poll ratings, but because it is the right thing to do.
In the name of hope for a better world we have fought for freedom, democracy, the abolition of slavery and the right to vote. It is time to fight for our environment. David Cameron has one last chance to ensure the EU Budget delivers real benefits for our rural communities and countryside, please ask him to Vote for Nature.
Print this voucher and take it along to one of the seven RSPB nature reserves listed below to redeem the offer.
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Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
As my partner in crime always says “It’s better in the East”. And I couldn't agree more, especially when we can have a friendly competition with our neighbours over the number of people who have taken part in Big Garden Birdwatch this year.
How did your Birdwatch go in your local patch? Did the weather scupper you and how many cups of tea did you get through? It is a “No” for the former and “Three” for the latter in my case.
So that we can keep tabs on the state of nature in your gardens, please visit here http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ and fill in your results and we will keep you posted if indeed it is better in the East.
We will then give you the lowdown on which birds were the top of the pops. Will it be the cheeky house sparrow, charismatic starling or tuneful blackbird like in previous years (see below for the past hit parades). My hope is that the long-tailed tit makes it back on to this year’s list – if like Bruce Forsythe I am allowed a favourite then they would be it (but don’t tell the other wildlife).
If you did not get around to doing Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend then do not fear – anytime is a good time to take a hour out of your day, turn of the TV and do something more interesting instead (sorry WDY). Even better if you want to take it a step further then why not visit your local RSPB nature reserve to see what different wildlife resides there. If you live in Norwich then head to Strumpshaw Fen, Cambridge then why not Lakenheath Fen, Ipswich then Minsmere is right up your street and if your are of an Essex ilk then the South Essex marshes give you a taste of the Dickensian.
Let us raise our glasses (of tea) and shout “Hoorah - it surely is better in the East”.
Photo by Nigel Blake (rspb-images.com)
Past Hit Parades