The big shock of the week is that it’s still cold. And the uber cold weather has thrown up even more issues for birds and wildlife which the media have been very obliging in reporting and passing on our advice about how to help out again this week.
What better place to start than a winter robin story – made easy with a picture of a roly poly one that appears to have eaten all the mince pies. As well as creating the ‘ahhh’ factor it was an opportunity for the RSPB to remind people how tough this season is for smaller bodied birds and the importance of providing high-calorie foods. Among those covering this story were the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.
The RSPB called for community action on behalf of owls this week too, following an unusually high number of reports of barn owls being discovered dead. Larger birds are victims of the cold too, and barn owls are vulnerable to starvation as their main diet of small mammals like vole sand mice are hard to come by as the icy conditions set in. The RSPB is encouraging people to report sick or injured owls to a wildlife rescue centre. Among the media outlets issuing this plea were The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC Farming Today.
Tummies are probably rumbling around the nation at the anticipation of Christmas lunch already, but the RSPB also reminded folk this week that goose fat isn’t suitable for birds. Many people put the leftover contents of Christmas dinner roasting tins outside for birds, wrongly believing it’s as beneficial to them as other fats like lard and suet. Among the media telling people that it’s a big fat no for birds, were the Daily Telegraph and Good Morning Scotland.
There were a few surprises in the world of farmland birds this week, with the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance survey, run by the RSPB, showing that the three most common species are all in decline – swallows, song thrushes and skylarks. Among those featuring this story were the Daily Express, and webzine Surfbirds.
Further from home, one lucky man has become the first individual to view all 32 of the extraordinarily beautiful family of birds know as Pittas in the space of one year. The Pitta Pittida family are falling victim to deforestation in parts of the world where their existence is already fragile. The Independent wrote about Chris Goodie’s mission, which he did as part of a drive to save many of them from extinction. All of publisher Wild Guide’s profits from Gooddie’s book will go to Birdlife International, the RSPB's international partner.
With most of the heavy-hitting environment press corps leaving our shores for warmer climes to follow the machinations of the Cancun climate talks, the coverage of how Britain’s current icy blast is affecting birds has been largely left to their regional colleagues.
As you would trust, the RSPB has been championing feeding garden birds: a message which has been heeded by a collection of outlets including the Southport Visitor and BBC News Online. Among the usual robins and blue tits visiting gardens, the RSPB has heard reports of stranger species, such as the enigmatic woodcock, dropping in seeking shelter. The Scotsman has reminded readers to look out for the Pinocchio-like, long-beaked, dove-sized, woodland wader: creating quite a stir among the ground-feeding finches.
Almost any food can be put out for birds, but the Newcastle Chronicle reports on how one fruit is topping nuts as the food of choice for the RSPB’s Saltholme reserve in north-east England. A consignment of over-ripe bananas from a Tesco store has been keeping the Middlesborough moorhen and skylark population receive their five-a-day. Well, as their slogan says: “Every little helps!” The story has even attracted the attention of the Times of Malta; presumably the piece provided a welcome change from the paper’s usual editorial diet of birds being illegally shot.
Away from gardens the freezing weather can dramatically affect the fortunes of some vulnerable birds, like the Dartford warbler and the bittern. The Sunday Express’s aptly-named Stuart Winter – aka the Birdman of BlackFriars – reflects on how wintry weather has affected the populations of these birds in the past. Following a biting winter the number of pairs in 1963 could be counted on one person’s cold-numbed fingers and toes. Thankfully the situation is much better now, although there is some evidence these little sprites have been affected by the recent run of cold winters.
The BBC has commented on the frost-driven arrival of two bitterns at the RSPB’s Rye Meads reserve, just north of London. Their proximity to large numbers of people should ensure these birds get many admiring glances if they stay over the Christmas break.
What is the word? The word is: bird. Well, at least for us at the RSPB, as we're branching out and supporting a campaign for this year’s Christmas number one song. We're backing Birdman Jack – how could we have refused - to get The Trashmen's 'Surfin' Bird' track to ‘number one’. The key element of our campaign is a video featuring, Mark Avery, our conservation director, strutting his stuff joined by a bunch of staff grooving on the Society’s snowy HQ lawns.
DJ Scott Mills – who is also backing the move - thanked the RSPB for adding weight to the campaign, providing listeners with a rare sighting of the RSPB’s name on Radio One.
We’re huge fans of birds at the RSPB – you probably knew that - and we enjoy moments spent with them. If you’d like to see why we enjoy birds so much, then tune in to Countryfile on Sunday night and see presenter Julia Bradbury revel in one of the UK’s greatest wildlife spectacles: the sight of up to 20,000 birds, including avocets, on the Exe Estuary, in Devon. If that doesn’t float your boat then it’s likely that you’re colder than the recent Arctic blast!
Hello and welcome to the all new bright and shiny news blog!
Every Friday we will be giving you the low down on all the coverage the RSPB has been getting in the media – so you can catch up on anything you missed. And we may throw in some other of our favourite wildlife stories from the week as well. Please enjoy, subscribe, keep in touch and leave comments!
Now I don’t know if you’ve heard but it’s a bit nippy out there. All week the media has been reporting on snow drifts, icy weather, school closures and transport misery. But how does this affect birds and other wildlife?
The Daily Mail covered our warning last week that birds' natural food may be unavailable in cold weather so householders need to top up their garden feeders. Then today (Friday December 3) the Daily Telegraph’s snow coverage quoted an RSPB spokesperson saying: “People should provide food like meal worms, fat-balls, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and grain to compensate for birds’ natural food which is covered in snow and ice and impossible to get to.
“Leftovers like grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice, pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes are also a good source of energy for garden birds, and water for both drinking and bathing is vital.”
A lovely piece in The Times recently highlighted some of the great gifts that you can give to the bird lover who has everything. The RSPB is one of several charities who are offering ‘virtual gifts’ this Christmas. Our range of ‘Good Natured Gifts’ include sponsoring a puffin for £18 for six months or a £25 gift which will help create new islands for avocets at Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve in Norfolk.
It's great news this week for one of the UK’s strangest looking birds, the stone curlew. As reported in the Telegraph yesterday (Thursday December 2) they have more than doubled in number after efforts by farmers.
Mark Avery, the RSPB’s director of conservation told the paper the recovery was enabled by farming subsidies that reward those who provide seed rich plants and put aside land for wildlife. “Stone curlews nest in bare open areas, often choosing farm fields where their nests or young could be lost to routine farm operations,” he said. “RSPB project officers help farmers to identify threatened sites and take action to protect them.”
Another story that caught our attention this week was the news in the Daily Mail and on the BBC website that ingesting mercury can make some birds gay. And no, we don’t mean happy.
And our favourite picture of the week was the stunning image of a blue tit published in the Daily Mail taken by photographer Kim Taylor using a shutter speed of one 10,000th of a second.