Answering the calls from the public in the RSPB’s South East Regional Office, I get a very interesting perspective on how we are seen by members of the general public, many of whom will never have dealt with the RSPB before.
Probably the most common misconception about the RSPB is that we are a wildlife rescue organisation who can help look after injured birds. This is something that the RSPB has never done – we don’t have the expertise and it isn’t our charitable purpose.
Luckily, we do have a good list of external contacts with wildlife hospitals and welfare organisations, and callers are usually happy to be given a local number of someone who can help. Alternatively, vets will take on injured wildlife for free as part of their contract.
Sometimes, I’m asked to identify a bird by description over the phone. This can be very good fun, and there is a real sense of achievement as they turn the page in their book and say “yes, that’s it!” Often, these will be birds which are fairly easily visible but which the caller hasn’t previously seen. Think jays, green woodpeckers and redwings...
There are also plenty of calls about garden wildlife, whether it’s unusual behaviour, an exciting new visitor, or hints on how to make the garden better for nature. Where possible, I try to point people towards our brilliant Homes for Wildlife project.
We often get calls about our Nature Reserves – a caller will want to know what’s around at the moment or whether a particular event is running. If they like one of our Reserves, I try to recommend another one in the area. There’s always something different to see.
But the calls I enjoy the most are when I’m speaking to someone who had never previously known about all our amazing work, and once I’ve told them about the RSPB and what we have achieved, they decide there and then to support us, whether it’s by joining, volunteering or making a donation. That’s really Stepping Up for Nature!
Jay, by Nigel Blake (rspb-images.com)