We hope you enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend, and are feeling all refreshed from three days off.
Maybe you feel as refreshed as this female blackbird will after her quick dip?
For more refreshing images check out RSPB Images.
In the classic children's book The Wind in the Willows, Mole, Ratty and Mr Toad like nothing more than spending a leisurely summer's day messing about on the river. So this Bank Holiday weekend, rather than fighting for a place to lay your towel on the beach, why not take a leaf out of their book and head for the peace and quiet of a river.From a secluded vantage point on a riverbank you might just be lucky enough to hear the quiet plop of a water vole as he slips into the water, catch the vibrant turquoise flash of a kingfisher dashing past, or see the long lean shape of an otter moving gracefully through the water. Even if these riverside creatures evade you, a day at the river is a feast for the senses. You're sure to be treated to the soundtrack of flowing water and the gentle whirr of wings as dragonflies dart to and fro amongst the reeds. And nothing beats the refreshing chill of running water on weary toes after a long walk.A day by the river needn't be dull for the kids either. Taking to the water in a boat will keep budding sailors happy, and for those who like to keep their feet firmly on solid ground, a good old-fashioned game of Poohsticks is bound to bring out their competitive streak!Rivers are such good places to relax, unwind and really connect with nature that we've teamed up with our friends at WWF, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association to run the Our Rivers Campaign.This year, our aim is to celebrate the very best rivers Britain has to offer, and identify those that could do with a little TLC. By completing our quick survey you'll be ensuring that your favourite rivers gets the recognition they deserve, and we'll be in a better position to safeguard them for the future.
Harvest mice are Europe’s smallest rodents, weighing in at just 4-6g – that’s the equivalent of a 20p piece! They have to be one of the cutest too.
Not only are they cute, they also have an amazing prehensile tail that they can wrap around objects such as grass stems to steady themselves.
This nifty tail, teamed with nimble little feet mean that harvest mice are expert climbers and can cling on to the flimsiest stems, just like this little chap.
They’ve even been known to dangle by their tail, leaving their front feet free to collect food!
If you’re as smitten by the cutie in Ben Hall’s image as I am, take a look at some more great harvest mouse photos on RSPB Images.
Now the breeding season is all but over, small, sociable birds club together to roam around in a flock. Long-tailed tits, blue tits and great tits are some of the more common flock-formers.
These flocks serve to provide safety in numbers, of course, but they can also mean that food sources can be found more quickly - word spreads fast!
Lurking in the flock could be a treecreeper, nuthatch, marsh tit, great spotted woodpecker (or if you're VERY lucky, a lesser spotted woodpecker) or a revolving cast of other hangers-on.
Those 'other birds' can be the most interesting ones. We're in the midst of autumn migration which can bring birds to places they wouldn't normally go.
That's why you could see a whitethroat, blackcap or even a reed warbler in your garden this weekend! These small birds will soon be heading south to Africa for winter, undertaking amazing journeys across seas, mountains and deserts, in some cases. And they might also pass through a few gardens, where there can be plenty of insects and fruit to eat.
On a slightly larger scale, you can follow the exploits of two young ospreys from Loch Garten, while our friends at the British Trust for Ornithology are tracking five cuckoos, with fascinating results so far.
As it happens, it's the Birdfair at Rutland Water this weekend, and the theme is migration and the challenges that birds face (if you're going, come and say hello to friendly staff and volunteers at the RSPB stand in Marquee 4).
So this weekend, watch out for some of those migratory hangers-on and let us know what you've seen!
Although I find most birds endlessy fascinating, there always seems to be something particularly magical about catching a glimpse of a bird of prey - whether it's watching a sparrowhawk that's just landed in my back garden, or seeing buzzards catching some thermals in the air above me.
But what makes birds of prey so good at, well, being birds of prey? Below I let you into a few of the secrets that make birds of prey top predators.
Heart-faced assassinBarn owls have the keenest sense of hearing of any known animal. By just listening, they can calculate exactly where a noise is coming from, helping them catch some 2,000 mice, voles and small animals every year!
Their secret? Having a face shaped like a satellite dish and ears that are positioned ever so slightly askew from each other.
As sound waves hit their dish-shaped face the sound is channelled into their ears allowing them to work out the direction that the noise is coming from. Kind of handy when most of your prey likes to remain hidden in vegetation.
Another bird of prey whose prey would also rather stay out of sight is the kestrel. But rather than hearing, a kestrels main weapon is its eyesight.Voles are a much-preferred meal for kestrels, and while they might be small and difficult to see when scurrying about under long grass, that poses no problem to a kestrel.Voles and other small rodents lay scent trails of urine and faeces, both of which reflect ultraviolet (UV) light. And while UV light is invisible to you and I, kestrel are able to see it.
Bad news for small mammals, great for kestrels looking for their next meal!
Not so slippery customer
Having spotted a fish from 30 m up in the air, an ospreys next meal doesn't really stand a chance.
With (nearly always) perfect accuracy, ospreys take a near vertical plunge dive towards the water with wings half-folded and feet thrown forward at the last moment plucking the chosen fish clean out the water.While you could probably have guessed that ospreys have great eyesight, have you ever wondered what other weapons they have to help keep slippery fish in their grasp?Well, ospreys have big feet and an opposable toe, allowing them to get a firm grip on their catch, while sharp spines on their feet give extra grip.To protect themselves as they hit the water, ospreys also have a patch of dense feathers on their chest. Pretty neat!
Clocking up speeds of nearly 200mph when in a hunting 'stoop', peregrines are one fast bird.But being able to hit such top speeds wouldn't be of much use if you couldn't breathe! As you would expect, peregrines have that covered.
To protect their lungs from the damaging change in air pressure such a feat produces, small growths on their nostrils change the airflow and reduce the pressure experienced, making breathing easier!Peregrines also have a third eyelid which allows them to clean their eyes while still being able to still see! Definitely useful when you move at such speeds.
What other techniques do birds of prey use? Do let me know in the comments below, as I'm sure I'll have missed some...