Discover and learn
RSPB Phoenix is for teenage members of the RSPB. If you are already an RSPB Wildlife Explorer you will automatically become an RSPB Phoenix member from your 13th birthday.
As an RSPB Phoenix member you will receive BirdLife magazine every two months, and also get Wingbeat – the only environmental magazine written by teenagers for teenagers - four times a year.
As well as articles about wildlife, the environment and conservation, Wingbeat runs many special offers and competitions.
You also have free entry to RSPB nature reserves and the sure knowledge that your membership is helping to conserve wildlife in the UK and abroad.
Each year, a conference is held for Phoenix members. It's been held in London where we had the chance to visit Westminster, Leighton Moss in Lancashire one of our most important nature reserves and Minsmere reserve on the Suffolk coast to name but a few locations.
This year we are offering the chance for even more teenagers to get involved with the conference, thanks to funding by the National Lottery through Awards for All.
Written by Phoenix members. Our blog has interesting stuff about the natural world and the latest news on what we've been up to.
This summer I took a week out from my holiday to take a residential placement at South Stack in Anglesey. This is my second residential volunteering and after I enjoyed my time in Blacktoft Sands last year immensely, there was no questioning that I’d go somewhere this year.
So at South Stack my role was visitor centre based and as it was in the summer holiday, work was plentiful. I spent my days talking to visitors, helping them discover nature and point out what the stunning reserve has to offer. The amazing location brought out the holiday makers and at the end of the day you truly feel you’ve made someone’s day memorable (even if it’s just the good cake). When the sun's shining, the Choughs are calling and the porpoise are in viewing distance for the public, it’s happy days!
Working at South Stack was something well worth waking up for, but the evenings were just as fun. When you’ve got a house of volunteers, a similar interest and a car, the adventures are waiting to be taken. If you ever get the chance to go to Anglesey the beaches there are definitely worth a visit. Spending the evening lying on warm sand with not a cloud in the sky was heaven when you’ve been on your feet all day. My favourite night time moment though was definitely watching the meteor shower outside the house. My fellow colleague wasn’t used to having no street lamps and there isn’t any light pollution at South Stack. Honestly the stars were a spectacular sight that night. Seeing my first Chough was exciting enough, but when we saw an adder one morning, that topped the day off, the week perhaps. Or when a porpoise mother and calf swam so close to the cliff binoculars weren’t needed, it’s extremely difficult to leave when it’s over.
For me the list of skills I’ve learnt are endless from an experience like this. Not least those which will equip me when I go to university next year. But these residentials are perfect for any age. I only did a week but some run for a lot longer. I guarantee the friendships and sense of achievement will be something you’ll never forget.
I hope I’ve sufficiently wetted your taste buds and persuaded you to get out there and find your next adventure. Look here for the brochure of all the places you can contribute to: http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/volunteering/residential.aspx
The RSPB is made of an amazing volunteer force, go and join it!
Posted by Phoenix Forum
My local patch - The Forest of Marston Vale
Not being particularly close to an RSPB reserve, my favourite place to enjoy nature is the Forest of Marston Vale, located between Bedford and Milton Keynes. My interest in nature and conservation largely stems from childhood experiences of planting trees to develop the Millennium Country park - long days spent interacting directly with the natural world.
Dappled sunlight in the Forest of Marston Vale by Fabio Veronesi Flickr CC
Since then, I’ve enjoyed a lot more of what the Forest of Marston Vale has to offer. My birding skills have charitably been described as ‘basic’, so I particularly appreciate the frequent wildlife walks on offer - experts are on hand to offer identification advice and share their scopes. On the most recent evening walk, I saw sand martins enjoying their purpose-built ‘hotel’ (replete with 88 pipes), a green woodpecker, field mice, shrews and bats. Sadly, we didn’t see any bitterns, but they are definitely about; mum returned ecstatic from one of the dawn chorus walks - she’d spotted one. Living up to teenage stereotypes, I had slept in instead of joining her, something I’ll eternally regret!
It’s also a great place to visit with unconverted friends - after a quick geocaching session or bikeride, the forest centre provides a haven from the rain where friends can admit they ‘can kind of see why you’re into that eco-stuff’ over tea and (most importantly!) cake.
The Forest of Marston Vale, and surrounding woodlands, stand testament to the importance of conservation and environmental legislation. Throughout most of the 19th and 20th century, this area of Bedfordshire was scarred with large pits - the result of clay extraction. In more recent years, many of these pits have been filled with either landfill or water - to create lakes with a variety of new functions, such as wildlife habitats, and rowing. Under the 1991 Forestry act, in an attempt to improve the area, the Forest of Marston Vale was designated one of twelve new community forests in England. Without this legislation, and the conservation work completed by hundreds of volunteers in the intervening years, the Forest would not be such a sanctuary for wildlife (including the endangered bittern) and wildlife-lovers alike. On a personal level, without the connections made with nature in the Forest, I would have missed out on some of the best experiences of my life, and would not have been inspired to fight for environmental protection.
If you’re ever in Bedfordshire, I urge you to visit the Forest (you can find out more here) - hopefully we’ll bump into each other!
Grey seal photo by Nathaniel Dargue.
The sea. The ocean. The deep. Whatever you want to call it, the oceans of the world are vast, mind-bogglingly beautiful and undeniably important. Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about it is that we know so much, and yet know NOTHING in the grand scale of things. And this fact demonstrates that perfectly: we have documented 226,408 (2014) marine species, but there may be as many as a million marine species worldwide.
So what does the sea mean to me? Well. It means many things to me. It means blustery days in British summertime paddling at the shore, it means fish and chips and the tangy smell of saltwater, it means the wild cries of seabirds and towering cliffs. It means finding shore crabs under rocks and avoiding their pinsers as I proudly show my mum what I caught. But it also means something else, something darker: danger. I am not a strong swimmer. In fact, I have only just learnt this summer due to a number of reasons. And still now, try as I might, I have a very natural respect for the power of the seas and how in an instance you could be swept away. But this is something that just seems to make the ocean more special to me: it is a true form of wildness. No matter how many carrier bags float in it, we cannot control it.
Some of my most eventful nature-watching experiences were out on the seas. The first boat I ever went on was to get to the Farne Islands, and I remember it as if it was yesterday: clear blue sky, blistering June heat, puffins bobbing on the glittering water. Then there was the sea-watching cruise I went on at Bridlington: a day of many mishaps but many smiles. (The sea was very choppy, I was smacked in the face by a buoy and soaked, but I saw my first sooty and manx shearwaters).
Sooty shearwater oil drawing by Amy Smith.
But of course, the most important thing to me is the beautiful array of species that live in and around the seas worldwide. From tiny fish to sharks, from plankton to whales, from corals to seahorses, the sea has something to catch anyone’s eye. And as sad as it is to hear, our seas are in trouble. They are in trouble for so many reasons, but here are just a few: the acceleration of climate change caused by humans, which affects natural sea temperature and sea levels, pollution such as fishing nets, causing animals such as dolphins to become entangled and die, and disasters such as oil spills, which kill huge numbers of seabirds (around 82,000 birds died in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill alone).
The oceans and the life within them need conserving , and many organisations, including the RSPB, who are launching their marine appeal, are working hard to do so. Above all else, the oceans of the world mean life, wonder, and a connection with the natural world like nothing else.
My stilt painting, inspired by field sketches
This year, I went abroad for the first time! I went to the island of Mallorca, Spain... and it was absolutely phenomenal. I had a ridiculous number of lifers - over 40! And now I have a thirst for Mediterranean birding. Here is a day - to - day account of my trip, hope you enjoy!
After our flight (it was amazing!!), we went to C'an Picafort and had lunch on the beach. Audoin's gulls flew overhead (lifer!). After going shopping, we headed back to the villa, which was absolutely stunning. It had a huge scrub garden, pool and beautiful balcony. What first hit me was the sheer number of spotted flycatchers around! They were as common as sparrows. In the evening we went to Son Bosc, where I saw my first ever bee-eaters flitting around and perching on wires. Wow. They reminded me of little boomerangs, painted like rainbows. I also saw my first hoopoe, with its floppy-winged flight, and a yellow legged gull. At Depuadora Marshes we found an incredibly rich oasis of life, buzzing with the sound of cicadas. We saw marbled teal, black winged stilts, purple gallinules, eleonora's falcon and cattle egrets.
It was a truly scorching day. The temperature during the week was 32-42 degrees the whole time. In the morning, I listened to the choir of cicadas in the garden and see a dapper little sardinian warbler, and a few lemon yellow serins. In the afternoon, we visited S'Albefera, the incredible reserve. This was the moment I realised how incredible Mallorcan wildlife truly is. I felt transported to another word. It's hot and sticky in the midday heat, and cicadas cried so loud I could barely hear a thing. Reeds as high as houses were topped with nesting cattle egrets, making the reeds look like paint brushes. If i closed my eyes, their croaks sounded just like shags at a seabird colony back home. My first squacco heron, a little brown heron, is spotted on a treetop. I see a huge great white egret wading ankle-deep. In the hide, black winged stilts elegantly pick through the water. I watch, with joy and amusement, as a stilt chick chases a clouded yellow butterfly, and looks like a gangly young teen that is just getting used to their long legs. I also saw my first red knobbed coot and purple heron (in flight).
This morning we got up at 5am for an early trip to S'Albefera before it got too hot. Before we left we heard nightjars churring round the garden! At the reserve in the dull light before the sun comes up we watch the place wake up and come alive. A glorious black crowned night heron hunched on a treetop in the morning light. From the hide we see stone curlew huddled like stones in the stubbly field. A balaeric woodchat shrike perches just outside the hide door! A 'grey headed' yellow wagtail perches on a reed-top just outside the hide. but most wonderfully, a LITTLE BITTERN flies right past us then perches at the base of the reed bed and begins fishing right in front of us, barely a few feet away! Incredible! I also see a cettis warbler and breeding plumage spotted redshanks. Downside to the early start: the mozzies are still out and my legs got bitten so much they dripped with blood by mid morning...worth it.
In the very early morning we went to the Formentor Peninsula, with an awesome view of the mountains and sea. Almost immediately, peering over the dizzying edge, a male blue rock thrush popped up. And then a female, and then another male! Crag martins flit around the cliff edge. Pallid swifts mingled with the commoners. . . Bottlenose dolphin backs arch out of the water, a pod moving west. In the scrub below we glimpse olivacious and balaeric warbler. We drive on to the Boquer valley - finally I find a lizard! A moorish gecko scurries up a tree. The heat is picking up and I begin to feel very sluggish. I just manage to glimpse a maltoni's warbler before we head back to the villa!
We went to the Traumentaura Mountains this morning (been really dying to all week!). The walk was a wonderful loop around the water. All of a sudden Nathaniel spotted a huge black vulture over the mountains. Yes! My most wanted bird of the trip - I adore vultures. More and more appear through curtains of clouds (yes, there were actually clouds on this day!), until there are 5 vultures! Further along we even see a griffon vulture too. A wonderful booted eagle glides over. In the evening we go to Ses Salines and see a wood sandpiper and hundreds of minstrel bugs (very pretty shield bugs).
Another wonderful early morning trip to S'Albefera reserve. Yet another lifer too! We could hear a great reed warbler and all the others could see it but not me! We suddenly realised I was simply too short to see it!
So I went further up the slope and there it was. Singing proudly from a reed top. In the cover of trees a nightingale shows itself briefly. Just as we leave, an osprey flies overhead. I am beginning to feel really sad we are leaving soon.Wish so much that we could stay longer.
We went to Son Real today around 4pm after a more relaxed day in the garden. Gorgeous warm evening. Paddled in the sea and rockpooled (hermit crabs and anenomes). It was almost TOO hot to be out walking. Cicadas shout endlessly. I see my first thekla larks pattering around in the scrub and a huge surprise - alpine swifts overhead! Lay on the balcony late tonight and just looked at the stars - it was such a clear night.
It was a sad journey home but a wonderful trip, leaving me such a thirst for more travel and more birding!