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.
Despite the fact that I live as far from the Sea as is possible in the UK and there are no particularly notable habits around me, my local patch is surprisingly varied and interesting. RSPB Otmoor is my nearest nature reserve but as it’s around 40 miles away the walk from my house which encompasses water meadows, woodland and the slowly meandering Evenlode river is where I do much of my wildlife watching. One of my favourite memories is looking down on the flooded water meadows one crisp New Year morning to see eight species of duck on a single small expanse of water, a wonderful sight given that, other than the resident Mandarins, waterfowl is generally rare. During the same spell of flooding I discovered a Little Egret, almost certainly the only one ever recorded on the patch as they haven’t really spread to rural Oxfordshire yet!
Little egret by Graham Catley
What makes the area so special for me is its proximity to the house: from my window I can see the Barn Owl box in an adjacent field which I know this year has supported a pair of Owls and an ongoing breeding attempt. Aged five I can clearly remember going down to the meadows adjacent to the river before school on a clear Spring morning to witness a different Barn Owl rhythmically catching Voles and returning to the nest to feed its own young.
Though nothing exceptionally rare is likely to turn up in an area so far inland, it is the continual seasonal changes not only to bird life but also with regard to the emergence of hedgehogs and other hibernating animals, the barking of deer and the ongoing cycling of vegetation that make the patch so special. At no time of year is the area dull, though sometimes attention to the smaller details of the Wildlife around us is required to fully appreciate nature’s prowess. The continual birdsong and seasonal additions of grasshoppers, Roe Deer and young birds is something I will never take for granted and I feel very lucky to have such a diverse space so close to home which I can watch wildlife in regularly.
Though it may not be obvious at first, often the best places for learning about our environment occur close to home as we are able to gain a greater appreciation for how the different aspects of the ecosystem link together. Even urban areas can be good as they provide such a wide range of habitats and thus a large number of species can be supported, but in order to fully appreciate a local ‘patch’ it is important to observe the wildlife without disturbing it too much; I have found viewing spotted flycatchers from a distance intriguing as all behave slightly differently and it offers a good insight into each flycatchers’ individual preferences and bonds within my patch.
Posted by Phoenix Forum
Willowbeck - my little patch.
My local patch is not in the middle of the countryside. It doesn’t have a serene babbling brook where only dippers can be seen bobbing on the rocks scattered through it. It doesn’t have a pristine, native woodland towering up to the sky, where pied flycatchers nest and goshawks hide in the shade of ancient pines.
In fact, it’s about 30 seconds away from a Homebase store. And on the other side, there is a Pets at Home, and a factory that sends the odd whiff of pet food down your way. Nevertheless, this is my patch and it has been for a few years now. It is a small river called willow beck. It has the odd shopping trolley or foster’s can in it, but it’s my tiny patch of wild. On the river, I’ve seen kingfishers trailing their blue behind them, mallards pairing up and snoozing on the banks, and grey wagtails flitting on the rocks. On the tiny patch of frail birch woodland that fringes the river, a kestrel has taken up residence. I watched her all through the winter. Each day I went I’d find her perched on the top of her favourite birch, watching the world tick by slowly beneath her through her liquidescent eyes.
And one summer day, strolling along and nodding hello to the odd dog-walker, I heard a horrendous screeching from the birches. Wandering between the spindly legs of the trees, I look up and notice a large messy platform of twigs. A nest. Beneath it is the odd downy pigeon feather and white droppings that spatter down the tree and on the nettles below like when your painting the new house and attempted in vain to not get the wall paint all over the skirting boards. . .
I crouch down a few metres away to see what lives at this nest, as it is far too high up to see into. Within five minutes, a broad shouldered, handsome bird with soft orange breast-feather barring and dark mantles alights onto the nest. It’s a sparrowhawk nest. Although sparrowhawks aren’t a rare bird, I had never before had the luck of finding the nest of one, so it was a very special find for me.
In the long lazy days of summer, the river runs slow and the small fish (minnows and sticklebacks) flow through its water like raindrops running their paths down the window glass. But sure enough – summer is always over in a flash. . . but I never feel sad at this time, because there’s always things to be joyful about. Mutations of fieldfares and crowds of redwings begin to gather around this wonderful site. Where do I find them? Well . . . on the football field, of course.
My patch is nothing unusual, or some untouched wilderness, and I don’t need a car, bus, train or even a bicycle, to get there. A patch could be anywhere nearby, whether it’s the local park, farmland, a small patch of woodland, lake or beaches. It doesn’t have to have a menagerie of endangered species taking up residence on its land. So what I mean to say is, if you haven’t got your little patch of magic yet: go find it.
Here's a blog post from one of our committed and knowledgeable Phoenix Forum members, Ben Rees.
The curlew is one of the UK’s largest breeding waders and is an iconic bird of both estuary mudflats and of wet moorland. Its distinctive down curved bill looks too large for its head but is perfect for probing the mud to find food. However one of the most recognisable features of this bird is its call, which is usually a whistling ‘Cur-lee’ from which its name is derived.
Unfortunately this wonderful bird is in decline. In Wales - where I'm from - curlews have declined by about 80% between 1993 and 2006 with just 1,099 pairs left. This may have been caused by a number of things although the main reasons seem to be changes in land use (e.g. agricultural practices), loss of habitat and nest predation.
So how does this increasingly uncommon bird depend on European policy such as the Nature directives? Well first of all I think we need to understand what the Nature directives are.
The technical stuff
The Nature directives are basically a framework of European laws that enables species and habitats to be protected across the European Union, regardless of national and political boundaries.
The Nature Directives can be split into two parts, firstly the Birds Directive which was set up in 1979 and the Habitat Directive set up in 1992.
The Birds Directive is basically a set of regulations to protect birds by restricting the species, times and methods that they may be hunted; bans activities that may threaten birds (such as egg collecting and nest destruction) as well as setting up Special Protection Area’s (SPA’s) for 194 threatened species and all migratory species.
The Habitat Directives main aim is to promote the maintenance of biodiversity by protecting rare/threatened habitats, animals and plants. It does this by restoring and maintaining habitats (especially the 230 rare habitats) whilst taking into account the social, cultural and economic requirements of the area. This means that these habitats can flourish for both plants and animals. These Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Marine Protection area’s make up a network of conservation sites known as Natura 2000.
How it affects curlews
Right, after that babble of names and subtle differences, we were talking about how all this affects the curlew weren’t we? So basically curlews quite often inhabit area’s which are a part of the Natura 2000 network such as Morecombe Bay which has one of the largest concentration of curlews in winter. This means that changes to the European Nature directives are very likely to have an effect on the curlew and changes are being looked at that may threaten the species.
Last year the European commission launched a ‘Fitness check’ to look at whether the Nature Directives are fit for purpose. The worry is that in a political climate where nature and biodiversity is often overlooked, the Nature Directives may be changed and become weaker.
The RSPB, along with many other organisations want to show the government that the Nature Directives is of huge importance to nature in the EU, with species generally doing far better within it that out and that the area’s protected under the directives have actually contributed about 200-300 Billion Euros of economic benefits per year.
So if, like me, you would like our biodiversity to no longer decrease and to see the iconic curlew continue to wade in our estuaries, please show your support by going to the RSPB’s defend nature campaign page. The campaign finishes 24 July.
Posted by Maurice Tse-Laurence
What do you think the world will look like in 2050? Will governments have taken notice of voices around the world calling for an end to man-made climate change? Will carbon pollution from fossil fuels have ended, ensuring that the world’s temperature has not risen above 2 degrees? Will natural biodiversity have increased with a reintroduction of species and space for wildlife to flourish naturally, or continued on its current trend leading to more species extinctions?
Here at the RSPB we thought we’d tell you some of our positive visions for nature in 2050. Why not tell us yours? Tweet us @natures_voice under the hashtags #wingbeat #VisionforNature.
Maurice Tse Laurence manages digital communication with children, families and teachers at the RSPB’s Headquarters. This is his #VisionforNature in 2050
‘We have developed a much closer and more harmonious relationship with our countryside. Small holdings producing seasonal food on a sustainable basis are once again widespread allowing vast areas of monoculture farmland to become mosaics of hedgerow and wildflowers (alongside crops). We have allowed the forests to return on our uplands which are no longer intensively grazed but inhabited by reintroduced lynx and in the larger northern woodlands, wolves.
Our cities run on green energy, and electric public transport and cycle networks make the air in our cities much cleaner. These cities have green corridors running through them to improve everyone’s well being through contact with nature and provide wildlife with a haven and a way of moving safely. Energy comes from well placed renewable power and nuclear fusion which produces no fumes except water (it can be done if we invest in it!).’
Maurice’s vision includes a reintroduction of UK extinct species
Photograph taken by Tom Lord at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust.
Jack Plum is the editor of the RSPB youth magazines, Wild Times and Bird Life. In May this year A Focus on Nature ran a series of blogs leading up to the general election. This is Jack’s #VisionforNature taken from that website
'At night I sit at home in my living room, lit dimly by the sun’s remnants captured that day; a day filled with sound and life, spent roaming our city home with friends and family – captivated. Some sounds new and some old, heard from tree and bright water. Life seen long ago and still here, and life once lost – but not forgotten – now back again for a second chance.
It was my generation that remembered when life’s peril was our lifestyle, but our children were brought up in a place like this. Now they have children of their own to inherit it. Inherit hard work and innovation from a time of desperation, almost realised too late. Policy, technology and education now flow with nature, and not against the current; not encroaching but encompassing.
Cities and countryside were connected and life flourished nationally and globally. A common agenda emerged through advocacy and a change in priorities. Youth led the way. Young empowered voices as raucous and loud as the rainforests and seabird colonies they wanted to save.
This is my #VisionforNature. It is a vision that is driven by renewable energy, with nature-rich cities that are sustainable and connected nationally and internationally with nature reserves and agricultural expanses. Biodiversity is maintained, and enriched with re-introduced species, tactfully undertaken to restore a balance that has been lost to intense farming, uncompromising industry and a lack of understanding. Most importantly though, it is a future where education in environmental concerns and their importance is a part of everyday life. Instilling a deep connection with nature from a young age develops a sense of why it matters, and this is critical in achieving my #VisionforNature.’
Jack’s vision is driven by renewable energy
Photo taken by Duke Energy
James Harding- Morris is the school and projects coordinator at The Lodge. This is his vision
'In the year 2050 the national curriculum will give science education its due position as core subject to primary education, along with literacy and numeracy. This will give children a deeper understanding of scientific method and broaden their analytical skills, allowing them to understand and interpret scientific evidence surrounding key issues such as climate change.
School sites themselves will be transformed in light of the discovery that green spaces have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, especially those children with ADHD. These future schools, with their trees, shrubs, orchards and meadows, will act as a fantastic educational resource. What better way to learn about habitats and lifecycles than to examine the ones right outside your classroom walls?'
James’ #VisionforNature includes the introduction of green spaces within schools
Photo taken by Loren Kerns
Paul Birmingham is the families development manager here at The Lodge. This is his #VisionforNature in 2050
My children will be approaching their 40s in 2050. I’ll be 69.
I don’t expect miracles. Huge parts of the world are developing and change takes time. However, I do hope we at least have a clearer vision, more sophisticated models and certainly global buy-in for living alongside the natural world with the right balance.
At 69 I’ll hopefully be rebalancing my own life of course – saying goodbye to the nine ‘til five and contemplating getting closer to nature myself. As for my kids, hopefully they’re a part of the solution and looking ahead with optimism for their own children.
Paul wants his children’s children to be able to enjoy the natural world
Photo taken by Gido
Posted by Isabel