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.
Giving Nature a Home is the campaign that the RSPB are using to encourage people across the UK to help wildlife. Think about the area that you live in and how many gardens, allotments, football pitches, parks and village greens there are. Now think about how many there must be in the whole of the UK.
A Report from the UK National Ecosystem Assessment found that 54% of urban England is greenspace, and that’s just urban England not to mention the rest of the UK. So that’s a lot of space that has the potential to be used by wildlife, unfortunately many of these greenspaces aren’t quite up to scratch, and that is where you come in.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a large garden or a tiny area of paving slabs, they both hold great potential to the fauna and flora of our country.
As many of you will already know, wildlife is not fairing all too well, in the UK 60% of our species have declined in the last 50 years, but fortunately by following some simple tips you can turn your garden into an exuberant oasis for yourself and for nature. To start off with, grow some flowering plants and shrubs.
This is hugely important as flowering plants attract insects such as bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths. These not only help to pollinate plants but also attract other animals which feed on them, such as bird and bat species.
For those you who are not avid gardeners, then never fear, you can simple spread some wildflower seeds onto a bed of soil or into a pot and leave them to their own devices (although if it’s been very dry then you might want to water them).
Inconspicuous plants such as stinging Nettles may grow crop up amongst the flowers, but maybe think twice before uprooting these ‘weeds’ as they can actually support up to 40 different insect species, including peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies. Planting trees and shrubs is great as their berries, flowers and foliage feed wildlife, as well as supplying cover and a place to live for many animals.
Even in small gardens; try to fit in some sort of dwarf variety or climber, species such as crab apple, hawthorn, honeysuckle and dog rose are all great plants to use.
Tip 2, be less neat. By this I don’t mean you shouldn’t tend to your garden, I just mean that wildlife likes a diverse array of habitats which can mean that doing things as simple as having a small pile of dead wood in the garden or leaving an area of the lawn to grow a bit in height is a great way to attract things like butterflies and grasshoppers, and a wide array of species will use the dead wood pile.
Just before writing this article I went into my back garden and moved some logs and found centipedes, woodlice and worms, all of whom love the moist cool environment of dead wood.
Make shelter for wildlife. I have found this one by far the most rewarding. In my garden I have a hedgehog box amongst the hawthorn hedge, bird boxes which have blue tits and house sparrows nesting in them, bat boxes, bug hotels, a corrugated sheet that regularly has Slow worms under it, a pond (also good because it supplies water for animals to drink) with a diverse community of frogs, newts and invertebrates.
Fortunately my house has large eves where birds and bats can nest, but for houses that don’t have these, it may be a good idea to but swift or house martin boxes up to attract these awe-inspiring summer migrants.
My final tip would be to make sure you feed the birds and create a nature corridor. Putting bird seed out is especially important during the winter when times might be hard. Don’t forget to give your feeders the occasional wash down to prevent any nasty bacteria from growing there.
Creating a nature corridor is as simple as leaving a small gap in the fence so that wildlife can pass in and out of your garden with ease.
Give nature a home. That is something that I think we should all strive to do. If you want to get out outside, if you want a fun activity to do or if you simply want to help nature thrive, then please do so by giving nature a home, and don’t forget to let the RSPB know by using #homesfornature. For more ideas and information go to https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/givenatureahomeinyourgarden/
Posted by Phoenix Forum
So then, for some of us it’s ‘quiz time’, as a friend so jollily put it. I’m in my final year of school, completing my A-levels in a few weeks (help!). There are a lot of young people burying heads in books and stressing about it all at the minute. I definitely understand that it’s not a lot of fun when it gets down to business, it’s very difficult to maintain that positive mind-set that is so very important. But I’m sure that you, who are reading this are a nature enthusiast and so you have a very powerful tool to combat this all!
There is a lot of very interesting research that shows immersing yourself in nature can be an incredibly powerful stress reliever. The journal Landscape and Urban Planning did a study into the hormone cortisol which causes stress. They found that people who spent more time in green areas had lower levels of this. You’re health and self-esteem is also boosted which is very handy with the pressure that this time of year brings. Other studies have reported that 95% of the people studied changed from feeling depressed, stressed and anxious to more calm when outdoors in open areas.
The message I’d like to get across from this blog is to make sure you enjoy nature and go outside as much as you would when you aren’t revising. It’ll do more good than another 15 minutes of reading words that won’t go in anymore. I’m awful for not doing it, but revision should be in around 45 minute chunks and then have a 10-15 minute break to let your brain process the information. Those breaks are the perfect time to do something nature related. Something I’d personally recommend is a dawn chorus CD. I brought one earlier this year and it’s a lifesaver. When you feel all the stress and frustration rising and your heart starts pounding, switch on the birdsong and you’ll be back to normal. If not that, I wrote this watching the Osprey chicks hatch at Rutland Water on a webcam. I was feeling relaxed and calm and still getting things done!
I really wish you all the best of luck. If you don’t meet those predicted targets it honestly isn’t the end of the world at all, everything happens for a reason and this is just the start of your life. Lastly, as a quick disclaimer, to those who haven’t started all of this, please don’t worry. One of the worst things people will say is “it’ll just get worse” when you’re feeling under pressure in the lower years. It gets more challenging because you start to learn lots of new things, that’s true. But I’ve had some of the best times and have the best memories in the years of exams. There’s an odd but amazing sense of comradery when you’re all in something like that together. Don’t panic and don’t forget to connect with nature now and again… it’ll all be over soon.
Election time is looming in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Politicians are dusting off their manifestos, the public are gearing up ready to cast their votes, and Bob is back on the campaign trail.
You may remember Bob from the 2015 general election. He is a small red squirrel and his aim is to put nature back on the political agenda by collecting as much support from politicians and the public as possible. Through doing this, Bob will ensure that our natural environment is kept safe for our children and future generations.
I should add that as the elections are in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, only people resident in those countries can vote for Bob. But if you live in England, don’t worry. You can still help by telling your friends who live in other countries in the UK about Bob’s campaign and encouraging them to support it.
Protecting wildlife is vital, and yet it often feels like a political afterthought, placed down below issues of immigration, the economy and benefit cuts and considered to be something not worth spending money on. Bob’s aim is to change this, urging MPs as well as the general public to back his campaign and write to their party leaders asking them to support nature.
All the countries with elections this year have familiar species resident in them which are now under threat as well as a huge range of unique habitats - mountains, coasts, woodlands and freshwater lakes and river to name but a few. Wales contains huge breeding colonies of Manx shearwaters, puffins and other seabirds which nest along its coast, in addition to many endemic species such as the Snowdon lily and Skomer vole. Wales and Scotland are now the only places in the UK where ospreys breed, while Scotland itself is the last stronghold of many animals which once roamed across the whole of Britain, for example the capercaillie, Golden eagle and Scottish wildcat. The wildlife of Northern Ireland is perhaps less well known but equally significant, with the corncrake now extinct there and the Irish hare under threat from non-native European hares. Last but certainly not least, Wales and Scotland contain most of the UK breeding population of red squirrels!
The British Isles have some of the most varied habitat in the world packed into such a small area. It is crucially important that politicians consider this fact. Government collaboration can help ensure that our ecosystems are protected, while politicians have already shown us at the Paris climate conference that they are capable of considering the environment. We now need them to go even further than that and make nature a priority.
So, how do you support Bob’s campaign. You’ll have to act fast – there are only a few days left before the election. Go to the campaign website: https://www.voteforbob.co.uk and fill in a petition. It doesn’t matter which political party you intend to vote for; the idea behind “Vote for Bob” is to get everyone on the side of nature no matter what their views may be on other issues. The more votes collected, the more we can show politicians that the public cares about nature and wants to see it protected. As well, you’ll find details of your political candidates on the website when you enter your postcode, and you can contact them directly to ask them to back Bob. Also, don’t forget to share the campaign on Twitter and Facebook and tell your friends to support it!
This week we have a guest blog from one our Wingbeat readers Bessie Hyman, highlighting the plight of the house martin:
My name is Bessie Hyman, I am 14 years old and I live in Somerset by the River Avon. I enjoy photographing and exploring nature. My dream job would be as a conservationist or wildlife cameraman.
Ever since I can remember I have been interested in nature. One time when I was about seven, I stood in the garden with the bird book my neighbour had given to me for my birthday, trying to work out whether the birds fliting above me were swallows or house martins.
I discovered the ones nesting by our house were swallows and the ones disappearing behind over our roof were house martins, and at that time I was simply amazed by their beauty. But as I got older I started to realise that these birds might not always be there; that they were struggling and needed our help.
House martins are small birds belonging to the family Hirundinidae which also includes swallows. In the winter they migrate to Africa, although very little is known about where exactly they go. They are very rarely observed in Africa, which some people believe is because they spend their time on the wing, hunting above the rainforest out of sight. But maybe in several years’ time new technology might be available which will allow for them to be tracked as they migrate.
Recently house martins have been declining and although still widespread now, they may not be such a common sight in the not too distant future. House martins appear to have dropped 65% in just 40 years, not only in England but also in the rest of Europe, causing them to be amber listed. Any further reductions could mean they become red listed along with other species that have seen declines of 50% or more over the last 25 years.
It is clear that they are plummeting, but why? Well it seems that nobody really knows. There are several theories: one is that new building techniques are not allowing for nesting space and walls are too smooth for mud to stick to. This could mean that many broods are unsuccessful due to unsuitable nesting sites. Another theory is that climate change could be affecting when house martins arrive in the UK, meaning that they miss the highlight of nesting activity. Could climate change and drought be making it harder to find suitable nesting materials? Their nests take around 1,000 beak-sized pellets of mud to build. Have changes in land use affected insect populations making it hard to find food?
Whatever the reason it is clear that house martins need our help. The British Trust for Ornithology has set up a survey to hopefully discover why they are in decline. The first part will consist of volunteers mapping nest sites. The second part will consist of observing nests. They can then try to tackle the main issues and give house martins the best chance they can.
If you are interested in this subject and would like to find out more you can visit: www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/h/housemartin/
Or go to my blog at: photographingdabblingducks.wordpress.com
Posted by Maurice Tse-Laurence