Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, female in flight

In brief

Four short stories which illustrate the breadth of our work during 2016-17.

Families discover night-time nature

For the fourth year running, we encouraged families to camp out in their gardens last summer and discover the secret world of night-time nature as part of the Big Wild Sleepout.

An amazing 32,569 people requested a Big Wild Sleepout pack – 8,000 more than in 2015. The pack included a "night-time passport" full of exciting activities designed to help children discover nocturnal wildlife, plus glow-in-the-dark bunting to decorate their tent.

Throughout the Sleepout weekend people enthusiastically shared pictures and anecdotes of their experiences in their gardens and on RSPB reserves, with one mum claiming "moths + bats + midnight feasts = happy children!".

Another lucky camper even discovered that a vole had come to join her in her tent.

The Big Wild Sleepout also returned in the summer of 2017, with lots of activities designed to inspire families to sleep under the stars and discover their nocturnal neighbours.

Bringing wildlife into our living rooms

It's easy to think that you need to travel halfway around the world to see nature at its best.

But the footage of RSPB Minsmere and Arne broadcast by the BBC during Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch reminded armchair nature enthusiasts that there's wonder to be had right on our doorsteps, if we take the time to look.

The BBC returned to Minsmere for a third year in May 2016, and more than 2.5 million viewers regularly tuned in to watch the antics of everything from barn owls to badgers.

The first episode even beat viewing figures for the new Top Gear! Come October, Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games relocated to Arne in Dorset, where they discovered that sika deer sound like squeaky gates and that mice have an impressive ability to negotiate complex mazes.

The team returned to Arne in January 2017 for Winterwatch, giving us another wonderful opportunity to showcase one of our most nature-rich nature reserves and the incredible work our staff and volunteers do every day. 

Connecting children to nature with Aldi

We're celebrating the first anniversary of our partnership with Aldi, which has given more than 50,000 children fun, exciting and educational nature experiences.

Funds from the carrier bag levy collected in Aldi stores have allowed us to provide children in 15 cities across Britain with valuable opportunities to get outside and experience nature. Children have been getting hands-on in school grounds, green spaces, gardens and on selected RSPB reserves, including Conwy and Loch Leven.

The programme aims to get more than 500,000 children closer to nature and is predicted to raise over £2 million in a three-year period. Thanks to Aldi, we've also had the opportunity to completely overhaul our Wildlife Action Awards scheme, which was in need of modernising for today’s audiences.

The new digitally-facilitated scheme encourages children and families to explore the great outdoors and take action for nature. By undertaking and completing multiple activities, and logging their achievements on our Wild Challenge webpages, participants can collect bronze, silver and gold awards.

Bempton goes from strength to strength

RSPB reserves continue to play a vital role in engaging the public, allowing visitors to discover nature.

Since the completion of its new seabird centre in 2015, Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire has seen a huge increase in visitor numbers. During the 2016/17 financial year, the reserve welcomed over 102,000 visitors, 13,000 more than the previous year. 

The centre, which forms the gateway to the largest and most accessible mainland seabird colony in the UK also hosted 1,757 school children last year, who visited as part of the reserve's education programme.

The success at Bempton Cliffs is also paying dividends for the area's economy, with 40 per cent of visitors to the reserve staying locally. The new centre may be finished, but work is ongoing to make the reserve even better for visitors.

Several viewpoints are now fully accessible to people with disabilities and a circular route of hard-surfaced paths was completed in summer 2016 to allow visitors with wheelchairs and pushchairs to enjoy as much of the reserve and its wonderful wildlife as possible.