December, 2013

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RSPB in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Dove stepping up for nature

    Bloggers: Jonny Rankin & Tristan Reid

    Editors note: I love a story about wildlife heroes, and this one is up there as one of my favourites.  Read on to hear how four wildlife heroes are upping their game for nature!


    Here's Jonny

    Some RSPB members may have noticed the following mention in this weeks news on the RSPB website; Concerned bird lovers have stepped up to help out Operation Turtle DoveA group of friends have begun training for a grueling fundraising effort in March when they will walk 300 miles through the traditional summer range of the turtle dove from East Anglia to the North East.

    This is a very nice introduction to our idea, which is to walk from the RSPB Lakenheath reserve up to RSPB Saltholme covering the core summering range of Turtle Doves in the UK. A walk we have named ‘Dove Step’. The team is made up of Tris, Sir Rob, Goodrick and myself Jonny and there are mug shots of each of us on the Dove Step website.

    As suggested we are busy preparing all aspects of the walk from upping our fitness and route planning to making a noise about all things Turtle Dove on social media. As well as beginning and ending at RSPB reserves we will also visit RSPB Frampton Marsh en route and give a brief talk to RSPB members and visitors upon arrival at the Saltholme reserve.

    Turtle Doves and their plight are obviously very important to us and accordingly we wanted to do all we could to support Operation Turtle Dove. Having considered ourselves, available funds and other commitments this translated into the 300 mile walk. In covering Turtle Doves range in England and with daily distance totals of around 25 miles we felt Dove Step offered a demonstrable commitment to Operation Turtle Dove. One which we look forward to talking with people about en route, at Saltholme and of course via the Dove Step website. So do check back on the website for updates and maybe even consider visiting the Dove Step JustGiving page, where all funds will go direct to the RSPB and Operation Turtle Dove.

    Dove Step will, for all of us, be the longest distance we have walked. It will also be a good proving ground for our own endurance, ability to establish and break camps and effectively fund raise. Which begs the question ‘what will we do next’? I’ll hand you over to Tris…

    And over to Tristan

    When Jonny told me about Dove Step I was inspired. This is such an awesome project and one I am really excited to be part of. It will not only be fantastic to help raise the profile of Operation Turtle Dove; but in the company of Jonny, Robert & Goodrick it will also be an epic adventure!
     
    One thing we discussed was what was after Dove Step! We thought it would be very cool to use this project as a launch pad for other conservation projects.
     
    2014 will mark 100 years since Martha the last Passenger Pigeon died; this is a sad anniversary that marks the extinction of what was the commonest bird in the world. The Passenger Pigeon became extinct because of habitat loss and hunting. These are the same threats facing the Turtle Dove today. It is very poignant to be walking Dove Step in 2014. This significance made me come up with an additional project. In addition to Dove Step I have launched the project 'Running 1000 miles in memory of Martha'. It is important that we do not forget Martha and that we learn from this tragedy! 

    My plan is to run a minimum of 1000 mile (including a minimum of 14 Marathons) to raise funds for and awareness of Operation Turtle Dove. Funds raised will go specifically to habitat restoration and creation for Turtle Doves here in the UK.
     
    This will be an amazing physical challenge for me; but one I am really excited about! Currently the rest of the Dove Step team have no plans to join me on any of the planned marathons...but I am sure I can drag them out with me on some of my training runs ;-)
     
    You can donate to the cause via my Just Giving site here: http://www.justgiving.com/1000milesinmemoryofMARTHA

    Alternatively you can donate with your mobile phone by sending a text to 70070 with the code DOVE75 followed by the amount you would like to donate (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5, or £10).

    As an added incentive, if donations exceed £1000 I pledge to have a design featuring the Passenger Pigeon and the Turtle Dove tattooed onto my skin!
     
     More info:
     http://www.theinkednaturalist.co.uk/1000-miles-memory-martha/

  • A partridge in a pear tree

    Blogger: Rachael Murray, Communications Officer


    The Twelve Days of Christmas is a song that echoes throughout the UK during the festive period, and whilst we all get a bit confused about how many drummers are drumming, maids are a-milking and geese are a-laying, everyone is clear on the star of the show - a partridge in a pear tree.  

    On Christmas Day it seems fitting to explore the origin of the final true love's gift.

    There are actually no recorded sightings of a partridge in a pear a tree, in fact, a pear tree may not have been present at all!  Some believe that there may have been some confusion in the past as perdrix is the french name for partridge and it is pronounced per-dree...hmmm sounds a bit like 'Pear tree' doesn't it?!

    This bird, our native partridge, is also referred to by game shooters as the 'English partridge'. The more familiar red-legged partridge is a game bird introduced to the UK in the 18th Century, and sometimes referred to as the 'French partridge'. 

    As with the turtle dove, the grey partridge is another bird nestled within this festive tale that is now in trouble in the UK. The grey partridge was once amongst the 10 most common species in Britain, with the eminent ornithologist Max Nicholson (President of the RSPB 1980 to 1985) reporting coveys less than 6 miles from Hyde Park Corner until the 1950s. It is thought that there were around 500,000 pairs in Britain and Ireland in 1962.

    Since this time, the species has declined 91% from 1970-2011 (The State of the UK's Birds 2013). The cause of the decline is the indirect impact of pesticides, which have reduced invertebrate abundance, which in turn affects grey partridge chick survival success. In addition, the loss of winter stubbles, field margins and increased herbicide use on their farmland habitat have reduced the availability of their winter seed diet.

    But it's not all bad news.  With your support, the RSPB spent 2013 campaigning the government to ensure that sufficient funding is provided to farmers who put wildlife friendly measures in place on their farms. These measures could save the fortunes of farmland birds like the grey partridge, and whilst there is a hill to climb, our voices are being heard. 

    No doubt we'll be doing the same in 2014.  We are proud to sing the praises of farmland birds such as the grey partridge, not just at Christmas, but all year long!  We hope you will join us.

     

     

     

  • Ah ah ah ah Stayin' alive, stayin' alive

    Blogger: Erica Auger, Communications Manager

    For me, Christmas time seems to revolve around one rather important thing. Food! It is at the heart of our family get togethers, it’s what my friends and I gossip over and we do tend to overindulge a little tiny bit! It’s almost the complete opposite for our feathered friends and garden wildlife who need all the help they can get to stay full up this winter time. We can do all kinds of tings to help them out in this department and we can make good use of our excesses by throwing some of our leftovers out for the birds in our garden. Here are some great things that you can re-use and re-fuel your blue tits, green finches, blackbirds, robins and many more:

    Christmas cake crumbs, mince pie pastry crumbs and biscuit crumbs , mild grated cheese, cooked or uncooked rice, breakfast cereals, cooked potatoes and fruit will all provide vital energy. The wildlife equivalent of Quality Street! There are also lots of great bird food options available to buy, such as table mix, niger seed and sunflower hearts.

    There is one thing however that is not so good for our feathered friends and leaving it out for them is highly dangerous. Cooked turkey fat is extremely dangerous to birds, but many people wrongly believe that it is as beneficial as other fats like lard and suet. The truth is that cooked turkey fat is dangerous for birds for several reasons. It remains soft even when cooled, meaning it could smear onto birds’ feathers and ruin their water-proofing and insulating qualities.


    Birds need clean, dry feathers to survive the cold and a layer of grease would make this virtually impossible. The fat in roasting tins cannot be separated from other leftover elements like meat juices. This concoction can go rancid very quickly, especially if left in a warm kitchen for a while before being put outside, and form an ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria. Birds, much like us are also prone to bacterial infections at this time of year as their defenses are low and their energy levels depleted with the cold.

    Most people, including me, also add other ingredients to a joint of meat before roasting including rubbing it liberally with salt in order to crisp the skin. However, high levels of salt are toxic to garden birds and can have damaging effects. The cooking juices from all other meats as well as turkey are equally as unsuitable for feeding to garden birds, so it’s best to steer clear completely.

    But the question then remains – what should you do with your cooked meat fat?

    The best way to dispose of meat fat is to leave it to cool down and put it in the bin, not pour it down the sink, a message echoed by the water companies.

    Ciaran Nelson, a spokesperson for Anglian Water, said: “It’s simple - if you pour fat down the drain, you risk flooding your home and garden with sewage, not to mention the threat of damaging pollution leaking into the countryside.

    “Cooking fats, oils and greases washed down the plughole are responsible for thousands of avoidable sewer blockages each year. The problem gets significantly worse at Christmas.

    “Warm fats slide down the sink easily but turn into rock-hard, foul smelling ‘fatbergs’ when they cool. They bind with things like wipes, nappies and sanitary products, which also shouldn’t be flushed into the sewers. These fatbergs block sewers causing them to back up and overflow.

    “Blockages like this are horrible at any time of year, but the extra cost and hassle is especially unwelcome during the holidays. It doesn’t make for a very merry Christmas.”

    For more information about how to give nature a home in your outside space visit rspb.org.uk/advice