You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Author: Mark Brandon
To quote Keats, now that the ‘season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’ is upon us, it is a great time to see mushrooms and toadstools in our colourful autumnal countryside. The Lodge nature reserve, just over the Cambridgeshire border, is a great hunting ground for fungi. Over 600 different species have been recorded there!
The stunning fly agaric, often depicted in illustrations for fairy stories, is one of the most spectacular. It grows especially well under birch trees, and is easily seen between September and November each year.
Imagine the pictures you looked at as a child, of pixies and fairies sitting on perfect domed shaped toadstools and you’ll have an idea of just how they look. They are at the designer end of the fungi world with a pillar- box red cap covered in white spots and with a pure white stem and they stand proud from the ground.
Photo Credit: Michael Lawrence
Walking around The Lodge, it’s possible to find large groups of them, some the size of dinner plates.
We suggest you enjoy the sights and smells of our autumn fungi at a safe distance. 'Toadstool' might make you think toadstools are places where amphibians rest! In fact, 'toad-stuhl' comes from medieval Saxon, and means ‘death bud’.
Some of the names of the reserve’s other fungi also have very dark connotations; deadly fibrecap, Devil’s fingers, veiled poison pie, false death cap, ghost bolete, slimy waxcap, skullcap and stinking dapperlings - just right for dark nights and Halloween!
For more information: www.rspb.org.uk/thelodge
Author: Lee Cozens, RSPB Strumpshaw Fen
Picture credit: Phil Barnes Photography
It’s the time of year when the shops are brimming with plastic spiders, cobwebs, bats and a whole host of other Halloween goodies.
This all serves to get us in the mood for sugar-fuelled, trick-or –treat outings, but with all the excitement about costumes and treats it’s easy to overlook the more compelling Halloween story happening outside in the natural world.
Halloween has its deeper roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when our ancestors celebrated the end of the summer bounty and welcomed in the beginning of winter and the short, cold days ahead.
If you venture into the countryside now, this eternal turning of the season is just waiting to reveal itself to your senses. The cold, damp air makes us dig out winter coats, the decaying leaf litter and autumn fungi give the woods an earthy note and the sun plays mesmerising light games with water droplets on spider’s webs. High up in the air you might hear geese or fieldfare returning for their winter break and there is a mysterious taste of mist and bonfires in the air. What a magical time to get out and explore!
Whilst Halloween is infused with scary, spooky imagery, a walk around Strumpshaw Fen at this time of year reveals that, to the contrary, nature is now at its most glorious, ethereal. Mists rising over the meadows in the morning or at dusk have a special quality. That sense of being in an ‘other-worldly’ place is not scary but rather it connects you with a feeling of timelessness and wonder. What a gift to bring children and to give them a sense of another dimension far beyond the bright, urban comforts we are all used to.
Watch how their eyes light up as they discover acorns on the woodland floor or notice a dainty little mushroom growing out of an old log. As you peer closer at its delicate beauty suddenly it feels as if the mythical world of pixies and faeries could actually be true!
Maybe that’s how we should approach this gentle slide into the dark winter months, with a sense of awe, wonder and a childlike playfulness.
Look up and see the sun filtering through the autumn leaves and marvel at how splendid the guelder rose berries are as they glow in the light. It’s almost as if they are nature’s own fairy lights.
With the trees beginning to drop their leaves, their beautiful forms and unique qualities are once again laid bare - maybe you can spot the face of a gnarled old wood spirit in the bark? And what is that terrible screaming noise deep in the wood? Are there monsters living here? Don’t worry; it’s just a muntjac deer making its alarming mating bark!
With so much beauty and surprise around every corner, this is the perfect time to pull on your wellies, sharpen your senses and go and have a play in this magical world.
For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen
Author: Chris Andrews, RSPB Frampton Marsh
Picture Credit: Andy Hay
In the days of Alfred the Great, the coast of Lincolnshire was the landing ground for roving parties from the North. They came to these shores looking for easy pickings, or a way to escape the harsh conditions in Scandinavia. Well, it is still happening today, but instead of boat loads of bearded Vikings, thankfully we are just talking birds!
Nowadays we look forward to our influx of Scandinavian visitors. In fact, at this time of year Frampton Marsh begins to transform into a real wildlife wonderland.
Thanks to our location right on the edge of The Wash, the annual influx of ducks, geese and waders in the colder months is truly something to behold. Having bred in places such as the Baltic, Scandinavia and Siberia, huge flocks of birds move southwards, ahead of harsher weather, to spend the winter on British shores. Imagine the spectacular sight of tens of thousands of birds, crowding the skies and filling the air with their cries.
They are particularly attracted to places like Frampton Marsh thanks to the hard work of our staff and volunteers, who have created the perfect conditions for a wide variety of birds to spend a sheltered, food filled winter. A patchwork of saltmarsh, open water, reedy pools and splashy fields cater for the needs of a fascinating range of feathered visitors. Small ducks such as teals, with their striking red and green head pattern, have begun to dabble at the edges of pools in their hundreds; wigeons are grazing on grass in their thousands, whistling to one another as they go; elegant pintail ducks are busy plucking weed from the bottom of our deeper pools; and brent geese, small dark geese whose name means ‘burnt’, burp their way across saltmarsh, grazing on the specialised grass that grows there. Still more birds, such as the elegant whooper swans, feed on nearby fields during the day and fly in to the reserve to sleep in the security of our pools at night. To add a bit of confetti to our wild bird spectacle, we are also the to go-to spot for huge clouds of waders such as golden plover and lapwing, who provide an incredible display as they move through the skies above the site like airborne shoals of fish.
Of course, all of this doesn’t happen by chance. Frampton Marsh is a shining example of what can be done by dedicated people with a passion for wildlife and an eye to the future. The reserve’s wardens and volunteers pride themselves on pioneering new ways of improving the land for wildlife. One of the driving principles at Frampton is that of ‘dynamic management’ or, in other words, changing everything around. Rather than having bits of the site that are always wet or always dry, the wardens keep the site in a constant state of flux, which suits the wildlife down to the ground.
Frampton is fast becoming a top attraction for those looking to see some superb winter wildlife so as birdlife moves south this winter, why not pencil in a trip north?
For more information, visit www.rspb.org.uk/framptonmarsh