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.
It's here! The time is upon us. You can now sign up here for Big Garden Birdwatch 2018. Whilst the event itself might be over a month away, this leaves plenty of time to start prepping. So get outside, clean up the bird table and fill up your feeders. Just make sure you follow our dos and don'ts for feeding garden birds:
DO feed your garden birds:
Mealworms - dried or alive, both are enjoyed by insect-eaters like robins, starlings, blackbirds and others.
Sunflower seeds – these are full of beneficial oil and protein. Sunflower hearts (seeds with the husks removed) are less messy and give quick access to the food for birds adapted to seed-eating like blue tits, siskins and house sparrows.
Peanuts - tits, finches and great spotted woodpeckers are just some of the birds that love peanuts. Peanuts are a bird superfood: full of energy. If you’re lucky you may even see nuthatches stealing them and burying these snacks in your flowerbed for later.
Bird seed mixtures - these are great for many different birds. Get a mix with small seeds for dunnocks, sparrows, finches and collared doves. Mixtures that use wheat, barley, beans, lentils or dried rice should be avoided. They only attract the bigger birds, like pigeons, which will scare off the smaller guys.
Fat – whether it be in balls, bars, blocks or nibbles. Building up fat reserves helps keep birds warm. Make your own: stir lard with seeds and nuts, pop it in a yoghurt pot and hang upside down from a tree or bird table.
Leftovers - Chopped apples and pears will feed blackbirds, song thrushes, and maybe redwings and fieldfares. Cooked potatoes and pastry, suet, chopped (unsalted) bacon and cheese are also bird-friendly foods. You can also use dried fruits like raisins, but don’t use these if you have cats and dogs who can fall ill if they eat them.
DON'T feed your garden birds:
Dessicated coconut – this swells up inside birds and makes them very unwell.
Cooking fat – cooked fat from Sunday roasts and Christmas dinners merges with meat juices during cooking. This combination can stick to bird’s feathers and stop them being waterproof.
Milk – bird’s guts aren’t designed to digest milk and can result in serious stomach upsets.
Cooked porridge oats – these stick around their bills, although uncooked oats are fine.
Dry biscuits – birds may choke on the hard lumps.
Salt – garden birds are practically unable to metabolise salt. It is toxic to them in high quantities
Bread - although it won’t do them any harm, bread acts as an empty filler for birds and doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition so is best avoided.
Don’t forget to:
Put water out too. Float a ping pong ball on the water’s surface to stop it freezing.
Keep bird feeders clean. A weekly wash will help prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria.
It's time to once again fill up your feeders and register for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2018.
Last year, over 76,000 people in the East, and close to half-a-million people nationally, joined in with the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, counting more than eight million birds.
This year we are asking you to do the same again. Over just one hour, on the weekend of the 27 and 28, or Monday 29 January, we need you to sit back, relax and enjoy recording the birds in your garden or local green space. Alternatively take part at work - it's the perfect way to spend quality time with colleagues and learn more about your local wildlife.
All the information that you accumulate gives us a comprehensive snapshot of how our garden birds are doing.
It’s more than birds though! We want to know about the other wildlife you’ve seen in your garden throughout the year, so look out for badgers, foxes, grey squirrels, red squirrels, muntjacs deer, roe deer, frogs and toads.
What do I get when I register?
Once you've registered you will receive a FREE Big Garden Birdwatch pack includes a bird identification chart, plus RSPB shop voucher and advice to help you attract wildlife to your garden.
How do I register?
Either text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
Pencil the Big Garden Birdwatch into your calendar, or pop a reminder on your phone for either the 27, 28, or 29 January ready to take part on the weekend itself. Over the next few weeks we'll be offering lots of handy hints and tips to encourage more birds into your garden, but if you want to get a head-start find out where to begin here. Oh and don't forget to look out for other forms of wildlife that visit over the next few months because we want to hear about them too.
Can schools take part?
Yes! Schools can take part in the Big School's Birdwatch. Sign up now and take part between the 2 January to the 23 February.
How do I register my school for the Big School's Birdwatch?
You can register your school to take part in the Big School's Birdwatch here. Whilst signing up for the Big School's Birdwatch, why not sign your school up for the Wild Challenge at the same time? By completing the Big School's Birdwatch your school will already have completed one challenge and will be step closer to achieving your bronze award. Wild Challenge is a free award scheme that any school (or family) can take part in, that prompts children to connect with, and learn about, nature through a series of fun and engaging activities.
James Robinson, Regional Director Eastern England
This piece first appeared in the Eastern Daily Press on 6th December 2017.
Yesterday, the 2017 State of the UK’s Birds report was published. A report that has provided an annual overview of the status of bird populations in the UK and our Overseas Territories since 1999. It provides a one-stop shop for annual, on-going and one-off bird survey results; data gathered by a partnership of government bodies and charities and collected by many thousands of volunteers, who give their time for free.
Waiting for it to land on my desk, pre-empting some expected and unexpected headlines – good news and bad news, overcome obstacles and continued challenges - curiosity led me to question how much progress have we made?
Rewinding 17 years, and dusting off my filed copy of the 2000 report, it was striking how many of the headlines that marked a new millennium still resonate. Bitterns, stone-curlews, illegal raptor persecution, declines in widespread farmland birds, changes in populations of migratory waterbirds and climate change dominated.
Now with the 2017 report splayed out in front of me for comparison, it is easy to see that whilst some messages have changed, species and themes remain. Not all of the 2000 headlines mirror those of 2017, but each of them gets a mention in the report itself.
Bitterns and stone-curlews continue to make a comeback due to determined conservation action whilst raptor persecution endures despite public outrage. Specialist farmland birds continue to decline except where targeted schemes have been taken up by farmers and those migratory waterbirds that come here to spend the winter or re-fuel for journeys elsewhere experience mixed fortunes.
The most significant change, however, comes in the form of climate change impacts. Back in 2000, the report stated: “Climate is known to have a considerable impact upon both breeding and wintering birds, and climate change will pose a very significant challenge to the conservation of species and their habitats.”
This we still know to be true, but now, after collecting 17 years’ worth of data, the effects of climate change on different species are the headlines. We are beginning to see which birds are adapting and thriving, and which are suffering and declining.
We anticipated these changes. The predictions are captured in writing, nearly two decades ago. Despite the knowing, the science, the good-meaning, very little has been done to halt these potentially catastrophic changes. As a society, we have not been acting, we have just been reporting.
The want, the will, and the need to change are all there. It is the strong decision-making, leadership, cooperation and coordination which needs to step up. However, we must not lose hope. There is still time to turn around the fortunes of our beloved birds, mammals, insects and plants that are tainted by the future of climate change.
Clearer direction and decisions need to come from government, but equally, we must make individual waves. Our consumption in all its different forms has an impact. The energy you use to supply your house, the purchases you make in the supermarket, and the transport you take there and back.
Luckily with a new year, comes a new you. Let’s make 2018 the year that we all start to take climate change seriously.