This blog is a celebration of the nature in the South East and highlights ways you can get involved and explore nature in the region. If you've got news of the South East’s nature that you'd like to share, please contact the RSPB South East office on 01273 775333 or email SERComms@rspb.org.uk
People often think that you have to be located within the heart of nature to volunteer with us. Luckily this isn’t true – just because you don’t have rolling hills or forests on your doorstep doesn’t mean that you can’t do your bit to help protect nature. You don’t even have to have loads of time on your hands to make an impact –giving us as little as an hour a week or participating in one-off events can make a huge difference.
Volunteering in the heart of the City
One of our most successful ongoing fundraising campaigns is our pin badge boxes. You’ve probably seen the badges of native birds, flowers and other wildlife in shops, bars, cafes and venues across the country. They’re an important part of our fundraising mix and, like many other RSPB activities, are successful thanks to the wonderful volunteers who support us. In the South East and London we have over 270 volunteers who look after around 1020 of our pin boxes. These volunteers find new locations for boxes, manage the donations and keep the boxes fully stocked for us.
Community Fundraising brought in a record amount of £185,302 in 2017. Over £166,000 of this came from pin sales, making them a simple but incredibly important fundraising tool for us. As with any good relationship though, it’s a two way street! Our volunteers donate their time to our cause, but they get something back too.. As Tracy Jordan, one of our East London volunteers said; ‘I get to chat and catch-up with the news and happenings in the area. The people at the sites have become my friends. It takes about an hour a week, but I get exercise, hear wonderful stories and keep up with my new friends. I enjoy the walk and scenery as I go, seeing the seasons change and feeling the city’s beat.’
Volunteering through craft - Tern decoys
Terns arrive on our shores each April after a 3000 mile migration from Africa. They come to raise their chicks on our shingle and sandy beaches, spits and islands. Between 1986 and 2013, the number of little terns breeding in the south east of England dropped by a staggering 89%. This was mostly due to a mixture of habitat decline and human disturbance.
To try and tempt terns to safe sites to nest, hundreds of ‘decoy terns’ – clay models of little and common terns that can be seen from above - have been made and put out across the country. As terns breed in colonies, when the terns see the decoys from above, they’re tempted down to nest in a safe area, away from dangerous high tides which can flood and wash away nests. We recently ran a ‘decoy tern’ painting event at one of our South East tern sites, RSPB Dungeness, Kent, where people of all ages could come along and paint a decoy -which would in turn encourage common and maybe even little terns to come and breed on the site.
We had around sixty people turned up to the event, and 125 decoy terns were painted. Visitors ranging from eighteen months old to seventy had a great time painting. Lots of children took part in painting the terns but the adults enjoyed it just as much. All them made a positive impact on nature that day – some of the volunteers from the open day have even visited again to see ‘their terns’ out on the islands too. It’s events like these that go to show that anybody from any age or background can do their bit for the natural world – and you don’t have to give up much of your time to do it. Even the fun activities that we have on offer help us to continue our conservation work!