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.
Across the UK, over 600,000 people took part in this year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, a record breaking number watching their garden birds. In the East over 75,500 people counted their winged garden visitors during one hour over the weekend 29th and 30th January. Your counts revealed that some of the smaller birds that decreased in numbers last year, bounced back this year. The top bird seen in the East was the starling, with 57% of participants spotting an average of 4 during the survey.
2. House Sparrow
4. Blue Tit
6. Collared Dove
8. Great Tit
9. Long tailed tit
Across the UK, sightings of goldcrests doubled, long tailed tits increased by a third and coal tits increased by a quarter. The long, harsh winter of 2009/2010 hit birds like long-tailed tits, goldcrests and coal tits with all three species dropping significantly in last years' Big Garden Birdwatch. Although smaller birds can be particularly badly affected by harsh winters, a good breeding season can help reverse declines, and these new results suggest that may have been the case in 2010.
Thousands of people across the region were also lucky enough to see waxwings from residential streets to berry laden trees on the coastal roads. The striking birds flood to the UK from Scandinavia every few winters and this year saw an influx, known as a 'waxwing winter.' Waxwings are bold birds that are comfortable feeding around our towns and cities, and over 7,000 were counted in this year's survey, in almost 1,000 gardens.
Rachael Murray, RSPB media officer in the Eastern Region says: "It's fantastic that so many people stepped up for nature by taking part. We were really interested to see how the small birds fared, after such a disastrous last year. It appears that many may have had a decent breeding season and have been able to bounce back a little.
Photo Credit: Jodie Randall (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
What a difference 3 months makes, just 2040 little hours. Before working for the RSPB, I was a lover of the natural world in all its glorious splendour and being WOWed by the smaller day to day things that pass us by. I would wake to the dawn chorus that would put a smile on my face, oblivious to what was actually making the orchestra of sound. I would be able to spot a blackbird, a magpie and a splendid darting chaffinch. But really I would be interested in just getting out there and enjoying the natural world in its wonderfully complex entirety. This, I realise, I share with a lot of you good people out there but I have now had a sneaky peak into the world of "I know what this is, do you?"
In other words, when you start knowing what the more obscure sounding birds are; from a wigeon to smew or a phalarope to a hoopoe, then you just can't help yourself but find that ingrained competitive nature or slight smugness when you tell yourself or others what the little brown job is called. Not only that but it also helps when you know how rare these different beasties are. I can see the attraction in being able to identify the unusual sounding bird and know that here in the East we may have 80% of the UK population.
So now my Lovely Other Half is already commenting on how my language has changed since working at the RSPB. Yesterday, after a day at Minsmere, I was excited to report not on the lovely sunny day or a nice walk in the woods (although that was also the case) but that I had heard my first booming bittern and seen an elusive Cetti's warbler. It is very very infectious indeed. It is like seeing the natural world, which I love, through a new pair of superduper-"Nature is Amazing"-type glasses. I will always be an all rounder nature lover but it is a real eye opener to hear about what weird and wonderful creatures are out there so close to home.
Photo Credit: Adam Murray (RSPB)
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
How could you ever turn down these eyes? To some, they appear beady, marble-like in their attempt to be as secretive as possible. Never giving anything away through fear of being found. To others, they expose an air of vulnerability. An infant-like feeling of helplessness. A colleague of mine thinks that their look is 'bewildered'. But to me, these eyes are much more than that.
Stone-curlews are a strange mixture of gawky and fascinating. With a beak that looks like it's been dipped in black paint and extraordinary yellow eye make-up you would be forgiven for wondering where on earth you might find such a strange creature. Certainly not around these parts? That's not entirely true. In fact, we are lucky enough to be able to see them practically on our doorstep.
But, backtrack to 1940 and these birds would have been a rarity, in fact, more dramatic than that - they were on the verge on extinction. With only 150 pairs left in the whole of the UK, you would've been lucky enough to have heard their eerie call seeping from the Norfolk landscape, let alone actually see one.
Fast forward to 2011 and it's a rather different picture. The RSPB and many others; farmers, conservation groups, landowners and authorities have been celebrating the success of this bird. The massive undertaking to turn the fortunes of the stone-curlew has not been a smooth journey, but thanks to dedication and a lot of hard work, the population in the UK now stands at 370 pairs. And what is even more staggering, is that two thirds of this population live right here, in the Brecks.
Now, I know what you're thinking, that you've never seen one so there can't be that many? Stone-curlews are incredibly secretive and very easily disturbed. They're easiest to locate at dusk, when their haunting call can be heard across the Brecks. They use this time to feed on insects, something that their yellow eyes come in handy for!
A huge thanks must go to the local farming communities who have worked closely with the RSPB to manage their land in a way that encourages stone-curlews to nest and breed. With so much of their natural habitat being lost to development, this co-operation is vitally important. With the advice of the RSPB, local farmers have finely managed their land so that it is prosperous for farm wildlife, food production and farm businesses.
It is this vein of hope that I can see shining through the stone-curlew's deep, yellow eyes. A sense of hope and anticipation for what lies ahead. But fingers crossed, we will long be able to appreciate these magnificent birds right in the heart of our countryside.
Article in Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 26th March.
Photo Credit: Stone Curlew by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)