March, 2011

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts 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.
  • Look into the eyes not around the eyes

    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 (

  • The Language of Love

    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)

  • Conservation Solutions both LARGE and small

    Blogger: Rachael Murray, Media Assistant

    Here at the RSPB we work on wildlife conservation on all scales, from people's back gardens all the way up to the dizzying heights of our large landscape work. Following the launch of 'Stepping Up for Nature', our most ambitious campaign to date, here in the east we would like to announce a groundbreaking landscape scale conservation project in the Fens.

    The new RSPB Fens 'Futurescape' project aims to save great places for nature and put back vital habitats that have been lost, by working with a range of partners including conservation and non-conservation organisations and landowners and farmers.

    The vast open landscape of the Fens covers over 3,000 square km spanning across Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.  This special area offers a unique place to live and visit and an environment that is vitally important for both wetlands and farmland wildlife.  The iconic Fens landscape has changed dramatically over the past centuries.  Drainage started in the 1600s has caused the loss of 97% of the original fenland habitat.

    Despite this, pockets of the area are still some of the richest places for wildlife in the country.  The area is home to the black-tailed godwit, one of the UK's rarest breeding birds, and other special wildlife including otters, water voles, a variety of scarce aquatic plants and insects including rare fen violets and broad-bodied chaser dragonflies.

    In addition to its wildlife, The Fens contains some of the UK's most productive farmland including over half of the UKs Grade 1 agricultural land, supporting over 27.000 people in employment, and enough wetlands to help protect nearly 1,000 properties and over 29,000 hectares of farmland from flooding.  But without significant investment, these small pockets of land will diminish in size and quality, putting this crucial landscape under threat.

    The key objectives of the RSPB's 'Futurescape' project are to create new and inter-connected areas of essential wetland and reedbed habitat, and to help farmers to integrate the needs of farm wildlife with those of their business. As part of the Fens Futurescape project, The RSPB will help farmers to access financial support from government agri-environment schemes to implement nature-friendly farm management.   The RSPB Fenland Farmland Bird Recovery Project (another acronym to remember), set up jointly with Natural England, is currently working with more than 80 farmers who are stepping up for nature across the Fens. The RSPB is keen to work with many new farmers to do more for their farm wildlife.

    There is a wide variety of ways to get involved in the Fens Futurescape project whether you are a farmer, landowner, conservation organisation or an enthusiastic volunteer.  Potential partners who have a commitment to making the Fens a better place for people and wildlife can contact our very own Simon Tonkin on 01603 660066 or email for more information.



    Photos: We can help array of vulnerable species of farmland bird including corn buntings(top), tree sparrows (middle) and yellow wagtails (bottom).

    Credit: Andy Hay (