July, 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.
  • Saying it with flowers

    Blogger: Niki Williamson, Fenland Farmland Bird Adviser

    Have you ever wondered why flowers make people smile?  Many things that make us happy are things that promote our survival - a good square meal, a thirst-quenching drink on a sunny day. 

    But what about flowers?  Sure they’re nice to look at, but you can’t really live off them, or use them to fight off predators.  But I love walking to my front door through the colourful blooms alongside the garden path.  And on those rare occasions when my fella brings me a bunch of flowers, my grin lasts all evening!  So if we’ve evolved to feel happy about flowers, maybe they’re more than just a pretty face.

    Farmer Andrew Brodie obviously feels the same.  He’s managing nearly four hectares of nectar rich habitat on his Cambridgeshire farm, through a Higher Level Stewardship scheme. 

    The habitat consists of patches of flowering plants, chosen especially with nectar-feeding insects in mind.  Clovers, Lucerne, Sainfoin, Black Medick and Birdsfoot Trefoil flower alongside each other, splashing the farm with colour.

    But by planting the mix he is not only growing flowers, he’s feeding bees, butterflies and beetles.  In turn they’re eating aphids which would otherwise be spreading disease in his crops.  They’re also pollinating crops like oilseed rape and beans – pollinating insects are thought to be worth £430 million annually to the UK farming industry.  They’re also producing lots of yummy caterpillars which Andrew’s resident corn buntings, grey partridges and lapwings can feed to their chicks.

    Andrew is not new to Stewardship, having been in the Entry Level Scheme since it began.  He planted some of these patches back in 2005 and they are still going strong, thanks to his careful management.  By cutting half the area in June he extends the flowering season, and by cutting the whole lot again in autumn he is continually removing nutrients from the system that would otherwise encourage grass to dominate the flowers. 

    With help from RSPB advisers, Andrew is stepping up for Nature.  “It’s crucial that modern farming goes hand in hand with environmental concerns,” he says as we stroll through the flowers, surrounded by lazy buzzing.  “We’ve got to look after our bugs, bees and birds so we can carry on ourselves.”

    Andrew Brodie loves Nature.  And he’s saying it with flowers.

  • What do you do in the bath?

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    What do you do in the bath? Every evening I have a bath with my 8 month old and we soak the bathroom playing with his plastic animal toys. When I was in the bath the other day I couldn’t help going through each of the different aquatic beasties and telling stories about them and my adventures (it’s a daddy’s prerogative). Pelicans on the California coast, green turtles from Guam, spinner dolphins in New Zealand, night diving with squid in Thailand and crabbing in Walberswick (keeping it nice and local). Then it hit me, wouldn’t it be devastating if within his life time my little chief would not have the same opportunities as me to see these majestic marine marvels.


    As well as a passion and drive to make a difference we need the science behind conservation so that we can make informed decisions. Luckily, there are people out there that are doing this work with the RSPB being at the forefront of bird conservation science. Here are a few examples of those people championing the different inhabitants of the seas:

    Birds: RSPB, UK (you know what we do right?)

    Mammals: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, UK (experts in policy)

    Crustaceans: Chesapeake Bay Program, USA (local industry and conservation partnerships)

    Reptiles: WWF, International (flagship species based conservation)

    Cephalopods: Cephalopod Behavioural Research, UK  (John Messenger is my old lecturer from my Uni days)

    As ever though, this science and passion is sometimes not enough. We need people to support us in our fight, helping us to shout louder or donating so that more science can carried out. Do you want to be part of making sure that the memories of these animals are not left to stories around the bath tub? Find out more by signing our petition to safeguard our seas here.

    Note: No crabs or dolphins were harmed in the making of this blog post.

  • Now that's what I call a Summer Megamix

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    In the words of Dodgy (the 90’s indie band) “I'm staying out for the summer, playing games in the rain”. What a great attitude to have – get out there regardless. We tend to fall into two categories with regards to summer. The optimist: “Wahey, here comes summer, it’s going to be great” or the pessimist “Here comes the summer, bet it rains as usual”. Which category do you fall into?  The summer is a very evocative time, think about those ever lasting summers when you were a kid, fishing for sticklebacks, making dens and homemade bows and arrows. Even now, remembering that glorious day with friends one summer with a perfect barbeque or sipping gin and tonics in the garden. This is why the good, the bad and the ugly of the music world have carved up some classic tunes that put a smile on your face. Just take a look at some of these tunes and see if they bring back memories of those golden days:

    Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald

    In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry

    Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

    Summer in the City by the Lovin Spoonful

    Summertime Blues by The Lebron Brothers

    Staying out for the Summer by Dodgy

    When it is good, a British summer can be very very good, when it’s bad it’s rubbish. Or is it? The beauty of getting out there regardless of the weather is that you it is better than being indoors, sitting in front of the TV, computer or games consoles. So if you have nearest and dearest who air on the pessimistic side of summer, get them out there, visit one of our reserves and make those memories. In the heartfelt words of Ella Fitzgerald “Summer time and the living is easy”.