August, 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.
  • "What's the point of Wasps?"

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    My Dad is a clever man, a bit too clever sometimes but clever none the less. However, when it comes to summer timeyou will see him flailing around his garden getting crosser and crosser. With gusto you will hear him shout ‘What's the point of b*!?@y wasps?’. This is a question that many al fresco diners may ask themselves this summer as they panic, clutching their fizzy drink, rushing to put the lid on the ketchup or trying to cover up their burger.

    But I believe wasps have many redeeming features and should be celebrated - much to my Dad's dismay. Life is tough if you are a wasps  - they are only after a sugar fix. Worker wasps feed on sugary liquid secreted by their larvae, but in late summer this starts to run out and they are forced to search elsewhere for their sugar supplements, such as at BBQ’s and picnics.

    Get this Dad...wasps play a vital role as pollinators and in the natural control of pests in the garden.

    Often called ‘jaspers,’ wasps fall into one of two main categories: solitary wasps and social wasps. It is the social wasps we are most familiar with around the picnic table. Social wasps are also incredible nest builders, and make their homes from chewed up wood fibres moistened with saliva which feels a bit like papier mache. Their nests are intricate and complex, often with many tiers, and are extremely light.

    Continuing the theme that wasps have a tough time, they are also a valuable food source for other wildlife, such as flycatchers which bash them against branches to remove their sting and guzzle them down. Dragonflies will take their chances with wasps as a snack too. There are just eight species of social wasps and around 230 species of solitary wasps. Adult solitary wasps live and operate alone, in contrast to social wasp colonies which number up to several thousand.

    So this summer, instead of the usual advice of stop fussing around a wasp that is sharing your outside dining, stop and think that if it wasn't for them what would I have to be smug about with my Dad.

    For more information on wasps visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife. For the more knarly ones amongst you who want to encourage these down trodden stripey gems visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw.

    Photo credit: Common wasp by Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)

  • A Train Ride with a View

    Blogger: Steve Rowland, Public Affairs Manager

    Maybe it’s a legacy of studying Geography at University, but I do like to look out of train windows and try to read the landscape that I am passing through. The train journey that I do most frequently takes me through a real cross section of lowland landscapes. From King’s Lynn I first travel south west across the Fens, through a mosaic of large fields, drainage ditches, shelter belts and scrubby corners. After Cambridge where I change trains, I head across Hertfordshire to Hitchin. This leg of the journey see’s far less variety in the landscape with bigger and neater fields.  From Hitchin my final train takes me south through Bedfordshire to Sandy and the view out of the window becomes more mixed again with arable fields, sewage works and gravel pits.

    It is the first and last legs of this journey where I most often see a variety of birds from the train, why is that, what do these areas have that the middle section doesn’t?

    Well perhaps it’s all down to variety of land use and the existence of rough edges and wet bits. In the case of the Fens you need to try and understand how the landscape came about through the drainage of the once expansive wetlands for agriculture. The drained peat soils are ideal for growing a wide range of crops on including spring sown vegetables. The capillary of drainage ditches edged by narrow borders of rough grass and occasional scrub creates some albeit limited opportunities for wildlife amongst less favourable habitat.

    Many landowners in these areas are taking positive action for birds and other wildlife, often working with RSPB advisers who directly plan and help them apply for government grants that pay the farmers for measures to benefit wildlife. Some of the steps taken by Fenland farmers are truly impressive. One Michael Sly at Thorney, near the RSPBs Nene Washes nature reserve has recently entered a Higher Level scheme agreement which will fund the creation and management of 410 Skylark plots on his land. This is a proven way of encouraging Skylarks to breed and it is wonderful to think of the increased volume of bird song that there will be there in coming springs and the flocks of farmland birds feeding on winter seed rich habitats with the farm donating over 38ha to this management and lifeline for birds over the winter.

    Another farmer shaping the landscape of his farm for wildlife is Robert Law who farms at Thrift Farm near Royston. Robert has enthusiastically carried out a number of actions over the years to encourage wildlife on his farm including unharvested crops to feed birds over the winter and managing chalk grassland for Chalk-hill Blue butterflies and the Pasque Flower. So good is his farm for wildlife that it is one of the four finalists in the RSPB / Daily Telegraph Nature of Farming Awards.

    It is good to know that all across the country that famers like Robert are stepping up for nature and working with the RSPB and others to improve their land for wildlife. You can join them in stepping up by volunteering to take part in the RSPB’s Volunteer Farmer Alliance as a bird surveyor or you could vote in this year’s Nature of Framing Awards.

    Photo Credit: The black soils of The Fens (Adam Murray, RSPB)

  • Bank that holiday and make it count!

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    “Summer time and the living is easy, fish are jumping and the cotton is high”, the immortal words of summer. Or as the August bank holiday is upon us you could say something a little more like “Summer time and the traffic is heavy, kids are screaming and the end is nigh”.

    So as the last few days of the holidays approach would you put yourself in any of the following categories, if so we have events or sites in the region for you this bank holiday weekend:

    • Doting grandparents who want to spend quality time with their grandchildren
    • Parent who has kids and you are running out of things to do with them after 5 weeks
    • Live locally to an RSPB reserve and didn’t realise that they did events
    • Want to do a bit of shopping for a present for a loved one

    Norfolk

    Saturday 27 August

    Visit our reserve at Berney Marshes

    Sunday 28 August

    Strumpshaw Fen: Dragonflies and Butterflies

    Titchwell Marsh: Titchwell Marsh Family Area

    Monday 29 August

    Titchwell Marsh: Titchwell's Fabulous Wildlife

    Titchwell Marsh: Titchwell Marsh Family Area

     

    Suffolk

    Saturday 27 August

    Lakenheath: Children's walk and pond dipping

    Minsmere: Nature...the spirit of life: photographic exhibition by Gillian Plummer

    Sunday 28 August

    Lakenheath: Bank holiday birds

    Snape: Snape Discovery Walks

    Minsmere: Weekend wildlife walk

    Minsmere: Nature...the spirit of life: photographic exhibition by Gillian Plummer

    Monday 29 August

    Minsmere: Nature...the spirit of life: photographic exhibition by Gillian Plummer

     

    Lincolnshire

    Saturday 27 August

    Visit our reserve at Frampton Marsh

    Sunday 28 August

    Visit our reserve at Freiston Shore

    Monday 29 August

    Stay in and take a look at what you can do to step up for nature

     

    Essex

    Saturday 27 August

    Visit our reserve at West Canvey Marsh

    Sunday 28 August

    Visit our reserve at Wallasea Island 

    Monday 29 August

    South Essex: Summer Fun at Wat Tyler Country Park

    South Essex: Walk for health

     

     

    Beds & Herts

    Saturday 27 August

    The Lodge: Dusk Watch

    Sunday 28 August

    The Lodge: Summer wildlife at Priory Country Park

    Monday 29 August

    Come to shop at our shop at The Lodge – 100% profits go to conservation.

     

    Cambridgeshire

    Saturday 27 August

    Fen Drayton: Open Garden

    Sunday 28 August

    Fen Drayton: Deadly Dozen Bug Hunt

    Fen Drayton: Open Garden

    Monday 29 August

    Visit our reserve at the Ouse Washes

    Keep up to date with all your local events and things to do at www.rspb.org.uk/events/

     Photo credit: Andy Hay (rspb images)