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.
  • Charlotte's Summer Antics: Off to the Lodge

    Blogger: Charlotte Pledger, Youth, Education and Families Officer

    So onto visiting a family event at the RSPB’s headquarters at The Lodge. This time the theme was ‘Nature Discovery’. The 2 hour event was run by 3 fantastically organised and knowledgeable volunteers. Families were split into 2 groups and were lead round part of the reserve to discover nature.

    Even before we got going, children and adults were spotting bees and spiders in the garden area by the shop. We then walked on towards the hide, spotting nests, webs and plants, as well as the Manx Loghtan sheep. On entering the hide the children were soon getting excited about great tits, crows and pond skaters, as well as the unidentified brown bird in the distance.

    The next stop was the garden (spotting fox poo on the way of course) where the children stretched their arms around two of the huge old trees. They then got the chance to do some bark rubbings of several trees before going to have a peek in the pond and a look at the bugs on the nearby flowers.

    The two hour event went quickly, there is so much more for families to explore! Hopefully those whose first trip to The Lodge this was, as well as the repeat visitors will be back for more. One family had only joined the RSPB 2 weeks ago but had already visited The Lodge 4 times – you just can’t get enough of a good thing!

    Although the end of the summer holidays is nearly upon us, there are still many activities for families in the Eastern Region to enjoy. Why not check out the ones at The Lodge, more information here: The RSPB: The Lodge: Events.

    Photo Credit: Jodie Randall (


  • of birds and cows

    Blogger: Steve Rowland, Public Affairs Manager

    Being office based I find it important to make time to get out and walk the ground with our wardening teams and find out a little more about their work managing some amazing landscapes for wildlife. So last Monday morning found me at a sunny Ouse Washes to meet our Site Manager Jon Reeves and Richard Woollard my counterpart at the Environment Agency.

    At the Ouse Washes I wanted to show Richard the work we have been doing on the Pilot Project. This is an area of damp grazing meadow just outside of the Washes, which we have successfully managed for breeding wading birds such as Snipe, Redshank, and Lapwing. The Environment Agency are interested in this work as they have been charged by government in creating new habitat for breeding waders away from the Washes.

    This is necessary because Since the 1970’s changes in flooding patterns, probably as a result of climate change and increased urbanisation in the catchment that the Washes help to drain, has meant that often winter floods are deeper and longer lasting and therefore the habitat needed by breeding waders is still under water when the birds want to be nesting in the spring.

    For such an important piece of land, on Monday morning the Pilot Project looked surprisingly ordinary. A low, tussocky grass sward, with straightish ditches and a herd of curious beef cattle. In late summer it is all rather dry and bird less yet in the spring Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe had all nested here in good numbers, showing what has been achieved in the few short years since the RSPB changed the way the Pilot Project fields are managed from arable production to damp traditional grassland grazed by cattle. This has been made possible thanks to the support of Cambridgeshire County Council who own this land, Natural England for financial assistance through the Higher Level Scheme and the Environment Agency who helped set the project up.

    Both the Pilot Project and the Washes themselves are managed by livestock grazing to create the right conditions for breeding waders. Each year on the Ouse Washes the RSPB looks after 2500 head of cattle owned by various graziers, worth somewhere in the region of a staggering £1,500,000, probably making this the biggest livestock grazing operation by anyone in Eastern England.

    Indeed I think it can be said in these times of food security concerns that not only do the Washes ensure that surrounding farmland remains un-flooded, but also interestingly ensure the survival of the skills needed to raise livestock in a part of the world dominated by arable farming.

    This spring was a good one on the Washes, with flood waters gone in time for the breeding season, but in five out of the last ten springs that hasn’t been the case and the need for the new habitats that the Environment Agency are charged with creating remains urgent if we are to save the birds and farming methods that have given us this landscape for future generations.

    The RSPB are stepping up for nature by working with the Environment Agency and others to help bring these new damp meadows about. If you are interested in stepping up and helping to sustain the cattle grazing on the Ouse Washes then checkout to find details of your nearest stockist or discuss commercial purchase of Ouse Washes beef.

    Photo Credit: Ouse Washes Cattle by Steve Rowland (RSPB)

  • When was the last time you made a den?

    Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer

    ‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’ Shirley Conran famously said. I couldn’t agree more Shirley, but it’s not too short to ice a cupcake or twenty. In fact it took me a whole morning of craning over the kitchen counter, spatula in one hand, handful of Smarties in the other to minutely decorate cakes and prepare dishes full of delicate treats for Robin’s third birthday party.

    My own mum has always been a bit of a party food genius. I remember cakes as beautiful as they were delicious and I wanted to at least try to emulate her successes for Robin. I think I did OK. The cupcakes went down a treat with the grown up’s and children alike. It has to be said however, I’m no domestic goddess and it was the more wild bits of the party that I felt most ‘at home’ with.

    If you walk down beside the house you come to a glade fringed by ancient trees. The day was bright with an occasional warm wind and as we threaded our way through the knots of velvety grass and the purple globe-heads of thistles, the glowing shadows of trees shone across us, coming and going in time to the clouds as they scudded across the sky.

    In the clearing in the wood, laid deep with bouncing leaf litter, we set about creating our dens. Paul had strung together an ‘A’ frame of wooden poles and the children gathered crackly old branches and sticks covered with the grey smears of lichen to form crooked, uneven walls. Then whole hands of whippy lime twigs bearing yellow-green, heart shaped leaves were laid over the sticks creating two perfectly camouflaged hideaways.

    We crawled our way in to them and sat sheltered from the wind, then burst back out to gather bugs, or balance precariously along fallen trees or collapse, laughing amongst the moss with an arm slung happily around the dog.

    After all the party bags had been passed around and the last strawberry eaten, I reflected on the day with a welcome cup of tea. My fond memories of birthday cakes once eaten perhaps aren’t just for the cakes themselves but also for what they represented of my childhood. Of July days spent outdoors amongst spires of gladioli and lupin. Of riding bikes in the sun or lying on warm banks of grass listening to the bumblebees.

    Maybe I’ll never be a domestic goddess and maybe I’ll always rely on Smarties to make my cakes look ‘proper’ but I hope always to provide Robin with days spent in the freedom of the great outdoors, laughing and making dens. There is no better recipe for happy memories.


    Photo by Nick Upton (

    Article in Eastern Daily Press on 20 August 2011