September, 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.

RSPB 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.
  • Swamp Sparrow Urban Adventure

    Blogger: Jane Delaney, Local Groups and Volunteering Support Officer

    I wanted a holiday but was on a budget.  How could I get away and discover an exciting new location, meet new people, have fun and do something useful?  I know,  I’ll go residential volunteering!

     I spoke to the lovely ladies in the Residential Volunteering department and we looked at the options available for just a week  – RSPB Saltholme it is! Saltholme is a new and exciting urban reserve near Hartlepool that only opened in 2009.  The flat I stayed in was great with a sea-view and some lovely other vols and staff, Dan & Rhian.

    So, what would I be doing? 

    Day one I helped out at the visitors centre by encouraging people to sign the RSPB marine pledge and telling them about the “Date with Nature” (DWN) event with common seals that were just down the road.  In the afternoon I went down and joined the “DWN” team, it was great to see the children (old and young alike!) enjoy looking through the scopes and watching the seals play and lounge about on the bank.

    Day two was more of a challenge – I was chief pot washer in the VERY popular Cafe as I was soon to find out!  The Cafe has a great team lead by Anne and although hard work and a bit hot and sweaty at times I had a fun day and a free roast dinner to boot!

    Day three and four I had off and explored the reserve and surrounding area – great fish & chips in Whitby (drop me a line if you want a recommendation!)

    Day five I spent the morning with Barbara, an inspiring and passionate reserve volunteer who has been at Saltholme since before it opened.  She was planning a guided walk for the next day for some VIPs and I was her guinea pig!  The afternoon was going to be a whole new territory for me – children!  There was a school visiting with lots of enthusiastic 6 and 7 year olds.  I helped the Susan, Lifelong Learning Officer, teach the children how to use binoculars to find birds and then took them along to the Wildlife Watch Point hide where they had a brilliant time spotting the birds from their bingo lists.

    My last day on the reserve I joined the VIPs on their guided walk, they were new RSPB members in the area and were keen to explore the reserve and hear all about it’s history.  We chatted over soup and a roll for lunch and then went back out exploring and spent some more time in the hides.

    Did I enjoy my resi vol holiday at Saltholme?  I think the fact that on my last day I had to be asked to leave the Phil Stead hide in the car park, long after closing time, so they could lock it up answers that!

     Jane “Swamp Sparrow” Delaney bird spots of the week – pectoral sandpiper and garganey!

     If you fancy trying some residential volunteering you can find out more at or talk to Kate Tycer
    Tel: 01767 680551, E-mail:

    Photo credit:

  • The art of poetry by Matt Howard

    Blogger: Matt Howard, Community Collections Scheme Officer

    I was delighted to be asked by Waveney and Blyth Arts to join them on their Breydon Water ‘Poetry and Birds Walk’. The brief was simple, talk about birds in poetry and how such work brings us closer to nature, and then set a writing exercise for the group to try. This gave me a chance to think more about the connections between two of my interests, but where do you start? I mean, poetry and birds; are there any two subjects that conjure stronger stereotypes of closed worlds where only the devout obsessive gets granted admission?

    Thankfully the walk didn’t over stretch my fledgling birding skills. Amongst what we saw were curlew, oystercatchers, herons and little egrets. Just putting names to these was a discovery for some of our group, for others perhaps it was making that mental note of the call that will help place a curlew the next time they go walking, or maybe on the walk after that. For all of us there was space away from the workaday, fresh air for the lungs, good company and gentle exercise.

    For me the arts are a way of finding and allowing us more of ourselves. For as long as poems have been written, birds have featured. It’s amazing how much they are used in our language to help us express how we feel or think. Of course, poetry can seem or be difficult, but it can also be unbelievably simple, it’s a way of tuning in. Take ‘Adelstrop’ by Edward Thomas; he describes a simple pause sat on a train in June, just noting what happens, but builds to the simple but essential idea of the interconnectedness of all things:


    And for that minute a blackbird sang

    Close by, and round him, mistier,

    Farther and farther, all the birds

    Of  Oxfordshire and Gloustershire.


    Whether it’s poetry or birds, meet them on the level that you want to and each time I guarantee you will get closer, bringing back one thing, great or small, from each walk or reading. If this leads to a deep knowledge of say, curlew behaviour, or an understanding of the inner workings of a sonnet or sestina, then that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t have to. That one thing can be as simple as being stilled by the brilliant white of egrets or the individual phrase sung by the blackbird in your garden, and as in that image given to us by Thomas, there are all the blackbirds beyond it, and by extension, all of nature. Tune in, it’s all there, close by.

     Photo credit: Matt Howard

  • Return of the Harrier

    Blogger: Steve Rowland, Public Affairs Manager

    I bumped into a Marsh Harrier the other day, a wonderfully pale almost sandy coloured male bird, quartering a field of wheat that gently sloped down towards the Wash. The presence of this bird here, feels right as a part of the landscape that went missing for many years that has now returned.

    Watching Marsh Harriers in your lunch break is a pleasure that I don’t take for granted, even in their UK heartland of East Anglia.  Here Marsh Harriers nest as you might expect in reed beds but have also in recent years adapted to nesting in cereal crops. Yet just 40 years ago, in 1971, following decades of persecution and habitat loss there was just one pair of Marsh Harriers nesting in the UK, at the RSPB’s Minsmere nature reserve on the Suffolk coast. Since then, although there are still only a few hundred nests each year in the UK, they have thankfully steadily increasing in numbers and are spreading back into their former haunts.

    This recovery wouldn’t have happened without two key tools in the RSPB’s conservation tool box. Firstly the protection and management by staff and volunteers of special places such as the reed beds at the RSPB’s Minsmere and Titchwell Marsh nature reserves. These sites act as arks, where beleaguered species can get some much needed TLC.

    Secondly our work with others, in the case of Marsh Harriers farmers in and around the agricultural hinterland of The Wash in Norfolk and Lincolnshire.  RSPB staff and volunteers have worked with these farmers to protect crop nesting Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers. We have also worked here with the Police and others to ensure that the birds are protected from illegal persecution.

    As my lunchtime Harrier drifts away and out of view I am reminded of all of the work done by so many people over the last four decades stepping up for nature, that has resulted in my brief encounter with one of our most beautiful and charismatic birds.

    If you’d like to see what opportunities exist to step up for nature near you please take a look at our website    

    Photo credit: Ben Hall (rspb images)