You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Blogger: Kim Matthews, Campaigns Intern
Sometimes when I think about the problems we, the human race, are facing I have the urge to run away and live like Tom and Barbara Good. War, famine, poverty, climate change, habitat destruction, mass species extinctions... it’s enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand. Perhaps if I had my dream eco-self-sufficient-rare-breed-organic-fairtrade-ethical small-holding in the middle of nowhere, I could forget about everything else!
However, I had a bit of an epiphany recently. I was mindlessly searching through the 80 programs stagnating on my digibox when I stumbled upon a Natural World episode about Broken Tail the tiger. I’d recently written a briefing about the RSPB’s work in Sumatra so I thought a tiger story would go down nicely with my cup of tea and slice of sticky date cake (did you know the RSPB was trying to save the rainforest including its precious, stripy inhabitants? No? Neither did I until I started working for them!).
Needless to say, 50 minutes later the tea was stone cold, the cake untouched and there was a pile of soggy tissues next to me. Whilst I can definitely be called a soppy moo when it comes to animals, this time my tears were very much out of anger and frustration. The story is about a young tiger that leaves the relative safety of a reserve in India and travels 100 miles only to be killed by a high-speed train.
Broken Tail was most likely searching for new territory and a mate. On his year-long solitary journey he passed through several reserves, but all of them were now devoid of tigers. They had become isolated fragments surrounded by a sea of humanity virtually impossible to cross. The fact that he survived so long and travelled so far is an incredible testament to this particular individual.
The moral of the story is of course the desperate need for wildlife ‘corridors’ to connect up habitat fragments so that species such as the tiger can survive. And of course, by protecting tiger habitat we also protect many other important but less well-loved species. Aside from the shame attached if we somehow allow the tiger to become extinct, how long would the protection remain in place for those reserves and their other inhabitants? Sadly, the tiger could have as little as a decade left.
I made a vow to myself right there and then that I couldn’t just sit back and let it happen without a fight. I don’t want to go to my grave and look back and realise that I could have done more. And it’s not just about large, vibrant mammals on the other side of the world, our very own green and pleasant land is in trouble too. The very same thing is happening to habitats across the UK.
It dawned on me that life is rather like a giant game of Jenga, with the human race perched on the very top. We rely on our environment for our very survival so we can push out several blocks without much happening but eventually the whole thing will become unstable and collapse.
So much doom and gloom I hear you say. But no! There is plenty of hope to be had. There are amazing success stories happening even as we speak and the RSPB, among others, is determined to halt the increasing decline of species and habitats and to secure a sustainable future for us all. If, like me, you want to shout out about how brilliant and precious our planet really is, why not sign up to be an RSPB campaigner? Your voice really does count....please use it. www.rspb.org.uk/campaignchampions
Blogger: Charlotte Pledger, Youth, Education & Families Officer
So onto the last of my family activity blogs for this summer – Minsmere. I have been fortunate enough to have visited the reserve several times over the holidays, mainly to help with some of the survey work in preparation for the new Family Discovery Zone. This gave me the opportunity to have a really close look at activities on offer and observe families participating in them.
There were lots of activities available for families visiting the reserve each Thursday throughout the summer. Each child was given a booklet as they arrived with an outline of the activities. They then went round the reserve, collecting a stamp for each activity (which included bird ringing demonstrations by Waveney Bird Club, pond dipping, bug hunting, exploring the hides, using binoculars and den building). They could then get a sticker at the Visitor Centre. This really focussed families on the activities and helped them explore more than one part of the reserve.
As I was wandering around I overheard many families talking enthusiastically about the activities and there were several great debates going on about which was their favourites. I don’t think any consensus was made – all were enjoyed equally. But don’t tell anyone but I really loved the den building.
It is easy to presume the activities are just for children but you just had to go to the bug hunting area to see grandparents crawling around on their hands and knees, with the same sense of wonder at discovering some small, yet wonderfully unusual creatures as their grand children.
Building your own den was popular (not just with me), particularly with children and their dads (mums were quite happy taking photos). At one point it was getting rather competitive between families – who was going to build the biggest and best den?!
Families and birders alike congregated in the bird ringing tent, fascinated and enthralled by how tiny and beautiful the everyday garden birds, such as blue tits looked close up. The ringers encouraged the children (and adults) to ask questions and allowed them to help release the birds. One little boy could hardly contain himself, bobbing up and down in excitement.
These opportunities for families to discover nature and the close encounters they are able to experience with wildlife, from damselfly nymphs to red deer, will hopefully sew a seed for a life long love of the natural world. After all, this is the aim of all the passionate volunteers and staff who have been running these events.
Just because the summer is coming to an end does not mean the fun stops here. Find out about more upcoming events at Minsmere here: The RSPB: Minsmere: Events.
Photo: Spotting all sorts of wildlife at Minsmere. Credit: Adam Murray
Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager
Earlier this week, on Bank Holiday Monday, I landed at Stanstead Airport. My ten day holiday had rapidly come to an end and as I walked through the arrivals gate and stood outside watching hoards of people excitedly wheeling their suitcase towards the check-in desk, I felt deflated to say the least.
The end of a holiday can always leave you feeling blue. I love Norfolk, but walking and hiking in the mountains of The Alps left me reconsidering my opinion of Mousehold Hill; a mild bump in the Norwich skyline in comparison. For 6 days I woke up to snow covered mountains and blue sky, where the alpine choughs dotted themselves along the skyline like chocolate sprinkles. These creatures became my daily dose of home comfort, circling above as if keeping a watchful eye on the action happening beneath.
The second leg of my holiday took me to Denmark, where the sheer amount of swallows took me by surprise. They were everywhere! Swooping in front of me, chattering endlessly in the distance ensuring that my soundtrack to the holiday was this nimble summertime creature. Upon my return to the UK, and to my house in Norwich, the swifts and the swallows were long gone; off to warmer climates for some winter fun!
Starting back at work this week reminded me of that childhood feeling of going back to school after those glorious six weeks of the summer holiday! That feeling of rejuvenated energy and of wanting to catch up with your friends. Admittedly, as a child I was more excited about my shiny new pencil tin and showing off my new school shoes than going to the lessons themselves, but that’s besides the point!
Barely even unpacked and I’m off to the coast this weekend to have some quality time in the Norfolk countryside. I know it’s not exactly exotic and there are no mountains to climb, but there is something magical about the air on the cusp of a turning season. Yes, the swallows are no longer on our little island, and the butterflies are becoming scarce, but there is definitely excitement in the atmosphere. I can’t wait to go and stand on the beach at RSPB Titchwell Marsh and feel the crispness in the air. To watch the long blades of grass ease back and forth with the breeze as if whispering to each other. In a few weeks there will be different colours adorning our trees and wonderful wildlife arriving to our shores. It may not be a nice feeling returning from a summer break, but it certainly re-ignites your passion for the place you call home.
Follow us on Twitter for more wildlife updates and places to get out and about @rspbintheeast
Photo: alpine chough. Credit: David Norton (rspb-images.com)
Article in Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 3 September 2011