December, 2011

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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.
  • Hen harriers dropping like flies

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Manager

    We reported on some rather shocking news this week. The hen harrier is the bird most likely to become extinct in England because of human pressure. I’ve only ever seen a hen harrier once; on a visit to RSPB Titchwell Marsh last Christmas. As I stood on the path i was freezing with the bitter wind blowing through my rather unsuitable, not-very-winterproof-coat! My eyes were watery with the cold and i was trying desperately to ignore the darkness that was starting to fall upon me. I spent ages scouring over the reedbeds for barn owls, stubbornly trying to catch a glimpse of my favourite bird.  From the distance a pale, slow figure appeared from behind the silhouted trees. As it glided over the reedbeds trying to get some much-needed food before settling for the night, I realised that this was no barn owl. For no more than five minutes, I was privaledged enough to stand and watch a hen harrier. For those five minutes, the cold evaporated and the wind held its breath. It was a priceless experience.

    Now, when i think back to that day at Titchwell, it puts my experience into a whole new light. The chances are, I won’t see another hen harrier in England. Certainly not in such unexpected circumstances.   When i think about the significance of that cold afternoon it makes me so very sad. Wildlife numbers will fluctuate; we live in a fast-changing world and ups and downs will be a way of life. But, to drive a species to extinction is unforgivable.  

    Bird crime is mindless criminality, plain and simple. However, It will be a very real contribution to the demise of such a stunning creature. The hen harrier is just one species struggling for survival in a time when we are supposed to be putting our faith in the ‘greenest government ever’. Quite frankly, they are failing miserably.  If the hen harrier disappears from England, we will witness the government breaking its recent commitment to avoid any human-induced extinctions before 2020.

    Well George Osbourne should certainly be pleased with himself. In a season of goodwill and peace on earth, he has left a huge black cloud over the future of our environment. His recent attack on the habitat regulations was disappointing to say the least. It certainly won’t do birds like the hen harrier any favours.

    I never thought that our environment and the wildlife that lives in it could change so dramatically in my lifetime. There will be birds that my grandchildren may never get to see. There will be habitats that are forever lost to development that my grandchildren may never get to walk amongst. Yes, it makes me very sad, but it also fills me with confidence to think that there is still something we can do about it. Visit to find out how.

    Article in EDP on Saturday 17 December.

    Photo by Andy Hay (rspb images)

  • Deck the halls with boughs of holly

    Blogger: Rachael Murray, Media Officer

    It’s an age-old tradition – using fresh holly branches to adorn your table and give your home a festive look – but don’t forget to leave enough out there for our wildlife this winter!

    Holly is a valuable source of food and shelter for a number of birds, mammals and insects.  Thrushes, robins, dunnocks, finches and goldcrests use it for nesting as the prickly leaves provide excellent protection; blackbirds, fieldfares, redwings, mistle and song thrushes, among others, eat the berries; and hedgehogs, toads and slow worms hibernate in the deep leaf litter that builds up beneath the plant.  

    The bush is slow growing, so while pruning in winter is good because it can create denser growth, it is important that holly is not over-trimmed.  The plant only flowers and produces on two-year old wood, so pruning too hard can stop it flowering next spring.

    Richard James, from our wildlife enquiries team, explains:  “You can’t beat a bit of holly around the house to make you feel all Christmassy, but as well as it being a pretty plant, holly also plays a very important part in the lives of wildlife at this time of year.

    “Taking the odd branch here and there will do no harm at all, but don’t take too much.  Removing all the berries or cutting the bush back too much will mean birds and other animals that rely on the plant for food and shelter will be left without.  And it could also damage the plant in the long-term too, meaning you won’t have any holly to jolly up your home next year.”

    As you decorate your home for Christmas this year, remember that some of those decorations are themselves home to a wide range of birds and wildlife!

    Let’s not forget our wild friends this festive season....and even better, why not pop a few calorie-rich leftovers out for them over the winter to keep their bellies full?

    To find out more about feeding birds in your garden, please find more information on


    Photo credit: Andy Hay (rspb images)

  • Let the 12 Days of Christmas Begin...

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    Ahh the joys of collecting old encyclopaedias and natural world books (I know I am a chic geek) as well as the speed of Wikipedia. I was completely unaware that the Twelve Days of Christmas started on Christmas Day. Not only that but there are variations on the song and lots of debate about the origin and meaning.

    In my eyes, it is a celebration of this time of year both of people and wildlife. So watch this space and our RSPB in the East Facebook and Twitter pages for some of my takes on the Twelve Days...

    What does it mean to you?