February, 2012

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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.
  • Natural, traditional and udderly wonderful!

    Blogger - Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer

    I have fallen in love with keeping chickens. They are quirky, personality filled creatures and I can fill hours in a day watching them. We now have five in total, including Colin the cockerel, but with the cold weather and drawn in nights we still have very few eggs. I can do without the scrambled egg suppers until spring time though if it means letting the chickens lead a natural day-night cycle and an outdoors life.

    This wouldn’t work commercially however. Consumer demand doesn’t allow for seasonality. We seem to appreciate quantity over quality. However, this hasn’t been possible without a considerable environmental impact. Cattle produce huge amounts of methane in their belches and farts. We burn fossil fuels to produce fertiliser to grow cattle feed and use vast amounts of water (990 litres!) to produce one litre of milk.

    All this information should perhaps make me leap towards a vegetarian diet but actually I am proud to maintain an element of meat eating. Farm animals are part of a traditional British landscape and it could be argued have become part of our ecosystem. We wouldn’t have our vast Breckland heaths without grazing animals, nor would we enjoy the grazing marshes of the Broads. 

    So I am more than happy to be an orator of the benefits of farmland animals. As such I have been intrigued by the recent news that extensive systems of grazing animals might actually hold great advantages for the environment. Researchers have realised that there is increasing evidence of the critical role that grassland soils play in storing carbon. Restoring agricultural grassland to a wildlife-rich state can lead to it storing over three tonnes of extra carbon per hectare per year.

    I would glory in a return to more traditional, mixed farming. Wildlife would benefit, our climate would benefit, the cows would benefit and we’d still be in for a joint of beef on the occasional Sunday. What’s not to like?

    Actually, I can already tell you. How can we feed a growing population on small mixed farms?  Perhaps we need to start farming not for wealth and maximum production but instead to ensure we feed ourselves, and others. For any of you who find something in this idea, I thoroughly recommend looking up Colin Tudge, a biologist and writer on agriculture.  He states with great clarity that ‘basic principles, common sense, a certain amount of empirical data—and the entire history of humankind—all indicate that lots of small environmentally friendly farms can feed us all, and well.’

    Until someone persuades me otherwise I’ll stick with this common-sensical approach too. Natural and traditional is the way forwards for me.

    Featured in EDP, Saturday 4 Feb

  • A Turkey Hero

    Blogger: Simon Tonkin, RSPB Senior Farmland Conservation Officer

    Where am I? Over 800,000 square kilometres of land, surrounded on three sides by seas, serving as a bridge between three continents and forming a critical flyway for migrating birds? .....Turkey of course!

    Turkey encompasses two main routes for birds migrating en mass, referred to as a flyway. Twice a year, the land and water habitats of Turkey offer hospitality to thousands of migrating birds.

    Bird migration is with out doubt one of nature’s greatest miracles. The epic flights of migratory birds connect us all - crossing our borders, cultures and lives. I can not describe the fascination, awe and shear miracle that bird migration continually demonstrates to me. Yet there is still so much we do not understand about one of the world’s greatest events.

    The birds, wildlife and culture of Turkey had a real effect on Tristan Reid when he visited and delighted in the spectacle of wildlife and the friendly people he met on his travels. Imagine the shock, disbelief and anger that Tristan must have felt after realising that the mass development of hydro-electric damns right across that 800,000 hectares. Not just one or two but a head-spinning 1,738 hydro-electric damns are planned.

    What’s the problem? – the creation of these damns on such a mass scale would destroy the vital ecosystems on which migrating and resident birds depend, but also destroy the habitats which many people rely on for food and a huge variety of other resources.

    In Europe this type of development would have to pass the EU’s Habitats Directive - helping to ensure development limits its effects on important habitats and species. The government in this country recently announced a review of the implementation of this directive, feeling the directive constrains on the ability of our economy to overcome the current bleak outlook. RSPB and many others strongly disagree. Sacrificing the environment, and for example destroying that jaw dropping miracle of flyways for short-term economic gain has no long-term sustainable economic, environmental or social future.

    Unfortunately Turkey isn’t part of the EU and doesn’t have such a cornerstone of protection for nature. It is important to note that the development of renewable energy sources is important to us all, but they must not be at the expense of the ecosystems that so many of us rely on. In Turkey 2,000,000 Turkish villagers will be forced to migrate away from their homes as a result of these damn developments.

    Tristan decided to step-up for Turkey’s nature – He is helping Birdlife partner Doğa Derneği in their work and give them and the issues they are fighting against greater publicity. He literally decided to give his right (and left) arm!


    Photo: Tristan enthusing RSPB staff about Turkey’s fabulous wildlife and his very cool, but no doubt very painful tattoo’s.


    Here is Tristan’s plan:

    1. Commission an artist to design a montage of ten of the iconic birds of Turkey (this will be auctioned off once the project is complete)

    2. Have the design tattooed on his complete arm and shoulder (funded completely himself)

    3. If he raises over £10,000 he will add a further £1,000 to the total and have a montage of a further ten species tattooed onto his left arm and shoulder

    And here’s what YOU can do to help!

    You can donate by following this link:


    Alternatively you can donate via text message! Text the code VWFE83 followed by the amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070 (all letters in the text must be in higher case)

    30% of the global population of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis

    25% of the European breeding population of the Endangered White-headed Duck

    > 10% of the global population of the Endangered Egyptian Vulture (a species which now only really survives in large numbers on Yemen’s Socotra Island)

    > 30% of the global population of European Rollers (pictured)

    > 70% of the global population of the near Turkish endemic and Near Threatened Krueper’s Nuthatch

    > 90% of the global population of the Cinereous Bunting

    Additionally Turkey holds five endemic mammals (mountains here still apparently hold the Anatolian or Asia Minor Leopard Panthera pardus tulliana), has 52 endemic freshwater fish, 13 endemic reptiles, 30.6 Turkish plant species are endemic to Turkey and the nearby Aegean Islands.


  • Getting in touch with your emotional side

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer

    Peering out of my window in the office today, the snow is starting to melt and the sun is streaming across our desks. It is certainly warming my heart, if not my red fingertips that have been pinched by the frosty air on my walk in. It is amazing what such a dramatic change in weather can do to your perspective though. With roads covered in inches of clean, white, fluffy snow last week, the world felt smaller. Like a simpler place to exist, a charming, quiet world where everything slows down to a more dreamy pace of life. It never ceases to amaze me how the natural world can keep inspiring us in this way; the feelings that it evokes and the sentiments it encourages. Do you think people become more romantic or childlike when it snows, more carefree when the sun shines, or more  sensitive when it’s raining?  You only have to look in any modern day fiction, Shakespearean play or poem from the ‘classics’ to see how much we’ve been inspired by the natural world and the changing seasons.

    Hopefully, nature will continue to inspire creativity for decades to come, but we can’t escape the sobering fact that it is facing some of its biggest challenges yet. 

    So, the RSPB is also getting in touch with its emotional side! We’ve launched our first ever nature poetry competition, in conjunction with award-winning poetry publisher, The Rialto, to encourage you all to express why the great outdoors is so special. Most importantly, we want you to share your passion for the environment in whatever form of verse you fancy.   If sonnets and stanzas are not your thing, why not go for a limerick or a haiku?

    But, what is Nature Poetry? Well, the judges, former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion and the leading Nature Writer, Mark Cocker will give this pretty a wide interpretation. Your poems  won’t have to be just about bitterns or badgers, pied wagtails or polar bears. Most people have walked in their local park, felt the roughness of a leaf or the heft of a stone and know how it can change a mood or express a feeling. You might just have to put pen to paper and see what comes to you!

    As well as offering poets the chance to win a cash prize and publication of their poems, the competition will raise vital money for conservation. Full details and the facility to enter online can be found The Rialto website here: www.therialto.co.uk/pages/the-magazine/nature-poetry-competition-2012/ If you would prefer to enter by post, that’s fine too, just get in touch with Matt Howard at our Norwich office on 01603 697515 or email at  matt.howard@rspb.org.uk to request an entry form.

    Photo Credit: Adam Murray