March, 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.
  • Looking back at Winter

    Blogger: Sean Locke, a Volunteer Bird Surveyor at Strumpshaw Fen Reserve


    Hues of sadness paint the tired sky.
    Suffocated by grey clouds.
    Tears shed heavy.
    Soaking the skin of this lifeless land.
    The breath of Winter lingers.
    An icy grip, harsh strangle on the throat.
    Silver light of the moon shimmers.
    The shadow of night creep quickly to cast.
    Black knarly fingers entangle,
    Skeleton-like, empty of life, pointing to the heavens,
    Towering bodies of trees,
    Their flesh cold and damp.
    Hush is this land that lies deathly still.
    Slumber through Winter's long stay-
    Until the warmth of the sun is reborn.

    Photo by Mike Richards (

  • Vegging out in front of the box

    Blogger: Gena Correale Wardle, Community Fundraising Officer

    Sunday is my favourite day of the week – a real lounge day when I like nothing better than to get the Sunday papers and spend the day cooking, reading and watching TV. Last Sunday I spent the morning cooking up a storm in the kitchen with my new favourite thing – my organic veg box!

    The previous week one of the papers had run a promotion so you could get one of these fabulous little organic vegetable boxes for half price and I’d jumped at the chance to start getting my veg delivered from a local organic farm. All Thursday I waited in anticipation to see what had been delivered and when I got home I wasn’t disappointed – lush greens poked their way out of the cardboard, potatoes, still covered in soil greeted me from within a paper bag and leeks fresher and thicker than any I’d seen in a supermarket were tucked in the bottom.

    I was totally like a child at Christmas and I really couldn’t wait to use it all! The best thing was that it was all in season, locally sourced (where possible) and all organic. It meant that when I was cooking my Sunday lunch yesterday I could have whole roast carrots, without peeling them, safe in the knowledge that no nasties had passed through their skin. I did leeks and cabbage cooked in wine and cream and lovely roast potatoes, it was a delight to the senses! The best thing is there’s still plenty of veg left to see me through the next week or so – although I’m not quite sure what to do with my fennel – ideas on a postcard please!

    Although I didn’t realise it, my veg box fits in perfectly with National Climate Week. This year's focus is low carbon food and a spotlight on greener eating! Suggestions include eat less meat and dairy, eating local, seasonal ingredients and making sure not to throw any food away where possible.

    I know I shall feel quite smug tonight when I cook up my Sunday leftovers into a delicious bubble and squeak – no meat, local ingredients and using up my left over food. I’m doing my bit without even trying!

    To get your juices flowing have a look here for some simple ideas about how you can lower your carbon footprint and eat well, with some recipes suggestions from celeb chefs too -  

    Your tummy will appreciate it and you can feel happy in the knowledge that sometimes it’s not as hard as you think to be a conservation hero!


  • First sounds of Spring

    Blogger: Steve Rowland, Public Affairs Manager

    Spring seemed a long way off last week as I took my lunchtime walk through the woods, the leaves on the trees were yet to unfurl, the ground was bare and covered in a mulch of last autumns dead leaves, and a light, cold wintry rain drizzled down.

    And yet I realised that my mind had picked up on the subtle changes in the quality of light and drawing out of the days. I became aware of a slight tightness in my ears, an unconscious straining and heightened alertness to the bird song around me. And I thought that after more Springs as a birder than I care to remember, my brain was quietly and unobtrusively saying to my ears to be alert for couple of unremarkable notes of bird song one up followed repetitively by another down, up and down in short bursts, from a bird that takes its name from these two notes of song, the chiff chaff.  (photo below).

    Naming a bird after the sound it makes is known as onomatopoeia and two other species that occur in the UK the cuckoo and the kittiwake also take their names from their calls.

    I will acknowledge here that chiff chaffs are not blessed with the most captivating of names or musical of songs. But for me they compensate for that with the charisma that comes from being the first of our returning migrants to fill our bare Spring woods with their song, perhaps a month before the other returning warblers have got back from a winter spent south of the Sahara.

    Chiff chaffs like many of our other warblers, might at a glance appear a little drab and indistinct. In particular at first you might easily confuse a chiff chaff with its close relative the willow warbler.  (photo below).

    A rough guide to telling them apart is that a willow warblers legs are a light flesh colour whilst a chiff chaffs are black and a chiff chaffs has a more olive coloured plumage (being a birder you carry a veritable colour palette in your head to describe shades of green and brown feathers).

    But the surest way to tell these cousins apart is to listen to them singing. Compared to the chiff chaffs repetitive two notes, willow warblers have a to my mind a much nicer song, a lovely tinkling sound that seems to gently descend a set of musical scales before being hauled by the bird back to the top only to descend down them once more.

    Willow warblers arrive from their wintering grounds in Africa a little later in the spring than chiff chaffs which tend to spend the winter in the Mediterranean. So my brain wasn't tipping my ears off to listen out for a willow warbler practicing its scales, but for that starting gun of the season, a simple two note Chiff then Chaff song that would light up the woods and put a smile on my face, a sign of the end of winter and the beginning of natures headlong rush into spring.

    I didn’t hear a chiff chaff last week but I’ll be out again for a lunchtime walk in the woods this week, listening carefully for those two notes. If you have some time to spare over the next week or so why don’t you go out and see if you can hear a chiff chaff and then tell us here.

    Photos credit John Bridges (