April, 2012

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.

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.
  • Time to phone a friend

    Blogger: Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager

    What would be your Mastermind specialist subject? Like a party trick (I can twist my arm round 360 degrees), everyone should have one. I think my specialist subject would have to be Thomas the Tank Engine. I’ve studied his life, friends and various escapades in detail over the last few years. However, I have to admit, my young son is arguably more knowledgeable than me. If only they did phone a friend!

    You may not be surprised to hear that many RSPB employees are bird experts and would probably choose avian topics as their subject. However, a fair few would choose moths, bats, spiders or even social media too. We are increasingly finding that knowing your birds is not enough; nature conservation is about so much more.

    Wildlife and habitats are such complex, interconnected ecosystems, that to be a specialist in all fields is pretty challenging. Those that achieve it do so over a life time of passionate interest. For those of us a little younger, many of us go along with Socrates who said, ‘the only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing.’

    The trick is involving someone who does have the highest level of expertise. Nature is in real trouble and if we are going to save it then we all need to work together. The more we do this, pooling expertise and resources, the more we’ll achieve.

    We’ve recently joined forces with Buglife to enable both organisations to provide more and better advice on wildlife friendly farming in the region. Buglife are the experts on saving Britain's rarest little animals. With their help, we’ll now be able to advise farmers on protecting snails, bees, wasps, ants, spiders, beetles, butterflies and more.

    Insects aren’t just something that ruin a picnic. They are vital for so many birds and creatures, so if we can look after them, then we are well on the way to a thriving ecosystem. Not to mention a healthy economy; recent figures indicate that the loss of bees would cost the UK £1.8 billion as we would have to hand pollinate all our crops.

    We need the expertise of farmers too. They are the custodians of our land and know their patch like the back of their hand. Farmers have seen the changes over time and they are brilliantly placed to step up and save many special and vital species. Farmers, Buglife and the RSPB, all working together, starts to make the massive challenges ahead seem possible.

    Sadly, I’m far from an insect expert. It would sound so much more impressive to have ‘entomology’ as my specialist subject. However, it is reassuring that the RSPB has got Buglife on our ‘phone a friend’ list

    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com).jpg

  • THE GREEN POST: Down hoses for wildlife!

    Blogger: Jane Warren, RSPB in the East Green Team Member

    Editor's Note: Your next monthly posting from our fab Green Team - who keep us on our green toes (or should that be green fingers?)

    I came back to Norfolk four years ago after a 15-year stint in Australia, which is often described as the driest inhabited continent on earth. Living with drought conditions was a normal part of everyday life where I lived in Melbourne. By April 2007, dams were at only 25% capacity and serious water restrictions were put in place. And there were reports of ‘bucket back’ as people lugged heavy buckets and basins of grey water from showering or washing up to water their parched gardens...

    Probably the last thing I was expecting on my return to this green and pleasant land was to find myself caught up in drought conditions again. But as we know, one of the worst droughts in living memory is currently gripping southern and eastern areas of the UK. As I’m writing this, the rain is actually pouring down in Norwich, but there are no plans to lift the hosepipe ban that has been in place since early April. We need weeks and weeks of rain in order to beat the drought.

    The prolonged period of drought has already had a big impact on RSPB wetland nature reserves across the drought-hit area, and is threatening to adversely affect this spring's breeding season at many sites. If we can reduce the demand we put on water catchments and reservoirs, this will help keep more water in the environment, keeping rivers flowing for longer and protecting their precious wildlife.

    There are simple things that we can all do to reduce the water we use in our homes and gardens, helping to protect rivers and wetlands:

    • Take short showers rather than baths
    • Use water butts and used water from washing up bowls and basins to water gardens and house plants (but beware the infamous ‘bucket back’!)
    • Only use washing machines and dishwashers when you have a full load
    • Comply with hose-pipe ban restrictions and please don't use hose-pipes or sprinklers in the garden or to clean your car
    • Contact your water company for water efficient shower heads and shower timers.

    If we all take small steps now and act together, we can make a big difference for wildlife.

    And just in case you’re interested, by the end of 2011, Melbourne’s water fortunes had completely changed thanks to that weather phenomenon La Niña, which delivered rain by the bucket loads.

    Internet article: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/310966-down-hoses-for-wildlife-conservationists-urge

     Photo: curlew by Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)

  • RSPB announces plans for a wind turbine at its HQ

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer

    It feels almost paradoxical that something so clinical in appearance, so streamlined and architectural can evoke such strong emotions.  But, I suppose that’s to be expected when a feature as bold as a wind turbine appears in our landscape. I call it the Grand Design effect!

    It’s the TV show that I tune into every week, whilst eating my tea (shamefully on my lap most of the time!). In that hour, I get drawn into the drama, the emotional highs and lows that comes with a project like building your own house.

    In my mind, there is a parallel to be drawn here. Like homes, wind turbines have been designed and built with a core function in mind; ensuring a secure and enjoyable place to live through facing up to climate change and lessening our carbon footprint on the planet. In many ways, this becomes more paramount than putting a roof over our heads. If we don’t face up to the fact that our current supplies of energy are running out and damaging a very fragile environment, then we may have a world-wide crisis on our hands.

    Today, the RSPB is unveiling its own grand design with a plan to build a wind turbine at its UK headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire.  We believe that renewable energy is an essential tool in the fight against climate change, which poses the single biggest threat to the long term survival of birds and wildlife. 

    Current modelling suggests that a turbine located at our site in Bedfordshire could produce over two thirds of the RSPB’s total UK electricity needs, putting us well on the way to meeting our target to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Something that the current government (greenest government ever?) should be taking more seriously.

    But it’s always a rollercoaster affair isn’t it? I’ve sat and watched Grand Designs with my heart in my mouth as an anxious couple await a planning application decision to give their dream home the go ahead. For the turbine at The Lodge, it’s going to be a similar scenario.  We still have research that we want to do to make sure that the Lodge is a suitable place to put a turbine.

    We know that with the right design and location wind turbines have little or no impact on wildlife, but we always take care to consider any wind turbine proposal on a case-by-case basis.

    We are still in the feasibility stages of our wind turbine project at The Lodge. During this feasibility stage, we will submit a planning application for a meteorological mast, which will gather data for 12 months to monitor the wind resource at the site.  We’ll also be continuing with wildlife surveys to make sure we confirm that a turbine would not have any unacceptable impacts on sensitive species in the area.

    When we have completed sufficient research, and if we are confident that this is a suitable site, we will submit a full planning application for the turbine, including the environmental assessment, to Central Bedfordshire Council.  That certainly sounds like a lot of nail biting stuff and it will be, but rest assured, it will be carried out with passion and a commitment to creating a healthy, sustainable environment choc full of wildlife for future generations.

    All of us have a part to play in helping to meet the Government’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and this turbine will be one more step along the way.   

    Let’s be honest about it, wind turbines might look functional, but what do they really  represent? In my opinion, it’s clean, green energy. They signify a promise and commitment to future generations that we value our environment and they are an acknowledgement that wildlife and new, modern development can live in harmony.

    Wind turbines might not be sexy and they certainly don’t come with an enthusiastic, eloquent Kevin McCloud, but they can and do draw out real emotions in people. Emotions that reconnect us with the landscape in which we live and highlight the vulnerability of our planet.  We are only in the first phase of this project, however its ultimate aim is to ensure that, as an organisation we are doing our bit in the fight against climate change. Doing our bit so that my grandchildren will have a healthy environment in which to live. Doing our bit so that we can all continue to live in a landscape that we cherish. And doing our bit for everything that buzzes, creeps, crawls and flutters. That’s pretty grand if you ask me.

    To find out more about this project, visit www.rspb.org.uk/lodgewindturbine.