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: Erica Howe, Communications Officer
What is it that makes you proud to live in the UK? Is it the football team you support, the heritage, the fish and chips, the landscape? There are many reasons to feel proud of the country we live in and as a nation we’re blimmin good at celebrating. Talking of which, I was invited to a Eurovision party on Saturday evening! It was a first for me and although I’ve never really paid a huge amount of attention to the annual competition of cheesy pop songs from all over Europe, it was genuinely good fun. It involved a lot of giggling at the entries, eating pizza, drinking the odd glass of wine and flying the metaphorical flag for the UK, luckily we did get more than nil point – en francais!
It is one thing that as a nation, we exceed in; celebrating the things that make us ‘Great’ Britain. And working for the RSPB means I hear about many of these first hand.
There are a team of RSPB staff, volunteers and farmers who come together every year to make sure that one, very special creature has a future. The stone curlew isn’t a well-known bird, but should certainly be held up as a symbol of success. There are a little over 300 stone curlews in the whole country and the majority of those live right in the heart of the Brecks; a dry, unique landscape with habitat that suits these birds down to the ground, but they do need a bit of a helping hand. For a few months every year, the birds nest on bare open ground and become vulnerable to disturbance. So, the team works with farmers to locate nest sites so that they can be avoided while farm operations take place. A stone-curlew’s natural reaction to danger is to sit still, which isn’t a good strategy when a large farm tractor is heading in its direction!
With the help of this dedicated team, the population of this bird is once again on the up. Something that we should certainly raise a glass to. And, in true underdog style they’re rather quirky looking creatures. With big goggly eyes and knobbly yellow legs, they definitely have character. The chicks resemble something similar to a pair of comfy, fluffy slippers and you can’t help but fall in love with them. Something that Engelbert Humperdink would surely welcome.
So, whilst sitting on the sofa with my glass of bubbly, enjoying the guilty pleasure of the Eurovision and our poor result, I was pondering about the fantastic conservation success that is the stone curlew and beaming with pride that it is right on my doorstep. That deserves 12 points if you ask me.
Who are the top songsters across the countryside?
The East is alive with songbirds belting it out all across the East. And with Eurovision nearly upon us, It’s time for us to celebrate the top songbirds in the region.
Presenting, from Suffolk, the RSPB Wolves Wood Reserve, which has a thriving population of singing nightingales. Nightingales in the UK declined by 57% between 1995 and 2009, but thanks to dedicated woodland management work, which includes blocking ditches to keep water on site, we are helping to have a positive effect. Warden, Mark Nowers says, “Ground-feeding birds like nightingales thrive in damp conditions. This year, there are eight nightingales singing in Wolves Wood, which is the most we have had on site since the start of the Millennium. Woodlands come alive in the spring with beautiful plants and bird song and it’s a privilege to hear nightingales back in these woods.”
Next up is the Broads, presenting the loudest booming bittern in the East. At RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, the recognisable call can be heard for miles.The bittern is an incredibly secretive bird and with less than 100 birds breeding in the whole UK, it is a rare sight. However, their loud booms are iconic and a sure-fire way of attracting a mate. At this time of year, bitterns are active and marking their territories with their calls.
The next regional star is the sedge warbler, found singing at RSPB Titchwell Marsh in Norfolk. The sedge warbler is the beat boxer of the bird world. Its song is made up of a variety of scratchy notes and is faster and louder than many of its rival songsters. Jaz Atkinson at Titchwell Marsh said: “These tiny creatures have arrived all the way from south of the Sahara, where they have travelled over 2000 miles to be here. No song is ever the same so they always give us a unique performance! They shuffle up a single reed stem, right to the top where they will deliver their erratic and hectic song. Sedge warblers can also do cover versions and imitate other wetland bird calls and songs!”
And finally, drum roll, presenting from Hertfordshire at the RSPB Rye Meads Nature Reserve is the Cetti’s warbler. This bird likes to be heard and not seen; they are tiny little creatures. The nature reserve now has 6 pairs singing to its visitors, a bird that was never previously heard in the area.
So whether you are a big Humperdink fan or have been turned off since the departure of Sir Terry - be inspired by the Eurovison Song Contest this Saturday and get outdoors and see who you can hear singing their little hearts out. To find out where you can go to hear these birds throughout May and June then visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves
Blogger: Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager
Here is my confession. I work for the RSPB yet I have not been to a nature reserve in my leisure time for over three years.
Let me clarify a few things: I have not lost my passion for enjoying wildlife in stunning locations. I have not had a bad accident involving binoculars. I have not lost my love of walking in incredible habitats and meeting inspirational people.
I used to visit nature reserves at least twice a month. What has happened? I became a mother, that’s what. Suddenly, life became structured around nap times and feeds. Going to the toilet alone became a luxury. Long days spent outside, away from it all, not caring if rain was forecast simply stopped being possible. My little people have incompatible needs; nappy changing stations, places to play, shelter and make noise and family friendly food to name just a few.
We found ourselves visiting more predictable family sites, such as Country Parks, to get our outdoors fix. Yet I remain unfulfilled. There is no substitute for the views of wildlife you can have at nature reserves and the amount you can discover about your world. I may be biased, but the RSPB knows how to provide memorable, life changing encounters with nature.
This past weekend, though, I had a smile on my face and the nappy bag was packed. RSPB Minsmere nature reserve on the glorious Suffolk coast has just opened its new family facilities. For us Norfolk dwellers, it is a short journey to experience the best of our Suffolk’s coastline and now you can take the whole family without having to think twice.
The new Wild Zone at Minsmere provides a safe, interactive place for children to explore and learn. This is a place of possibilities and adventure: Will you find your way through the migration maze? What is it like in the child size tunnels inspired by the burrows of sand martins?
You’ll also have a great time in the Wild Wood adventure, finding minibeasts and building dens then heading to the Wildlife Lookout to see what you can see. Then it’s time for lunch in the café, sampling the local produce. And if you’re not all tired out, maybe you’ll make it to the beach for a paddle.
The facilities are also perfect for school groups – and the benefits of learning outside the classroom are well known. Just check out our website for more information www.rspb.org.uk.
I’m looking forward to more of my wild family adventures in the future. Hope to see you there!
None of this would have been possible without the generosity of our funders the Heritage Lottery Fund, the EU’s Interreg IV A 2Seas programme and others.