May, 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.
  • Going all European

    Blogger: Sarah Green, Project Coordinator - Natura People Partnership Project  

    The flowers are blossoming, Eurovision is just around the corner and the days are getting longer, it must be time for another Natura People partner meeting!

    Every 6 months we (myself and colleagues from Provincie Zeeland, Provincie West-Vlaanderen, Natuur –en Recreatieschap de Grevelingen and of course the RSPB) get together to discuss progress of our shared work, known as Natura People. 

    What is this Natura People?  Well, it’s the name of an Interreg funded project that allows partners across the UK, Netherlands and Belgium to share and develop new ways of engaging with visitors, businesses and politicians.  Our work will allow us to improve our nature reserves, save nature, teach more people about the importance of nature and, pretty important this one, convince the powerful folk that make the decisions that they should invest in nature reserves and conservation, as an environment rich in wildlife benefits people’s health and brings in money!  (It’s true – see our Natural Foundations report found here)

    So, what did we do on this latest set of meetings?  We met near Lake Grevelingen in the town of Scharendijke in the Netherlands.  A calm ferry crossing from Harwich to the Hoek Van Holland and a short drive later found us at the lovely Resort Land en Zee. The partners joined us the next day (having only had an hour or so to travel) and we got on with the important business of discussing our work and project progress.

    We are nearing completion of our economic model which will show the (positive!) economic impact of nature reserves and will provide guidance on mobilising funds for investment in nature reserves.  We have just appointed CE Delft to carry out case study work on the partner sites to back up the model, and each partner is working with local businesses to improve tourism to the region.

    We also discussed developments at each partner’s reserve.  Minsmere has undergone a complete renovation with a new shop, new cafe, new reception centre, new hide and new family area – the Wild ZoneZwinis at an earlier stage in their redevelopment, but things are picking up and work will start soon.  The same goes for the Grevelingen project.  Waterdunen’s visitor centre has now re-opened for the summer and promises to be an exciting day out for all the family.

    The project website is now live ( and will be regularly updated with news from all four partners. But it wasn’t all meetings.  We did get to have a look round Lake Grevelingen, where I discovered jellyfish!  Pretty little pulsating things with delicate, translucent tendrils, which I have tentatively identified as this species:

    Our boat trip out to one of the islands showed just how huge this Lake is.  It’s the largest saltwater lake in Europe, separated from the sea by the Brouwersdam.  It’s home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, and is a really beautiful, peaceful spot, but is in desperate need of work to reverse the decline in water quality. Natura People is the start of a much wider project to reinvigorate the lake.

    Do you like the sound of this Lake?  Fancy finding out more about the partner sites?  Visit the links page ( of the Natura People website to find the relevant web pages.

    Are you a local business and would you like to know more about this project?  Would you like to work with us to help save nature in your area?  If so, please contact Sarah Green, project coordinator on 01603 697 597 or on email

  • four flying swifts, three swallows high, TWO TURTLEDOVES, and a cuckoo high in a tree

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer

    It’s been a bit like a James Bond movie at work of late. Either that or I’ve been watching too much Homeland on TV! Over the past few weeks, we have been preparing a rather 007-like project. There have been phone calls with code acronyms, urgent meetings, file notes and tight deadlines. Sadly, Daniel Craig didn’t turn up to the office, but nonetheless it’s an exciting time.

    The mission that we have taken on is called Operation Turtle Dove, code name OTD! Together with partners, we have a simple task to do - save the turtle dove from likely extinction.  

    It sounds simple I suppose and in essence, it should be. However, the stark reality is that this beautiful bird is on a downward spiral. Now, I only caught a glimpse of my first turtle dove last year. I was out and about on a visit to RSPB Fowlmere nature reserve in Cambridgeshire and we could hear a deep, soft purring. It was coming from a nearby tree and it literally mesmerised us. As we stood listening, being soothed by this gentle sound, it occurred to me that this is a bird that I might witness go extinct in my lifetime. I was suddenly filled with sadness. That soft, gentle purring now sounded like a desperate plea.

    Our brief for this mission is this: Turtle doves have declined by 91% since the 1970s and now there are just nine for every 100 there were 40 years ago. The cause of the population crash is not fully understood, but a study in the 1960’s showed that the birds’ diet consisted almost entirely of small seeds of wild plants. Changes in farming practices have led to the loss of such plants from our countryside.  Which brings us to today, the Operation Turtle Dove mission.

    The project partners on this mission are the RSPB, Conservation Grade and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and together we plan to reverse the dark trajectory of the turtle dove. To do this, we need to work fast and build on our research of the bird and its feeding habits.  But, we also need you. We need people to help us and we need farmers to understand how much of an important role they can play in the future of this bird.

    Seeing a turtle dove on that summer’s day last year was memorable for many reasons. Not least because I was overcome with a feeling of vulnerability. The natural world that continues to inspire us generation after generation is threatened constantly. I feel incredibly proud to work for an organization that is prepared to stand up and give nature a voice, and I’m even more proud that I get to be a part of Operation Turtle Dove, a mission with a real difference.

    Find out more at

    Article in EDP on 12 May 2012

  • Sign up for Love Nature Week here ...

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

    Nature is amazing - help us keep it that way. And what better way than helping us collect money for our conservation work.

    We’ll be collecting in shops and supermarkets in the East of England from 26 May to 3 June in your local patch for Love Nature Week.

    If you recognise any of the following places and live nearby then you are just the person we need - give us a ring on 01603 660 066, speak to Gena and see if you can fill that Love Nature hole and help is collect funds for Nature.

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    For information then please take a look here or give us a ring. You can also take a look at the attached document to find other places where you could collect.

    We need you, Nature needs you - please help with our biggest community fundraising event of the year.

    You are a star.