July, 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.
  • No bat, yeah bat, no bat......

    Blogger: Rachael Murray, Projects Officer

    At the RSPB, we are well known for our royal allegiance to birds.  And, whilst we think things with beaks are pretty marvellous, it’s less known that we also spend a great deal of time protecting, campaigning for, and creating space for all manner of other beastie.  

    And though I know this theoretically, it’s been working on The Lodge wind turbine project that has really driven it home to me; in fact, lately, it’s been driving me a bit batty!

    Before we can be confident that The Lodge is a suitable site for a turbine, we’ve had a great deal of survey work to do, and there’s more to come.

    After surveying bird populations in the area for years, we are confident that a turbine at The Lodge won’t result in any negative impacts on our sensitive feathered species.  But birds are not the only winged creatures that call The Lodge their home.  We also have bats hiding away in the nearby woodlands by day and careering around the reserve on the hunt for tasty moths and other insects as night falls.   And before we can even think about further planning for a turbine, we need to make sure that they will happily co-exist with our proposed green energy generator.

    We are now entering our third year of bat surveys, and things are suddenly getting more interesting, thanks to our new meteorological mast, constructed in Sandy Ridge this Tuesday.  As well as measuring wind speeds, this 70 m tall steel structure will, for the first time, allow us to monitor bat activity at the height of the proposed turbine blades.

    This will help us understand if a turbine is likely to impact upon some of our resident species, including common pipistrelle (drawing below), soprano pipistrelle and noctule.

    Drawing by Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)

    And since the mast will be simultaneously measuring wind speeds and bat activity, it will allow us to do something a bit clever. By looking at both sets of data together, we will get an understanding of our furry friend’s behaviour at different times of year, in different wind speeds.

    This means that even if we do see our batty visitors regularly calling by the turbine site in search of an insect snack, at a particular time of the night, year, or in a specific wind speed, we may be able to turn the turbine off whilst they are in harm’s way.  Existing research suggests that this can often be in lower wind speeds, which would mean that switching the turbine off in these conditions wouldn’t significantly impact the amount of electricity that our turbine generates. 

    But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves....for now, we are just excited to be devoting attention to our resident bats, to ensure that we are as focused on their welfare as that of our feathered friends.

    Building a turbine is not a decision we will take lightly.  However, if we find our chosen site to be suitable, it is a step that we will be taking with great pride, and optimism for a future with lower carbon emissions and choc full of wildlife species safe from the impacts of climate change.  And we hope you agree that there is nothing batty about that.

    If you’d like to keep up-to-date with project progress, or want to know more about the project we’ll be keeping everyone posted on at www.rspb.org.uk/lodgewindturbine.

  • Spiderman vs. Batman

    Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer


    Have you watched the new Batman and Spiderman movies? Were you dragged along by your other half or are you a secret comic book superhero fan?

    This started off a debate in our office over who is best between these two masked crusaders. Spiderman had it easy being bitten by a radioactive spider giving him super cool powers. Whereas, Batman equally had it easy as he is a millionaire and can just buy all his amazing gadgets. I am always a Marvel man rather than a DC comic bloke – so Spiderman gets my vote. It also reminds me of the 1970s when my brother regularly jumped over our floral sofa with his spidey pyjamas.

    Got me thinking though, with our future direction as an organisation being more inclusive of all bugs, birds and beasts in the UK, how do we choose which species is “better” than an other? As you can imagine it is not as easy as you think – but watch this space for more information on this topic.

    What I can do is let you know that bats and spiders, regardless of their superhero namesakes, are as equally awe inspiring as each other. For example, did you know that the name “bat” dates from 1575 but has many other regional variants like the Yorkshire “flittermouse”. The common pipistrelle – Europe’s smallest bat and the ones you often see in your garden at dusk – can be known to roost in numbers as large as 100,000 (now that is a party).

    I have always loved spiders, mainly because as a kid I would chuckle at my Mum’s reaction to them, Miss Muffet style. Speaking to our very own spiderman in our Conservation Team you can see that many people love these underdogs of the underworld. Do remember that, with the exception of the water spider, few British spiders will give a painful nip. For an animal with such a small brain one must be agog at the mathematical complexities and strengths of a spider’s web. And if you go down to Norfolk today you may come across the great raft spider whose legs can span more than 13 centimetres (5 inches).

    So next time you head to the cinema for some modern day B-movie think about all of Nature’s superhero Olympians who have inspired the writers to produce a darn good yarn.


    Photos: Spiderman and Batman battle it out at the RSPB in the East offices. Courtesy of my 20 month old son (honest).

    Find out more on Twitter ( @RSPBintheEast ) or from our friends at the Bat Conservation Trust (@_BCT_ ) and Buglife ( @Buzz_dont_tweet ). Also let us know who is your favourite.

  • Le Tour de RSPB

    Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer


    I sat with goosebumps all over my arms and a tear in my eye. It was Sunday evening last week and I was watching the Tour de France on TV.

    This sporting occasion was going to go down in the history books. I was imagining telling my kids about the day I sat and watched Bradley Wiggin become the first Briton to ever win the Tour de France, arguably one of the hardest sporting events in the world.

    Over the last few days it has occurred to me how similar the RSPB is to that of Brad’s winning Tour de France team! Let me explain. Right from the very beginning, in the early days of Team Sky, they had a clear winner in mind, they knew who was destined to be the winner of the yellow jersey. It was agreed that the team would work to achieving this goal and stick to it. For us, this yellow jersey winner is all UK wildlife. And there is no alternative. If we don’t continue to work for UK wildlife; the otters, the skylarks, the swallowtail butterflies, the sparrows, then our countryside will be an impoverished place. I also think that an otter would look great in a yellow jersey!

    Take the sprinters for example, the Mark Cavendishes who are about power and pure strength. For us at the RSPB, these people are our campaigners. When we need to shout loudly about something, they rally round and they move fast.

    And how about the hill climbers? Well, it’s about putting in the hours, digging deep and getting a good job done and there is no better example of this than the network of RSPB nature reserves around the region. Day in, day out our reserve staff have to make sure that the habitats are in tip top condition for all kinds of wildlife and they have to make sure that our visitors have a great time too. This isn’t a job that you can hurry, it takes time, love and a lot of patience.

    Finally, there are the domestiques, the riders who give themselves up for the good of their team mates, carrying bottles and getting the team where it needs to be. It’s no secret that the RSPB only survives because of its army of volunteers who give up time and expertise to get the organisation to where it is today.

    It may not be quite the Tour de France, but running the RSPB is certainly a team effort and we wouldn’t succeed without the help and dedication of each and every single member, volunteer and worker. And until our UK wildlife is safe and sustained for future generations, I will always be striving to achieve that yellow jersey.