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.
  • It takes a lot to look this good

    Blogger: Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager

    2012 is the year of pomp and circumstance; it will be remembered for its huge events and public display. It is a year to feel proud of our nation as a great party host. However, anyone who has ever thrown a party, particularly one with outdoors elements, can imagine the amount of work that has to go on behind the scenes.

    I love the London 2012 stats that make you see the Games and all the background slog in a whole new light. Did you know that 200 buildings have been demolished, 4,000 trees have been planted and 300,000 wetland plants are in the Olympic Park’s river and wetland area? As you watch the Games from home, it will be hard to imagine the 200,000 strong workforce making it all happen, yet it wouldn’t work unless every last detail is planned and scrutinised.

    I feel the same way about nature reserves. As you wander through a swaying reedbed or gently undulating heathland, purple with heather and fragrant with gorse, it is easy to think that it is natural. However, maintaining and restoring wild environments in today’s busy, changing world takes a great deal of work and planning.

    In the reedbed, the reeds must be cut to keep them healthy. This was once the traditional role of the reed cutter who managed the reed beds sustainably to ensure a supply of thatching material for local houses. Now, teams of staff and volunteers must cut and remove the reeds on a rotation system, so the new reeds (so much better for wildlife such as the bittern) can thrive.

    The heathland, where you may encounter freakily wonderful birds such as nightjars and stone curlews, is no more an accident than the carefully engineered park and ride network for the Games. Over time, heathland is encroached by scrub and becomes woodland. Also, many open spaces were planted on with dense commercial conifer forests which are dark and uninviting for most wildlife. Tree felling and scrub bashing are just some of the actions that have to happen to make a thriving heathland. This is hands-on, labour intensive stuff.

    The way I see it, our birds and wildlife are just like the athletes; they complete amazing feats of endurance, many migrating thousands of miles to be with us, they stun us with their speed and agility and entertain us, taking us out of the humdrum of everyday while we watch them. But none of it would be possible without an army of helpers.

    I will be delighting in the Games (nearly as much as my husband who has tickets for women’s beach volleyball), and will be sad when they are over. I will however, be consoled by the ongoing amazement of our British wildlife where feats of strength and wonder are played out every single day. It takes just as much commitment and planning to keep it that way as it does to put the Olympics on. Thank you to all of you out who are stepping up for nature.

     Photos by Ben Hall and Andy Hay (RSPB images)

  • Rainforests in the East - Diary Post #1

    Blogger: Lili Kumar, Community Fundraising Assistant

    Hi Gena here for a quick update before I leave Lili to her rainforest post. Hopefully you will all have seen the information regarding the RSPB’s Together for Trees partnership with Tesco to raise money and awareness for tropical forest projects around the globe.

    As part of this work, Tesco’s are opening the doors of all their UK superstores and Extra stores for 2 days in September for a ‘Together for Trees’ bucket collection. In Eastern England alone we are looking for 800 volunteers to help us out by collecting money in 100 Tesco Stores on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 September, so this is the biggest project of this kind we have ever undertaken.

    To help us in this task and make sure we can make the most of this opportunity, we are delighted to be able to welcome Lili Kumar on board the good ship Community Fundraising! For the next 4 months Lili will be working with us to deliver over £15,000 towards rainforest projects – starting with a taste of her own rainforest experience...


    “There are 760 bends on the road to Pai, a small town situated in the Mae Hong Son (The City of Three Mists) province of northern Thailand. Word on the street in the city of Chiang Mai is that people take the terrifying bus ride at their own risk. Two days later, I am on the bus! The rollercoaster ride revelled scenery that grew more beautiful with every turn.  I began to feel myself relax, the higher we climbed the more stunning the misty green mountains became. Any fear was left far behind me by the time we arrived in the valley.

    Accommodation was found in a working rice field not far from the tiny town centre. The giant dorm had been built by the owner and his sister, complete with 20 bamboo bunk beds! The first sunset, and everyone after were spent in a giant tree house (our living room) over looking neat rice fields. Mountains rolled into each other as far as the eye could see and a pink glow filled the sky. Something told me there was no better place to spend Christmas...”

    To step up for nature. Join Together for Trees bucket collections in the East and help to save a rainforest – have a look here for more info.”


    Photo by Clare Kendall (rspb-images.com)

  • 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.