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: John Sharpe, Conservation Manager
It’s always fascinating to go to a new area and see how it differs from home. I’m just back from a two week cycling holiday in central Germany with my family and we had a fantastic time. It was a very low carbon trip. We set off on our bikes from home with just two panniers apiece to meet our needs over the next fortnight. We took the train and ferry from Harwich (did you know you can go from any East Anglian station to any Dutch station for just £39 each way? – I’m not being paid to advertise but I think it is a brilliant deal and very green) and then another train to our starting point in Bayreuth, near the Czech border, then began our leisurely return, following the River Main cycle path to Mainz, and then onward up the Rhine to Koblenz. 500 miles in all.
In some ways the landscape wasn’t too different to Eastern England: wide river valleys and rolling hills, although there are fewer vineyards and forests in our part of the world. Much of the countryside was farmed in a way that would be familiar to anyone from Norfolk: fairly intensive but with some small areas given over to cover to wildlife, presumably a product of the same sort of payments to farmers to look after wildlife that we enjoy. The commonest wildlife we encountered were yellowhammer and tree sparrow, both getting harder to see in Eastern England. But we didn’t come across any of the other farmland birds we think of as declining: once common birds like grey partridge, lapwing, corn bunting and turtle dove. It’s sobering to realise that these species are in trouble across Europe. On the plus side, black redstart is a park and garden bird in central Germany, and we were also pleased to see several storks and both red and black kites.
What was more widespread was renewable energy generation in all its different forms, but especially wind turbines and solar farms. Love them or hate them (and I’m a fan, though like all things, in moderation) wind turbines are here to stay as we struggle to find ways of combating the carbon emissions responsible for climate change. It made me think that there is still more room to increase capacity in Eastern England. Of course that means more work for RSPB as we regularly advise on wind farm developments and have commented on some 150 schemes over the last ten years. But during that time we have had to sustain objections to less than 10 schemes which were sited too close to important areas for birds, so they don’t have to impact upon wildlife.
Coming home to the East of England really made me appreciate what we have here, that sense of place and being home. It also got me thinking about how similar to the rest of the continent we are and that we are not in it alone when we are working day to day to save the natural world.
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Blogger: Rachel Frain, Fundraising Administrator
Recently I was lucky enough to spend the day outdoors in beautiful surroundings with a really cool bunch of five year olds. I say I was lucky because my day-to-day job is as an administrator at the RSPB. This usually sees me office bound, stuck behind a desk dealing with lots of paperwork and looking at lots of figures. As important as this is, I love being outdoors!
This was a special day for me and it seems the children had a fantastic day too. They were on a school trip to our Strumpshaw Fen nature reserve to study first-hand the wonders of nature. The children arrived bright and early to a slightly soggy Strumpshaw but this did not dampen their enthusiasm or the fun they had throughout the day. We made a wish list of all the wildlife we wanted to see, it ranged from birds to grasshoppers, snakes to kangaroos!
The day began with a woodland walk where we used our senses to listen out for creatures that live in and around the trees. We heard birds singing and insect buzzing all around us. We strolled along the Meadow Trail and looked carefully for some of the special plants, amphibians and insects that inhabit the boggy land. The children made rainbows from some of the leaves, seeds and petals they found and swept the long meadow grasses with nets to collect some of the insects so we could have a closer look at the mini beasts that are so often all around us but not seen. The pond dipping was an exciting way to discover what lurks beneath the water, to see some of the creatures we know well like damselflies, in their larval state and some we rarely see such as the great diving beetle: a voracious predator of insects, tadpoles and small fish.
It was amazing to see the children being hands on. Discovering the world around them, having fun and learning at the same time. If you’re looking for a way to entertain the children this summer holiday why not check out one of our reserves and maybe try your hand at mini-beast hunting or pond dipping. By the way we spotted all of the creatures on the children’s wish list and more, except the Kangaroo of course!
Visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/area to find out more about the reserves in your area and the activities they have on offer for families. The highlight of our day was spotting a grass snake basking in the heat of the sun – what will you find?
Photos by Rachel Frain.
Blogger: Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager
When the holidays are here and if by chance the sun should shine, many of us rush to the beach. What is it about the sea air and big horizons that draw us to the coast? However, when you are tired of sand in your sandwiches, it is worth remembering that a trip inland can give you that same holiday spirit and sense of escape from the everyday.
Thetford Forest is a gem on our doorstep just waiting to be explored. There is something magical about large forests, taking us back to fairytale memories of childhood and adventure. Thetford Forest manages to combine being the largest lowland commercial conifer forest in the country with being a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a fantastic day out.
Now, I have to confess to a prior misperception about commercial forestry. I had an image of it as dark and lifeless, but my eyes have been opened to the way it is done in Thetford. As the Friends of Thetford Forest have explained to me, it is all about the mosaic. Not just for the Romans, this means creating a patchwork network of a variety of different habitats, including heathland and both pine and broadleaved trees at different stages of maturity. This is something the Forestry Commission works very hard to achieve.
This careful management means that if you go down to the woods today, you could have a wildlife surprise. The Forest is home to a third of all the UK’s rare firecrests, the cutest little bird imaginable. It is also vital for thousands of species ranging from the minotaur beetle, rare plants and insects to vibrant populations of nightjar and woodlark, species that outside of the forest are in serious trouble.
There is no single thing that makes the Forest work so well for such a wide range of species. A combination of skilled staff, partnerships with other environmental organisations, careful and precise management of the land, species monitoring and a genuine passion for the area are all key ingredients thrown into the mix.
I thought it was time to discover the secrets of the Forest for myself. My family day out went like this: Woke up early (at toddler o’clock), packed up a picnic and our bikes. We then headed to the High Lodge Forest Centre for wander through the Sculpture trail and a pootle around with our bikes, spotting wildlife as we cycled. Even our summer’s characteristic drizzle wasn’t a problem in the shelter of the trees. Active, educational, outdoors – this was everything a family day out should be in my book.
I’ll bet you’ve driven past Thetford Forest many a time. Maybe like me, you have overlooked the richness of life and significance of the habitats within. Maybe you’d not realised all it offers for a day out. It’s time to get active and explore!
Photo Credit: Forestry Commission.
Article in EDP on Saturday 11 August.