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: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer
Come rain or shine, good mood or bad, I shall be driving this same route every week day. Over the rail way lines, right at the sharp corner, under the bridge and out in to the open as we putter along the field edge. At the moment it is golden with corn stubble and I wonder how it will change as the season turns. Perhaps cocoa brown with the autumn plough and green with the wary green shoots of winter wheat come the colder months. Each morning I am thankful that the school run allows me to take in this landscape. As Robin grows older perhaps we will even be able to cycle the route together.
At the moment, I am particularly interested in one certain spot along the way. I first started taking notice of the house directly to the left as you cross the railway line because of the perennial sweet peas growing on thick spider-leg stalks up the garden fence. I have been trying to grow sweet peas in my garden for several years now, with varying degrees of success, and had been wondering whether a fence full of the perennial type might not save a lot of heart ache. There is nothing worse, in my mind, than a tray full of ailing seedlings when you are hoping for clouds of fragrant colour.
So it was the sweet peas that caught my attention first, but having got my eye in on this certain spot I started to notice the cluster of house sparrows that frequent the area. They like the sandy soil next to the railway fences to dust bathe in and with the eaves of the tiled house right next door they must nest here too. I have noticed that the houses garden has a firethorn bush, now covered in bright orange berries that the little birds flit in to and feed from like a small herd of scurrying brown mice.
I don’t know whether the people that live in this house are aware of the importance of the wildlife in their garden for, to use science speak for one moment, house sparrows are ‘birds of high conservation concern’. They are also a red-listed species which means that house sparrows are in trouble; to get on to this list their population has to have seen a severe crash in recent years.
I am guessing that these particular householders are stepping up for nature without realising it. By keeping their pyracantha bushes healthy and fruiting well and by allowing wilder areas to remain so, they are helping house sparrows to thrive here. But now you know that house sparrows need a bit of help please do give them a hand. Plant some seed bearing flowers, put out some peanuts, keep bushes in your garden for them to frequent. Then perhaps my little school-going boy, in years to come, will have house sparrows to watch when he does the school run himself.
Article in EDP on Saturday 15 Sept 2012. Photo credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Blogger: Ian Robinson, Broads Area Manager
"I’ve recently got back from a month on Diego Garcia [often called DG] in the Indian Ocean. I had 2 days in Singapore before heading over to DG and managed to spend one of them on Pulua Ubin an island just north of Singapore – it is the last remnant of Tropical rainforest and gave some impression of what Singapore used to look like.
I arrived on Pulua Ubin by ‘bumboat’ from Singapore and spent a day walking the islands paths. Landing on the jetty you are immediately confronted by cycle hire shops, but after 100metres you are ‘in the forest.’
Creepers, Banyan trees, native vegetation, wild piglets, mangroves, abundant birdlife and other wildlife. Pulua Ubin is a bit of a conservation restoration showcase where the authorities are trying to maintain the native vegetation, whilst showing and explaining to visitors what work they’re doing.
Loud fluting calls emit from the undergrowth, sudden view of a white-rumped shama, and Oriental pied hornbill flies over, ashy tailorbirds within touching distance, views from the 30m tower of mangrove, estuary but above all natural forest.
A flavour of how the landscape used to look."
Let us know whether you have ever had any rainforest experiences.
Photo Credits: Ian Robinson (RSPB)
With the evenings starting to draw in (no, I hear you cry!) it’s hard not to start thinking about autumn. On a recent bike ride out with some fellow cyclists, I was reminded that although summer might be behind us, there is till plenty to head outdoors for.
Riding through the Norfolk countryside is always exciting. Not because I power the pedals in a Bradley Wiggins style pretending to be leading the Tour de Norfolk and punching the air when I reach the top of a hill, but because the sights and sounds are never the same. The piercing cries of buzzards circling overhead serve as a welcome reminder that wildlife at the top of the food chain is not to be forgotten, the soft buzz of a bumble bee as it brushes past my ear always gives me goose bumps and seeing the surprised gasp of a young deer, disturbed from it’s roadside hiding place reminds me that wildlife will always turn up in unsuspecting places.
But, one thing is certain on my regular rides. It’s become my regular bird call when I’m out on my bike. I see that familiar copper colouring and yell out, “kestrel” to my companions as we meander through the lanes. And what stunning creatures they are. Often an overlooked bird of prey, but what a spectacular one and so easy to spot. Hovering above an open field, head perfectly still, almost statuesque, waiting to catch a glimpse of its prey. Kestrels feed almost exclusively on small rodents, especially voles. It is for this reason, kestrels have incredible eye sight. In fact, one of their many skills is that they can hunt using ultra violet detection. This means that they can trace a vole’s urine trail through fields to make a dinner catch! Impressive.
An adult kestrel weighs on average a mere 220gm, that’s the same as a Kindle! It also means that kestrels need plenty to eat because they expend energy more quickly. They are certainly well equipped to hunt for food and when they have young in their nests, it’s a non-stop feeding game. Over the winter however, you are more likely to see kestrels perching on posts in fields. This means that they use less energy, which they will so desperately need over the cold months in order to survive.
I hope to continue riding my bike through the colder months and the lure of a crisp winter’s day with the sun high in the sky will certainly tempt me to get a few miles in, but kestrels don’t have the luxury of choice. They will continue to hunt even in the harshest conditions. So, if you do spot a hovering kestrel on your next trip out, be sure to give it a nod and share your sighting with your friends.
As featured in the EDP, Saturday 8 September