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.
The countryside may be awash with crimson red and burnt orange, but a sinister force is creating a dark cloud over Autumn in the UK.
Chalara fraxinea (try pronouncing that after a glass of red wine!) is a disease that has decimated Ash tree species throughout Northern Europe, already affecting over 90% of Ash trees in Denmark and Sweden and is present as far as Belgium.
Until recently the UK was unaffected, but it now seems that imports of Ash saplings have released the disease into the wild, and at least two outbreaks have been spotted in wild woodland in Norfolk & Suffolk.
If this was a plague sweeping the country, putting the health of members of the public at risk, we would stand up and act fast. We would be worried and frightened. We would seek comfort and most of all, with the help of the UK government, we would have to do something about it.
Why is it any different because this victim is silent? Ash trees make up 30% of the UK’s tree cover and hedgerow and the consequence of this disease could be catastrophic for our countryside.
Ash trees are a brilliant crowd pleaser of nature; they do a lot for all kinds of different animals and plants, from providing great roosting sites and warm holes to nest in, to perfect places to forage for food and ideal spots to flourish and grow. Birds, bats, fungi, plants, insects and more all use ash trees in one way or another meaning this disease has the potential to damage ecosystems in a big way.
Yesterday, Owen Patterson, Environment Secretary placed a ban on importing ash trees into the UK. But, is this too little too late?
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: “This is a stark reminder that non-native plants and animals can wreak havoc on already over-stressed habitats and native wildlife. While we welcome the Government’s ban on imports, it is not enough in itself. The EU is currently developing new international legislation on invasive non-native species and this is a major opportunity to prevent future problems. The big lesson here is that sometimes, strong environmental regulation is needed to protect all our interests.”
A group of people determined to do something about this have launched an app device that could help detect trees suffering with the disease.
The Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia have worked tirelessly over the past few days to create Ashtag – an app for IOS and Android devices which allows users to submit photos and locations of sightings to a team who will refer them on to the Forestry Commission, which is leading efforts to stop the disease's spread with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Infected ash trees are recognisable by lesions on their bark, dieback of leaves at the tree's crown, and leaves turning brown – though experts say the arrival of autumn makes the latter harder to accurately spot. This app should help with the identification of affected trees.
For more information on Ashtag, please go to http://ashtag.org/
Carol Miller, Community Fundraising Volunteer
In the early morning mist of mid-October, I set off for my pre-booked 90 minute Red Deer Safari. As I waited for the start of the safari outside the visitor centre, I watched various birds visiting the bird feeders including long tailed tits, great tits, and blue tits. A jay was flying around the trees nearby and a squirrel scurried along the path, stopped in front of me, looked up at me and then carried on past. How nice it was to see that these creatures feel so comfortable at this reserve.
[Editor: ...sounds like a scene from Snow White]
At 9am Andrew, a volunteer at the reserve, and I set off and began to drive slowly along the tracks at the edge of some unassuming fields. We could see some deer in the distance and drove very slowly around the edge of their field in order to disturb them as little as possible. The deer are completely free to come and go whenever they please, but many of them tend to come back to the reserve during the rutting season. Despite their size they are very nervous to see people walking nearby, but are much more accepting of the more familiar RSPB vehicle.
Some stags hid behind bushes and then bravely stepped out proudly showing their majestic stature.
Others were busy rounding up their does, almost like a working sheepdog. One stag was rubbing its antlers on a bush in order to rub the velvet off and reveal the strong hard antlers beneath. Some of the deer were still the deep red colour which inspired their name, but some were changing to their thick winter coat which is a much paler.
Every now and then the stags would bellow at each other as if standing their ground and warning each other away. The larger stags had very deep voices. Some stags had as few as two points on their antlers, but the strongest and healthiest stags had as many as fourteen points. These are truly magnificent creatures.
[Editor: ...for more information about Red Deer Safaris and other Minsmere events have a look on the reserve's website]
Photos by Carol Miller
Blogger: Kim Matthews, Campaigns Officer
So yesterday was a big day for me. Aside from having just about recovered from the lurgy-from-hell that has been sweeping through our office like a viral tsunami, I jumped on an eye-wateringly early (for me!) train to London to take part in my first ever guerrilla marketing action.
Ok so that makes it sound like I was donning camouflage gear and undertaking some James Bond-like free-running through the streets of London, or maybe busting some moves, flash mob style, outside the Houses of Parliament. What it actually involved was a gentle amble to the Treasury department, a green hard hat, a lot of clinging on precariously to a giant banner, and best of all meeting up with a bunch of really nice people from all sorts of different organisations who, like the RSPB, want to see a sustainable future for the benefit of all.
I was joining up with the Stop Climate Chaos coalition to help recreate an iconic image (with a new green twist of course!) from the 70’s that some of you may well remember. It was a Saatchi & Saatchi campaign poster for the Tories which said ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ above a snaking line of people standing in a dole queue.
How fantastic to learn that a third of our economic growth last year came from the green sector, and on top of that there are a million people employed in green jobs already! There clearly is an alternative to growth at any price, and in working to protect the environment we are actually helping our economy too. It is all about balance, and understanding that a healthy environment, rich in species, is essential to our survival. More than that, it is essential for our happiness!
Never mind Where’s Wally, where’s Kim!?
I felt really lucky to have the chance to stand there, with those people, encouraging the government to take their green commitments seriously. There are big opportunities for the government to do so this autumn and you can help by writing to your MP, find out more here.
Next time the newspapers talk about green shoots of economic growth we can all take heart that at least a third of those shoots really are green! I’m no economist and I’m not much of a fashionista either, but it’s like I said, Green is the new black!