October, 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.
  • A Volunteer’s View: A Deer Safari at Minsmere

    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

  • Ash trees – the silent victim

    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/

  • Poetry in Motion - Breaking News!

    The RSPB and The Rialto are thrilled to announced today the winner of their first ever poetry competition as Pat Winslow with her poem entitled, 'East Sabino Sunrise Circle – the visit'.

    The entries came in from all over the world, astounding the RSPB and The Rialto in their quest to pick a winner. In total 3778 poems were received from 18 countries.

     Pat Winslow said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have won this. I’ve been writing poetry all my life, but I only took it up seriously in 1987.  I suppose nature features quite a lot in my work, so it’s not difficult to pick a poem for a competition like this.

     East Sabino Sunrise Circle might seem like a bit of a weird title! It’s in Tucson where my sister lived before she died. Once the sun went down, anything could happen. On this occasion, a tarantula crawled over her wall. We were mesmerised. It’s not an animal I’d happily pick up, but I have enormous respect for them and they are incredibly delicate and graceful.”

     The competition encouraged nature lovers and budding poets to wax lyrical about wildlife, enthuse about the environment and gush about green spaces in response to the competition theme, ‘Nature Poetry’. 

    Matthew Howard, RSPB Community Collections Scheme Officer said: “As there is so much great poetry written in response to wildlife and the great outdoors, we wanted this competition to champion the very best of the natural world.

    Receiving the poems has been a real pleasure. They show how moved people are by nature and wildlife, how it makes us feel and think; crucially, these poems show exactly why nature, in all its forms, matters to people.”

    The judges for the competition were former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, and prize-winning nature writer from East Anglia, Mark Cocker.

    Winner Pat Winslow will receive £1000 in prize money and all four winners will have their poems published in the UK’s  leading independent poetry magazine, The Rialto.

    An additional prize was awarded for fourth place, a personal tour with Mark Cocker of his most cherished wildlife places in East Anglia.

    Rialto Editor Michael Mackmin says: “We are always looking for new poets and new poetry and this very different poetry competition was an ideal involvement for the magazine. The standard was, as the distinguished judges agreed, 'very high', and the response was wonderfully encouraging, both for the RSPB with its commitment to nature and for The Rialto with its commitment to poetry.”

    For more information about the winning poems, please visit  www.therialto.co.uk