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.
Have you ever had that experience when you get up really early in the morning, it’s still dark and no-one else is awake? For a short time, while the sky is magical with wispy waves of star glitter, you could be the only person on the planet. I used to get this feeling when I was younger and I had a paper round in the mornings. Especially in January and February, when it can be bitterly cold and eerily quiet. Now of course, I no longer get up for my paper round! But with adulthood, comes other responsibilities and interests. I’m currently trying to get fit for the Spring and early mornings, while everyone else is tucked up in bed, are often the only time I am able to get out on my bike.
I always get that sharp intake of breath when i step out into the cold air and for the first few minutes, i battle with the temptation of getting back into bed. I always try to sings songs to myself when i’m out; It keeps my mind occupied and helps to lift my spirit. Although i often have the same lyrics going round and round on repeat. For my last few rides i have been accompanied by a mistle thrush who seems to have the same problem!
How do I know he’s a mistle and not a song thrush? He’s actually a lot bolder and bigger in size. He’s always perched high in a tree along my route - a typical trait of this tuneful bird. Mistle thrushes were often called ‘storm cocks’ because of their ability to sing loudly, even through bad weather. The best way I have found to tell it apart from the song thrush, is by checking out the underwings. If it is a mistle thrush, these will be white. This should be easy to spot because they tend to fly higher, in a more wave-like pattern.
Mistle thrushes are certainly ferocious creatures. If you spot some commotion around a holly or hawthorn, chances are this feisty character will be central to the action. Individual birds will defend their chosen bush with it’s berries and fend off any other birds trying to get in on the food supply. You can often hear their scratchy squarks a mile off. This behavior is fascinating and is often called ‘resource guarding’. I suppose it’s a bit like me standing by the fruit and veg stall at the market not letting anyone else have any of the supplies until I know I have had my fair share to see me through to spring!
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my mornings out when I am allowed this little peek into the life of such a wonderful bird, but I certainly wouldn’t cross a mistle thrush over a berry-laden bush!
This season, Father Christmas and the RSPB are working together to bring you magical Reindeer Food. On Christmas Eve, sprinkle the food onto your garden. Make a wish for Father Christmas to visit you. The smell of this delicious food will guide him to your home and the best bit is any food the reindeer leave behind will be gobbled up by your garden birds for their Christmas lunch!
The elves have been busy, cutting out recycled paper labels, bagging up the food and we have been spreading the pouches across Norwich and Norfolk. With added help from the RSPB’s wonderful volunteers and support from independent local businesses we are pleased offer Reindeer Food at the stockists below;
Arts Centre, St. Benedicts Street
Biddys Tea Room, Upper Goat Lane
The Coach and Horses, Thorpe Road
Dozen Bakery, Glouster Street
Finnies Juice Bar, Upper Goat Lane
Jarrolds Shop, The Forum
The Green Grocer, Earlham Shopping Centre
House Cafe, St.Benedicts Street
Logans Deli, Swan Lane
Olives Cafe Bar,Elm Hill
Pulse Cafe, Guildhall Hill
Rainbow, Guildhall Hill
The Bicycle Shop, St Benedicts Street
The Reindeer Pub, Dereham Road
Tiffins cafe, Thorpe Road
The rest of Norfolk
Adnams, White Lion Street Holt
Butlers Restaurant, Apple Yard, Holt
Glaven Veterinary Practice, Old Station Way, Holt
Kings Head Pub, High Street, Holt
Natural Surroundings, Bayfield Estate, Glandford
Cley Spy, Manor Farm Barns, Glandford.
Kings Head Pub, Letheringsett
Back to the garden, Letheringsett
Seapalling Post Office, Beach Road
But, don't worry if you don't live nearby, you can also order Reindeer Food directly from the RSPB! Suggested donation IS £1 per bag plus £1 for postage. Order soon to guarantee a visit from Father Christmas. All proceeds go toward vital conservation work in East Anglia.
Cheques made payable to RSPB. Post to RSPB, East of England Regional Office, 65 Thorpe Road, Norwich, NR1 1UD.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lili 01603 660066.
Sunday was too nice a day to spend indoors, so in the afternoon I wrapped up warm and walked round the reserve. Lots of other people had the same idea and the car park was almost full, but the advantage of the circular trail is that you don't see many people as long as you all walk in the same direction at the same pace.
Redwing by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
The hawthorn bushes were alive with redwings, but they seemed very nervous and flighty. The reason for this was suddenly apparent, as a sparrowhawk shot across the path in front of me and scattered a dozen from one bush. I didn't see if it had made a kill. This was one of five sightings of sparrowhawks during the afternoon, of at least two different birds. There were also some fieldfares, but fewer than their smaller relatives.
I gradually made my way anticlockwise past the stream and the grazed fields, spotting thrushes at every turn and a flock of 14 siskins in the alders, and thence to Reedbed Hide. Here half a dozen birders had settled in with cameras, flasks and sandwiches, hoping to see several birds that had been reported recently. Thankfully Reedbed Hide is big enough to accommodate the casual bird watchers as well as the enthusiasts, and nobody with the patience to wait was disappointed.
Male Merlin by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Initially there wasn't much to see. A solitary heron worked its way around the ice-free margins of the mere, and a fox walked slowly along the edge of a ditch before branching off into the reedbed, but the real action was concentrated in the last half hour of daylight. Suddenly one of the birders called 'merlin', and we were treated to five minutes of high-speed aerobatics as the tiny male hurtled over the reeds and bushes hoping to surprise one of the many reed buntings that had been dropping in to roost. We didn't witness any success, and after several passes he dashed off to search elsewhere, which was obviously an advantage to several hundred starlings that arrived to check out potential roost sites. Then we became aware of a dark sinister shape half running, half skating across the ice - a mink, leaving one of the side ditches and crossing to the islands in the middle of the mere. Having had a good look round, it returned to the reedy margin and continued its search along the edge of the mere and into another side ditch. A few minutes later, an ungainly brown shape launched itself into the air from the same general area, and flew across the mere to drop into another reedy ditch on the other side - a bittern! This was presumably the same bird that had been seen a couple of days ago, and the main target for the patient birders. Then to round off the display, a barn owl appeared in the half light and glided silently over one of the tracks and into the night.
Barn owl by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Those were the highlights of my afternoon, but of course there were other birds around too. Earlier in the day, two bearded tits had been seen well enough to be photographed near Reedbed Hide; although we could occasionally hear them, they were deep out of sight in the reeds. Snipe, jay, and great spotted woodpecker flew over at various times; a Cetti's warbler sang briefly; and a flock of long-tailed tits worked their way noisily through the bushes by the hide. Fowlmere is a good place to be on a sunny winter's afternoon.
A chilly Fowlmere through a hide window by Nigel Russell