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.
I just popped outside for a gulp of cool, fresh air here at the Norwich office. I was rewarded for braving the chilly December afternoon by the sight of 5 different birds..in less than 5 minutes!
A pair of black birds, a magpie, wood pigeons, a wren and a black headed gull!
It just goes to show that you don't need to go hiking into the mountains to feel closer to nature (although hiking in the mountains is nice too).
So, after my lunchtime refresher, I'll take the opportunity to remind you that you can register for Big Garden Birdwatch in January at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.
It's high time we all start appreciating the nature on our doorstep.
Midwinter Star is the first temporary art work by Minsmere’s artist in residence Liz McGowan. This two and a half metre diameter star is made from reeds and can be seen in the North Bushes, close to the main path from the Minsmere visitor centre to the sea.
Liz says, ”This star was inspired by my memory of visiting a reedbed on a frosty winter’s day and seeing the banks of reeds shining golden in the slanting sunlight. The star is also a reminder and a celebration of the Christmas season.”
“It’s been great to see Liz bringing natural objects to life at Minsmere this autumn. The wooden animal sculptures that visiting families made with Liz’s help have been a great talking point, and Midwinter Star is sure to prove a popular landmark over the coming weeks.
Liz has also made a special website where you can see photographs of Midwinter Star and contribute a memory to her Memories for the Future project.
Liz, who is based in Norfolk, will be back at Minsmere on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 December for her next public art event. Now that the seeds have fallen to earth, ready to sprout in the spring, she will be inviting visitors to come and make a seed of their own and to put into it a wish for the coming year.
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