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: Jon Reeves, Reserves Livestock & Grazing Advisor
Note from Editor: Meet Riverside Beef, one of RSPB Minsmere’s corporate members. The RSPB has a variety of partners all committed to protecting the environment and providing homes for nature. Riverside Beef produce wildlife friendly cattle on the pastures and meadows of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Read on to find out how they work with their suppliers and how the entire chain works to improve habitat for all manner of wildlife.
Livestock grazing on nature reserves are one important piece of a jigsaw puzzle to provide homes for nature. Their grazing of vegetation, the foot prints they leave in the soil and the dung they produce are all key components to providing homes for our wildlife.
Each grazing animal has a different attribute when it comes to selecting the grasses and herbs they graze. Sheep and ponies will graze a sward (an expanse of short grass) very short with their nibbling action, creating ideal conditions for lapwing to breed, leaving longer grasses that may be bitter to their pallet as tussock clumps, which in turn provide ideal homes for many insects to thrive.
Cattle graze with a ripping action, wrapping their tongues around grasses, to create a complete mosaic of sward structures, short swards, medium length for birds like redshank to weave their ingenious little “ tepees” to camouflage their eggs and longer clumps of grass ideal for snipe to hide their eggs in.
Riverside Beef Producers Ltd, a company set up in 2009, selects grazing cattle which have been contributing to providing homes for wildlife. Riverside beef work with a group of farmers who supply cattle to graze conservation areas. A Riverside Beef fieldsman selects cattle of high quality, to provide tender beef supplied through a small network of select butcher shops and restaurants in East Anglia.
When eating a Riverside Beef steak or a warming stew with friends and family in the comfort of home, it is good to reflect on the complete cycle of the many homes that have been created by the cattle providing the meat on the plate.
The RSPB, along with other conservation led organisations and farmers who manage their land for the benefit of wildlife, are the first piece of the jigsaw. Secondly the land is managed with livestock, like Riverside Beef’s cattle, to graze the sward and herbs to provide homes for an abundance of wildlife. A simple footprint of a cow in the right soil type and conditions can provide a home for the rare mouse tail plant to thrive. Cattle trampling around the water edge of ditches provide wonderful feeding opportunities for wader chicks to seek out insect larvae and opens up the ditch margins for wildflowers to provide the rich colours of nature, which in turn provide nectar for insects. The dung of livestock enriches the soil to provide an abundance of earthworms and many insects for birds like yellow wagtail to feed on.
One Big Home For Nature.
Visit Riverside Beef here.
Learn more about Minsmere’s corporate membership here.
Blogger: Sarah Green Project Coordinator - Natura People Partnership Project
A few months ago I marked my very first trip to the Birdfair. I was there to assist with the RSPB birder reception, where a small but very keen team of us mixed up approximately 350 Black Grouse whiskey cocktails for sampling by lecture attendees.
Why Black Grouse whiskey? Well, the RSPB has a partnership with Famous Grouse whereby for each bottle of Black Grouse sold a donation is given to our Black Grouse conservation work. Since 2008 we have raised £300,000. At the Birdfair we made Black ‘N Black cocktails – fill a glass with ice, squeeze fresh orange juice over the ice, add a shot of whiskey, top up with coke.
Inbetween preparing for the reception I got to watch some excellent lectures including the British Bird Photography Awards, presented by Simon King, and Martin Garner and Tormod Amundsen discussing how to push the boundaries of birding – in Tormod’s case he moved his family to Arctic Norway!
There were some spectacular images in these presentations including a couple from the Norfolk area. The award winning photo shows Norwich’s very own peregrine falcons teaching their young to hunt. In third place is a stunning photograph of a common swift flying across a roof. I need to give a special mention to what may be my favourite photo, the dunnock and the greenfinch, coming in at 9th place. You can view them all here.
Meanwhile at the RSPB stand we had information about our reserves (including a gorgeous aerial picture of Minsmere), turtle doves, our work combating wildlife crime and our albatross campaign. Above the stand was a model of an albatross. I keep wanting to call it a giant model, but it’s not giant, it’s life size, it’s just that they are THAT huge.
It was an inspirational day.
What was that in my title about wellies? Well, I hadn’t quite realised the logistics of the Birdfair. It’s in a field. Rutland had experienced a deluge of rain early that morning and as I arrived I re-considered my choice of footwear. After 4 hours on site our feet looked like this:
Yep, we really should have worn wellies.
Blogger: Hannah Gray, Work Experience Volunteer - July 2013
Firstly, I have to say most people think the RSPB is all about birds and you have to know loads about birds to get involved in it. However, this is not the case, the RSPB try to conserve a multitude of habitats and animals that live in them, and a knowledge of birds whilst useful is certainly not necessary in this organisation. The RSPB offers a range of different jobs in its offices and on its reserves I have had the pleasure of learning and experiencing all of these different roles and whilst you don’t need to be a ‘tree hugger’ at least working at the RSPB makes a difference and is not all about financial gain. I never realised before I came here all the different aspects of the RSPBs work and how it all interlocks to create a successful charity organisation. From applying for grants, to organising festivals to blogging and controlling the RSPB brand. You don’t realise how much goes into this organisation until you come here, and how much of a close community it is here, everyone works together to achieve the same goal, conserving our environment.
You may ask why is the RSPB so important? What does it even do? Well the RSPB is the largest conservation organisations in Europe and works with farmers, businesses, international funders, other wildlife organisations and the individual to make a difference in the world of conservation. The RSPB do a whole range of activities to achieve their goal. From hands on stuff like creating new reserves and managing habitats, to working with others and making them aware of the need for conservation and how they can get involved. Without the RSPB and its work, we could face losing some of our best-loved native animals and their homes. The RSPB bring back species from the brink like the current project on turtle doves. Without these vital projects these animals would be lost forever.
The most important thing the RSPB want to achieve though is connecting people with nature, letting people enjoy the natural wonders that surround them by helping them to understand our environment so they to can have a part in saving and sustaining it too.
This is what my time here has taught me and this is something I will take away and never forget. Everyone here has been wonderful and I would like to thank them for putting up with me and supporting me. The RSPB is an amazing organisation and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife or conservation.
[Editor: No, thank you Hannah for coming to find our more about what we do, we could not do the amazing conservation work that we do without support from good people like yourself. Thanks also for this impromptu blog post - makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside].