November, 2013

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.
  • Buzzard encounter in stormy back garden wilderness

    Blogger: Aggie Rothon, RSPB Communications Officer

    Behind my house is a belt of trees - an ancient jumble of oak and ash, beech and sycamore. The tallest tree stands perhaps forty five metres high from its statuesque base to sky-skimming crown; a king amongst a princely crowd. The trees tower over my cottage, branches linked together like a football team defending an opponent’s penalty kick.

    Today the copse is gilded golden and emerald by a morning that glows the colour of lemon barley. The trees look made-up and as though each contour has been delicately highlighted by a pencil-line of sunlight. A translucent silver gleam of rain water has been slicked to their leaves. It is the weather that brings these trees to life. On a bright autumnal morning like today they are carefree, shimmering, exuberant and as full of the joys of being alive as I am. But I have seen their mood change as quickly as the weather does.  On a morning charged with darkness the trees glower - their dark green leaves draped over ancient, sulking frames. 

    It was on a day like this, when the morning didn’t seem to want to get light and frothy rain spattered from weak, grey clouds, that I watched a buzzard rise groggily from the king oak’s branches. The bird’s black-brown weight seemed too heavy for its broad-fingered wings as they strained and curled against the airless sky. Just as the trees belonged to the weather that day so the buzzard belonged to the trees – the bird was dark, monumental and untouchable. Yet I have seen buzzards glinting chestnut against a blue sky as they wheel and mewl overhead. Swooping and playing with the gleeful ease of a creature with the sun on its back and the sky as its playground.

    A protected species, buzzards are on the increase now but it hasn’t always been like this. The birds suffered extermination throughout much of eastern Britain with Myxomatosis, toxic chemicals and unlawful persecution reducing buzzard numbers during the twentieth century. Recently young birds from the west have started to recolonize eastern counties, however persecution, especially by poisoning continues to kill many birds every year.  For a creature that so calmly possesses the power to change and colour my mood - a bird that can leave my emotions heart-poundingly raw from just one insouciant gaze from its amber eyes and send me giddy from watching the casual power of its soaring, gliding style –it amazes me that we would ever think to rid ourselves of buzzards.

    Without the weather, the trees outside my house would lack some of their character - their wild, untameable, changeable quality and without the cry of a sky-swooping buzzard our countryside would lose part of its breath-taking, awe-inspiring wildness. Let’s make our eastern counties a home for buzzards as well as other, more widely accepted, wildlife. These birds are on the up, I hope that it remains that way. 

  • I built it, and they came!

    Blogger: Matt Parrot, RSPB Membership Development Officer

    I am really enjoying our new campaign, Giving Nature a Home.  It provides me with a brilliant way to talk to people about how they can help nature without going any further than their own back gardens.

    My job is to influence people to support the RSPB and rather than speaking about our reserves or species conservation, I now spend a lot of time talking about how people can do little things every day to help save nature.

    And I like to practice what I preach, so I’ve also had a go myself!

    I’m not a warden or campaign officer, I don’t have qualifications in ecology and I have a very basic level of gardening knowledge. But I do have a small garden at my home in Norwich, and I’ve made it into a model of Giving Nature a Home.

    I have the regular birdfeeders and bird boxes, but from reading the RSPB’s youth magazine, WildTimes, and Birdlife magazine it inspired me to have a go at making a little pond for frogs from a washing up bowl placed in one of the flower beds.

    I didn’t expect much from it, but I was surprised one night to find a frog on the back step, so I took it to the pond, dropped it in and another frog leapt out!

    What I really wanted was a hedgehog to visit, so I read the hedgehog section in the RSPB Garden Wildlife book we give to new members. I found a bush I thought would give them shelter and used a storage box for a house, putting a little bit of straw inside.

    It’s taken a month but the other night I went out to find a big hedgehog eating a worm on the back grass, and when I lifted the box I found it had made a little nest of leaves inside. I hadn’t seen a live hedgehog for a long time, it’s amazing to find one living in the garden, and it’s really important to help them out with a home now that there are so few left.

    I recently told this story to a family at our membership stand at Centre Parcs. They first came over to me because they saw the Hedgehog roller banner. They’d seen the advert and the twin boy and girl really wanted to see a hedgehog in their garden. I told them what I had done to attract one, showed them the books and magazines and they became members. They took a bug home away as a gift, and I recently had an email from them to say they’d been enthused to get busy building an enormous woodpile for wildlife.

    It’s always great to recruit new members, but it’s even better to know that you’ve inspired someone to make the most of their membership and take part our ‘Giving Nature a Home’ campaign. 

     

    If you’d like to have at go at Giving Nature a Home in your back garden or community, find out what you can do here.   

  • The first feather in the RSPB's campaigning cap

    Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer

    I’ve written before about the constant battle I have with ‘mess’ in my house. I am forever shoving things in to cupboards or hoovering gerbil bedding from behind the table. Some tell me it comes with the territory of sharing a house with a five-year old but I’ve come to realise I can’t lay the blame entirely at that particular dinosaur-stickered door  – I am just as bad. For instance, open any drawer in my house and you are bound to discover not just one, but perhaps two or three or even more, moulted bird’s feathers that I have collected on various outings and walks. Upstairs in the desk drawers there are the peregrine feathers – dark, sleek and honed for flight. On top of the microwave a magpie feather can be found and in an old cocoa pot on the bookcase is a whole jumble of feathers. Dappled tawny owl feathers, the loose white plume of a swan’s feather and the brilliant blue stripes of a stubby jay’s feather cling to one another in an untidy bunch.

    Am I a collector of stray feathers I wonder? I hadn’t thought of it that way until now but I suppose that I am. In fact, thinking about it, people even  make a point of bringing feathers of interest to me so I suppose that must mean something; I was the glad beneficiary of a stook of beautiful peacock feathers the other day, collected as the birds moulted them out. It seems that I am very happy to collect what has been discarded by a bird as old and useless!

    Unfortunately however in the 1900’s feathers sold to decorate hats were big business and people didn’t just collect rejected feathers. During the so-called ’plume boom’ London was the international centre for the plumage trade where traders and feather merchants were able to bid for the ‘skins’ plumes and quills of the most beautiful birds in the world, killed for fashion.

    Thank goodness then for the RSPB. The society was in fact formed to counter the barbarous trade in plumes for women's hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species whose plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era. In its earliest days the Society consisted entirely of women who were moved by the emotional appeal of the plight of young birds left to starve in the nest after their parents had been shot for their plumes. The rules of the Society were simple. Firstly that ‘members should discourage the wanton destruction of birds and interest themselves generally in their protection.’ Furthermore that ‘Lady-Members should refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food.’ Happily the ‘murderous milinery’ campaign initiated wildlife protection acts which eventually prohibited both national and international commerce in protected bird species.

    The rest, as they say, is history for the RSPB has worked to achieve many successes since then, not only for birds but for all nature. The societies latest campaign is to ‘provide a million homes for nature.’ 

    There is plenty you can do to help out too – click on homes.rspb.org.uk to find out more.