March, 2016

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.
  • Working in partnership with local landowners to create a home for wildlife at RSPB’s Berney Marshes Nature Reserve

    Author: Rachael Murray, Communications Officer, Eastern England Regional Office (EERO)

    Recently I was lucky enough to visit the RSPB’s Berney Marshes nature reserve, found tucked away off the beaten track on the edge of Halvergate Marshes in the Norfolk Broads.

    My presence there was instigated by a welcome visit from a BBC Countryfile film crew, who were keen to document some of the great work we are doing in partnership with local landowners to create a home for wildlife on the marshes.

    As one of the UK's largest expanses of wet grassland, at this time of year it offers an unrivalled wildlife spectacle. Imagine the sight of tens of thousands of wintering ducks feeding and roosting, geese and swans flying in formation across the watery landscape and waders moving in unison through the air like shoals of flying fish. As spring arrives, the air is filled with the atmospheric calls of lapwings and redshanks.

    Berney Marshes RSPB Reserve, view across Breydon Water showing wildfowl and windpump.  Credit: RSPB

    I don’t often get to enjoy the fruits of our labours, so what a treat it was to enjoy a quick post filming safari around the marshes with Mark, our site manager.  Hidden, just a mile or two from the A47, I was treated to a wild world of Chinese water deer, shimmering flocks of golden plover and ebony and ivory clouds of lapwing dispersing abruptly at the sight of marsh harriers soaring close by.

    For all the majestic beauty of marsh harriers, I have always had a soft spot for lapwings. With their sweetly tufted heads and an iridescent rainbow shimmer dancing off dark green wings, seeing so many of them together in one place was the highlight of my day. 

    The sad fact is that although lapwing are still a common winter sight across the UK countryside, this is often due to an influx of continental birds.  In many places, economic pressures are changing farming practices to such an extent that, in the wider landscape, these lovely birds are now more commonly found breeding on nature reserves.

    In places where farmers and landowners provide landscapes replete with wet grassland, wet flashes and foot drains, wading birds such as lapwing have the short vegetation they need for nesting and lovely squelchy places nearby full of insects in which to find their families a hearty meal.  

    To help lapwing, and a host of other species, to flourish in the wider countryside, Mark is helping farmers and landowners across the Norfolk Broads to design and deliver suitable wetland features within successful farming practices, ensuring that both their farms and wildlife profit!

    If you’d like to explore the unique wild landscape Mark is creating together with local landowners, you’ll have to be prepared to get a bit muddy! You can’t reach Berney Marshes by car, but if you are feeling intrepid, you can get their by foot, train or even boat – it’s worth the effort.  

    If you are a farmer or landowner based in or around the Norfolk Broads, and would like to know more about the work that Mark is doing and how you can help to support lapwings and their fellow wetland species, please contact Mark, mark.smart@rspb.org.uk

    For more information, visit www.rspb.org.uk/berneymarshes.

    Berney Marshes and Breydon Water. Credit: Chris Gomersall (RSPB)

    Berney Marshes and Breydon Water. Credit: Chris Gomersall (RSPB)

    Berney Marshes and Breydon Water Experience

    Why not try a unique wildlife safari with one of our wardens?  From the comfort of a 4×4 enjoy Berney Marshes and Breydon Water, the picturesque sights and sounds of this haunting landscape will certainly come alive.

    All visits last around four hours and include light refreshments, and the income generated from your visit directly supports our work in the Broads.

    Each visit is tailored to suit you and you can even set foot in areas not normally accessible to the public!

    Prices range from £40-£75 per person, depending on the group size.

    For more information Email: strumpshaw@rspb.org.uk or Telephone:  01603 715191

  • All the fun of Volunteering at Wroxham Barns

    Author: Shona Howe, Community Volunteer and Development Officer

    After visiting the local school in Cantley to share my passion for Norfolk wildlife last week, I sneaked a quick breather down a picturesque lane to gaze over the marshes before heading on my way. As I took in the crisp air and marvelled at the dramatic backdrop of hazy pinks and blues in the sky over the river Yare, I was transported back to childhood adventures out exploring the marshes with my granddad.

    Barn owl hunting across a field. Credit: John Bridges (RSPB)

    With sandwiches and a flask of oxo, we would head off to unknown places plentiful with new birds and bugs to discover. Of course, granddad knew exactly where we were going, but he delighted as much as me in finding our first swallowtail each year or noticing the growing numbers of willow emerald damselflies. As the years went by, we walked further afield; he took me on walks around Berney and Halvergate Marshes, teaching me the history of the old mills and the Breydon Water estuary. As the distances we travelled together grew I began to understand that, like me, wildlife needs space to roam. Like me, it needs not just one safe haven, but many, connected up across the landscape.

    I was woken from my nostalgic daydream by a magnificent barn owl landing on the post next to me. For no more than a few seconds, with its beautiful dark eyes and heart shaped face, the owl watched me without fear. On deciding that I was too big for a snack, the bird spread its enormous buff wings and took off across the marshes in search of a more appetising meal.

    View from the broads with approaching boat, Norfolk. Credit: Ben Hall (RSPB)

    Walking back from the gate, I couldn’t help but smile to be reminded so clearly of the reason I pass on my love of wildlife across a network of towns and villages in the Broads as part of the RSPB’s new ‘Networks for Nature’ project. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Broadland District Council and Richardson’s Boating Holidays, our project aims to bring communities together to champion the area’s unique natural heritage.

    As part of this project, we are building a web of volunteers across the Norfolk Broads who, like my granddad, will inspire their children, friends and neighbours to love and protect nature for future generations.

    We’re looking for volunteers to help us:

    • Share our love of nature with families at our wildlife information and activity centre at Wroxham Barns
    • Deliver nature classes in Norfolk primary schools
    • Set up community wildlife events such as pond dipping days, bat and moth evenings, or bug hotel making
    • Welcome and guide visitors around the historic Berney Arms Mill set in the wetland wilderness of Berney Marshes

    Volunteers can give anything from half a day a fortnight to much more! Full training is provided so all you need is enthusiasm, an ability to communicate with the public and a love of nature!

    For more information, contact RSPB Volunteer and Community Development Officer, Shona Howes: shona.howes@rspb.org.uk, 01603 715191.

    Enjoy a Family Nature Fun Day at Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton, Norwich, NR12 8QU every Wednesday from 10am to 2pm between now and Christmas.

    Pop in for a chat to friendly RSPB staff and volunteers about new ways to support wildlife in your gardens and communities to keep our Broads wildlife thriving!

    During the school holidays, the RSPB will be running free children’s activities including mask making and pond dipping. Bring the kids to discover ways to get crafty and help create homes for nature at home and school. Come summer, take a nature trail, discover the magic of mini bugs through a digital microscope and find out what an owl gets its claws into for dinner.

  • A Dawn Chorus with a Difference

    Author: Rupert Masefield, Communications Officer, Eastern England Regional Office (EERO)

    I don’t think I’d be courting controversy by saying that people have a mixed reaction to waking up early in the morning. In my household, this difference in individuals’ circadian rhythms can be the source of friction that threatens our otherwise harmonious coexistence. Some people, I have learned, don’t like to be woken up hours before they really need to be awake- especially not by someone who has been up for hours and whose enthusiastic incitements to ‘Get up, get up! Come on, let’s go!’ are, apparently, ‘annoying’.

    Some things are worth getting up at the crack of dawn for though: early flights for that holiday you’ve been looking forward to for months; being the first in line for freshly baked bread on a Saturday morning; and, for me, the pleasure of listening to nature’s choir performing the dawn chorus. This, of course, is the medley of morning birdsong song that takes place every year as the breeding season gets underway and the male birds compete to claim and defend a territory and to attract a mate (in some species female birds sing too, sometimes together with their mate).

    This morning, I’m sorry to say I didn’t have a flight to an exotic holiday destination to catch and the thought of my expanding waistline resolved me to keeping walking past the enticing aromas wafting from the bakery, but I did enjoy a memorable dawn chorus with a difference.

    I have to admit, the earliest birds were up even earlier than I was, so I was in bed when the subdued, reedy song of a red-breasted robin drifted in through the still dark window. As the sky gradually lightened, the unmistakable melodic phrases of a blackbird turned the robin’s solo into a duet and it was time for me to get up.


    Robin perched in garden trellis. Credit: Ray Kennedy (RSPB)

    After leaving the house to the noisy chattering of the sparrow section of the orchestra, I headed through town and my dawn chorus took on a new aspect, as the sounds of birdsong mingled with the early morning sounds of human city-dwellers getting ready for the working day ahead.

    There is something special, something uniquely satisfying, about being up and about town before the rest of the world emerges from its slumber to go about its business.  Walking through the park, the cooing of a woodpigeon and the flight call of a collared dove flapping by overhead were punctuated by a whirring drone and the sound of water jets spraying the pavement as a road sweeper passed by. Then, approaching the market, raucous shouting calls and laughter competed with the music blaring from a radio as the first stalls opened up and set out their pitches, in a curious analogy of the blackbird and the robin setting up shop to compete with their neighbours.

    I realised that these human sights and sounds seemed to me to be a part of the same urban dawn chorus as the mournful cries of the black headed gulls I could now hear. The daily rhythms of our lives are governed by the 24 hour cycle of night and day (from which circadian rhythms get their name) as much as those of birds and (most) other living creatures. Suddenly I felt an intimate connection with the birds whose singing I had been enjoying as an observer- I was part of the dawn chorus myself.

    As much as I love experiencing the dawn chorus in all its glory in the countryside, or on a nature reserve, where skylarks, lapwings and nightingales add their voices to the ensemble and the only manmade noise you can hear is the sound of your own footsteps, this was a dawn chorus with a difference I will remember.

    You can experience the dawn chorus for yourself every morning from now until mid-summer. You need to be up before sunrise to enjoy the full performance.

    RSPB Strumpshaw Fen’s Dawn Chorus Breakfast Walks: Sunday 24th April and Saturday 7th May, 6-8am

    For more details including cost and booking, email strumpshaw@rspb.org.uk, phone 01603 795191, or visit www.rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen


    Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel, RSPB Strumpshaw Fen.  Credit: Ben Andrew (RSPB)