March, 2016

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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.

RSPB 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.
  • 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)

  • It's Time to Dust off the Binoculars and Head to RSPB Titchwell Marsh

    Author: Heather Coath, RSPB Titchwell Marsh Volunteer

    Recent research carried out by Persil came to the startling conclusion last week that British children are among the most housebound and screen addicted in the world.

    This is pretty shocking stuff, and as someone who had the good fortune to enjoy many a wild yomp as a child, it makes me wonder if, as a nation, we have inherently lost our love of nature and the outdoors? Or perhaps, as we slowly emerge from the honeymoon period of our relationship with new technology, gizmos and gadgets, we are all just in need of a little fresh inspiration?

    Here to help is RSPB Titchwell Marsh volunteer, Heather Coath, with her top tips on how to extricate your family from the Xbox and tear them away from the TV:

    Holding a bird RSPB Titchwell Marsh. Credit: Rahul Thanki (RSPB)

    • Keep it simple. Just taking time away from technology to enjoy the calming effect of a short walk through nature is a great place to start. I don’t rush. I just stroll along, stopping to catch a dragonfly, watch a barn owl flying overhead at dusk or explore anything else that grabs my interest. Any season will do whatever the weather, the effect is the same. Gadgets are great, but if you look closely, wildlife is truly amazing.
    • Wildlife is entertaining for all ages! When my family visit, I take them for an afternoon walk around Titchwell Marsh. We count the ducks on Patsy's reed beds, listen out for the rare bittern’s unique booming call (it sounds like a really loud fog horn!), and check out what wildlife lives under the boardwalk. Depending on the time of year we might also spot water voles, Chinese water deer, marsh harriers and the enormous array of freshwater and sea birds that have made the reserve their home. Kids are enthralled; adults let their inner child loose, and not a screen in sight!
    • Head to the beach. On a visit to Titchwell, I always leave time to walk along the West bank path, which leads to one of North Norfolk’s best beaches. Look west towards Thornham and east towards Brancaster beach and then keep walking. Not only do you get the chance to explore a peaceful part of the coast but you’ll also spot a variety of sea faring birds such as goldeneyes, common scoters and red throated divers. You might also chance upon the atmospheric remains of an old forest or a Second World War tank hull, real life relics that could have come straight from a video game!
    • Embrace the off switch and turn all the lights out too! Night time events at Titchwell, such as stargazing, are a magical and revitalizing experience. Nothing beats gazing at the constellations against the open backdrop of the marsh. As the sun goes down and nature sleeps you can see the harriers come in to roost for the night and listen to the birds calling good night to each other before viewing the sparkling heavens under a clear, dark sky.
    • Use friendly staff and volunteers to make the most of your visit: Forget video game scores; why not give yourselves points for all of the different wildlife you spot? Whether you are new to the reserve or a regular visitor, as the seasons change, so does nature, which is why we have experienced guides available to help you discover exciting new wildlife and habitats at Titchwell, every visit.

    For information on activities and walks available at RSPB Titchwell Marsh, visit www.rspb.org.uk/titchwell or call 01485 210779.

    Grey heron, wading. Credit: Chris Gomersall (RSPB)

  • 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.