November, 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.

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.
  • The Big Birdwatch

    Author: Clare Whitelegg, edited by Emily McParland

    “What’s your favourite bird?” This is a question Clare Whitelegg, our Schools Outreach Officer, is regularly asked by school pupils. It’s a tough question, but as part of the ‘Big Schools' Birdwatch’ sessions we've been running in local schools this term, many children are discovering their favourite bird for the first time. 

    Throughout our sessions it's incredible to see just how enthralled children find the experience of observing the creatures that, all too often, we take for granted as we grow older. Whether it's been a little robin sitting at eye level in a hedge or spotting a buzzard riding high on a thermal over the city, youngsters are getting to experience local nature in ways they may not previously have appreciated it.

    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall

    One of the best things about introducing youngsters to their favourite bird through the Big Schools' Birdwatch is seeing their new found enthusiasm for doing something positive for nature. Delighted by the idea of helping their new found favourites, children are full of the pure joy inherent in helping something that one loves.

    Not to worry if you haven't found your top bird yet, it's not too late! School may be out soon but get prepared for the Bird Garden Birdwatch this January, where you may just find your favourite bird right in your garden!

    Photo credit: Greenfinch by Ben Hall

    Big Schools' Birdwatch

    3 January - 17 February 2017 

    We are encouraging schools to take part in the UK’s biggest wildlife survey by getting your class closer to nature. It takes just an hour and works for all ages and abilities. Last year more than 90,000 children and their teachers took part across every corner of the UK. Join in with Big Schools' Birdwatch 2017 and help us make it the biggest ever!

    For more information visit

    Big Garden Birdwatch

    Saturday 28, Sunday 29 and Monday 30 January

    Since it began 37 years ago the Big Garden Birdwatch has provided a snapshot of how the birds and other wildlife using our gardens are doing. In 2017 the world’s largest garden wildlife survey will, for the first time, take place over three days. Join in by watching the birds in your garden for one hour over the weekend and tell us what you've seen.

    For your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack, text BIRD to 70030 or visit 

  • Winter Robin Fun Run

    Author: Martin Rendle, edited by Emily McParland

    Santa runs may be a common sight at this time of year, however at the RSPB we want to celebrate the festive season with Britain's favourite bird instead, the robin.

    The RSPB have launched the first annual Winter Robin Fun Run, to be held in the beautiful Norfolk Broads. We want to put the 'fun' into fun run, so whole families are welcome and actively encouraged to get creative with home-made robin costumes to celebrate the coming of Christmas and the role that nature plays in our changing seasons and national holidays.

    Photo credit: Mark Hewlett

    For robin costume inspiration, have a look here.

    About the run:

    We’ll be offering a range of distances, and how you make your way around them is entirely up to you! Keen runners can aim for a personal best; those just starting to get into running are welcome to jog or yomp the route, and we’ll be cheering those with young families along as they skip, walk or push buggies around the stunning lakeside surroundings at Whitlingham Country Park. The Flint Barn cafe will be open for refreshments and all participants will receive a souvenir medal!

    Together it'll be a great way to kick-start the festive season and experience the incredible benefits we can all gain from being outside getting active and immersed in nature – even dressed as a robin.

    To find out more or sign up for the Robin Run, visit

    Date: Sunday 4 December, 10.30am

    Location: Whitlingham Country Park, Norfolk

    The annual fun run is offered as part of a two year project run by the RSPB in partnership with Sport England to encourage more people to actively enjoy nature. To find out more about the ‘Active in Nature’ partnership project and for full details on all of the activities available in the Broads, visit

  • Pink-footed teamwork

    Author: Carrie Carey

    Over a thousand miles to the north of Britain lies a sparsely populated island in the north Atlantic Ocean. Forged from the Ice Age, the landscape is a mixture of jagged ravines, hot springs and roaring rivers. Glacial ridges contrast with black volcanic beaches and at first sight this formidable terrain might seem to have little to offer wildlife, but here amongst Iceland’s highlands and lowlands, nature is thriving.

    Arctic foxes prosper on the freezing tundra, the ragged coastline is home to half the world’s population of Atlantic puffins and surrounding seas are rich in marine life. Deep in the heart of Iceland on lowland heath, a successful breeding population of heath-geese is flourishing.  As pre-winter temperatures drop and glaciers are swept by powerful Arctic winds, these geese head for slightly warmer climes arriving in north Norfolk in mid autumn. Here we know them better by their English name – pink-footed geese.

    Photo Credit: Andy Hay

    Their arrival is timed to coincide with the harvest of sugar beet crops, allowing tired and hungry bodies to refuel on this carbohydrate rich food. Early arrivals will be dependent on the remains of summer cereal crops and grains but it is the calorie packed sugar beet which enables the geese to bulk up in readiness for their journey home. These wintering birds are very sociable and family groups stay in close proximity to each other as they feast on post-harvest beet tops.

    Like most geese, the pink-foot communicates with family members through a series of calls. On the ground their call is mellow and soft but in the air this becomes a high pitched ‘wink-wink’ which, unlike the weary honk of greylags or the intense cackle of Brent geese, can be strangely agreeable.

    In flight, geese tend to trail slightly behind each other forming a V pattern or echelon in the sky. Evolution has taught them to fly wingtip to wingtip behind the bird in front. It’s a question of aerodynamics – air travelling around the apex of the wing establishes an upwash which gives the bird behind a bit of a lift and a V-shaped configuration allows the geese to take full advantage of this.

    Photo Credit: Chris Gomersall

    For these wildfowl, it’s all about teamwork. They constantly call to each other during flight and synchronise wingbeats to optimise that all important uplift. But it doesn’t end there. If you’ve ever walked in deep snow you will know that it is a lot easier to walk in the footprints left by the person in front of you. Using the same imprints means you are less likely to lose your way and it’s certainly less taxing if someone else has done all the hard work.  Similarly, the goose at the front of the V pattern is working the hardest so flying at the front is the worst place to be. Impressively, the flock works as a collective with birds taking turns in the lead position and falling back into the group as they tire.

    Once established on their winter homeland, pink-footed geese maintain their natural feeding and flight behaviours. In Norfolk, large numbers roost on The Wash close to the shoreline of RSPB Snettisham. At first light they take to the skies in search of arable land to feast, only returning to the safety of The Wash as dusk falls. By late autumn, these migrant wildfowl have arrived in sufficient numbers to make their daily exodus from their roosting sites one of Norfolk’s most impressive wildlife events.


    Event listing

    Pink-footed geese breakfasts

    RSPB Snettisham

    Each year, hundreds of visitors make their way to Snettisham reserve to witness the ‘flight of the pinkies’. Even on the chilliest of mornings, the sight of thousands of geese silhouetted against an orange sky will stir people from their beds. Wingbeat and heartbeat synchronise and the melodic calls of the pink-footed geese echo over the wide expanse of the reserve. Far below them, hardly a sound is heard as people hold their breath in awe.

    Event dates:

    November 2016

    Monday 21 at 6:30 am

    Thursday 24 at 6:30 am

    Saturday 26 at 6:30 am

    Tuesday 29 at 6:30 am


    December 2016

    Thursday 1 at 6:45 am

    Friday 2 at 6:45 am

    Saturday 3 at 6:45 am

    Monday 5 at 6:45 am

    Tuesday 6 at 6:45 am

    Friday 9 at 6:45 am

    Wednesday 21 at 7:00 am

    Thursday 22 at 7:00 am


    January 2017

    Thursday 5 at 6:45 am

    Friday 6 at 6:45 am

    Saturday 7 at 6:45 am


    Walks will commence from the car park at RSPB Snettisham at the time stated.

    The cost per person is £17 to include a full English breakfast. RSPB member price is £15 per person.

    For more information, visit