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.
Author: Rachael Murray
The Suffolk coast is famed for its winter wildlife wonderlands. It’s a well trodden route for nature enthusiasts the world over and famed for the part it plays in the protection of so many special species. Chris Packham once famously called Suffolk Coast nature reserve, RSPB Minsmere, the ‘Disneyworld of wildlife’. I can only imagine he meant Disneyworld, Paris, because stroll over the border into Essex and you might be interested to know that progress continues on what could one day be the Disneyworld, Florida of wildlife!
Slowly taking shape on Wallasea, a huge island tucked in the Crouch and Roach Estuary, is a wildlife Mecca, twice the size of the City of London, carefully landscaped using soil from the Crossrail project in London. Whilst the project isn’t due for completion for some time, thanks to the first influx of seawater for 400 years back in July 2015 there are already acres of saltmarsh, mutflats and lagoons slowly bursting into life, and in the colder months this wild isle comes into its own.
Drawn to the food packed mud of this new terrain, tens of thousands of waders and wildfowl are flocking to Wallasea as they arrive from their northern breeding grounds to spend winter in the UK.
Photo credit: Andy Hay
The island is already home to a growing number of birds of prey, with hen harriers and short-eared owls making regular appearances around this time of year. And as smaller birds look for shelter and seed to keep them buoyed throughout winter, we are seeing rare clouds of hundreds of linnet and corn bunting taking up residence in the rough grassland areas found dotted across the island.
As well as birds, people have also started flocking to the island to enjoy the wildlife spectacle. A public footpath runs for 3 km up one side of the island, offering fantastic views of the new wildlife habitat. There is also a special nature trail that takes you on a journey along the new sea wall replete with viewing mounds and a newly build wildlife shelter, from which you might be lucky enough to spot one of the area’s seals. And the fun doesn’t stop there - next month, we’ll be creating two new trails that will circumvent a brand new 40 hectare lagoon, offering unrivalled views of what, in time, might just become the Magic Kingdom of our wild Disneyworld!
For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/wallasea.
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.
Pink-footed geese breakfasts
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.
Monday 21 at 6:30 am
Thursday 24 at 6:30 am
Saturday 26 at 6:30 am
Tuesday 29 at 6:30 am
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
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 www.rspb.org.uk/snettisham.
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 www.rspb.org.uk/RobinRun
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 www.rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen.