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.

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.
  • 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 

  • 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

  • The New Disneyworld of Wildlife

    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