March, 2017

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.
  • Volunteers needed to help save rare seabird

    Author: Emily Kench

    One of the UK’s rarest seabirds, the little tern has suffered serious declines over the past 25 years. The tiny chattering birds travel a 6,000 mile round trip each year to breed on the beaches of the British Isles, but their numbers have been declining as they struggle to find safe beaches to nest and feed their young, free from predators and human disturbance.

    The East Anglian coast is home to half of the UK's breeding population during the summer, with some of the largest colonies found in Norfolk. The birds arrive in April and May and return migration starts in August and continues into September. The RSPB is appealing for a group of dedicated volunteers to help protect little terns on the Norfolk coast this summer.

    Photo: Dan Pacamo

    Fabienne Fossez is an RSPB Little Tern Project Officer: “With over half of the UK breeding population making a home in East Anglia, little terns rely on our help here in the East. Our busy beaches are some of the best places left in the UK for little terns to raise their family each year. When nesting, these little birds are easily disturbed by people and vulnerable to predators such as crows and foxes. We are also seeing an increase in severe weather events on our coast which add to their troubles. Each year we recruit a team of volunteers to provide special protection for the birds on the east coast who help us to monitor the birds and help beach visitors understand how to make room for the birds during the crucial nesting and breeding season.” 

    Photo: Chris Gomersall

    Help little terns this summer

    Every summer, a team of volunteer little tern wardens support the Little Tern Recovery Project by monitoring the beaches around Winterton-on-sea where these special birds make their homes.

    Thanks to funding from the EU LIFE+ Nature Programme and the Norfolk Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund, the Little Tern Recovery Project is helping to ensure that our little terns have a successful trip to the Norfolk coast, and return to West Africa with a new brood in September.

    The team of volunteers will be stationed at the ‘Geodome’ located on Winterton beach. The structure has been funded by Norfolk Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund and will provide a shelter from which volunteers can monitor the little tern colony, and a hub for beach visitors to find out more about the special species.

    Roger Potter is a volunteer little tern warden at Winterton-on-sea: “I’ve been wardening for seven years now, seeing my first chick at the colony in 2010 had me hooked! Little terns are my favourite sea bird, they are real characters and beautiful to watch as they fish just twenty yards off shore. I’m a really sociable person and love spending my days at the beach talking to visitors about little terns and how we can all make sure we look after them as they build their nests and raise their young on our beaches.”

    Photo: Durzan cirano

    Volunteering at a little tern colony provides an opportunity to meet new people and be part of a small team working on some of the most beautiful beaches in the east. You can learn more about bird ecology and witness the drama of an active tern colony, following these endearing birds as they raise their young from tiny bundles of fluff to intrepid fledglings before they fly back to West Africa for the winter.

    No specific skills are required, as all training will be provided. Some walking is necessary at some colonies, as is working outdoors in all weather conditions. The project is currently looking for volunteers to help at RSPB and Natural England east Norfolk sites in and around Great Yarmouth and Winterton-on-sea.

    If you’d like to help protect this wonderful seabird, please get in touch: email norfolklittleterns@rspb.org.uk or call 01603 715191.

    Find out more about the role description here.

  • Let the garden put a spring in your step

    Written by Emily Kench. This blog post originally appeared as a feature in the Suffolk Magazine in the April issue 2017.

    Spring: that glorious time of the year where we draw back the curtains, fling open the windows and once again turn our gardens into a multifunctional seasonal living room, dining room and playroom. A ‘room’ we must tend to when preparing for the lazy alfresco morning coffee, the long scone-consuming session in the ever-lasting afternoon sun, and the evenings spent entertaining on the patio with one hand strategically swatting away mosquitoes whilst cautiously cradling the gin and tonic in the other.

    Whether you’re a coffee, tea or gin drinker, there’s no need to accompany your time outside with a little background music. Leave the radio, headphones and boom box inside because your garden comes with its very own soundtrack.

    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall

    The low-drum-hum bass of the bumblebee vibrates around the flower beds. The pair of blue tits flitting in and out of their nest box provides a not-so-catchy but nonetheless repetitive chorus: "tsee-tsee-tsu-hu-hu-hu-hu." And the male frog hanging wistfully round the pond offers a soft, lyrical croak.

    Photo credit: Grahame Madge

    At least these are the sounds of spring that we experience at the RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden. Nestled deep in the heart of Constable Country, this wildlife-friendly garden is teaming with life all year round, offering all the inspiration you will need to transform your own green patch into a wildlife oasis.

    Photo credit:  Andy Hay

    For the more bijoux garden, inspiration can be drawn from the small flower meadow and the flower borders full of nectar and pollen that attract an array of insects. If you have more land at your fingertips then you may be able to take inspiration from the young apple orchard and woodland gardens that host a number of resident garden birds. Even if you have no garden to hand, draw inspiration on bringing the outside in with the thoughtful kitchen garden, all designed with garden wildlife in mind.

    Either way, however big your green patch even the smallest of wildlife friendly gardens in the UK help give wildlife a vital network of stepping stones through the wider landscape. UK gardens covering three times more land than all RSPB nature reserves put together. So by dusting off your gardening gloves and nurturing your own local nature, you will join an army of fellow conservationists in gardens across the country all doing their bit to save wildlife.

    Photo credit: Andy Hay

    Before visiting Flatford Wildlife Garden, here are a few ideas to set you on your way:

    Build a bee b&b: Offer solitary bees five-star accommodation by building them their very own hotel. Solitary bees don’t live in hives like honeybees. As their name suggests, these furry pollinators make their nests on their own and lay their eggs in tunnels, like in dead wood or hard soil. A bee hotel mimics these conditions. Sit and watch adult female bees find the nest on sunny days in spring. You’ll know they’re nesting if you see them flying in with pollen, with blobs of mud to create cell walls along the tube, or with bits of leaf.

    Photo credit: Andy Hay

    Make the perfect bird bath: Make a bird bath to give birds a safe and reliable way to find fresh water in the hot weather. Look out for birds coming for a drink or to keep their feathers clean. It’s quite a performance, so sit back and watch them having a good, splashy bath – who needs TV? You can make your birdbath at any time of year, but summer really is a critical time when water can be scarce for birds. You’ll often see blackbirds and flocks of starlings taking a dip, while wood pigeons may just sit in the water to cool off!

    Photo credit: David Tipling

    Build a frog and toad abode: Create an underground den where frogs, toads and newts can find safe lodging. Our amphibian friends like to hibernate in a cool, dark and damp shelter, safely away from predators. Some frogs use the mud at the bottom of ponds, but many amphibians spend the winter on land. They do like to get a little way underground if they can, so give them a helping hand by creating their very own mansion, full of cavities galore. They’ll be able to use it to sleep through winter’s worst excesses and emerge, refreshed and ready to go for a hectic spring of mating and spawning.

    For full instructions on these and other ways to create a home for wildlife in your garden, visit www.rspb.org.uk/homes.

    Visit Flatford Wildlife Garden

    The garden is situated in the beautiful and historic hamlet of Flatford, where John Constable used to paint. It is designed to teach and inspire people to help wildlife in their own gardens. 

    The RSPB hold frequent events and activities for adults and families at the garden, and hidden amongst the blooms you’ll find friendly staff and volunteers on hand to answer all your wildlife gardening questions!

    Between 27 March and 3 November, the garden is open seven days a week, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm.

    For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/flatford

  • Bug bungalows and bee bistros

    Author: Emily Kench

    Warm summer days, alfresco living, bees buzzing on the flowers, beetles crawling across the lawn... The scene in gardens up and down the country. Yet, if like me you reside in a terraced townhouse in the city, you may lack the confidence to recreate this vision in your own concrete jungle.

    Photo credit:  Jesper Mattias


    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall

    My own patch of paving meets the concrete criteria but not the jungle. Its diversity extends to a Christmas tree that neither I or my housemates can be bothered to drive to the dump, a few bulbs in raised beds and a pond void of anything other than a scraggly aerator.

    The only additional features are three old tyres and a beautifully sanded pallet – the consequence of my half-hearted attempt to make recycled garden furniture, that like so many of my well-meaning ideas amounted to nothing.

    ‘We’ (the royal we) have decided it would be ‘prettier’ and ‘sensible’ to put these DIY dreams to rest; take the tyres and pallets for scrap and purchase a nice set of second hand furniture online. Outwardly I nod along to these somewhat boring plans, but little do they know I am plotting.

    This weekend, whilst they are off seeing boyfriends, skiing in the Alps, and nursing post-birthday hangovers, I will be recreating that gorgeous Spring scene. They might even thank me.

     

    Giving nature a home

    According to Kirsty and Phil, it’s all about location, location, location. So, I reckon I should play to the market that has already shown an interest in my garden, which to date includes a bachelor frog who hangs around the back door looking for a lady, and a handful of insects.


    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall

     Planting a bee bistro: Old tyres are great planters and often free! To fill the garden with busy bees, plant a selection bee-friendly plants. Bees feast on the nectar of different plants all year round, but now is a good time to start planting for summer: allium, borage, catmint, foxglove, and most herbs will throng with all manner of different wild bees.


    Photo credit: Grahame Madge

    Building a bug bungalow: Given the size of my garden, a bug hotel might be a little imposing and a bug bungalow a little more fitting. To start, a layer of bricks displayed in an ‘H’ shape will provide the foundations for the bug bungalow. Once the foundations are laid, the pallet can be positioned. For a vogue interior, one section will be stuffed with branches and dead wood from the forgotten Christmas tree for all creepy crawly guests. Modern arrangements of stones offer damp areas for amorous amphibians like my resident bachelor frog. Dry leaves mimic a fashionable forest floor and king-sized bed of straw is perfect for ladybirds of the night. Finally for a vintage twist, finish with old roof tiles to keep the rain out.

     

    Photo credit: Andy Hay


    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall


    Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall

    For full instructions on these and other ways to create a home for wildlife in your garden, visit www.rspb.org.uk/homes.

     

    Photo credit: Andy Hay

    Event listing

    Heart and sole wellbeing walk

    Friday 31 March, 7:00 am

    Price: £4 per adult (£3 RSPB member)

    Booking essential

    Start your day with an invigorating walk around RSPB Snettisham reserve. Discover breathtaking landscapes teaming with wildlife. This early morning stroll will take you onto the beach where you can enjoy panoramic views across The Wash. Look out for early spring flowers, ring ouzels and mad March hares. Please telephone Titchwell Marsh reserve on 01485 210779 for booking information.

    To see our range of products for your garden visit our online shop.

    A list of available RSPB membership packages could be found here.