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: Carrie Carey
There’s nothing more likely to put a spring in your step than seeing the new blooms of flowers and trees emerging at this time of year. The term ‘spring time’ dates back to the 15th century in celebration of the new year springing out from the old. With the long awaited passage of winter, springing time was seen as a period of rejuvenation and regrowth.
Spring is the favoured season for many of us as we look forward to longer days and warmer weather. Gradually, brown and barren areas of garden are transformed into hues of green interspersed with splashes of colour. Fragrant blooms reappear in borders and hedgerows, and daisies materialise overnight on our lawns.
The arrival of spring heralds a number of changes for the wildlife of Titchwell Marsh nature reserve. Overwintering visitors begin their long flight home to breeding grounds in Scandinavia, Russia and Iceland. Their presence missed only for a moment whilst we await the arrival of sand martins and swallows returning from their winter sojourn in Africa.
Photo: RSPB Titchwell Marsh, Norfolk, credit: Rahul Thanki
Out on the reserve, marsh harriers can be seen swooping and falling in a series of twists, rolls and spirals as they perform their ritual sky dance. During the breeding season the male will provide the female with food. Feeding on small mammals and birds the harriers fly low over the marshes searching for prey. When he has a suitable offering, the male soars high into the air and with the female flying underneath him, drops the prey for her to catch.
Photo: marsh harriers passing food in mid-air, credit: Ben Hall
Another avian rarity, the bittern, marks the arrival of spring with his booming call. The bittern is a shy and elusive bird whose plumage perfectly camouflages him against the reed bed habitats. However, he gives his presence away with his unusual and very loud call. These birds, once thought to be extinct in the UK are now breeding successfully in carefully managed conservation reserves such as Titchwell Marsh.
Photo: bittern blending into the reeds, credit: Ben Andrew
In woodland areas, courtship of another sort is taking place. Male newts develop a wave like crest along their spine and tail. In the presence of a female, the male shimmies and his tail vibrates. Frogs and toads have woken from their winter sleep and are ready to mate. They will lay their jelly-like spawn on the freshwater pools often in close proximity to the nests of moorhens and coots.
Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall
Further out on the reserve oystercatchers and ringed plovers are beginning to nest along the beach. Mallards and teal show off their fine plumage in order to attract a mate and other birds, such as black-tailed godwits, shed winter plumage for their nuptial feathers.
Photo: oystercatcher stood in water, credit: Chris Gomersall
Photo: ringed plover, nesting on stony ground, credit: Andy Hay
For us too, spring provides incentive to get outdoors and shake off those winter cobwebs. It’s time to shed the layers and feel the gentle warmth of the sun’s rays on our skin. With a diversity of habitats to explore at Titchwell reserve there are places a plenty to take a brisk walk or a gentle amble or just take time out of the day to sit and enjoy nature’s playground. Whatever your pleasure, you can’t beat a fine spring day to invigorate the senses and recharge those batteries.
Hare's most egg-cellent adventure
Monday 3 April to Sunday 16 April
Price: £1 per child (nature trails) £2 per child (egg hunt)
Fun for all the family over Easter as we follow hare on his travels around the reserve. Self-led nature trails are available throughout the Easter holidays with hands-on activities taking place on the dates below. Our annual egg hunts will take place on Easter Sunday and Monday.
A list of available RSPB membership packages could be found here.
We are calling on families to get outdoors, get creative, get exploring and get wild this Spring. The Wild Challenge is the RSPB's brand new online awards scheme encouraging children, families and schools to go out and get closer to the natural world.
By completing the 30 fun and engaging activities, families can log their achievements on the website and receive bronze, silver and gold awards! Each activity comes with helpful ideas and resources to help families on their wild adventure.
The Wild Challenge is free and open to all no matter where you live, the weather or the time of year, there will always be something to do. The RSPB aims to show children how fun exploring nature really is, helping to engage them with the natural world through fun, family-friendly activities.
Furthermore, every family who is awarded a bronze, silver or gold award during April will be entered into a prize draw to win the Ultimate Wild Challenge explorer kit worth over £500! With everything from a nest box, a wildlife camera trap, binoculars for adults and children, a hogilo hedgehog house, a bat detector and so much more, it's definitely worth entering!
Some of the fun activities you can try:
1. Build a minibeast hotel
Create your own bug hotel full of different natural materials, to provide hidey-holes for creatures galore! The size and construction of your bug hotel is only limited by the materials you have available and your imagination!
2. Feed the birds!
Giving birds a little extra food is a simple and fun way to help, especially when natural sources are low. The mix of fat, seeds and mealworms is irresistible for many garden birds, so why not try this sticky activity! Hang them from your garden trees, or on your balcony and watch your neighbourhood birds discover them.
3. Record the wild weather
Rain or shine - can you help us measure the weather? Become a meteorologist and learn how to set up your own weather station - will you be able to detect the changes or predict the weather near you?
4. Show us the signs of spring near you
Spring is an exciting time to go out and explore, as you can witness how nature changes in the turnover of seasons. Weather it's daffodils and bluebells making an appearance, a bumblebee looking for a new home or leaves turning the trees green again, take a picture of your local signs of spring! If you're under 19, you can even submit it to this year's WildPix competition.
And if you would like to incorporate the Wild Challenge into a fun day out, why not come to one of our Wild Challenge events being held regularly across RSPB reserves in the Eastern region. Check out the events listings here.
Author: Rupert Masefield
Some of its nicknames may sound less-than-flattering – goggle-eyed plover, heath chicken, thick-knee – but there aren’t many birds that have captured the hearts of the people that share the land where they live as completely as the stone-curlew.
As unflattering as those names might be, they do give a fair impression of this wide-eyed wader: it really does have big yellow eyes and thick ‘knees’ (actually its ankles). Of course, it’s not unusual for a plant or animal’s common and colloquial names to be descriptive of its most noticeable characteristics. Woodpeckers do peck wood and a hedge is a good place to look for hedge sparrows (another name for a dunnock) – so it should come as no surprise to learn that stone-curlews have a penchant for making their nests on bare stony ground and have a high-pitched whistling call similar to that of a Eurasian curlew (to which they are not otherwise closely related).
Photo: Stone-curlew hiding in vegetation, credit: Andy Hay.
They are largely nocturnal, lying low during the day, giving them a certain air of mystery, and they are intimately associated with the unique characteristics of the landscapes in which they live – the sandy flint-strew grass heathland of the Brecks and Suffolk Coast, and the chalk plateau of Salisbury Plain – nesting on the ground in the open and relying on their incredible cryptic camouflage to stay hidden. Males and females take it turns to incubate their eggs and in an entirely charming ritual, when it is time to swap places the returning bird passes its partner a small pebble or piece of flint, which is dropped on the edge of the nest until all these little tokens accumulate to surround the nest like a meteor belt around a planet.
Photo: Stone curlew adult near nest and eggs, credit: Chris Gomersall.
It is likely thanks in part to their curious appearance and habits that stone-curlews have become such celebrated residents in the few parts of the country where they are still found. Unfortunately the same habits and reliance on the landscape that made them a favourite with the people that knew them also caused them problems, first when much of the habitat on which they depended disappeared and then when the mechanisation of farming made their nests on the bare patches in amongst farmers’ crops vulnerable to being unintentionally destroyed by farm operations.
Photo: Stone curlew nest with eggs, tractor in background furrowing crops, credit: Chris Gomersall.
Since the mid-1980s though, when there were as few as a hundred breeding pairs of stone-curlews left in the country, farmers, landowners, gamekeepers and conservationists in the Brecks and across the other side of the country in Wessex have all stepped up to turn things around for these charismatic birds. Today there are three times as many pairs breeding in the UK as there were 30 years ago, and that is largely down to the heroic efforts of a small number of people and communities in the places where stone-curlews live.
Photo: close-up of a plot managed for Stone Curlew, credit: Andy Hay.
It is thanks to these heroes that we still have stone-curlews returning to the UK from Africa to breed each summer.
In these places, people’s connection with nature where they live has helped to save this very special part of it. Legal protection and funding for conservation and agri-environment schemes have played their part too, of course, and the spectre of Brexit looms large over these, but the future of stone-curlews in the UK is that much safer for having people who care about them enough to go the extra mile to look after them.
Find out more about stone-curlews www.rspb.org.uk/stonecurlews