July, 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.
  • Rebuild Snettisham Hide Crowdfunding Campaign - things you might find interesting

    Why did the RSPB decide to use crowdfunding?

    We decided to research alternative ways to fund projects; when we looked into crowdfunding, it seemed to tick all the right boxes for us. We know that Snettisham is an extremely special place for lots of people and rebuilding the hide was something many people told us that they, as individuals, would be willing to get behind and support.

    As crowdfunding typically raises small amounts of money from a lot of people we thought that it would be an excellent way to fund a project that had a lot of support from our community. We want to create a project for people to be a part of and feel a sense of ownership towards; ultimately an opportunity for people to be able to contribute towards something tangible that they can use in the future.


    Why did the RSPB decide to use Biotope to create the design?

    Tormod Amundsen, the founder of Biotope, is a Norwegian architect who has a passion for nature (especially birds). He uses his skills to help create buildings that are welcoming, functional and social - places where visitors feel welcome and can engage in conversations. These buildings are ‘hides’ when we need to prevent disturbance in order to get closer to nature, and alternatively they act as shelters when disturbance is not an issue but wind and rain might be. Crucially, they are also functional. They haven't been designed to look flashy. So whilst the building will blend into it's surroundings, we will not be spending any great cost where there will be no added function: this is important for us as a charity, and is an aspect of design some architects fail to appreciate.

    Biotope is perhaps unique in bringing these two areas together. Our visitors won't only be inspired and motivated by the clever design of the building, but they can also be blown away by the unexpected and beautiful views too. 

    This hide will also be designed to be a sociable place - it’s OK to talk here, in fact it’s encouraged! Inspiring people to talk about nature and enjoy each other’s company on our sites is key to a good experience for many visitors.

    When will the hide be built?

    We would love to build the hide by the end of 2017 but this all depends on whether we raise enough money through the crowdfunding campaign.



    What happens if the crowdfunding target isn’t hit?

    If we don’t reach our crowdfunding target there are other options. Once we have community support behind us (i.e. donations from crowdfunding) we will be able to approach a local charitable trust who give grants to charities in Norfolk for projects that merit support. We may also consider a further application to a grant funder.


    Why does the RSPB need another hide at Snettisham?

    The aim of this project is to replace the two hides we lost in the 2013 storm surge with one larger, flood resilient shelter. If adequate viewing shelters are not provided there will continue to be a risk of disturbance to wildlife at one of our most iconic reserves. There is a risk that frequent disturbance events over a prolonged period can affect the breeding success and the viability of the roost - we must always think about the wildlife first.

    The new hide will enable fantastic views of the spectacles Snettisham offers - improving visibility of wildlife for all our visitors including birdwatchers, photographers, walkers and wildlife lovers. It is important that we are able to offer visitors the opportunity to learn about and enjoy the special landscape of The Wash and the wealth of wildlife that makes this reserve such an important and special place.

    The hide we would like to build is bold and innovative, comprising flood resilient elements with the need to accommodate a high number of visitors at high tide spectacle times.

    £120,000 seems like a lot of money?

    We’ve worked really hard alongside our architects, Biotope, to design a hide that works both for the reserve and our visitors. We set Biotope a challenging brief to design a flood resilient hide that can accommodate around 80 people (approximately the overall capacity of the two hides we lost in 2013), that would provide excellent, panoramic views of the roost bank, whilst remaining stable on a pretty unstable shingle surface. Importantly, the hide also had to ensure that different users, with different interests, could use the hide together.

    This has resulted in a large structure, around 74sqm, with huge glass windows, giving those excellent views, and a dedicated photography pit. It also includes a reinforced concrete raft foundation to spread the load onto the very loose beach deposits. The ground beams and low level photography pit will serve to anchor the hide into the ground during storm surges.

    With the predictions of more frequent surge tides hitting our reserve over the coming years there’s every chance a less stable structure would be lost or destroyed beyond repair.

    Construction costs aren’t cheap, especially when constructing a building on shingle. We’ve had to think very carefully about the construction method and our contractors will need to use specialist machinery during construction so as not to damage the sensitive shingle flora.

    What is the total cost of the project?

    The overall total cost of the project is £140,000. Before crowdfunding, we received a generous grant of £20,000 from a community landfill trust. This meant we were able to reduce the crowdfunding target to £120,000.

    This total cost of the project includes the costs of interpretation, access and seating, which will all be required to make the hide complete.

    Where will the money actually go?

    The money raised through crowdfunding will be used to fund the project to rebuild the hide. Any money we raise over the target will be used at the Snettisham reserve to enhance the visitor experience, for example better interpretation or upgrading pathways. This will allow us to use our core funds to protect the habitats and wildlife of Snettisham.


    Will it spoil the experience at Snettisham having a new, big structure on the landscape?

    The hide has been designed with the landscape in mind using materials that complement the reserve such as timber that will weather to a silver/grey colour. We hope that overtime the structure will blend naturally with the landscape and continue to provide outstanding viewing.



    Is the hide accessible to all?

    The hide itself has been designed to be accessible, apart from the photo pit area which is accessed via steps. We have therefore designed a dedicated universal photo area to the North East corner of the hide to ensure all users are able to get the best vantage point for taking photographs.

    At this point in time there is no standard wheelchair access proposed to this hide due to the distance and terrain involved in reaching the wildlife spectacle that can be seen from this point. However, off road/all terrain mobility scooters will be able to access the hide. Access to the hide is by a combination of concrete path, shingle and boardwalk.

    The present arrangement for disabled access to the reserve is that visitors with disabilities can drive along a private road (due to an agreement between the RSPB and beach property owners who own sections of the road) to reach a car parking area 100m before the first hide (one of three currently on the reserve). From this point there is a concrete pathway designed for wheelchair use to access the first two hides. Both of these hides are equipped with wheelchair bays. 


    Can I donate if I don’t want to use the crowdfunding website?

    You can make an offline contribution to the project by contacting us at snettishamproject@rspb.org.uk, calling: 01485 545263 or popping in to the visitor centre at RSPB Titchwell Marsh. Most of our rewards are only available through the crowdfunder website. However as mugs and T-shirts are unlimited, if you are unable to make a pledge through the crowdfunder website, we can accommodate offline pledges in exchange for these rewards.



    Where can I donate online?

    If you'd like to gain exclusive rewards and donate to our project, please visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide . Keep up-to-date with all the latest rewards and information by following #SnettsHide and checking out our RSPB Norfolk Facebook page and RSPB in the East Twitter page.

    What else can I do to help?

    If you love Snettisham and want to support our crowdfunding campaign in additional ways, you can let your social media followers know about your support by liking, sharing and retweeting the #SnettsHide posts. You can also sign up to our Thunderclap to show that you're part of the #SnettsHide crowd.

    Who can I contact for more information?

    Contact us at: snettishamproject@rspb.org.uk or call: 01485 545263.

  • Chris Packham supporting our 1-month Crowdfunder appeal to rebuild RSPB Snettisham hide

    RSPB launches 1-month appeal to rebuild Snettisham hide10 July – 7 August 2017 

    This week has been a landmark one for The RSPB in the East as we launched our first ever crowdfunding appeal, starting the clock on a 28-day appeal during which we hope to raise the £120,000 needed to replace two wildlife hides at Snettisham nature reserve destroyed by coastal storms in 2013.

    Wildlife TV presenter and RSPB Vice President Chris Packham has kindly leant his support to narrate a short volunteer-made appeal video, saying the new hide at Snettisham will “help inspire a whole new generation of nature lovers with the incredible sights and sounds of The Wash”.

    If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch the video here (just click on the image below):

    If you’ve ever been to RSPB Snettisham nature reserve, you’ll know it lies on the edge of the expansive tidal mudflats of The Wash – the UK’s largest estuarine habitat and its most important site for wading birds and wildfowl.

    Every year thousands of people from around the country travel to Snettisham to witness the aerial displays of the tens of thousands of birds attracted to The Wash by the abundance of food in the mud. Since 2013 though, they have had to do so without the two hides lost during the storm surge.


    Snettisham Site Manager Jim Scott sums up what we are trying to do and why:

    “The devastating tidal surge in December 2013 left a trail of destruction along the Norfolk coastline and at our coastal reserves. The surge completely wiped out two of our hides at Snettisham, quite apart from the damage done to the sea banks and lagoons. The photograph of our hide teetering on the edge of collapse was hard to forget.

    “The appeal marks the start of trying to rebuild this wonderful place so that people can experience the wildlife of The Wash at the very heart of it. Snettisham is a place that thousands of people enjoy every year. With their support I hope we can make it even better and inspire more people, especially the younger generation, with the amazing wildlife of this special place.”

    Above: flock of knot and oystercatchers at Snettisham. Photo by Les Bunyan

    One new hide will replace the two that were lost in the storm. It been designed to be more resilient to floods while providing people with fantastic views of the main attraction – Snettisham’s wildlife – and will be a building for everyone, improving the experience for all visitors including birdwatchers, photographers, walkers and wildlife lovers.

    Jim Scott: “Donating to this appeal is a great way to really make a difference for the future of Snettisham nature reserve. There are some wonderful rewards on offer too, but they’re likely to be in demand so get donating quickly!”

    Artist's impression of new storm-resilient hide in cross-section: 

    Crowdfunding allows members of the public to donate money for a specific purpose in exchange for rewards, many of which are exclusive and certainly ‘money can’t buy’ experiences. The RSPB has managed to secure some truly wonderful rewards that should inspire people to donate to this important appeal.

    The appeal is now live at crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide. Visit the appeal page to see a full list of the rewards on offer and follow @RSPBintheEast and #SnettsHide on Twitter to stay up to date with news from the appeal. 

  • Wildlife of The Wash


    Author: Jim Scott

    RSPB Snettisham sits on the edge of The Wash: the UK’s most important inter-tidal wetland site nationally. At peak times, The Wash can hold between 400 – 450, 000 waders and wildfowl. Up to a third of these can occur on our reserve.

    However, the site isn’t just of national importance. Internationally, The Wash is important for 16 species of birds: pink-footed goose, dark-bellied brent goose, shelduck, pintail, oystercatcher, ringed plover, golden plover, grey plover, lapwing, knotsanderling, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwitcurlew, and redshank.  Three of these species: pink-footed goose, knot, and bar-tailed godwit, occur at Snettisham in internationally important numbers; with a further six species: shelduck, oystercatcher, avocet, grey plover, sanderling, and black-tailed godwit, occurring in nationally important numbers.

    Sanderling at Snettisham - Les Bunyan

    We certainly don’t do things by halves! We are also home to two of the UK’s most incredible wildlife spectacles:

    Whirling Wader Spectacular

    The mudflats of The Wash provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for thousands of wading birds. Yet, when the water rolls in on a high tide, up to 50, 000 wading birds are displaced, leaving the mudflats and landing in the lagoons behind the shingle bank.

    As the birds take-off in their masses, they turn and tumble, and whirl and ripple in one of nature’s most impressive sites.

    This wild optical illusion can be seen from mid-July to late May, but the best period is from August to January.

    Knot and oyster catcher over the wash - Les Bunyan

    For the best experience, time your visit to coincide with a tide high enough to cover all the mudflats. We recommend visiting three different spots to get the most from your visit.:

    • To watch the huge whirling flocks leaving the mudflats, stand at the wader watchpoint on the beach, Depending on the height of the tide you'll need to be there 30-90 minutes before high tide.
    • During the high tide, the massive flocks often land on the shingle banks and islands within pit 4. They may stay there for an hour or more after high tide.
    • Even though the birds can't see the sea, they seem to know when the tide's going back out and leave in long, smoky lines. This can start as early as 30 minutes after high tide and can last for up to an hour.

    To access a high-tide timetable visit www.rspb.org.uk/snettisham

    Oyster catch among the knot - Les Bunyan


    Pink-footed geese

    Early September, pink-footed geese start to arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland and eastern Greenland. Patiently, they wait for the first sugar beet harvests of the year, looking to refresh and feed after miles of migration.

    Numbers peak between mid November to mid-to late January. At dawn, cackling orchestrated calls fill the sky. Look overhead and you might see tens of thousands of geese flying in V-shaped formations, making their way from The Wash to the sugar beet fields. At dusk, they return to the mudflats for the night.

    Pink-footed geese Les Bunyan

    To see the goose spectacular, it’s best to get to RSPB Snettisham by dawn. It's early, but it's worth leaving your duvet for! Avoid up to five days either side of full moon as the spectacular is not as reliable in this period.

    For the best views, of the geese, stand on the beach between the wader watchpoint and Rotary Hides. The first groups to leave each morning may give an indication as to the best places to stand later during the spectacular.

    We are currently crowdfunding to raise money to rebuild the hides at Snettisham lost in the 2013 storm surge. To donate to our #SnettsHide appeal please visit crowdfunder.co.uk/snettishamhide where there are many exclusive rewards on offer.