August, 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.
  • Where did the knot get its name?

    Author: Ellen Robson

    After the recent launch of our name a knot campaign, where we have been asking you to give a name to one of the 100,000 knot at RSPB Snettisham, you may be wondering why knot were called knot in the first place. The name is thought to originate from the story of King Canute (King Cnut in Danish) and the waves. This story describes how Canute goes to the shore and commands the sea to avoid him. In some versions of the story he did this to prove he was all powerful and could control the tides, and was then humiliated as a result of his arrogance when the water did not stop for him. Others recount quite the opposite tale, where he did this to show his people that even his royal powers could not manipulate the elements and that they could only be controlled by God. 

    King Can-knot

    Either way, King Canute had to recede from the incoming tide, just like the knot do when the sea approaches them, which is why they are thought to be named after him! 

    If you'd like to name a knot and support our #SnettsHide appeal please donate at

  • Meet the couple who #LoveSnetts so much they got engaged there!

    Sam Seal's husband Tim proposed to her at RSPB Snettisham in 2015. They love the place so much, they even had pink-footed geese knitted especially for the wedding! Sam explains why RSPB Snettisham is so important to her and husband Tim.

    I first visited RSPB Snettisham at dawn on New Year’s Day, 2012. I had read about the pink-footed goose spectacular online, and wanted to check it out as it sounded amazing. It was really exciting heading over there in the dark before dawn, not knowing what to expect. What unfolded was incredible: as the first rays of sunshine broke through the dark sky, thousands of geese started to take to the skies in their ‘v’ formations. I was mesmerised, and have been in love with RSPB Snettisham ever since! I have returned many times since that first visit, seeing the pinkies, the wading bird spectacular, or just to have a calming walk and enjoy the area.

    I love the view out over the Wash from RSPB Snettisham, and have always found it quite mysterious. When the tide is out, it reminds me of the surface of the moon! The shapes that are formed by the water are beautiful, and at sunrise and sunset, the pools of water turn pink and it’s a really stunning sight.


    I find the ruggedness and geography of the reserve really calming and special. I often consider my time there as ‘active relaxation’: I find a calm whilst walking around the reserve that I’ve never really experienced anywhere else.


    My husband Tim and I will always have a special connection to RSPB Snettisham, as we got engaged there in January 2015. After watching the Pink Footed Goose Spectacular, Tim got down on one knee with a ring and asked me to marry him – it was such a perfect moment!

    If you #LoveSnetts as much as Sam and Tim, please help us rebuild #SnettsHide by donating to our crowdfunding appeal at Sam and Tim are so excited, they've already donated twice! 

  • Turtle Doves at Titchwell Marsh

    Author: Carrie Carey

    It’s early in the morning and the gentle but unmistakable purr of a turtle dove is carried across the silence of the empty car park at RSPB Titchwell Marsh. This soulful sound conveys a whisper of hot summer days and balmy evenings and though once common, is now the long lost background of my childhood. Sadly, a bird that I was well acquainted with in my youth is now considered at risk of global extinction. It is the UK’s fastest declining bird and a cause of concern for RSPB conservationists who are taking measures to understand why numbers are crashing so rapidly.

    The turtle dove tolerates the heat yet incongruously features in the Yuletide narrative of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Far from enjoying the cold climes of England, turtle doves undertake a long distance migration to over winter in sub-Saharan Africa. They are the only surviving members of the pigeon family to do so and their 5,000 km journey is just one facet of their remarkable bid to survive against great adversity.

    Photo credit: Les Bunyan

    These birds are not picky by nature and are quite at home in lowland heath or areas of scrubby woodland. Preferred nesting sites include mature hedgerows filled with thorny brambles or hawthorn and their staple diet consists of arable plant seeds such as scarlet pimpernel, chickweed and fumitory. Unfortunately for the turtle dove, agricultural intensification has contributed to the decline of suitable hedgerow nest sites and the reduction of these arable weeds. Similar challenges face these birds in their winter habitats where periodic drought and desertification have destroyed vast swathes of land that once provided food and shelter. Perhaps more devastating though is the estimated two - four million birds that die each year as they run the gauntlet of hunters during their journey across the Mediterranean. This is particularly harrowing in Malta where turtle doves are shot in significant numbers despite being listed as an endangered species.   Shooting birds during their migratory period means there is little chance for declining populations to recover and no doubt countless numbers of juvenile birds are killed before they have a chance to breed.

    Photo credit: Les Bunyan

    The more I’ve read on the current and dire status of the turtle dove, the more inevitable extinction in my lifetime looks. However, there is hope on the horizon in the form of Operation Turtle Dove. A working partnership between the RSPB and other conservation organisations, Operation Turtle Dove supports a threefold move both in the UK and abroad to reverse the decline of these shy birds. This includes research into food resources and breeding success, working with farmers and landowners to provide dove friendly habitats and tracking selected birds to better understand migratory routes and staging points.

    Photo credit: Andy Hay

    In spring, RSPB Titchwell Marsh reserve becomes a regular refuelling and stop off point for many species of migratory birds including turtle doves. They are attracted to the area around Titchwell’s car park where scrub and hedgerow conditions are just right and they are able to feed on split grain found on the concrete pads. Each year bird lovers stand at the edge of the scrub hoping to catch a glimpse of this increasingly scarce summer nomad and this spring, expectations rose as reports of first one turtle dove, then two and then four were radioed in.  Turtle doves are well known for their apparent affection for their mate and our pairs did not disappoint. Obvious courtship displays and nesting behaviour ensued and soon the far corner of the car park became a focal point for visitors. Scope sights were set, cameras clicked and anticipation built.  Finally patience was rewarded as one pairing produced a successful brood and by mid July two fledgling turtle doves were ready to leave the nest.

    Photo credit: Andy Hay

    The parents will remain here a little longer and are a pleasure to watch. Their distinctive flight pattern is elegant and seemingly effortless as if to reflect the warm, lazy summer days they remind me of. It seems surreal that a bird so often heard in my youth is now considered a rarity and I can’t help but worry about the fate of the young siblings. Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that Operation Turtle Dove will change the fortune of what is perhaps the last of the truly migrant pigeons.

    For more information on RSPB Titchwell Marsh visit