I enjoyed finding this out with my annual visit to the RSPB's Conservation Science meeting in Grantham on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, I was only able to attend for one day of the three this year, so missed out on some of the tremendous-value, hard-core science debates that go on at the bar in the early hours. I say unfortunately, but the reason I couldn't go for longer was because I only got back from my adventures in Ghana on Tuesday - more of that in next Friday's blog...
At the conference, RSPB scientists from all over the UK get together to share findings from their research, do workshops and share ideas. It's great to get invited so thanks to Guy Anderson for allowing me to come every year. I get loads of ideas for features and stories in Birds from going and finding out what's been going on over the last year - and what will be happening over the next year. It is AMAZING how much great work is happening to help find out the reasons for species declines, for example, and some of the latest findings from ringing and tracking work.
I also get to meet some of our fabulous scientists. I already know quite a few - one of my favourite parts of my job is that I get to meet so many RSPB colleagues through my work - but I enjoy meeting new people and putting faces to names at this event.
I actually ran a workshop myself this year which was about gathering top stories from the scientists for RSPB communications - and of course Birds magazine is my priority. I was a little worried to have drawn well-known japester Nigel Butcher in my group (you'll get to read all about him in the next issue of Birds), but I love a bit of banter and Nigel came up with a terrific story involving filming peregrines and Take That turning up to steal their thunder! I actually thought he was joking, but the location where the birds nest is a site for many famous films and videos being made. Everyone in my group pulled out a top story about their work, which was great.
Another highlight of my visit was the flock of 65 waxwings that were gobbling berries just a couple of hundred yards up the road from the conference centre. I took three trips during the day to see them (in breaks I might add!) and was sad to pick up a dead one at dusk. A car must have hit it as it swooped across the road or came down to drink. I was amazed at how heavy the bird was - it must have been full of berries. Very sad, but what a privillege to hold such a stunning bird in your hand.
So, I'd like to say a big thank you to all the RSPB's brilliant scientists, like Nigel, who are using your generous donations and membership fees is such a valuable way - finding out how we can help to save our threatened wildlife.
Come back every Friday
I'll be posting on this blog every Friday now, so check in to find out what's been happening behind the scenes of Birds magazine. I've literally just finished off the January issue in the last hour and we'll be sending it to the printers on Monday. I'm really pleased with how it's shaped up. I hope you enjoy it.
So many of you have enjoyed the latest Birds magazine cover and the rspb-images team say that print sales have been excellent, so I just wanted to share this image of a beautiful collage of the cover that was sent to Gemma Hogg, who writes our news column in Birds, by Lorna Cooper.
"I was blown away by the Winter 2012 RSPB magazine cover, as an artist in collage (amongst other things) I was inspired to create my own image of the iconic barn owl. I hope you like it!
There is also a story to tell which concerns returning one evening at dusk from dropping off my daughter's friend.I was driving down Crow Hill near Bakewell when a car passed in the opposite direction. As it disappeared I saw a blob of white on the road and felt compelled to stop. As I got out of the car I saw a tawny owl sitting on it's bottom turning it's head from side to side. I felt sure that as I approached that it would fly off, but it didn't. I decided to pick it up and see if it would recover in my car. I placed it gently on the passenger seat and turned the heating up a little, after a few seconds the owl keeled over and lay still beside me. I felt so sad thinking that such a beautiful creature had died and decided to take it to our vet in the village. I set off home, stopping occasionally to check the owl, but it was lifeless. As I approached the final hill to our home (Shady Lane to the locals!) the owl suddenly sat up and and righted itself, it began to flap it's wings in an attempt to take off, I wondered if anyone had appeared driving behind me, what they would have made of the Harry Potter type scene! I opened the passenger window,fully expecting the owl in it's panic to flap out, however, it calmly hopped onto the sill, turned to look at me and gracefully took flight into the night sky. I felt so thrilled that it was alive and that I had had the opportunity to have such a close up view of its stunning plumage.
On returning home, my family was much bemused by my story, not really surprised as I am constantly rescuing frogs, worms and other creatures I see in dangerous situations!
We always enjoy getting our magazine, but this one really was stunning."
Coverlines on Birds - what do you think?
It's great to hear that so many of you enjoy our covers. I know that lots of you have been Tweeting about it as well and we'll be featuring some of your thoughts in the next issue. There is a debate about coverlines'on Birds magazine. Of course, lots of magazine have coverlines so they stand out on the shelves and tempt people to open them and look inside, but as Birds is sent to RSPB members and we receive so many comments admiring our covers from readers - and even other magazine editors - what do you think? Would you like to see coverlines to set up what's inside, or keep a 'clean', image on the front? I'd love to know how you might feel about some teasers on the mag.
A big thumbs up for Birds magazine when The One Show's Mike Dilger came in to The Lodge yesterday. Luckily my girflfriend Laura, from the RSPB PR department, was in charge of arranging for Mike to do a podcast for the RSPB and I was keen to meet and grab some time with the TV celeb (sorry Mike, I know you didn't like me calling you the "C" word) once he'd finished .
We had a good chat about what Mike is up to at the moment, which includes him paying visits to lots of RSPB reserves for the show, including a trip up to North Norfolk next week. We also had a chat about how he could get involved with the mag and our mutual friends, Birds regulars David Lindo and Stephen Moss.
Coincidentally, we were already featuring a couple of Mike's books in the next issue of Birds, including "My garden and other animals", which is his take on his first house, swayed by its wildlife potential, and the new RSPB title "Wild Town" which ties in perfectly with the big urban wildlife feature that's coming in the next issue of Birds out in January. You can find out more about them in the next issue.
Keep an eye on the TV for more from Mike and maybe more from him in Birds. He's a great guy and I love his enthusiasm for wildlife.
Thanks to Shell from the RSPB Design Team for snapping us out in The Lodge gardens. Luckily neither Mike nor I are shy about posing for a cheesy photo opportunity!