When I joined the RSPB with my Mum and Dad back in 1992, I remember the incredible excitement of getting the welcome pack - the cover on Birds magazine was, I believe, a red-throated diver and there was loads of other great stuff, BUT it was the little blue and white "Guide to RSPB reserves" that got my attention more than anything.
The thought that I now had access to what at the time was probably something like 100 RSPB reserves, thanks to my shiny new membership card was incredibly exciting and I eagerly started picking out my nearest reserves. The Ouse Washes, just six or seven miles away from oiur home in Cambridgeshire Fenland caught my eye first of all and it was there that many Sunday afternoons were spent with my parents, watching thousands of wigeons, Bewick's and whooper swans, kingfishers, snipe, merlin, hen harriers and much more.
Oystercatchers at Snettisham by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Check out our new reserves section
Anyone joining the RSPB now will get a much flashier reserve guide and have access to more like 140 reserves, and in the new Nature's Home magazine, you'll also find a new RSPB reserves section. In the first ever issue of Nature's Home, my old local patch, Snettisham in Norfolk has the prime position as main reserve to visit this winter. To give you a flavour of what you could see here, check out these incredible shots of knots massed at Snettisham from Tom Mason who was interviewed in the last ever issue of Birds magazine, Autumn 2013.
There's lots of tips about visiting Snettisham in the new Nature's Home. To see sights such as the ones captured by Tom at their best you'll need to be on the reserve a couple of hours ahead of high tide, so you can visit the RSPB website for more information on recommended dates to visit and also buy a tide table which lists the high tide times, from the visitor centre at Titchwell for £1 or by sending a stamped addressed envelope and £1 in stamps to; RSPB. Barn A, Home Farm Barns, Snettisham, King’s Lynn Norfolk PE31 7PD.
And there's more...
I won't spoil the surprise too much, but there are four other top notch winter reserves to visit in the new magazine, so hopefully you'll be inspired to visit. And of course, I'm already working up our spring selection for the next issue with my terrific reserves colleagues around the UK.
Let me know how you get on with your visits - and what you see.
To be in with a chance of winning one of three motion-triggered cameras (as seen in Nature’s Home magazine Winter 2013, page 84) simply send an e-mail, titled "Birdcam competition" to firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure your email has the subject line “competition” and that your entry gets to us by 19 November 2013.
Terms and conditions
1 Entries must be received by 19 November 2013, irrespective of the date of sending. Proof of sending will not be deemed to be proof of delivery.
2 Any entry which is incomplete, illegible or late will be deemed invalid in the sole discretion of the RSPB.
3 This competition is open to UK residents only over the age of 18.
4 There is no cash alternative to the competition prize.
5 Prize winners will be drawn at random on 25 November 2013.
6 Winners will be notified within two weeks of the draw by e-mail.
7 Prizes will be delivered within 28 days of the closing date.
8 The winners' names will be published on the Nature’s Home magazine blog.
9 The editor’s decision on all matters affecting this draw is final and legally binding. No correspondence regarding the results of the draw will be entered into.
10 Any RSPB employee or anyone directly connected with the organisation or their immediate family will be ineligible to enter.
11 Any winner who has not responded to notification by e-mail within 21 days will forfeit their prize; a replacement winner will be selected from other entrants
Since the first issue of Nature's Home hit doormats in mid-October, a record 800 e-mails (and 60 letters) have come in to me - and they are still pouring in. The previous best was 370 e-mails on the back of the January 2012 issue. It's great to hear what you think and there has been a good mix of positive feedback, plus constructive criticism that will help us to shape future issues. Many, many thanks for taking the time and trouble to get in touch. I have read every e-mail so far, but apologise that I can't reply to them all individually.
There have been recurring themes, including the new-look cover with its "teasers" for content in the magazine. Its a big departure from Birds covers that contained a big image of a bird but gave no clue as to what was in the magazine. The reasoning behind adding these is because we want more people to open the magazine and read the great content inside rather than just looking at the front cover image and not bothering to open the magazine. Early feedback is that this has done the trick with lots of readers reporting they didn't read the magazine previously, but got stuck straight into Nature's Home.
It's clear that the new name will take some time to get used to, but as regular readers know, the RSPB magazine contains much more than just features and news about birds as it talks about all of the RSPB's work.
I'm really pleased that the big three features have gone down well with "Wetland wizard" looking to be the biggest crowd-pleaser so far with "10 winter wonders" not far behind.
We're well into production of the next issue now and with Big Garden Birdwatch coming up in January, when this issue mails, we'll share lots of tips on how to make your Birdwatch your best ever.
It's not difficult to see how the long-tailed duck got its name - superb image of a drake by Chris Knights (rspb-images.com)
Hopefully, you've been able to get out and enjoy some of the wildlife flagged up in Nature's Home, including our ten winter wonders feature. Many migrant birds are still coming in. I was on the Norfolk coast at the weekend and saw flocks of pink-footed geese arriving from Iceland across the sea, plus a very nice flock of long-tailed ducks making flypasts before plopping down onto the sea - these Arctic visitors literally do just that!
The windy weather has thrown up lots of exciting birds to end the autumn. I caught up with a coupld of pallid swifts when I was in Norfolk and in the last two days alone, Britain and Ireland has has its first ever ruby-crowned kinglet (on Cape Clear), a myrtle warbler (Lundy) and a mourning dove has just turned up on the Isle of Rhum - all American birds. Hopefully the storm hasn't caused you too many problems - we seem to have escaped the worst of it here in the east.