April, 2014

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.

Natures Home magazine uncovered

Behind the scenes at the RSPB magazine and much much more...
  • Insects on the wing

    With the much more pleasant weather now upon us (though the rain clouds are looming as I write this), I've been enjoying getting out more and more. Recently this week, I spent some time in a small grassy patch along a footpath to capture some images of the blue bells now that they are starting to bloom. Something I also noticed was that the usual bane of my outdoors life, the stinging nettle, had also come into flower, meaning that it would no longer sting! A very handy bit of knowledge if you want to look like a rugged "outdoorsy" type, who knows no fear and laughs in the face of an itchy rash. Though not ALL of them were in flower, so I did get stung a little... All in all, the blooming of these flowers had provided a great resource for an influx of insect life, and it was quite surprising what I could find by nosing around in the undergrowth. There were masses of St Marks flies in the air, plenty of bees of different species which is always great to see, and even a pair of mating weevils!

     Copyright Ed Marshall. The blue bells near my house have all begun to bloom, adding some colour to the area and bringing the promise of a great summer.

     Copyright Ed Marshall. Easily mistaken for the more irritating "stinging nettle", the "white dead nettle" can be identified by its white flowers when in bloom and, more importantly, by the fact that it does not sting. A common misconception which I myself fell foul of before this fact was brought to my attention!

     Copyright Ed Marshall. The St Marks fly, so called because it's emergence was typically found to coincide with the 25th of April which is St Marks day. The males are identified by their clearer wings, whereas the wings of the females are "smokey", making them appear darker.

     Copyright Ed Marshall. A pair of weevils (Nedyus quadrimaculatus) mating on the underside of a stinging nettle leaf.

    Whilst on my rummage, I also came across this rather menacing looking insect that many of you may recognise as an earwig. As earwigs are nocturnal this individual was happy to sit and pose for its shot, which shows off the large pincers on their abdomen. Contrary to their name, they do not seek out the ears of passers-by! This is just a myth, though there have been times when people have found them in their ears, and I can unfortunately include myself in that lucky group.

     Copyright Ed Marshall. A common earwig, resting on the underside of a dead nettle leaf. It will become more active of a night when it begins to search for food.

    It was also encouraging that I a number of people stopped to ask what I was doing, and took interest when I told them I was looking for and photographing insects. "Bug hunts" are a great way to get the kids more interested nature as well! With a simple handheld magnifying glass, they can begin to discover the great variety of wildlife that lies amongst the flower and grasses. It could prove to be a great way to keep the kids entertained over the summer months, so give it a go! 

    I hope you have all been enjoying the Natures Home magazine, my summer edition arrive just the other day and I was happy to see my face in the "Wild about Wildlife" section. If you have any questions, stories or pictures you would like to share with us here at Natures Home, then please email in to us at natureshome@rspb.org.uk

  • Young Birders

    A lot of people may find it easy to believe that bird watching as well as other observations of the natural world) and the conservation efforts that go with it, is a field that is dominated by the older generations. On Wednesday I got to attend a young birders workshop arranged by A Focus On Nature, and was able to meet a fantastic group of young people at the BTO headquarters in Thetford. I listened to many of them talk about why it is they are so passionate about not only birding, but the natural world around them. It truly was an inspiration to listen to so many youngsters give talks (and the odd slightly older, Matthew Bruce), and encouraging to see such enthusiasm from them for something that I'm sure all of us share a common passion for.


     Copyright Ed Marshall. Some of the young naturalists attending the Young Birders Workshop.

    In the morning there was a bird ringing workshop which helped to show what sort of work bird ringers do and why, and there was even the chance to release some of the birds once all the data had been recorded. Activities such as this is a great way to inspire the younger generation, and if you know any young people who are interested in helping and getting to work closely with nature, then training to become a bird ringer is a fantastic way to do this! This sort of work often involves some of the more common species such as the robin pictured below (top), but every now and then there may be a bit of a surprise in the mist nets (below bottom)...

     Copyright Ed Marshall. A robin caught during the morning bird ringing workshop, being released by keen young birder Ben Moyes.

     Copyright Ed Marshall. The staff at the workshop were fantastic, offering friendly advice and expert knowledge. They even offer service with a smile after ringing a mallard duck that took a bit of a fancy to the nearby mist nets!

    Towards the end of the day, there was even a debate focused around what peoples thoughts were on the topic of how young birders are perceived, and indeed on how they felt about voicing their love of the natural world. What was said came as a large surprise to myself. When I was growing up, I was always a lover of the natural world, and that was something that most of my friends knew. It was something that I generally didn't talk about, I knew they weren’t really interested and they understood that was my “thing” and it was left at that. To hear that some young people have suffered bullying where their passion is concerned was disheartening. It’s a reflection of how some of the next generation look upon those who care about the natural world and want to do something to ensure its there to be enjoyed in the future. My hope is that the pendulum will eventually swing in the other direction, bringing in a greater number of those who have an appreciation for the natural world around us. I already see amongst the emails that are sent in, that many of you out there are actively encouraging the younger generation to get excited about the natural world, and that is great to see. Maybe at some point in the future, they themselves will be visiting such workshops in order to talk about their own passion for watching wildlife!


     Copyright Ed Marshall. A Speckled Wood butterfly basking in the morning sun.

    In the meantime, I encourage all of you to get out and enjoy the fantastic spring time weather we have been having of late, as I have no doubt that in true British form it will all come to an end soon! 

  • Things to Look Forward to.

    For me, this week got off to a great start. I found out that I have been accepted onto an internship with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust that is due to start this summer. I’ll be spending 4 to 6 weeks helping to organise and build their image library, working with the other staff on the islands and generally having an amazing time! You can read a little more about the amazing work that the team out there have been involved with on the RSPB website, such as the the Seabird Recovery Project. Although this summer can’t come quick enough, I will miss getting out around my local patch during my time away. With the length of days stretching out I have been looking forward to those mild early starts of summer, and the lighter nights allowing for more photography time. I guess I’ll have to make the most of it in the mean time!


     Copyright Ed Marshall. I managed to get this shot of a tufted duck pair the other morning, the stillness of the air allowing a low-lying mist to form on the surface of the lake. I was flat on my belly, soaked through I might add, in order to get right down on the eye level of the subject. By doing this it really made the mist stand out that little bit more, helping to separate the subject from the background.


     Copyright Ed Marshall. By contrast, I also took this shot of a great crested Grebe, bringing the reflection of the trees into the image to help create a more interesting composition. I appreciate it’s an image that might not be for everyone, but there’s something about it I quite like.


    As some of you may know, I’ve been on somewhat of a quest to find barn owls local to myself to photograph them, but so far I’ve yet to succeed. After struggling through the winter many barn owls haven’t returned to their usual haunts, with a number of people informing me that places in which they were sighted last year have failed to play host to the barnies again this year. You can read a little more about barn owls in the RSPB's online Bird Guide. Though I haven't had quite the success with barn owls I would have liked, I have had some new information that could just prove to be the ace up my sleeve, so you’ll all have to watch this space! I continually take inspiration from a number of photographers who capture amazing images of these birds, and recently I received an email from Natures Home reader Stuart Pike, who had done just that.

     Photo by Stuart Pike. Barn Owls have had a tough winter, with sightings of them in my local area dropping compared to previous years. I can only hope to get a shot like this eventually!

    The next issue of Natures Home Magazine, which is shipped around the 15th of April, will be featuring a look at the variety of nocturnal wildlife that can be found here in the UK such as the barn owl, and I for one will be sure to give it a read for inspiration. Until then, get out and about to enjoy what there is to be seen near you. You can either find a local reserve or visit your local patch, but be sure to let us know what you get up to either by emailing to us here at Natures Home, or by commenting below! 

    And finally, this weekend Mark Ward and a number of other RSPB members will be off having a great time in York for this years’ RSPB Members Weekend. It’s a great weekend that is packed full of activities for members, including talks and outings around York and nearby nature reserves. If you haven’t quite managed to book your spot on this years’ meet up, then be sure to think ahead for next year, it's a great event and something you can definitely look forward to!