January, 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.

Natures Home magazine uncovered

Behind the scenes at the RSPB magazine and much much more...
  • Waxwing update

    Have you seen one yet? if you have, then you're doing better than me!

    This photo of waxwings was taken in Bedfordshire by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

    Following my blog a month ago about  the special birds arriving this winter, I mentioned that the current invasion of waxwings was centered on Scotland. Well, the good news is (for those in England that is!) that after Christmas, they started to move south in numbers, presumably having had some very cold temperatures and running out of food to deal with. I was in Yorkshire with family after Christmas and they had reached there in some good flocks by then. The Midlands are picking up some good groups now and there appears to be a secondary arrival from the continent hitting Norfolk based on a few flocks of presumably newly-arrived birds seen along the coastal strip this week.

    You might know that RSPB HQ is on the edge of the town of Sandy, Beds and two birds turned up this week in the traditional spot of the industrial estate on the edge of town - classic waxwing habitat. Hopefully more will join them and I'll have a good flock to enjoy on the journey in to work each day. I've seen them here in past waxwing winters and they often stay for a good few weeks. If my wife lets me divert that way!

    My top tips for seeing waxwings are:

    • Learn the beautiful trilling call. Listen to a waxwing here
    • Check out any flocks of "starlings" you see perched in trees or flying over
    • Find out where the berries are near you. look for rowan, guelder rose, cotoneaster and hawthorn
    • Cruise around your local industrial estates and fast food eateries. Sounds strange but that's where many berry-bearing bushes are purposefully planted

    And that's this week's waxwing update!

    Let me know if you you get lucky by leaving a comment below and helping to track where the flocks are around the UK. Good luck.

  • The Urban Birder comes to Sandy

    I always like to stay in touch with our brilliant team of contributors to Nature’s Home magazine. Getting their views and chewing the fat over the big conservation issues and challenges is time very well spent. I’ve always thought that an integral part of the magazine is allowing RSPB members to have their say and also to have plenty of external voices such as Simon Barnes, Nicola Chester and many more as well.

    I always look forward to my annual catch up with David Lindo. Yesterday he visited The Lodge where we had a really productive day along with youth editor Jack. I hadn’t ordered the rain that set in at around midday, but he bravely soldiered on and posed happily for some shots for me and also for the “Show the Love” week, part of the Climate Coalition's "For the love of..." campaign. Please get involved too!


    TUB and Mark Ward - shot in the rain by our fabulous photographer Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

    I was at least able to thank him by finding a group of around 8 bramblings feeding in the paddocks opposite the reserve entrance, while we were out discussing the big issues at the moment,  which I thoroughly enjoyed as well, being my favourite bird.

    David’s been a key part of first Birds, then Nature’s Home magazine for many years now, championing urban birds and other wildlife. He is the Urban Birder after all. I know that many readers love David’s pieces and his bullfinch article where we asked you to tell us about your sightings of this cracking finch still generated the most comments ever on a Nature’s Home blog post! When I was a lot younger looking than I am in the pic above, and had just taken over the reigns of Birds magazine, I remember David calling me up to introduce himself and we hit it off straight away. He's a great guy.

    I think we left him with plenty to think about after meetings with our corporate partnership team, our campaigns team, our head of nature policy and our social media team. Being such a well known face, plenty of other people managed to grab some time with David too, including Chief Exec Mike Clarke in the busy canteen where plenty of people were queuing up for roast dinner Thursday...

    We’ll be challenging David with some great subjects this year in your magazine, so don’t miss out. Your April issue is well in progress as I write – always one of my favourite issues of the year. I hope you’ll like it too.

  • Enter our calendar competition

    It’s over to a familiar face from Nature’s Home magazine to let you know how your wildlife photos could be taking pride of place in the RSPB’s fantastic 2018 calendar. Ace photographer Ben Andrew shares some of his tips, and photographs, to hopefully inspire you to enter.

    The RSPB’s 2018 calendar competition is once again open for entries. This year the competition is sponsored by Swarovski Optik and boasts some excellent prizes! We are looking for 12 stunning images of nature and wildlife. This means anything from birds and butterflies, to fungi and forests - as long the photographs were taken in the UK.

    The 12 images will be hanging on walls of houses, or above desks, up and down the country so it is important to consider what makes a great image for a calendar, my name is Ben Andrew and I am the RSPB’s Picture Researcher, as well as being a photographer in my free time.


    I decided to photograph red deer outside the normal autumn rutting season because I thought they would look interesting using rim-lighting against their velvety antlers.

    Ben’s top tips
    When thinking about images, I always consider a few things:

    • How can I photograph this species in a different or exciting way?
    • Can I show the habitat the species is residing in to be the subject in some context?
    • Can I make use of stunning lighting conditions?

    It’s not necessarily easy to tick all of these boxes with every image you take so I tend to weigh up each of them as I am out photographing. If I can’t get really close to my subject I'll try think of another way of framing it, maybe smaller in the frame but showing habitat. If I can get close can I use the light creatively, maybe trying backlighting? If the subject is very confiding, can I switch to a wide angle lens and create something more unique?


    I used a wide angle lens to capture a different perspective on these charismatic eider ducks in Seahouses Harbour where they are accustomed to people taking photographs.

    Consider that each month will require an image so does your photograph have something that says “spring” or “winter”? We will be looking for colour combinations and behaviours that are synonymous with the changing seasons and ebb and flow of the British countryside.

    But overall, have fun, enjoy entering the competition, enjoy going back over your photographic year and being pleased with what you have taken. We love seeing your shots and we can’t wait to see how the final calendar looks!


    With this shot, I wanted to obtain a picture of a cygnet within the protection of the adult’s feathers with the cygnet peering through a small gap.

    Enter the competition and send us your shots
    For more details about entering the competition including terms and conditions please visit our website.

    Good luck!