It was a first for me last weekend, as I attended the annual RSPB Weekend conference. It was also a first for the new conference venue: Nottingham University campus. The venue and weekend as a whole delivered both wildlife and a platform for the RSPB to communicate the great work we do, only made possible by our fantastic supporters – you!

My weekend kicked off with an excursion to Sherwood Forest on Friday at lunchtime. You’ve probably seen the news regarding Sherwood Forest and the RSPB, but in case you missed it, the RSPB will be managing 440 hectares having successfully won the bid to manage the area with a consortium including Thorseby Estate, Continuum Attractions and the Sherwood Forest Trust. We’re still really excited about it, and are committed to building a new visitor centre for the site for everyone to enjoy. All the delegates thoroughly enjoyed the several hour long walk around Sherwood Forest, which included seeing the Major Oak and a lesser spotted woodpecker – both a first for me!

The super friendly Laura and Julia headed up the Community Fundraising exhibition stand, with big community grins. (Photo: James Harding-Morris)

Once back at base I had the chance to finish setting up the Working with Young People exhibition stand that would be my home for the rest of the weekend. I’d been paired up with some stonkingly good staff members. The one and only James Harding-Morris, Campaign Project Manager, and the best person I’ve met in years and years, Jo Goldsmid, Aldi Schools Outreach Officer. And that for me is what RSPB weekend is all about – making great friends. We were a crack team all weekend, and had a cracking time to boot!

Ever the professional, Ross delivered all our social media communications and presence over the weekend - well played sir! (Photo: James Harding-Morris)

The next morning brought one of the main attractions for many delegates: the early morning bird-walk. It proved too early for me, but some of the highlights were waxwings in the lime trees that border the lake area of the university campus, great crested grebes on nest, and a red-crested pochard. Well done to all those early birds and the RSPB staff leading the walks.

Delegates and staff discussed our work during breaks with incredible enthusiasm - Mark and Sarah worked their socks off the whole weekend! (Photo: James Harding-Morris)

Of course the bird-walk wasn’t the only activity revealing wildlife on your doorstep. The bio-blitz went down a storm, with several RSPB staff led teams pitched against each other in flora and fauna furore. It was a highlight for anyone who had signed up, and showcased the great new venue brilliantly.

Ah-ha! The hunter becomes the hunted... You can't escape getting photographed, Heather, even as the weekend's official photographer! (Photo: James Harding-Morris)

But RSPB weekend isn’t only a chance to enjoy nature and meet people. It’s an important platform and occasion for the RSPB to show its supporters what we’re doing to save nature. The opening speeches were incredibly inspiring, combining a fascinating exposé delivered by Dave O'Hara of the project at RSPB Dove Stone, which I can only touch on here, so please do click the link to find out more. The award winning RSPB Dove Stone project combines important conservation efforts in the Peak District, with the issues facing the infrastructure responsible for bringing water into homes provided by the project’s partner United Utilities. It’s a perfect example of how conservation partnership can benefit nature and the day-to-day needs of communities nearby, harnessing the efforts of local volunteers and in cooperation with farmers.

Charisma in spades and the keenest of intellects helped Steph get her message across at our Campaigns and Communications exhibition stand. (Photo: James Harding-Morris)

For me though, the show was stolen by the moving speech delivered by Sorrel Lyall, a young conservationist and member of A Focus on Nature. Introduced by our own Matt Williams, who’s also Associate Director of AFON, the super professional duo stirred the crowd with a speech about the growing movement of young naturalists just on the horizon, and then asked the audience whether they could be a mentor to a young person and help secure the future of our planet. Well done Sorrel and Matt!

Feeling rather proud of being fortunate enough to work for the RSPB, there was just one more thing I needed to do – D I S C O… Thoroughly exhausted, the take home was unanimous: what a great way to spend a weekend.