July, 2018

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...
  • Back from the Brink: The art of tickling crickets

    Ever since the day I saw Jiminy Cricket I was fascinated by the minibeasts. I mean who didn’t like the charming and buggy narrator of Pinocchio? I remember the first time I heard one in the wild I was told it was a cricket so I named it Jiminy. Every cricket I heard after that throughout my childhood was also named Jiminy (I was an imaginative child). So my previous experience of crickets was limited to nostalgic childhood characters, and rescuing them when they somehow managed to get in the house. None of these experiences involved the rare field cricket since in only a few small colonies in the UK.

    Ok so these guys aren’t so similar but they are both still called Jiminy (Image credit left: Walt Disney Productions for RKO Radio Pictures, photo credit right: Ben Andrew)

    When I heard there was an opportunity to go on a field cricket volunteering day, back in April, I was intrigued to say the least. But really it was the uttered words “cricket tickling” that got my attention. First-hand experience of conservation work on a ground-breaking project where I got to relocate these beautiful crickets was an opportunity not to be missed (and also some good blog content). And so with some light pestering James and Jane took me under their Back from the Brink wings for the day. It was an early start and a fair bit of traveling but well worth it especially if the 12 pairs translocated over two different sites might take hold.

    It was great to see so man passionate volunteers and colleagues excited about finding field crickets. (photo credit: Ben Andrew)

    Cricket tickling was oddly exciting and I’m sure the many other volunteers on the day thought so too. After being introduced a little bit to their history we were taken on a short walk to the location of many field cricket nymphs. On that walk Mike the license holder asked us to find our crickling (a term I’ve coined for cricket tickling) materials. I picked a blade of grass or stem from several varieties as I felt I needed options if I wanted to get the best out of my crickling experience. What if the cricket wasn’t fazed by the long green spindly one, or the sturdy one was too sturdy?

    Here you see James cheering me on to find the next cricket (photo credit: Ben Andrew)

    I must state here that cricket tickling can only be done under the guidance of a license holder. But Mike was more than just a license holder, he was a fountain of field cricket knowledge. I listened carefully to his tips and set about finding some myself some cricket nymphs. Location 1, 2 crickets were found under my skilful crickle, a male and a female. This was great. I had found 1 of the 6 pairs that would be translocated elsewhere to start a new colony at RSPB Pulborough Brooks.

    I couldn’t help but get a snap of the first Jiminy of the day (photo credit: Emma Lacy)

    Location 2, RSPB Farnham Heath, 1 cricket found. This one was a bit trickier. The wind had picked up in the afternoon and it was quite a bit cooler so the nymphs were a little more reluctant to our cricket tickling wiles. But I was still so excited to have been part of another translocation. Releasing him back into the wild at another Farnham Heath location, I hovered and watched what he did in the first few minutes at his new home. It doesn’t take long for these chaps to dig a new burrow and I am hopeful that he’s found himself a nice spot and a mate.

    Jiminy #3 being set free at Farnham Heath (photo credit: Emma Lacy)

    Wind swept and tired it was time for a cuppa before heading home. The experience is one I will never forget and field crickets have now been heard at both Pulborough Brooks and Farnham Heath. I hope to revisit one of the sites the crickets were translocated to and hear them in their abundance knowing that I helped bring these beautiful black and gold creatures back from the brink.

    Here's what others had to say about the day.

    Interested in taking action for nature? Find out how you can volunteer by visiting Back from the Brink or the RSPB online.

  • Photo of the week: Part of the gang?

    Have you ever just wanted to be part of a group that you didn't quite fit with? Well it turns out nature gets the same feeling sometimes. Take this sand martin who seems to be being tormented by the swallow on its left. Although it doesn't seem to care too much.

    "You can't sit with us!" (Photo courtesy of Nature's Home reader Ian Wilson)

    Thanks Ian for this comical and urban view of a gang of swallows being infiltrated by a not so sneaky sand martin.

    If you have any photos you'd like to send us for photo of the week, email natureshome@rspb.org.uk.

  • Five women who founded the RSPB

    In our Autumn issue of Nature's Home magazine (out now!) we tell the story of Etta Lemon, 19th-century co-founder of the RSPB, as told by author Tessa Boase. 

    Back in the late 19th Century, the threat to wild birds came not from climate change but from milliners, who fuelled a demand for feathers that saw birds killed in their hundreds of thousands – purely to decorate the hats and accessories of fashionable ladies. Both plumes and whole, taxidermied birds from across the world were de rigeur. 

    But not all of Britain’s ladies were prepared to turn a blind eye. Appalled by the slaughter and alarmed by plummeting numbers, these women galvanised a movement to save the birds. When their individual campaigns finally came together, the RSPB was born.

    Below, Tessa Boase introduces five women who built the RSPB. 

    EMILY WILLIAMSON (1855 – 1936)

    Founder, Society for the Protection of Birds (1889)

    Emily founded the Society for the Protection of Birds in Didsbury, Manchester, in 1889, in a bid to save the crested grebe – a milliner’s favourite. When her group merged with the Croydon women (below), she took on a lesser role as Vice President. Gentle and compassionate, she spoke only once at an AGM. 

    IN HER WORDS: ‘Women are mostly timid in inaugurating anything, but they are very ready to give their help to a good cause when they are shown the way.’ 

    ETTA LEMON (1860-1953)

    Co-Founder, The Fur, Fin & Feather Folk (1889); Honorary Secretary, SPB (1892-1904)

    This formidable conservationist set out to save the world’s birdlife from the insatiable plumage trade. In 1892 she married Frank Lemon, the barrister who would go on to draw up the Society’s constitution. Both were deeply involved with the RSPB for the rest of their lives, each serving as Honorary Secretary. Etta became known as ‘The Dragon,’ and ‘Mother of the Birds’. 

    IN HER WORDS: ‘The emancipation of women has not yet freed her from slavery to so-called “fashion,” nor has a higher education enabled her to grasp this simple question of ethics and aesthetics.’

    ELIZA PHILLIPS* (1823 – 1916)

    Co-Founder, The Fur, Fin & Feather Folk (1889)

    A fervent Christian, Eliza Phillips set up the ‘Fur, Fin and Feather Folk’ in her home in Croydon, Surrey, 1889. Here the young Etta Smith first came to tea and debated the bird issue. The two were to form a formidable team. Eliza was head of publications at the early SPB, writing trenchant pamphlets to raise money. She died before seeing any change in women’s lust for feathers. 

    IN HER WORDS: ‘It is women’s vanity that stimulates the greed of commerce, and women’s money that tempts bird-slaughterers to continue their cruel work at home and abroad.’


    President, SPB / RSPB (1891-1954)

    The Duchess was a humanitarian aristocrat behind a roster of good causes – from pit ponies, to girls’ education, to caged birds. She was president of the RSPB for 60 years until her death. However, ‘Winnie’ habitually wore game feathers in her hats from the Portland estates in Nottinghamshire and Scotland – sending out a confusing message. 

    IN HER WORDS: ‘In America they do some things better than we do here. When a lady wears an osprey they tear it off her head, hat and all.’ 

    QUEEN ALEXANDRA (1844-1925)

    RSPB supporter and campaigner (from 1906)

    As the fashion-conscious wife of the adulterous King Edward VII, ‘Alix’ put her influential name behind the bird protection movement in 1906. The Queen possessed dresses decorated with hummingbirds, but had never before thought about their provenance. 

    IN HER WORDS: ‘Her Majesty never wears osprey feathers herself, and will certainly do all in her power to discourage the cruelty practised on these beautiful little birds.’ 


    Learn more about the story of the women who fought for the birds, the women who fought for suffrage and the world they shared, in Tessa Boase’s book Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change (2018), £20 from the RSPB Shop - where profits help nature.

    * In lieu of an existing portrait, the sketch representing 'Eliza Phillips' is of an unnamed woman.