Flipping through your latest issue of Nature’s Home magazine, you’ll be in no doubt that nature reserves are a good thing for wildlife. From thriving seabird communities (p28) to the carefully managed Balranald (p62), our Autumn issue is packed with evidence that reserves provide vital homes for nature.
But did you know that our reserves can be good for you, too?
With the help of RSPB volunteers, it's easier than you might think to see amazing species like this bittern. Photo: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
“Not enough members and supporters of the RSPB visit reserves,” says Nature’s Home columnist Simon Barnes, on p53 of your magazine. “They think it’s not for them. They think a wildlife reserve is a place for expert birdwatchers, for specialists, for people who know what they’re looking at. I once felt that way myself. I thought people would laugh because I had the wrong kind of binoculars. That it would be too hard to see the wildlife. That if I saw any I probably wouldn’t recognise it. But I was welcomed at my local reserve. I was told what wildlife was about and where to find it. I went to the first hide – the first time I had been in a hide – and saw instant wonders: so ridiculously wonderful that I laughed aloud in disbelief. It wasn’t difficult at all. It was easy. It was fun. I realised that nature – and nature reserves – were for me and for everybody else: not only a constant source of joy but something close to a basic human right.”
Our reserves are a vital haven for wildlife, but they’re also a haven for people. Spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, immerse yourself in a spot of forest bathing in the Celtic rainforests of Wales or take the family on an autumn scavenger hunt in Northern Ireland. With time in nature proven to improve your mental and physical wellbeing, what better reason to visit your local reserve? You could even take a friend and create another advocate for nature while you go.
As an RSPB member, access to all reserves is completely free, and you get reduced rates on a lot of great events, too. Find your local reserve, or read on to take a look at a few of our favourites…
Track wild boar at RSPB Nagshead. Photo: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Anna, Managing Editor – RSPB Nagshead
“Nagshead is in the heart of the Forest of Dean, a world where rugged contours bear a cloak of deep, living forest. In the dappled shade, its ancient woodland hums with life. Birds call from the branches, tiny insects swirl in sunbeams and unseen footsteps patter through the undergrowth. At night, in summer, if you’re lucky you might even hear nightjars, softly churring. Moss grows thick on fallen dead wood and ragged lichen beards dangle from gnarled oaks. It’s a magical place.
"There are larger beasts here, too – red deer and the forest’s famous wild boars. On our last visit we easily found evidence of both along the wide forest trail; wallow-holes of churned mud left by a boarfamily, and deep hoofprints and nibbled leaves left by the deer. We also had an extremely fruitful time pond dipping with the kids near the visitor centre (which kindly lent us all the kit and an ID sheet). We netted tiny baby newts with fern-like pink gills, a small froglet (who promptly hopped out of our collection tray and back into the pond), and a dense and varied population of insane water-bugs, each with its own uniquely evolved way of moving through the still water (Row! Skate! Paddle! Wriggle!). It’s a different place in different seasons – each offering a unique wildlife experience. For me, losing myself in an ancient forest is the ultimate getaway.”
Lose yourself in the reedbeds at RSPB Leighton Moss. Photo: Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Emma, Deputy Editor – RSPB Leighton Moss
“I’d barely set foot through the door of the visitor centre of Leighton Moss before I was greeted and updated on the day's sightings. Not my local reserve, but one I was visiting en route to Scotland, Leighton Moss had been a side addition to my trip, but ended up being one of the highlights of my holiday. I was warmly welcomed, given helpful advice and sent out to see what I could discover.
"Even in the pouring rain Leighton Moss delighted. A short walk to the first hide rewarded me with the sight of hundreds of house and sand martins zipping over the water. The sky was alive with them, and in the midst of it all a solitary otter casually swam across the scene. I hadn’t held out any hope of seeing an otter in the middle of the day, but there it was, a long, shiny form slipping through the water. It was shortly joined by another, and an energetic play fight ensued. It was a magical day and not one I’ll forget in a hurry.”
See nature spectacles, like this starling murmuration, at RSPB Ham Wall. Photo: David Kjaer (rspb-images.com)
Alun, Senior Art Editor – RSPB Ham Wall
“Our local RSPB reserve is still my favourite. A short journey from my home, it’s a great place for a walk – a chance to stretch the legs and take in the fresh air. On a clear day, it also has stunning views of Glastonbury Tor.
Even on my doorstep, RSPB reserves harbour some delights. As well as spectacular winter starling murmurations, Ham Wall is famous for its bitterns, and I’ve been lucky enough to see two! One took off out of the reeds just as I was passing, and gave me the chance to see it in all its glory, before disappearing again into the reedbed.”
Discover ancient woodlands at RSPB Glenborrodale. Photo: Colin Wilkinson (rspb-images.com)
Aisling, Senior Account Executive – RSPB Glenborrodale
“I visited Glenborrodale on my first trip to the Highlands, stumbling upon it on a walk by Loch Sunart in the early evening to look for sea otters. There were few signs of human habitation for miles, aside from the road we walked along when we eventually found it, and it was so nice to happen upon a reserve in such a perfect location. This was the first time my boyfriend had been to an RSPB reserve, and we had it all to ourselves. The reserve’s suggested star species were plentiful and Alex had a chance to really get into birding for the first time. We saw a merlin, redstarts, wood warblers and siskins, as well as a wealth of other favourites. We watched the redstarts calling at dusk for some time, undisturbed by anyone else. I particularly enjoyed how the lichen and moss-covered ground made me feel like I was revisiting the UK as it once was and we had a fantastic view over Loch Sunart from the highest land.”
What's your favourite reserve? Let us know in the comments below.
I manage to get to visit RSPB reserve's along with lots of other good non RSPB areas as well, through being a member of the Newcastle Upon Tyne RSPB Group as I don’t have my own transport. I also go on the Newcastle RSPB Groups annual UK birdwatching holiday of which I’m going to the Outer Hebrides in May 2019. We always stay in a nice hotel for one week on the holiday.