It's a big week for me. On Saturday I will marry my lovely girlfriend Laura, who also works at the RSPB, and on Friday the first issue of the new RSPB magazine, Nature's Home start mailing to members. With so many readers (1.25 million!), it can take almost two weeks for all copies to be sent out, and you should have received your copy by 15 October at the latest.
It's been a busy few weeks (to say the least...) getting the new magazine ready and it's a big thanks to volunteer James Shooter for sharing his photography masterclass on the blog.
So what's different?
Well, the name obviously, but there's much to the change than that. There's a great new look for the whole magazine, plus we've also taken the opportunity to bring in many of the things you've told us you would like to see, or see more of, in the magazine. I'm excited about hearing reaction to the new reserves section, plus readers' wildlife Q and A which I predict to be a hit.
Don’t worry though, all your favourites are still there, and in many cases have been expanded. Readers’ photos now comes with a great prize for the shot of the issue and regular contributors such as Simon Barnes and David Lindo have been teamed with some new “signings”. There is even more advice on what to see and where to go and more news on what the RSPB is able to achieve thanks to your support and we're tackling some BIG conservation issues in the first magazine.
Whooper and Bewick's swans by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
I’ve taken the chance to write about my very favourite winter spectacle, the flocks of whooper and Bewick’s swans that come here for winter, and famous names from the world of wildlife also share theirs.
I was going to post a few teasers on the blog, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for you. Hope you understand!
Do let me know what you think of the new magazine. Start looking out for your copy arriving from Friday.
Would love to know what you think of the cover - we went back and forth on the final choice several times!
With snow covering everything and temperatures still low come Saturday morning, the scene was set for a great Birdwatch. I opted out of a morning session because I know that there is a good flurry of feeding activity in my garden mid afternoon - a wise decision.
When we went to view our house and I saw that we backed onto a big field which is managed sympathetically for wildlife, overlooked the local river and gravel pits (a major migration flyway) and had an old scrubby reservoir bank just one hundred yards away, any problems with the interior just weren't an issue anymore - I wanted that house (and luckily we got it).
The reason I mention this is because there is so much habitat for birds that it feels as if they don't really need my garden and the offerings in it - my birds are spoiled for choice which meant Big Garden Birdwatch might not be as good as I thought. On Friday night, I went all out, pulling out all my big guns of half a dozen different foodstuffs and putting them in every feeder and position possible. This really did the trick.
Long-tailed tit - on my fruity nibbles and on my Big Garden Birdwatch list (photo by Nigel Blake)
Early highlights were a sparrowhawk pausing briefly and a goldcrest making a fleeting visit. A song thrush was a top "in the garden" bird - again, I can hear three different males from my garden in spring, but because of that abundance of habitat, they rarely have to drop in. The usuals of one pair of blue tits, one of great tits, one of dunnock and one of robin showed up and three magpies paid a visit. The best was saved until late on when four long-tailed tits came in to my fruity suet pellets and the fat cake I'd hung up on Friday. and five starlings couldn't resist either Then a great spotted woodpecker came to have a look and while I was eating lunch, a slightly odd looking small bird at the fat cake kept catching my eye until I excused myself to get the binoculars on it - a female blackcap! It had a good nibble on the cake before disappearing (but returned the next day). This is another bird that can be heard easily in spring from the garden, but this was a first at the feeders. Interesting to think this is a German blackcap rather than part of our breeding population that migrates south in autumn.
I was really pleased with my watch and although not countable on the Birdwatch, a half an hour session watching from the garden at dusk produced a short-eared owl flying over the field, viewed from my bottom hedge (completeing my set of five owls seen from the garden), a little owl flying past, two woodcocks flying out at dusk (one flew right over my head) and a covey of seven grey partridges just over the hedge right next to a covey of nine red-legged partridges completed a great day literally on my doorstep. Finally, hundreds of wigeon flew up the river valley - a sure sign that the thaw was setting in (which it did - by Sunday all the snow had gone).
So that's how it was for me. Let me know how you got on and don't forget to send in your results please!