My choice for the Nature's Home photo of the week is reader Patrick Ball's brilliant capture of a right-angled long-tailed tit coming in to land and join its fellow flock members on a post . I love the way the other two seem to be watching it in admiration - and wondering whether to get out of the way! Patrick has done a great job not in just photographing the top bird in a really unusual pose, he has also managed to get everything, including eyes and feet, in focus too (not easy!).
Patrick took the shot at RSPB HQ at The Lodge where there are great photographic opportunities in front of the hide. Why not come along and try your own luck or see if you can capture a long-tailed tit in an unusual pose?
Next Wednesday is the day we pull out all the stops to show the people we love how much we love them. But we love nature, too, so – as you’ll see on page 40 of our current issue – the RSPB is also asking you to Show the Love for your favourite wild places, species and activities.
Remember your love for nature this Valentine's Day. (Photo: Ben Andrew)
Much of what we love is at risk from climate change. Birds that used to migrate are now overwintering here; frogspawn has been found in February; some wildlife species are being pushed north and new residents are arriving from across the Channel. Many habitats are being put at risk. And it’s not just nature - the coalition’s latest report shows how it’s affecting our lives too, such as popular sports.
That is why the Climate Coalition, of which the RSPB is a member, is all about the green hearts this Valentine’s Day.
These Show the Love hearts were made for Parliamentary front-benchers to wear. Even Theresa May's got one!
Across the UK, supporters have been crafting their own green hearts to show their support for this awareness-raising campaign, reporting recent changes in their local habitats and wildlife, and sharing what they love.
So, to join the love-in, I asked some of the Nature’s Home team to share what they love about nature, and whether they’ve noticed any climate-induced changes…
Butterflies: In decline. (Photo: Mary Braddock, rspb-images.com)
MARK WARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: “I want to protect our brilliant butterflies - all 60 species of them - from climate change. There are far, far fewer around now than when I was a child (not that long ago!) and I’m really worried about their future. I used to see well over 100 on a single bush in my parent’s garden every August, but now they are lucky to get half a dozen at a time. I couldn’t bear for them to get any rarer.”
ALUN HARRIS, SENIOR ART EDITOR: “I love my local beach, a four-mile pebble bay in Budleigh Salterton where I walk my rescued street dog, Kizzy. The cliff faces there have been eroding lately due to storms causing big seas. All our coasts are at risk from climate change, so I want to protect this habitat for future generations.”
ANNA SCRIVENGER, EDITOR: “The stream at the end of my garden provides me with a fascinating population of frogs, toads and newts, as well as dragonflies and other flying insects that in turn attract bats which fly along the watercourse, and nesting swifts in summer. All this life delights me. However, with increased (feels near-constant!) rainfall in recent years, flood defences have had to be built along its banks, and there are plans to dredge and straighten the watercourse to get rid of floodwater faster. I’m worried for ‘my’ wildlife, and for riparian habitats across the UK.”
EMMA POCKLINGTON, DEPUTY EDITOR: “I was lucky enough to grow up in the New Forest, and every time I go back to visit family it’s like a breath of fresh air. As the train rolls through I often see deer grazing by the tracks, the odd bird of prey sitting on a fence post. Butterflies, blackberries and badger setts were just something I took for granted as a child. Now, as all too often my journey home is blocked by floods or fallen trees, I realise how precious this place is. It may have been around for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change.”
AISLING BRADY, SNR ACCOUNT EXEC: “Seeing hawfinches and redstarts for the first time in the Forest of Dean makes me sad to learn how little of the ancient forest is left. Hawfinches have lost around three-quarters of their breeding range in the past 40 years. Oak woodland is key for lots of other species as well as the hawfinch, so I really want to make sure we protect what little ancient forest and woodland we have left in the UK, and grow new forest. Woodland is crucial for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, therefore reducing and even potentially reversing global warming.”
BEN MACDONALD, FREELANCE WRITER: “For me, the Cairngorms’ high mountains are somewhere that could vanish, as we know them, under climate change. To be able to sit beside Arctic birds like dotterels, ptarmigan and snow buntings in the UK is amazing. I always think of snow buntings as tame snowflakes. With climate change, they’ll melt. Already, mountain birds in the UK are being pushed north with climate change.”
How about you? Join the conversation and share your stories with #showthelove - and Email us at Nature’s Home to share your thoughts.
And if you’re feeling crafty, why not make a green heart to show the love for the places, people and life you want to protect from climate change. Click here to find your green hearts activity guide.
How has the weather been for you this winter? I’d describe it as wet, windy and mild here in south-east England – none of which are great for the arrival of many of my favourite winter birds. For good numbers of wild geese and the scarcer ducks to arrive from the continent, we need a nice cold north-east or easterly airflow, combined with freezing conditions to the north and east of the UK. The dominant flow of west and south-west winds into the UK this winter has made it a bit of a damp squib for the "hard weather" arrivals so far, so I'm missing some old favourites in my notebook.
Like most people, I’ve hardly enjoyed a deluge of birds such as smew, white-fronted and tundra bean geese and Bewick’s swans that tend to need a bit of an “push” to dislodge them from feeding grounds on the continent and across the North Sea. Having realised I hadn’t seen a single smew, or white-front all winter (and I live in one of the best counties for the former in the UK – Cambridgeshire - thanks to an extensive gravel pit network), I decided to put it right over the weekend.
There's quite a contrast between male and female smew, but either is a star winter sight (Mike Langman rspb-images.com)
A flock of white-fronts, now being commonly referred to as “Russian white-fronted geese” (a name I like as there is a distinct sister subspecies that breeds in Greenland), arrived at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes on Friday, so I decided to head up the A14 for the 20 minutes it takes me to get there. The birds had been there earlier in the day, but on arrival the favoured spit on ferry Lagoon was deserted as I eagerly scanned for those white faces. Ah...
A distant flock of Canada geese caught my eye about a quarter of a mile to the north-east, so I set out on what turned out to be one of the slipperiest riverside walks I have ever done due to the river recently causing flooding on site. It was the only way to take me around the pit and to fields the other side of the river where I had a hunch they may have gone. As it was raining, there was not a soul in sight and, not for the first time, I questioned my decision-making, especially as I could have stayed in to enjoy the opening two games of the Six Nations Rugby.
Smaller and a lot wilder than most of the greylag geese in southern England, the Russian white-front is a winter specialty (Mike Langman rspb-images.com)
A few greylags were in one field, but no smaller, black-belly barred Russians with them, sadly. I hauled myself along to the next field, struggling to find any grass on the path among the clay fen soil, and there among an encouragingly large gathering of greylags were the white-fronts. There were 26 in total and as with many wild geese, they watched me much more carefully than the feral greylags, subtly sitting in dips out of view and staying just below the riverbank. Eventually they got used to me and all walked out together to feed and drink from a (growing) puddle in the field.
Smew are a strong contender for our most handsome duck and they have been really scarce all winter. A small group has been seen on and off at a pit not too far from me so I called in on the way home and in the dusk, picked out the white cheeks of three immature smew among a large raft of tufted ducks. A glowing “silver back” among the tufties revealed the presence of a drake scaup – always a quality bird inland, so a pleasing find. Next target is those bean geese and Bewick’s swans but we may need some hard weather for their numbers to pick up.
The drake scaup is a smart seaduck that crops up among tufted ducks and pochards inland (Mike Langman rspb-images.com)
To add a bit of colour to proceedings and some mid-winter cheer for all Nature's Home uncovered readers, here are some of the scarlet elfcups I went to look for the next day at my local hotspot. 271 fruiting bodies counted in all – a fabulous sight. This was my second visit, after my early season sortie back in December.
The red of a scarlet elfcup - one of the Nature's Home February targets - glows on the winter woodland floor (Mark Ward)
Three of the 271 fruiting bodies of the brilliant scarlet elfcup I found at my local hotspot (Mark Ward)
Don't forget to keep an eye on your Nature's Home magazine for our month by month targets, events and activities. How are you doing for the February spread? Snowdrops are at their best here at The Lodge now, I have the photographic evidence that scarley elfcup has been well and truly done, hazel catkins are looking lovely both in my garden and here at the Lodge and my blue tits have been house hunting in the garden, despite the building works.
So, that's a full house for February for me from the Nature's Home Spring 2018 issue and I have a head start for March as I've just seen my first queen bumblebee of the year (a buff-tailed at The Lodge in my lunch break today). How are you getting on so far?