Rebekah Stackhouse, RSPB Scotland's Education and Youth Programmes Manager, reminds us that a connection to nature begins on our doorsteps.
A Very Hungry Caterpillar...
Wiggling towards a greater connection with nature
So, what did you have for breakfast this morning? Whilst I was eating up my warm and toasty porridge, I was watching the chilly morning outside get slowly brighter through the clouds. As the days are getting darker, my mind definitely turns to thoughts of eating lovely stodgy meals (and maybe some of the cakes and pies in the Great British Bake Off!)
When I was little, one of my favourite books was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Looking at all the interesting meals he munches through on his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly (although not scientifically accurate, perhaps!) always inspired me, not only to try my hand at making some of the delicious dishes on offer, but also to see if I could get outdoors and find my own hungry caterpillars to see first-hand. The best way to connect to the natural world is to find out what’s nearby first!
This connection to nature was, luckily, a habit of my childhood. In Autumn, whether out and about crunching and swooshing through autumn leaves, making sand pictures on windy and rainy Scottish beaches; or indoors sheltering from the weather, baking butterfly cakes, making hedgehog homes, and reading stories (I personally recommend Wind in the Willows!), I loved the autumn contrasts of wet and dry, warm and chilly.
The RSPB have now developed a brand new approach to measure how connected children are to nature, working with leading academics at the University of Essex. It comes as a result of growing concerns over generations of children with little or no contact with the natural world and wildlife, which is one of the biggest threats to UK nature.
In the coming months, we will research the connection to nature of children from 8-12yrs from across the UK. We’ll be able to see what children in Scotland understand of their connection to nature, which means that in partnership with others we will be able to support greater connection to nature for children and young people across the country. Childhood has changed, even since I was reading books and using autumn leaves to make prints in paint – but young people can still get outdoors and make that connection, we just need to find out how.
Why not find out today whether you are a hungry caterpillar who would like to find out more, or a beautiful butterfly that can step up for nature and connect others to the great outdoors? Even better, share your pictures of what getting outdoors means to you with #getoutdoors !
You may have noticed several articles in the news about our plans to install a small wind turbine on our Loch of Strathbeg reserve. We thought we'd put together some information about the plan and process to help answer any questions.
Loch of Strathbeg wind turbine- Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) Surely a turbine located so close to Loch of Strathbeg is going to kill lots of birds?
Absolutely not. RSPB Scotland operates a nature reserve at loch of Strathbeg with the primary aim of providing a site that is fantastic for birds and other wildlife. We would not carry out any activity that we thought would jeopardise those aims in any way. We know this site very well after having managed it as a nature reserve for a number of years. In addition, to make doubly sure this turbine would not be harmful to birds or other wildlife, we carried out a detailed ornithological assessment in order to examine the potential impact on birds using the Loch of Strathbeg and the surrounding area. The results of this assessment have shown that the turbine will not harm populations of birds at Loch of Strathbeg or the surrounding area.
Q2) What did the assessment show and how was it carried out?
The assessment was carried out following methodology developed by Scottish Natural Heritage, in association with experts at RSPB. This involved collecting over 55 hours of flight data in order to gain a detailed understanding of the species and numbers of birds flying through the area that the turbine will occupy. This is significantly greater than the minimum standard of assessment required for developments of this type.
Species recorded flying through the turbine site included rooks from a nearby rookery and crows. Pink footed geese were found to fly through the site very infrequently and whooper swan even less frequently. We are confident that the risk to these species is very small. However, we will also monitor the site after the turbine is installed and, in the extremely unlikely case of the turbine causing unexpected harm to wildlife, we will take action to eliminate this risk. This could involve, for example, stopping the turbine operating during high risk periods such as when goose numbers are particularly high during migration.
Q4) How can RSPB object to other local turbine developments and then apply for their own turbine
The RSPB Supports the development of renewable energy, including wind energy, because of the urgent need to reduce our green house gas emissions. Climate change is a massive threat to wildlife and people in Scotland and across the world. The RSPB therefore supports wind energy development as long as individual developments are sited and designed to avoid harm to our most important places for wildlife. The single turbine at the Loch of Strathbeg will be sited to avoid any risk to bird populations or other wildlife and will also be relatively small at less than 19m metres to the top of the blade tips. This compares to a standard commercial turbine, which can be well over 100 metres to the top of the blade tips.
We assess each wind energy proposal on its own merits and will work with developers to try and ensure that their developments do not cause significant harm to wild birds or other wildlife. We have completed rigorous survey work to establish that this turbine at Strathbeg will not have significant impact on local bird populations. However, where developments are sited or designed in such a way that there is a risk to wildlife, we object robustly.
Q5) Will this turbine not displace lots of geese from the areas they feed in?
No. This turbine site has been deliberately chosen to have minimal impact on the geese. They do not feed in the fields here.
Q6) There are lots of wind turbine applications in the area around Loch of Strathbeg. What will the cumulative impact of these be?
This is extremely hard to measure and quantify but it is something that we are concerned about, particularly in relation to larger turbine developments (>50m in height), which are more likely to have an impact on birds using the Loch of Strathbeg . When responding to planning applications, we encourage the collection of post-construction monitoring in order to contribute to cumulative impact assessment. This will help to get a better idea of the cumulative impact of turbines in the area.
The ornithology report considers cumulative impact, based on the information available. This has shown that the proposed turbine at Loch of Strathbeg will have little impact on the significance of the cumulative impact of wind turbines in the wider area.
For further information regarding our case work and renewable energy, please visit: http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/casework/energy.aspx.
New blog from Conservation Manager Stuart Benn.
The Lark Descending
12 October was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ birthday and that’s the only excuse I need to write about Skylarks. RVW’s The Lark Ascending is amongst the most popular pieces of music ever written and it consistently crops up in the favourite selections on Desert Island Discs and is picked by a very wide range of guests. In a recent documentary, Vic Reeves said it was the most perfect 15 minutes of music he’d ever heard and he doubted if he’d ever hear better – I’d certainly agree with that and hearing it immediately reminds me of summer days, blue skies, fluffy clouds and the sheer joy that Skylarks bring to me.
Not much to look at when they are on the ground, Skylarks are transformed when they take to the air and begin that incredible outpouring of song. But, we have an odd love-hate relationship with them. They enrich our lives but, once, huge numbers were killed and eaten (300 were baked in a pie to celebrate the opening of the Forth Rail Bridge in 1890). More insidiously, they have suffered more than most from the intensification of agriculture in Britain since the Second World War. Millions of birds lost, millions of songs unsung.
We’re deep in autumn now and heading into winter with just Robins and Dippers singing. Spring seems like a distance away so, following the format of Desert Island Discs, here are my eight favourite British birds with their songs or calls. Click on them for a taste of warmer days!
skylark, blackbird, song thrush, nightingale, ring ouzel, curlew, black-throated diver, golden plover
And since I’ve got about as much chance of being invited as a guest onto Desert Island Discs as Count Skylarkin’ has of becoming the next President of the United States, here would be my eight music picks!
Spinning around Kylie
King Kong Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
The Lark ascending Vaughan Williams
Spiegel im Spiegel Arvo Part
The Jezebel spirit Brian Eno and David Byrne
I Believe in miracles The Jackson Sisters
Naive Melody (This must be the place) Talking Heads
Girls like us B15 featuring Chrissy D and Lady G