After a few weeks volunteering at RSPB Sandwell Valley, usually on a Tuesday, I found that this was the day when, once every few weeks, the tanker comes to collect the waste from the septic tank! That got me thinking, what does all the wildlife make of the smells on the reserve? I love going round the reserve smelling the flowers, but do all the animals and plants smell things as well?
(oystercatcher and coot)
Through their sense of smell, squirrels can detect which nuts that have been invaded by insects. They will eat these nuts, but the do not hoard them in caches.
Scientists do not all agree about birds’ sense of smell. Some think that birds as diverse as sparrows, chickens, pigeons, ducks, shearwaters, albatrosses, and vultures are able to smell. However they have found that starlings deliberately place the green leaves of certain aromatic plants in their nests specifically, it appears, to keep parasites such as lice at bay.
A butterfly's antennae, legs and many other parts of the body are studded with sense receptors that are used to smell. The sense of smell is used for finding food (usually flower nectar), and for finding mates (the female smelling the male's pheromones).
Snails and slugs have a sense of smell. The lower tentacles (which are on either side of the mouth) stretch out in front of the snail as it moves enabling the snail to find food. They also use their sense of smell to find their way home, following their slime trails.
What about plants, do they have a sense of smell? Well, they have receptors that allow them to respond to chemicals in the environment. So this means they can coordinate their fruit ripening and their change of leaf colour in autumn.
So why not have a sniff around when you are next at RSPB Sandwell Valley. You will not be the only one!
It’s been about a month since I joined the RSPB Sandwell Valley team and it'a been bit of a whirlwind so far. Having previously just finished my master’s degree in outdoor education, I was looking for a way to expand my experience and also to volunteer my time to a cause I believe in.
My role here is to assist the learning officer, Gretel Cooper, at Sandwell with the delivery of schools on reserve sessions, working with primary school children from around the area who come for a special experience at a nature reserve, many of them for the first time.
For me I think that has been the highlight so far, seeing how we are able to facilitate those critical first engagements with nature, watching a child squeal with excitement as they peer into a net they have fished out of the murky pond to find an alien creature wriggling around. Then to see them carefully scrutinising to find out what it is, not an alien but a fellow.
It’s also been exciting for me to discover for myself the different species of birds, minibeasts and pond dwellers that live at Sandwell Valley. I have only just begun to learn the abundance of life we have on the reserve. I’m a lifelong nature lover, particularly fauna so I love watching the robins flit to the feeding stations, the newts swimming between the reeds and the butterflies passing through the meadow. One of my favourite encounters was a couple of weeks ago when I went to observe an outreach session at a local school. I was just as excited as the children when we found a beautiful little frog seeking refuge beneath some deadwood in the school grounds.
Although I’m teaching, I’m also learning that there is so much for me to learn. I’m learning to identify different species of flora and fauna and their unique place in the delicate ecosystem. I’m learning new ways to provide nature connections and I’m learning all about the RSPB.
My first month has bought the opportunity to meet other interns from other RSPB reserves across the UK, to find out what it takes to be an educator in the outdoors, to watch learning in motion and most importantly, to provide a thread through which a connection to nature can be made. That’s what it is all about, no frills or exotic species required but simply the building up of a respect for the life that thrives beyond our urban worlds.
I’m eager to keep learning and providing opportunities for more connections and am excited for the next few months of new discoveries and wildlife encounters.
If you'd like to find out more about our school sessions follow the link here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-teachers/school-trips/sandwell-valley/
Hi, I am Owen!
I am not only speaking for myself, but for the Eco-council at Witton Middle School in Droitwich. I wanted to help nature, so I joined my school Eco-council. When I found out about the Albatross Appeal, I suggested we should collect stamps for it, and our Eco-teacher said that we could. The RSPB sent us a stamp collecting kit which I put together and took to school. We put it by the school library. I spoke in assembly, and told everyone about the albatross, what is happening to it, and told them we were collecting stamps to help, and how the RSPB would turn the stamps into money by selling them to stamp collectors. The Eco-council also put it in the Witton newsletter.
After four months I took the box home, sorted the stamps, and weighed them. We had collected 1.3 kg of stamps!!! A few days later, I went to our nearest RSPB reserve, Sandwell Valley, and handed them in. The RSPB will use the money from the stamps to give lessons to fishermen on how to fish without hurting the albatross. Why don’t you collect stamps for the RSPB Albatross Appeal too?
(Just a few of the stamps Owen has collected so far)
The albatross is an amazing bird. In fact, the wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any bird on Earth: 2.5m - 3.5m! That's pretty big! But these birds are in need of our help. It's estimated that over 100,000 albatrosses are killed each year, and 15 out of 22 face extinction. However, despite these figures, together we can help save this species and give them a brighter future. Thanks to volunteers and nature lovers just like Owen, we can aid the ATF (Albatross Task Force) in bringing the albatross back from the edge of extinction.
If you'd like to have a go at collecting stamps for the Albatross Appeal and becoming a stamp-saving super hero, you can find out more here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/other-ways-to-help/save-your-stamps/