January, 2017

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • What can I expect at the RSPB Weekend?

    It’s all change this year for the RSPB Weekend!

    Having swapped York for Nottingham, there are new excursions to enjoy, new places to explore and new people to hear from. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is that it’s one of the highlights of the RSPB year.

    Hear from Mike Dilger

    Mike Dilger is this year’s celebrity after-dinner speaker. And it’s fair to say he’s excited about the weekend:

    ‘I’m looking forward to being at the RSPB Weekend over the three days! As well as talking about the trials and tribulations of a natural history presenter, I’m joining other wildlife gardening experts, like the RSPB’s very own Adrian Thomas, for a special ‘Wildlife gardeners’ question time. Make sure you’ve got your burning questions ready for us! It should be great, and if we can help you make your garden more wildlife-friendly then brilliant. Whatever activities you choose though, come along, have a great time, and say hi!’

    Why not join Mike, RSPB staff and volunteers and experience a range of talks, seminars and workshops. You can pick the ones that interest you the most.

    Lady walking through bluebell wood. Image by David Broadbent (www.rspb-images.com)

    What’s in store?

    Here are just a few things awaiting for you:

    Do:

    For the early-risers, there’s a morning guided walk around the university grounds, as well as a range of excursions to places like Sherwood Forest.

    Learn:

    Bring your camera with you and join our expert for the wildlife photography walkabout, and find out how we can all play our part in saving wildlife from climate change.

    Hear:

    Matt Williams tells all about turning vision to reality in the UK youth nature movement, plus you can hear about tackling farmland wildlife declines and the return of seabirds to the Isles of Scilly.

    And of course, there is much, much more. Take a look and find something for you.

    That’s just the start! Be sure to book early so you can secure your favourite options – many are going quickly!

    Book today!

    You can book through our website, simply select your options and away you go.

    Thanks to our sponsors

    The RSPB Weekend is kindly sponsored by:

    Swarovski Logo

    Ecotricity logo

  • Explore our reserves this winter with a nature break

    RSPB nature reserves are teeming with nature.

    Whatever the weather, our reserves are bursting with life. So wrap up warm this winter and enjoy some of the UK's best winter wildlife spectacles: from whirling clouds of hundreds of birds to fluffy white seal pups, this is the season to see nature at its wildest.

    Where to explore

    Our coastal nature reserves in winter host spectacular numbers of wildfowl and waders. Snettisham on the Norfolk coast is currently home to thousands of pink-footed geese and wading birds that form clouds of swarming birds as they’re pushed off the mudflats by the tide. Famously known as the ‘Snettisham spectacular’, it’s an incredible natural wildlife spectacle not to be missed.

    Another top spot is Saltholme on the north-east English coast. A combination of wading birds, ducks and the heart-stopping possibility of a peregrine shooting across the sky, hunting one of these wintering birds, means you’ve got the perfect mix for an unforgettable day out. If that's not enough, the state-of-the-art visitor centre, cafe and children’s playground.

    Peregrine. Image by Chris Gomarshall (rspb-images.com)

    Nature’s Home Editor, Mark Ward, shared his winter highlights, recently, read his blog post for some more inspiration and wonderful winter wildlife.

    But don’t just take our word for it – why not explore our reserves for yourself? There is bound to be one near you. And, as an added bonus, book a holiday cottage or lodge nearby so you can take your time and explore at your leisure.

    Why not stay nearby?

    Our friends at UK Nature Breaks have thousands of comfy cottages and luxurious lodges up and down the UK – many of them near our reserves. Why not take a look and find the perfect one for you – from cosy cottages for two, to large lodges for all the family, it’s all covered!

    Holiday cottage from UK Nature Breaks. (www.uknaturebreaks.co.uk)

    The choice of destination is yours – you could try Dorset’s Jurassic coast for a trip to Arne, the wild Scottish Highlands for Abernethy or, later in the year, the rugged Welsh coast for Ramsey Island.

    If you’re not looking for ideas, try the featured destination guide. This month they’re looking at North Yorkshire. With a selection of RSPB nature reserves in the county, you’ll never be far from one.

    What’s in it for me?

    For every booking, UK Nature Breaks will donated  10% of the cost of the holiday to the RSPB. It’s win-win! This money goes directly to helping us save nature.

    Arne. Image by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

    So you can relax on your holiday and visit an RSPB nature reserve while knowing that you’re helping give the nature you see there a home.

    You can book your holiday home, lodge or even boat from UK Nature Breaks. Where will your adventure take you?

  • Have you seen this hornet?

    Asian hornets arrived in the UK for the first time in 2016. This is bad news for our native insects. Jess Chappell, from the RSPB's nature policy team, tells us why:

    Already threatened by habitat degradation, pesticides and a range of pathogens, our native insect pollinators aren't doing well.

    Declines have been reported for all key insect pollinator groups including honeybees, bumblebees and hoverflies, yet these species play a crucial role, pollinating our wild plants and garden flowers, and ensuring that we have food to eat. And now a non-native species threatens to add to these declines, following the first confirmed UK sightings of the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, last autumn.

    An aggressive predator of native insects, the non-native Asian hornet poses a significant threat to honeybees and other already declining native pollinators. Originating in Asia, they arrived in France in a pottery container in 2004 and quickly spread. Then last September sightings in Gloucester and Somerset confirmed the species' arrival in the UK.

    Asian hornet. Image by Jean Haxaire.

    An Asian hornet

    Work to locate nests began immediately, with a hive successfully destroyed. However, like many other social insects the queens survive the winter, emerging to create new colonies in the spring.

    Therefore the possibility that mated queens are hibernating remains. This is, of course, not the Asian hornet’s fault – the introduction of non-native species is entirely a man-made problem – and is up to us to fix where possible.

    And it’s not too late!

    It’s possible to prevent Asian hornets from establishing in the UK, and a key part of this will be detecting any queens as they emerge from hibernation. This is where you can help – please report any suspected sightings, and with queens emerging as early as February, now is the time to be vigilant.

    What does it look like?

    There are several key features to look out for which will help you distinguish between Asian hornets, and our native European hornet, Vespa crabro:

    • The Asian hornet is smaller, with queens up to 30 mm, and workers up to 25 mm in length. European hornet queens can reach 35 mm
    • A key feature of Asian hornets is its almost entirely dark abdomen except for the 4th segment which is yellow. European hornets, on the other hand, have a brown and yellow striped abdomen (see below)
    • Whereas the legs of European hornets are dark, Asian hornets have bright yellow tips to their legs
    • Asian hornets are only active during the day, unlike our native hornet which is most active at night

    Asian hornet v European hornet.

    How to report

    If you think you may have spotted an Asian hornet please either email alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk with location details and a photo if possible or use the online form.

    Although they pose no greater danger to humans than a native bee or wasp, nonetheless it is important not to disturb an active hornet’s nest. Please take care not to approach a nest or provoke these insects.

    European hornets

    Newly introduced to Europe by people, Asian hornets threaten our native wildlife. European hornets, in contrast, are an integral part of our native wildlife, playing an important ecological role, and should be valued. Despite their unmerited fearsome reputation they’re not often aggressive, and will only sting when it feels threatened.

    Highly social insects, hornets live in organised colonies comprising of a single queen - the only individual in the colony that reproduces - and a large number of workers.

    In spring when the queen emerges from hibernation she constructs a nest of intricate design, mixing chewed wood and saliva to create multiple hexagonal cells, and lays a single egg in each.

    European hornet. Image by Ben Andrew (www.rspb-images.com).

    A European hornet

    These eggs develop into workers who then carry out the work of the colony. These workers require a high energy diet, and feed on sugary liquid exuded from hornet larvae, in addition to sap and nectar. Nests tend to be built in tree cavities, or man-made structures which provide the nest with support in the same way, such as barns and sheds.

    The species is found throughout Europe but has been directly persecuted by humans as a result of its reputation, and is consequently endangered in some countries, and even threatened with extinction in some areas of central Europe. Although once considered rare in Britain, European hornet numbers in GB have risen since the 1960s and the species is now fairly common in many parts of the south of England.

    We’d love to keep it this way, so please keep an eye out for Asian hornets, and report any sightings.