Notes on nature


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!
  • Why I joined my local RSPB group...

    In a special guest post, Stockport Local Group leader Jean Crouch explains how she got involved with local groups initially and why she’s still going along nearly 40 years later…

    Over 40 years ago my daughter’s friend’s Mum and I decided that there was more to life than bringing up a family and working in the NHS! As we both had an interest in birds, but knew very little about them, we joined a Bird ID Class.

    What did we get up to?

    In 1979 a local group was starting up in Stockport, so naturally we went along to support it. As the group developed we not only held monthly indoor meetings, to which guest speakers were invited, but also ran coach trips, car trips and local walks. We were able to meet and make new friends, broaden our knowledge of birds and discover new places to visit.

    I was a Young Ornithologist Club* leader for 18 years before becoming group leader of RSPB Stockport Local Group 10 years ago, and since my retirement from full time work I have become more involved in the group’s various activities. With two other committee members we have run Bird ID courses, given talks to youth groups, and adult organisations, and attended family fun days etc.

    Local group members. Photo by Ben Hall (

    Without the local group I would never have gained the confidence, knowledge or interest in the environment and wildlife, or achieve all of the things that I now do. This has filled a void since retiring from full time work.

    You do not have to get involved in volunteering, but for company and an opportunity to go to places and see new things, I thoroughly recommend you join your nearest local group.

    Fancy giving it a go?

    If Jean’s story has inspired you to try out your local group in 2018, take a look at our website and find the one nearest to you.

    *YOC clubs are now called Wildlife Explorer Groups

  • What to look forward to as part of your Birdwatch

    What will you see during your Big Garden Birdwatch?

    Here are some of our favourite things to look out for. They’re not rare or unusual, but they are fascinating:

    • There’s nothing more splashy than a flock of starlings having a bath together
    • Watch out for flocks of small birds like long-tailed tits passing through your garden – they might bring something different like a goldcrest
    • Keep an eye on your robins. They can be very aggressive to each other and to other birds
    • Blackcaps are warblers which have only started to spend the winter in the UK in recent decades. They like to eat fruit, sunflower hearts and fat
    • If the weather is cold and there’s snow on the ground, you could be visited by redwings and fieldfares – especially if you have some apples for them.

  • Nature is in it to win it #ThanksToYou

    A special guest post from Kim Gutteridge explains why National Lottery players can get a free hot drink on selected RSPB reserves:

    As a big thank you to National Lottery players we’re saying #ThanksToYou for your funding support by offering a free cuppa at 15 of our RSPB nature reserves from Monday 11 to Friday 15 December 2017.

    Many of these sites have benefited from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but we’ve included a couple of extras because of their great cafes. Find out more about claiming your free cuppa by visiting our web page.

    Did you know that you and millions of others are helping to save nature?

    Since March 2017, National Lottery players have helped to raise over £37 billion for Good Causes, with more than 525,000 individual awards made across the UK – the equivalent of around 185 lottery grants in every community.

    Nature benefits from the 20% of funding for good causes that goes towards our heritage. You might wonder what heritage has got to do with nature.

    The UK is stuffed full of natural heritage (wildlife and great places) that also has many cultural and historic links, all of which the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) can support. It isn’t possible to describe the massive impact that all HLF funding has had for the RSPB but here are a few of the magic places that you have helped give nature a home in.

    Where is it helping?

    In the South West the HLF funded our Natural Connections Project which explored the cultural, natural and historical heritage at RSPB Radipole Lake nature reserve, including Roman history, reedbed, swans, thatching and the sea and harbour.

    Practical activities were run to give people first-hand experience of how thatchers have managed reedbeds, living history experiences through oral history recordings, and volunteer interpreters on hand to provide opportunities for people to be up close and personal with the site’s amazing wildlife.

    At Rainham Marshes, the HLF funded the construction of the Purfleet Environment and Education Centre, the site’s main building. This site is one of very few ancient landscapes remaining in London. With HLF funding these historic medieval marshes, right next to the River Thames, were opened to the public for the first time after being closed for a century, as they were used as a military firing range.

    RSPB Rainham Marshes. Photo by Sara Humphrey.

    In Suffolk thousands more visitors have been able to enjoy RSPB Minsmere nature reserve as a result of funding. There are upgraded facilities, including a revamped visitor centre and learning area for families and school groups.

    These improvements mean that more people can now enjoy Minsmere - which is home to rare birds, historical woodlands and stunning coastal scenery with links to World War II.

     Bittern wading in reedbed. Photo by Ben Andrew (

    At Sandwell Valley in the Midlands, HLF funding has also reinvigorated the site with a redesigned centre about which the local residents said “They’ve got this place right, it’s a beautiful place for residents to enjoy.” Volunteers at the reserve have noticed wide ranging benefits, not only for nature but for people too, as a direct result of these improvements which include better health, sharing and increasing knowledge, gaining confidence and new skills, making new and lasting friendships.

    Events with a local youth club have taken place and given young people a sense that this reserve is for them, not ‘for other people’. Police feedback has shown that this project has also had an impact on antisocial behaviour which previously had been a problem on the reserve.

    The Seabird Centre at Bempton Cliffs offers some of the most stunning coastal views anywhere. Since opening the enhanced visitor centre in April 2015, we have had a phenomenal response from visitors – with positive reviews making us one of the Top Ten visitor rated natural outdoor attractions in the UK. The additional indoor space means we can tell the rich cultural stories associated with this stretch of Yorkshire’s Heritage Coast, including it being the birthplace of seabird protection.

     Bempton Cliffs visitor centre, funded by HLF.

    Further north at Saltholme on Teesside, the HLF funded ‘A Date with Seals’ project. Here 32 volunteers worked on this project over three summers so that 10,828 people could connect to nature by coming to see the seals. Our monitoring highlighted that most of the visitors would not have normally travelled to a nature reserve.

    In Scotland, the Loch Leven Heritage landscape partnership project led by The Rural Access Committee of Kinross-shire (TRACKS) created a heritage trail around the loch which has brought communities together and is helping promote a healthier lifestyle. The final section of the completed trail, runs for 6.5km from Kinross Mill to the RSPB Loch Leven nature reserve on the south side of Loch Leven. 

    Belfast’s Window on Wildlife (WOW) is an oasis of calm in the heart of Belfast’s industry. Thanks to significant HLF funding the refurbished visitor centre at WOW welcomes school groups and has a dedicated space to host a variety of events throughout the year. With over 50 visitor engagement volunteers there are always friendly faces throughout the week to happily answer questions and assist with bird identification.

    Our visitors can use scopes and binoculars to view wading birds and ducks in the autumn and winter and breeding terns in the summer. Outside on the reserve there is a sand martin bank, a swift tower and two hides made out of shipping containers in-keeping with the hustle and bustle of the surrounding Belfast Harbour.

    Due to HLF’s support to get this site off the ground, Newport Wetlands is now a thriving visitor centre with over 100,000 visitors a year. It’s a natural relaxation area close to the urban hub of Newport City.

    Newport is also a key destination within the Living Levels Landscape Partnership – which, if successful with HLF funding, next year will start to connect the people of the Gwent Levels to their natural heritage. If you are in North Wales, why not pop along to South Stack instead. Although not a recipient of HLF funding itself, it’s a thrilling seabird reserve in North Holyhead. The recent creation of a nature playground has been of great benefit to the local community, who tend to visit after school when the crowds die down.

    We hope to see you all in the run up to Christmas and as Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “December is a wonderful time to experience the UK’s rich, diverse and exciting heritage, which has been transformed by more than £7bn National Lottery funding since 1994. This is a small gesture of thanks and a way of giving something back to the people who buy tickets.”

    Kim Gutteridge
    Head of Grants, High Value Fundraising – Planning and Development

    Participating free cuppa sites:
    Bempton Cliffs
    Dearne Valley - Old Moor
    Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay
    Loch Leven
    Newport Wetlands
    Pulborough Brooks
    Radipole Lake
    Rainham Marshes
    Sandwell Valley (Wednesday 13 December-Friday 15 December only)
    South Stack Cliffs
    Titchwell Marsh