October, 2010


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

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  • RSPB Halloween

                                                                                                        Halloween Blog

     With The leaves on the ground and toadstools in abundance, our thoughts now turn to the darker half of the year. Are you brave enough to walk through the woods of The Lodge on Halloween night? Or witness Spooky things at Fairburn Ings. Gather for a ‘Witch Walk’ at Lake Vyrnwy and celebrate All hallows eve at Wat Tyler country park. Check out your local reserves for Halloween fun! With Halloween just round the corner, this week’s blog has a spooky theme. Halloween marks the old Celtic New Year and ancient festival of Samhain and is a time when the ancient tribes would gather to feast and mark the death of summer.
     Samhain marked the end of the lighter half of the year, and the beginning of the darker half. The Celts believe that at this point in the year, the veil between the worlds was at its thinnest and the dead could return to feast with loved ones. The festival has become associated with the Christian All Saints Day we get the name Halloween from All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day.
     So with all this talk of ancient belief and folklore I thought it might be fun to talk about the folklore of birds, inspired by British birds, their folklore, names and literature.
     With young birds dispersing from breeding grounds in autumn, the Tawny owl or ‘Callieach oidhche’ – old woman of the night (Gaelic) is one of our most abundant owls in England, Scotland and Wales (none are found in Ireland). It is this owl which makes the traditional “Tu-Whit, Tu-Whoo” of fairytales, the word Owl itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Ule’ derived from some ancient root meaning ‘to Howl.’
     Another of our creatures of the night is the impressive and strangely beautiful Nightjar. While Nightjars are not found at this time of year leaving usually in August and September, their folklore is darkly impressive. In Hampshire, it is the Eve Churr, in Norfolk, it is the Razor grinder, and a belief that Nightjars took milk in the dead of night earned them names like Goatsucker, Goat owl and Puck bird.
     Against the dim sky a hawk like shape can be made out, the noiseless wings, tilted upwards as the bird wheels around accompanied by the smaller silhouettes of its tiny entourage, Pipistrelle Bats. Then as the night begins to turn black, it will suddenly leave you alone in the darkness. No wonder it is associated with another spirit of the dark, Puck who made mischief as a midnight reveller. Among his ill deeds he may –

    Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern
    And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
    And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
    Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
    Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
    You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
    - Midsummer nights dream

    A bird that can be heard all year round ‘Cackling’ like a witch at halloween is the Magpie. This misunderstood bird has lots of superstition surrounding it.
     The Magpies ‘cackle’ or ‘chatter’ is sometimes not disimilar to human voice. Like a number of birds, whose voices resemble those of a human being, the Magpie is said to have a drop of the devils blood in them.
     Another story says that the Magpie is a hybrid of the Raven and the Dove which is an interesting mix of Paganism and Christianity much like the festival of Halloween.
     Which brings us nicely onto Corvus Corax, Fiach and Witches bird, The Raven!
    The word Raven has remained more or less unchanged from the Anglo saxon times when it was Hrafn. The Norse god Odin was Hrafngud, The Raven God. He had two Ravens that flew all over the earth and returned to perch on his shoulders and whisper all the secrets of mankind in each ear. This forbidding looking bird has a close association with death, feeding on the carrion of the battle field and is credited with the powers of prediction and divination. The Ravens keep their pagan character, a celtic myth tells how king Authur shall return in the form of a Raven. In Wales the blind will be healed if they are kind to Ravens, this seems to be a form of sympathetic magic. Who can forget the Poem of Edgar Allen Poe publish in 1845.

    The Raven

    …Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
    In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
    Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
    Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

    Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
    By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
    `Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
    Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
    Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

                                              ………Happy Halloween

  • Harapan - One million tree appeal and Sumatran tiger

    When we, and our local partners, took over the management of Harapan Rainforest three years ago, we immediately started training a team of forest wardens to protect the forest from further illegal logging. Working with our partners - Birdlife International and Burung Indonesia - we also came up with a recovery plan to restore these areas back to their former glory.
    With help from more than 200 local community members working in our tree nurseries and as forest wardens, seeds from dozens of local tree species have been collected.
    We need your help to nurture these small seeds into forest giants, and bring life back to the vast areas, which have been destroyed by logging.

    Sumatra has been a target for the oil palm, timber and pulp and paper industries because of its easy access and relatively developed infrastructure. Ninety two percent of Indonesia’s oil palm plantations are located in Sumatra. In 1900, Sumatra had 16 million hectares of lowland forest; today that figure has dwindled to a mere 500,000 hectares. Lowland forests in Sumatra are now regarded as among the most threatened forests in the world.
    At present, humans are the tiger's greatest enemy. Commercial poaching, reduced prey (through loss to hunting and poaching) and habitat loss are the greatest threats to their survival. As a result, the Sumatran tiger is critically endangered.
    In central Sumatra, conservationists and oil palm companies are looking at the possibility of creating wildlife corridors joining good patches of forest, including Harapan Rainforest, via forested areas in plantations.

    WWF installed the camera traps in the Bukit Batabuh area last year to study the distribution and habits of the tigers, and the threats they face.
    In May and June this year, one of the cameras captured footage of a male tiger walking straight toward it and sniffing it.
    A week later the camera captured a bulldozer clearing trees, and the next day a Sumatran tiger walking through the devastated landscape.
    The location is just 200 meters from another camera trap that captured a tigress and her cubs last October.


    Together we can plant a million trees

    Each tree costs just £2, but we need to plant as many as we can.

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