March, 2013


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

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and the drunken waxwings...

    So spring is keeping us waiting and here in the wildlife enquiries team we have been getting some of our usual and not so usual queries.

    Lots of window collisions have been reported, it is a sad fact that even masters of ambush can fall foul of colliding with large solid surfaces such as windows and patio doors. At least two were as a result of a heated chase, with birds trying to avoid the snatches of a Sparrowhawk. Although the Sparrowhawk is also a common casualty. There are simple steps one can take to avoid this.

    March would not be March without ducks turning up gardens. Preferring to nest away from the busy waters edge, even the most suburban garden provides welcome shelter as well as peace and quiet to bring up the kids. It won’t be long before little bundles of cuteness will be getting into all sorts of japes. One of our favorite enquirers here in the wildlife team was a young man pondering if Duck’s (like Keith Richards apparently) are immortal as he had never seen a dead duck! After being told ducks can become the victims of predators the young man was not convinced as according to him predators are fictional and only appear in the popular film with Arnold Schwarzenegger...


    Many reports of Waxwings still coming in strong as they migrate from the UK to their breeding grounds... The Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) which visits the UK during winter is larger, fatter and greyer than the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) which breeds in open wooded areas in North America. The cedar waxwing is known to get drunk after feeding on fermented fruit...I personally would love to see them in The red lion on a Friday night...alas they will remain propping up the bars of Florida and the other states!

    Our cheeky punk rockers of the bird world are still being seen as the volumes of emails received this week reflect. It seems that folk are still tantalised a shade of light red by these quirky birds. Many waxwings are now fuelling up for the journey home. We wish them well.

    And finally...Still have no idea how this ended up in our department?! 

    Have a Happy Easter : ) 

  • Blog 100 from the wildlife team!

    What better way to fill blog 100 than a pictorial demonstration of three of the things to get out and see during March...oh and a rodent quiz! Apologies for my dodgy pictures but they illustrate the points if nothing else!!!

    Top spectacle to see must be starling roost! They are still together in huge numbers and the murmurations are something special. Whilst some people who live near to the locations might not appreciate the mess, this is only a temporary event and the mess will stop in a few weeks when these mass gatherings dwindle as these birds return to their breeding sites, many of them heading back to Eastern Europe. The picture below was taken in Leamington Spa near to ASDA last weekend where a roost of over 5000 birds were putting on a great show before diving into conifer trees that border the railtrack. They attracted the attention of at least two sparrowhawks and a buzzard, someone did suggest a peregrine had been seen but I didn't catch a glimpse! Any thoughts on what this shape reminds you of?

    If you are not near to a starling roost but you fancy going out late in the evening in search of some fantastic wildlife then find yourself some open areas with rough grassland, get yourself settled an hour or so before the sun sets and see what turns up, if you are lucky then you may see the ghostly shape of a barn owl hunting low over the field. Also at this time of year in the lowlands we still have other crepuscular predators on the wing such as the short-eared owl. Many of the contributors to the forums have shared some great images of these birds recently and as we are approaching the breeding season, they may be on the move which could bring them into new sites. We had one a few weeks ago in the area near to the Lodge in Bedfordshire which was a real treat! Unfortunately for us it seems to have moved on, giving someone else great views further east I suspect, but the barn owls around here are real performers and come out most nights before dark, usually too distant in poor light for great pictures but an awesome sight to end any day on!

    You don't have to go far to find great spectacles at this time of year, garden bird feeders can be really busy right now with little seed food out in the wild. Here at the Lodge our feeders have been buzzing with siskins, redpolls and bramblings, as well as all of the usual suspects this site attracts! If you want to try to recreate this spectacle then get feeding some sunflower hearts, nyger seed or a no-mess mix. These birds will feed from hanging feeders, bird tables and ground trays. The action around the feeders is frenetic with squabbles constantly going on, if you get a big flock, the noise can be amazing! I caught these two lesser redpolls mid-squabble!

    And finally, the rodent quiz, I spotted this little chap hiding in the bracken here at the Lodge, not much to go on but have a guess what it is?


  • RSPB at Ecobuild

    Earlier this week I joined some of my colleagues down at the Excel centre in London for the huge Ecobuild event. As interesting as it was to see the wide range of technology and types of eco-home that are available, our main role was to promote biodiversity in the built environment. Our little stand was in the Biodiversity Pavillion which we shared with a number of other conservation groups such as Swift Conservation, the Bat Conservation Trust and the Wildlife Trusts

    During the course of the event we had hundreds of conversations with members, builders, planners, architects and students as well as a few people curious to find out more about what we were doing at the show! On our stand we had some Ecosurv nesting bricks for swifts and bats to illustrate the way that nesting space for birds and bats can easily built into new housing developments as well as any renovations. We were also promoting a range of other measures that can incorporate nature into new developments including green roof technology, sustainable drainage systems and living walls. Bees were a frequent topic of conversation and the focus on trying to get them back into the urban landscape. As well as the various landscaping options such as wildflower meadows and nectar rich borders, it was fascinating to see the range of organisations that now specialise in flower rich green roofs, a great way of creating space for bees and other beneficial insects, even where space is limited. Even sheds and garages can provide a significant area for such a project!

    Check out the links here, here and here to find out more about some of these great ideas for enhancing the built environment for wildlife. Given the amount of lawn and garden space that has been lost in recent decades, providing this habitat on top of our buildings seems like a great way of putting the green back into urban green space.

    Ecobuild is going International with events in India and China but it should return to Excel, London next March (4-6) and I thoroughly recommend going along if this sounds of interest. If you do go, there is a chance you will come across the occasional mountie and stormtrooper (spotted stroking the Dulux dog, there is a video on the homepage!!)