Tag Archives: RSPB

Nature’s home

A jar of bright and colourful dahlias
A jar of Summer – bright and colourful Dahlias

I’ve spent the morning browsing seed catalogues and seed merchants websites, dreaming again of sunny days and Summer flowers … To be fair, our weather hasn’t been too wintry so far this Winter, though the wind has been rather wild this weekend.

As I’m browsing, I am also thinking about my New Year’s Resolution … to do whatever I can for our beleaguered planet. In choosing the flowers I will grow for Summer 2020, I intend to consciously choose varieties that actively support garden wildlife. I’m looking at nectar-rich blooms to feed our VIPs (Very Important Pollinators) – bees and hoverflies, butterflies and moths. But I am also looking ahead to the end-of-season seedheads that will enrich the diet of birds visiting the garden for food as the Autumn and Winter draw on.

Comma butterfly in sunshine
Comma butterfly

Usually in the vegetable patch I am looking to keep most animals out – especially rabbits.But one animal I would love to encourage into the garden is one of my very favourite creatures, the hedgehog. And I know I am not the only one. Here in the UK there are now a whole lot of hedgehog supporters … over 620,000 of us on Hugh Warwick’s petition to Help save Britain’s hedgehogs with ‘hedgehog highways’!

hedgehog eating on a road near a car
Endangered species – hedgehog

Hedgehog highways are a very simple idea, but hugely important for hedgehogs. One of the main reasons that hedgehogs have become so scarce in the UK is because we keep fencing off more and more bits of the landscape into smaller and smaller pieces.

The ‘hedgehog highways’ petition has been seeking to bring housing developers onboard to make sure that new housing is hedgehog-friendly. Of course, it is not only new housing that needs to be hedgehog-connected. The more of our gardens that are connected, the better for hedgehogs. Our hedgehogs only need a 13 cm hole in the bottom of a fence or garden wall that allows hedgehogs to move freely between gardens so they can find food or find a mate. (That’s about the size of a CD … if you remember those 😉 )

If you’d like to join the growing band of hedgehog supporters, doing your little bit for hedgehogs, you might like to take a stroll down Hedgehog Street to find more about Britain’s favourite animal. There’s an interactive map too, where you can log sightings of hedgehogs (now also available as a phone app, which is very handy).

Whether it’s bees, butterflies, birds, hedgehogs, or any of the other creatures with which we share our gardens, I’ll be looking to incorporate ideas on gardening for wildlife and there are plenty of ways of “Giving Nature a Home” over on the RSPB’s website too.

Peggy

2020 vision

The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead
The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead

I’m riding in a bus on the way to my opticians appointment as I write this post on my phone. New Year resolutions whir in my head. Avoid single use plastic. Focus forwards and stay positive. Use time wisely. But how?

The planet is in crisis. We have only one childhood left to make a difference. Australia is already burning … Jakarta is flooded …

I’m so glad I am not the only one pondering on how we begin to look ahead into 2020 and beyond without being overwhelmed by the craziness of it all.

As the bus drove along, I spotted an email in my inbox from the RSPB’s Conservation Director, a new blog post entitled “2020: why we must remain conditional optimists”. Intrigued, I opened it. Martin Harper explains that he first encountered the idea a couple of years back when the phrase was originally used by Professor Paul Romer on Earth Day 2017 to help explain his ideas on how we might face the challenge of decarbonisation on a global scale.

Professor Romer contrasted the ideas of complacent optimism against conditional optimism. With complacent optimism, we just wait and hope – will we receive what we want? However, conditional optimism is much more dynamic and makes us actors in achieving the result we want – especially when we work together.

Earth Day 2020 on 22nd April will be the 50th anniversary of this worldwide collaboration and mobilisation of people who care about the future of our planet and all its inhabitants. The theme this year will surprise no-one: climate action. Literally billions of people across the world will be doing stuff for Earth Day 2020. I’m sure they will be taking climate action on many other days too.

Earth Optimism“will be happening in Cambridge, in the UK, hosted by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, a public event with Sir David Attenborough. Earth Optimism is all about celebrating, sharing and replicating the successes in nature conservation across the world. Everyone knows there is still plenty of work to do, but taking action to achieve what we would hope for is certainly a very positive step in the right direction and I will look forward to hearing more Earth Optimism stories in due course.

As expected, my optician confirmed that my vision had changed slightly so it’s new glasses time for me. I might not any longer have 2020 vision but I at least I do now feel that my vision for 2020 is becoming somewhat clearer. I will continue caring for the Earth in whatever ways I can.

As I was leaving the opticians and heading back through town to the bus station, I passed by a Newcastle upon Tyne Christmas institution – Fenwick’s window. Fenwick’s is a large department store in Newcastle and every December its large shop windows host an animated tale, a world from storytime, to delight children and Christmas shoppers. This year we have a glimpse into Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Quentin Blake’s illustrations beautifully rendered in animated models and tableaux.

So I will leave you with my image from Fenwick’s window – the scene where Charlie has entered the sweet shop to buy his famous chocolate bar. The Evening Gazette’s headline says it all …

Fenwick’s window – Christmas 2019: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The “Last Golden Ticket still to be found”!

I think that sums up nicely how I felt as I started this post – can we find the Golden Ticket that will save the planet? And whilst I can’t claim that I have quite found it, I do believe it will be found …

… because literally billions of us are looking for it.

Best wishes for 2020. I hope you too have also found your reasons to be hopeful this year.

Peggy

P.S. The bridge photo I chose as the header to this post is called The Butterfly Bridge in Gateshead’s Derwent Valley. The bridge you see is the replacement for an older bridge that was washed away by floods on 6th September 2008.

10 noisy jackdaws for the Big Garden Bird Watch

Jackdaw in flight over our street
Jackdaw in flight over our street

Did you take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch over the weekend? We did and I’d said last week I’d let you know what we saw for this annual wildlife survey. Though as expected, there were no unusual sightings for us, just our normal jackdaws.

Our first attempt at the Big Garden Bird Watch was cut short after being hijacked by a black and white cat! It sneaked into the yard and suddenly appeared on the window ledge! What?! I can’t record a feline fiend for the Big Garden Bird Watch!

Fortunately our second attempt followed a rather more normal pattern. The bird food is put out. The boisterous jackdaws descend from their rooftop hangouts. We frantically count them as they swoop and jostle each other for a position on the wall where the food is waiting.
“One, two, three, four, five, six,” we chorus as the jackdaws land in turn.
“Did you get the one on the roof?”
“No, just the two on the fence.”
“There was the one on the post too.”
“There’s one on the tree – well, it’s on the window ledge now actually.”

When most of the pastry and cheese shreds have been devoured, the black cloud lifts. Individual birds then return from time to time to seek out any leftovers. The porridge oats and fruit are less popular with the jackdaws. Sometimes we see blackbirds, house sparrows and dunnocks, so we try and cater for all tastes. But none of the others put in an appearance during our Big Garden Bird Watch hour this year.

Today I added our survey tally to the RSPB’s results web page. I don’t mind that we usually only end up recording jackdaws for the Big Garden Bird Watch because we see so many other wild birds nearby to us every day.

J Peggy Taylor

Birdwatching toddler

Are you ready for the Big Garden Bird Watch?

Do you live in the UK? Can you spare an hour to watch the birds in your garden next weekend? 24-25 Jan 2015 is the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch.

The annual Big Garden Bird Watch is the world’s largest wildlife survey, organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds here in the UK. The survey provides a really useful snapshot of the birds we are currently seeing in our gardens. Now in its 36th year, the data from the Big Garden Bird Watch builds up with all of our results each year. Hundreds of thousands of us across the country will spend an hour of our choice over the weekend watching the birds in our gardens. Around half a million of us counted 7 million birds last year! It is so easy to take part, many of us drink tea and eat biscuits at the same time 🙂

To do the survey, all we need to do is record how many of each bird species we see in the garden at any one time. You can record the birds you see directly onto the RSPB website.

Most of us will see our common UK garden birds – but if you aren’t too sure about identifying the birds you see, there’s help at hand on the RSPB website. Here on the What to look out for page you’ll see the birds that most often visit gardens, along with information on the kind of food they prefer and whether they’re the acrobatic type that hang on bird feeders or if they’re more likely to be seen down on the ground. There’s also the Bird Guide that can help you out with any less-common species.

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch

Bird populations are a good indicator of wider wildlife health in our countryside, so as a keen nature watcher I always like to take part in this survey. If you can spare an hour this weekend to help find out how our feathered friends and other wildlife are faring, please visit the RSPB’s website here and register to take part.

Our 10 jackdaws were the only entrants from us for last year’s Big Garden Bird Watch. After we’ve done our survey this weekend I’ll let you know which birds we see this time. If you do take part in the survey, it would be good to see your results too.

J Peggy Taylor

A Bittern in Bethnal Green

A talented London street artist, ATM, is showing his support for some of the UK’s vanishing wildlife in a direct but novel way. His wonderful paintings of birds are appearing in some seemingly unlikely locations in London. This video by About Wonnish Films shows him painting a bittern – now a very rare marshland bird – in an alleyway in Bethnal Green. The urban jungle may have taken over here, but close by on the Hackney Marshes bitterns would have been found in the past.

I really enjoyed the film showing the painting process and the painting itself is amazing. I first read about ATM’s urban bird paintings in a Guardian article today.

You can see some photographs of the rare and secretive bittern on the RSPB’s website and hear a recording of its very unusual booming call too. The RSPB has done some sterling work in seeking to revive the bittern’s fortunes in the UK by careful management of the bird’s reedbed habitat on some of their reserves but the bittern remains one of the UK’s most endangered birds.

I certainly applaud ATM’s creative way of bringing our UK endangered birds to the attention of a new urban audience.

J Peggy Taylor

Saturday Nature Round-up

sprouting acorn in fallen oak leaves
I have taken the theme of “nature” as the thread that binds this post together, but there are several strands.

Today is Day 1 of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch weekend. I posted earlier in the week about this – and there’s still time for you to take part in the biggest wildlife survey in the world if you can find an hour to spare on Sunday.

This morning we counted ‘our’ birds … 10 jackdaws. To us they really are ‘our birds’ as they were born and raised in the old chimneys of our house.

It’s a pity ‘our’ starlings didn’t put in an appearance today, as seemingly unbelievably, starlings are becoming less common than you might think. Perhaps because it was not too cold, they were evidently visiting further flung pastures today. The starlings live in our flat-roof, above our youngest son’s bedroom. They nest there and hide out there too when it’s really cold. I did hear one of them talking on the chimney earlier in the week.

As this afternoon turned wet and squally, it seemed a good time to browse other blogs to see how nature was faring elsewhere. As a self-confessed nature nut, I must say how heartened I was to see just how many other fellow bloggers care about our natural world.

It was wonderful to see Suzy Blue’s flowering snowdrops on her Country Diary blog. Seeing snowdrops always makes me feel Spring is not too far around the corner. We have some snowdrops that grow right outside of our front door – but no sign of flowers for us just yet on our windswept northern hillside.

We live surrounded by wonderful woods. I love trees – from tiny sprouting acorns to gnarled and ancient beauties. I was fascinated today when I learned about an amazing old Irish hedgerow in a post called “Bright Skies and Dark Hedges” on Littlest Allsorts.

I am always intrigued by the ways we as humans have shaped our ‘natural’ landscapes. This avenue of veritable ‘old ladies’ can be seen along a roadside near Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. If you take a peek at it you will not be surprised to hear it is not unaccustomed to photographic attention having been chosen as a film location on several occasions, including for the popular ‘Game of Thrones’.

To weave the final strand into this Nature Round-up, I want to share with you a poem I discovered today, “A Natural Curriculum” on the blog ‘wordsthatserve’. It describes to us an “alternative 3 ‘R’s”.

I really liked this poem, especially as its first verse touched on one of my own ‘pet’ subjects, litter. For me those three concepts, Respect, Resilience and Reciprocity, as represented in this poem, should act as way-markers for human-kind as we negotiate our place on this planet.

J Peggy Taylor

The Big Garden Bird Watch

Birdwatching toddler
Birdwatching toddler

If you’re a UK-based nature watcher like me you’re probably also getting organised for the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend, 25/26 January 2014. This is the world’s largest wildlife survey!

We’ve taken part in this national annual spot check on the health (or otherwise) of our garden bird populations for a quite a few years now. I found it was a great way to introduce our boys to birdwatching when they were still very young.

In those days everything still came by post. So there would always be a build-up to this event when the Big Garden Bird Watch information arrived, which included a handy A4 bird ID poster. For years for our younger children we had an ‘original’ 2003 bird ID poster stuck at child height on the kitchen wall.

Nowadays everything is online and taking part is really easy whether you’re ‘just’ an adult or if you’re making it a family activity. Anyone can take part. As the RSPB explains:

“Watch the birds in your garden or local green space for one hour during the Birdwatch weekend. Record the highest number of species you see at any one time, rather than totalling them up over the hour, as you may record the same bird twice.”

… yes, if you don’t have a garden, you can do your bird watch in any nearby green space.

This year you can even record your sightings on your laptop, tablet or smartphone using the new timer facility. We will probably stick with pencil and paper as usual and then submit our results online afterwards. The results need to be submitted by 16 February 2014.

Because this survey is so big … an amazing 590,000 people took part and counted over 8 million birds last year … the data from it really is useful. Bird populations are a good indicator of wider wildlife health in our countryside.

All the information about the Big Garden Birdwatch is on the RSPB website so if you’re in the UK why not try and spare an hour over this weekend to take part?

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

J Peggy Taylor