Tuesday, 22 May 2012


JUNE 2 - 10

The RSPB is well known for its dedication to helping everything that tweets, but the launch of its forthcoming Make Your Nature Count survey confirms how much the conservation charity is just as keen to support all garden wildlife from those that snuffle and forage to those that slither and slime.

Make Your Nature Count, running from the 2-10 June 2012, asks people to count the wildlife in their garden or local park over the summer.

Not only is the RSPB asking people to record birds in Merseyside, but it also wants to know about some of the other wildlife visiting gardens in the area, like hedgehogs, squirrels, deer and for the first time ever, slow-worms.

Last year 80,000 people nationwide stepped up for nature and took part in the RSPB’s summer survey. Everyone can help save nature by taking part and by doing this survey it helps the RSPB understand what is happening in gardens so they can act by directing their efforts where needed. 

Results revealed almost half of Merseyside gardens had baby blackbirds.  Many of those taking part also said that they saw bats in their gardens, with 22% seeing them regularly in the county.

In Merseyside, hedgehogs were seen in 19% of gardens monthly compared to 23% nationwide 

Sarah Houghton, the RSPB’s Make Your Nature Count manager, said: “Gardens are teeming with wildlife at this time of year so it’s the perfect time to take a moment and enjoy it. It also helps to build an important snapshot of summer wildlife in our gardens so we can see which species are thriving and which might need our help.”

Last year’s survey also revealed that grass snakes were around eleven times more likely in rural gardens than urban ones, with nearly one in fifty participants nationally reporting regular sightings.

At this time of year, gardens and green spaces are alive with young birds and the RSPB is asking people to look out for blackbird, robin and song thrush chicks. Counting young birds helps to give an indication of how important our gardens are for these birds to breed in.

Similar to how the RSPB’s winter survey, Big Garden Birdwatch, identifies trends among wintering bird populations, the RSPB believes, in time, Make Your Nature Count will build a picture about summer wildlife in gardens and green spaces nationwide.

Since its launch in 2009 many different species have been recorded in gardens and green spaces in summer. This information is helping identify how summer species are faring and which may need help. By participating in Make Your Nature Count you can help the RSPB save nature.

The RSPB also offers advice on how to make your garden more attractive to wildlife, so that you can see even more wonderful creatures. 

But don’t worry if you don’t have a garden; why not take your friends and family to the local park, have a picnic, relax, enjoy the sunshine and watch the wildlife that lives there too.
Sarah added: “We hope thousands of people will step up for nature and donate a little bit of their time in June to help save the nature on their doorstep by taking part in this simple garden wildlife survey.

To take part, simply spend one hour during the week of 2-10 June, counting the birds and the other wildlife that visit your garden or green space, record the highest number of each species seen at any one time and send us your results.

For further information about Make Your Nature Count visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/naturecount where an online survey form will be available from 2nd June.

Alternatively, ring 0300 456 8330 for a Make Your Nature Count survey form. The hotline number will be operational until 6th June 2012.

The table shows the percentage of Merseyside gardens that recorded other wildlife than birds in 2011:  

% seen regularly (at least monthly)
Grass snake
Great crested newt

Make Your Nature Count is part of Stepping Up for Nature, the RSPB’s latest campaign to help save nature. See www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup  for more information

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Thank godwit for Burton Mere Wetlands  

Help celebrate the success of RSPB’s Dee Estuary nature reserve at Burton Mere Wetlands, near Neston, on May 19 and 20 as they launch a limited edition black-tailed godwit pin badge.
Since 1979 the RSPB have been working hard on the Dee Estuary to create and protect one of the most important wetland sites in the world.
And since opening Burton Mere Wetlands, thousands of visitors have been getting amazing views of the area’s star birds, including the black-tailed godwits.
These amazing birds travel hundreds of miles from Iceland to spend the winter here and the visitor building at Burton Mere Wetlands is arguably the best place to see them in the UK.  Our large, spectacular flock of non-breeding godwits stay throughout the summer.
Paul Brady, RSPB Visitor Development Officer said “It’s hard to imagine that less than a year ago, these stunning birds just weren’t here and it gives us great satisfaction that all the hard work we have put in is paying off.  Getting a one-off pin badge in return for a donation is a great way to show your pride for a wonderful species found in your local area – I certainly know I’ll be getting one!”
Get down to Burton Mere Wetlands between 10am and 4pm on 19 and 20 May to for your chance to own a special pin badge, walk the scenic trails and see the birds that make the area so special, including elegant avocets and pristine little egrets.
RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands is off the A540 (Chester High Road) and just 10 minutes from the M56. Follow the brown signposts from the A540.  The reserve entrance is on Puddington Lane, just outside Burton village near to Bishop Wilson Primary School.  The reserve has a car park with cycle racks and there are toilets available on site.

For more information about RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve visit: www.rspb.org.uk/burtonmerewetlands. The reception building and nature reserve is open daily from 9.30am until 5pm.  For more details see the website or phone 0151 353 8478.

Black tailed Godwit  - Chris Gomersall  rpsb images

Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) are a red-listed rare breeding bird in the UK with up to 43,000 of the Icelandic race over-wintering in the UK.  Black-tailed godwits are large wading birds.  In summer, they have bright orangey-brown chests and bellies, but in winter, they are more greyish-brown.  Their most distinctive features are their long beaks and legs, and the black and white stripes on their wings.

The Dee Estuary has been designated a site of international importance as up to 6,000 can be present in the autumn and winter months.  Their increasing numbers in the UK have undoubtedly benefitted from correct conservation management of lowland wet grassland and coastal marshland.  The main threats to them are overgrazing, disturbance and drainage of suitable lowland sites.

The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Nature is amazing - help us keep it that way. Click here to join today www.rspb.org.uk/join

'The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654

Saturday, 12 May 2012

RSPB launches Hen Harrier Hotline

Male Hen Harrier

A special hotline has opened to encourage people who live or spend time in the English uplands to report sightings of England’s rarest breeding bird of prey, the hen harrier.

Refreshed and updated for its fifth consecutive year in operation, the Hen Harrier Hotline is being relaunched by the RSPB in the hope of discovering more about where these birds are potentially breeding in northern England.   

The hen harrier is one of our most awe-inspiring birds of prey with the male harrier performing a magnificent aerobatic courtship display in spring known as skydancing, and providing food to the female in spectacular mid-air food passes.

Sadly, the species is also affected by illegal persecution, a fact reinforced by the government-commissioned review – the hen harrier framework - which concluded that illegal killing and disturbance is the biggest single factor limiting the population of this species in Northern England.

 It is estimated that the heather moors of England have the potential to hold at least 320 pairs of nesting hen harriers, but in 2011 there were only four successful nests, all of which were confined to one area of Lancashire.

Harriers are smaller than a buzzard and larger than a crow, with a 100 -120 cm wingspan.  These long wings are complemented by long tails and an obvious white rump.  They are usually seen flying low over the ground with wings slightly raised in a characteristic V-shape.  Male and female hen harriers have strikingly different plumage, so much so that they were once thought to be separate species.  The male is a ghostly pale blue-grey, with black wingtips, while the larger female is dark brown with a series of horizontal stripes on her tail, earning her the nickname “ringtail”.

Female Hen Harrier

Amanda Miller, the RSPB’s Conservation Manager for Northern England said: “Hen harriers in England are very rare so we are interested in hearing about any sightings of these amazing birds. By receiving information about possible nests, we can help give hen harriers the best possible chance of breeding successfully.”
The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate).  Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk.  Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

The Hen Harrier Hotline is part of Skydancer, a four-year RSPB project aimed at protecting and conserving nesting hen harriers in the English uplands. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, United Utilities and SITA Trust, with additional support from the Forestry Commission.

For more information about Skydancer visit www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer.