Author: jo taylor

Blog Post: Migration hotspots

Spring hits the Ribble Estuary What a fantastically exciting time of year we are now at. If I am able, on my arrival to work, I take the opportunity to wander out onto the sand dunes at the tip of Fairhaven Lake to a patch of land I have recently christened “Migration Hotspot”. For the last few weeks this small patch of land has not failed to deliver with regular sightings of stonechat and wheatear . A much more learned colleague of mine has informed me that this little patch of land along the coast is a vital haven for these migrating birds. Birds such as this stonechat pictured here undertake a short distance migration, often arriving mid March onwards from Spain. They frequently stop off along the coast to feed tending to hug the coast as they travel. They stay a short while to re-fuel and then continue onto their breeding grounds. “Migration Hotspot” now has another patch within it named “Stonechat Corner”. Indeed another colleague and I walked over to “my” “Stonechat Corner” one lunchtime , whilst I held my breath after my bold claims of always seeing one there, luckily for me I was not let down, not only did we see them, we could hear them. The sound of this bird is like no other, it really does sound as if two stones are being knocked and rubbed together, fabulous when they are in full flow. They are the most terrific posers for photographs too. Stonechat are the earliest arrivals, next came the wheatear. After seeing photos and hearing tales of wheatear arrival I was very keen to spot them on the Fylde coast. I set out one morning convinced that that morning would be the day, I left down hearted as I had failed in my mission. Renewed again the following day, I once again set off. Beginning to once again feel beaten and ready to call it a day, a sudden movement caught my eye. There trotting down the dune was a wheatear, in fact two. Since then there has been a relatively steady stream. A small area of saltmarsh appears to be providing ample food, six wheatear, consisting of four males and two females bobbing around one morning have led me to name it “Wheatear Patch”. Wheatear migration is a staggering feat of endurance, spending the winter in Central Africa, they begin to arrive on our coast in March and April. They re-fuel here, spending a day feeding up after their mammoth flight moving onto breeding grounds on the moors and uplands, returning to Central Africa once again in August. The area these birds are stopping off for re-fuelling after their long treacherous journey is a very popular pathway for walkers, runners and dog walkers. I am pleased to say that I very often see very responsible dog walkers in this area, who walk with their dog on a lead or have exceptionally well trained dogs who do not randomly run into the saltmarsh to chase any movement they may see. This is great news for our migrating birds and our ground nesting birds alike. Unwarranted disturbances can see birds expending energy unnecessarily, which is something they don’t need after a long flight or if they are incubating eggs, such as the meadow pipits may be. Many of our spring breeders are arriving daily, a small influx of goldcrests in the bushes alongside the lake was noted the other week, I’ve recently heard chiffchaff calling their own name and blackcap have also been observed. I’m waiting for the melodious sounds of willow warbler and whitethroat next. The other sight I saw see last week was a memorising flight of sand martins , swallows and house martins streaming over the dunes. How lucky I felt to witness this arrival is difficult to express. Whilst it’s true that one swallow may not make a summer, I’m hoping that the many I saw that day, signify the beginning. Now, we just need to say goodbye to these frosty mornings and cold winds. Jo Male stonechat and male wheatear by Jo Arrivals, Departures, Residents and somewhere in-between at Marshside Up to four garganey have been staying over at Marshside having made the journey back from Africa. This scarce duck breeds in low numbers in the UK, with only up to 100 pairs nesting on a good year. They normally move on else where from Marshside to breed, but as they are secretive there is always a suspicion that a pair has stayed. They are about the same size as a teal, and the drakes have the most amazing eye stripe, pictured below at sandgrounders’ pool. Garganey – Wes Avocet have been building in number almost daily and have now just passed into treble figures. These iconic are also returning from wintering grounds in Africa. Over fifty pairs nested at Marshside last year breaking previous records. Hopefully this year will be even stronger. Avocet at Marshside – Wes We have our first lapwing nests of the year! This key species has seen large declines in living memory, and is one of the key species we manage for on the wet grasslands. Their nests are trixy to find as they are well camouflaged and the parents deploy rather clever diversion tactics to keep would be predators away. To help us understand how well they are doing and fine tune our management throughout the year we have small study plots. Within these plots we keep a careful and keen eye on each nests as the progress to ascertain a productivity figure (how many chicks fledge per pair). Lapwing nest at Marshside – Under licence – Alex Pigott Black tailed godwits are present in two distinct forms in the UK. The birds present at Marshside are limosa icelandic. This race of birds winters in the UK and migrates to Iceland to breed in the summer months. Young or out of condition birds save the energy required for the journey and can be seen at Marshide throughout the year – often starting to support their rusty breeding plumage. A scarcer race is also present on the Ribble, namely limosa limosa . This race is the the focus of a lot of amazing work, see this link. The breeding population is is very low, but the Ribble is lucky enough to hold up to two pairs on a regular basis. The difference between the races is superficially subtle, the limosa having a rounder head and slight plumage variation. Their Latin name is vey apt – limosa – , meaning mud Black tailed godwit (limosa icelandic) at Marshside – Wes Redshank are another of our ‘key species’ at Marshside, both on the fresh and salt water sides of marine drive. These birds are present all year round, but at this time of year their plumage brightens and they separate from their flocking behaviour into pairs. These ‘wardens of the marsh’ let their presence and that of predators known very clearly with their distinctive alarm call. Breeding pairs of this species have declined significantly, and much of our management on the Ribble is aimed at getting the feeding and nesting conditions just right for them. Redshank at Marshside – Wes

Blog Post: Spring is most definitely in the air

Spring is most definitely on its way. Walking around the lake is music to the ears, the increase in birdsong recently is very apparent. This melodious of soundtracks most frequently begins with the robins , who are well known to sing under any lights, lamp posts in the evening have been known to set the robin off. Blackbirds are not far behind. The sweet song of the dunnock is truly beautiful and is in my opinion a very much underestimated bird. Not only are they more exquisite to look at than at first noticed they also have a a rather secret and and very much polygamous reproductive life, with multiple matings occurring on both parts. Who’d have thought this little grey and brown bird has such a saucy secret life? These most infamous of songsters are joined by goldfinch sitting high up in the trees, with their unmistakable wheezy calls they cause quite a cacophony screeching overhead, amidst the charms of this delicate golden finch are often the rasps of greenfinch , their larger and bulkier cousin. Once renowned for their more aggressive tactics on garden feeders these finches haven suffered losses in the last 15 or 16 years due to the parasite trichomonosis. it looks as thought the greenfinch may be bouncing back though, which is great news for this most charismatic of garden birds. These two finches are joined by another cousin the smartly dressed chaffinch , again singing high in trees the russet red chest and belly of the male is unmistakable, along with its “pink pink” calls. The soundtrack is by now gaining in volume, suddenly a bewildering song is heard, which sounds unlike anything you’ve heard before, it has an almost imitative quality, as if trying to repeat something that has just been heard. It’s rather alarmist, quite shrill at times and seemingly repeating in sets of 3. This is the song thrush , loud, bold and almost electric. It’s melody adding another layer to the already rich selection of morning song. If there’s another unusual birdsong floating in the air, it’s almost bound to be a great tit , I feel they take great pride in throwing in something off the cuff, and not in the plan. They whistle, they wheeze, they’re tuneful, they’re off key, they’re everything. Don’t let them trick you, I’ve spent way too long listening to and recording great tits because I thought they were something else, only each time to be caught out by their tricks yet again. Blue tits unlike the larger great tits, seem at least to stick to the page a little bit more with their “siiiiih siiiih” type trilling, as is in the script. There’s a rather large flock of linnet here on the edge of the lake, they often flyby and occasionally perch in the trees towards the back edge of the lake. You can hear their melody coming and going as they dart across the sky. Their musical addition is a form of falsetto staccato with a rapid tempo, bouncing notes with pauses in between often accompanying their flight. Being beside the seaside also gives rise to the calls of the sea. The “kleep kleep” of the oystercatcher is a ubiquitous sound of the sea with the plaintive cry of the redshank adding another accompaniment, creating an absolute uniqueness to our “dawn chorus”. As for the gulls and the ducks, they appear to find the whole thing amusing, laughing at will at their own randomly chosen moment. The morning song (dawn chorus) will only ramp up even further as we move through spring and those already prepped and ready will be joined by fresh blood in the coming weeks. Migrant songsters will begin their move to breeding territories very soon. Along the sand dunes in particular the voices of blackcap , whitetrhoa t, chiff chaff and willow warbler will soon be heard. Hot on their tails will be the movement of swallows and martins , leading in April to the screeching swifts , who are always last to arrive and the first to leave. Life is entering a new phase, as we too see our lives moving on and through this pandemic the birds continue their cycle oblivious to it all and for this we must welcome them, nurture and enjoy them, for they bring new life and brighter days. Keep you ears open and your eyes peeled for the new season of life has begun. Jo Robin, blue tit and linnet Jo Taylor

Blog Post: Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 We’d been waiting all month and it finally arrived on 29-31 January – The Big Garden Birdwatch. With the countries in lockdown again, the Big Garden Birdwatch provided the perfect excuse to sit down with a brew and some biscuits and stare out of the window for hour. This wasn’t just isn’t wistful staring though, but really important science. The Big Garden Birdwatch is in its 42nd year, which is no mean feat in itself. This perfect citizen science project has mapped trends, increases and declines in the birds that visit our gardens and is a really important indicator as to how local or national these are and the possible contributing factors. The project started in 1979 and was initially a youth project on Blue Peter, but due to its success the project continued and was rolled out wider. Over half a million people took part last year, with the lockdown continuing and many people connecting in a greater way to the nature outside their home we hope there maybe an even greater increase in participants this year. Over the last 42 years over 144 million birds have been counted in the survey, with house sparrows topping the charts for the last 17 years and 2020 was no exception, despite seeing a decrease of 53% in numbers since the project began, placing them on the red list for conservation. Great tits appear to be fairing well as they are up 72% since 1979, this is thought to be due to an increase in nest boxes and supplementary winter feeding and blue tits are up 8% for much the same reason. They were number 7 and number 9 in the charts respectively. The most startling declines have been seen in song thrushes, who are 81% down in numbers since the start of the survey. So, what were the chart positions for our garden birds in 2020? House sparrow photo taken by Jo 1. House Sparrow 2. Starling 3. Blue tit 4. Woodpigeon 5. Blackbird 6. Goldfinch 7. Great tit 8. Robin 9. Long tailed tit (new entry) 10. Magpie. On the office feeder, house sparrows were again top of the pile. In fact, there are nine species frequently seen on the feeder outside the office window, house sparrow, blue tit, dunnock, blackbird, great tit, robin, wood pigeon, jackdaw, song thrush. The robins and the dunnocks seem fairly adept and agile in using the feeder too. Robin, blue tit and house sparrow on the office feeder. Photos taken by Jo In my own garden the birds were magic…most of them disappeared on the day. I regularly see at least 30 house sparrows together, there were 18, there’s always a coal tit or two knocking about, except on Garden Birdwatch day obviously, there was a no show from any robins either, and the two sparrowhawk that regularly peruse my house sparrow buffet swooped in an hour or two too late for the count too. At least a song thrush rocked up, the highlight of the hour. Let us know what you have been seeing in your gardens and on Garden Birdwatch day and don’t forget to submit your results by 19 February. I’m fairly certain that there’s someone out there who had an amazing spot in their birdwatch hour. Jo

Blog Post: What’s going on at Fairhaven haven?

Lets look at Fairhaven Fairhaven Lake has a unique history and is the third largest marine lake in the country. The partnership with Fylde council and heritage lottery funding to restore and maintain the historical and natural heritage of the site is t…

Blog Post: Breakfast Birdwatching

Autumn lockdown With the introduction of a second lockdown, the RSPB resurrected #BreakfastBirdwatch 8-9am weekday mornings where we can post sightings of the birds we see from our windows and share them with the online community. It didn’t matter where you live or how big or small your garden was, the #BreakfastBirdwatch community has been a source of great solace for all involved. Getting involved with a time specific Twitter hashtag means that you are safe in the knowledge that like minded people are also active, engaged and interested. It’s a great way to share, knowing that people with the same interest will see it and be engaged to ‘like’, chat and share experiences too. Great tits on feeder Jo Taylor One of the more positive things to emerge from the first lockdown earlier this year was the increased interest in nature. Restrictions on travel and instructions to stay at home, led to many people discovering, possibly for the first time, places close to home, where they became more engaged with the world around them. For some, bird song was so much more apparent and wonderous, while others simply spent more time in their gardens or local parks and noticed the beauty of the spring buds as they blossomed. Autumn is no less a wondrous season, and being near the coast means that migrations are visible. The arrival and daily movements of pink footed geese are noticeable, as are movements of the flocks of wading birds on the estuary with the changing of the tide. In our gardens the bird visitors may change too. Whilst we may not always notice the other birds will. Many of “our” blackbirds will move further south for the winter, often to Spain, they will be replaced in our gardens by birds from Scandanavia and Continental Europe. Whilst many will remain faithful. As we have recently moved office I decided to put a feeder in the hedge just outside of the window. This attracted a few birds to check it out the very same day, with a hedge sparrow being the very first to use it, who would have thought? Now 6 weeks on this feeder requires filling at least 3 times a week and attracts house sparrow (quite a number), hedge sparrow , robin , blackbird, great tit , blue tit , coal tit , wood pigeon (for the crumbs) and jackdaw (who knock it off the branch). All of this in a privet hedge at Fairhaven Lake. Our faithful juvenile blackbird visiting the feeder outside the office Jo Taylor One of the most rewarding things we can do is to feed the birds. Whether you have a garden, a backyard or a balcony in a block of flats there’s almost always somewhere to hang a feeder or a fat-ball! And if you’re spending more time indoors, this at least allows a little bit of nature to come to you. There’s nothing better than sitting with a nice hot brew watching the local birds coming and going and taking advantage of the easy food source. As well as the birds previously mentioned there’s a good chance of seeing chaffinch , goldfinch , long tailed tits and the occasional nuthatch or greenfinch maybe. So whilst #BreakfastBirdwatch may have run its course with the ending of the lockdown, winter is a time more than ever that the birds appreciate that extra bit of easy food, especially as the days become colder and shorter. Both in my small garden at home and the feeder outside the office window suet is a very popular choice, however our Twitter surveys suggest that sunflower hearts are also a popular choice. Whilst the Discovery Centre shop is still closed bird food and feeders can be purchased online at the RSPB shop or at our other Lancashire store at Leighton Moss when the shop will re-open on 2 December. It’s great to enjoy nature from your own home, so happy feeding, you never know you may spot something rather more unusual and if you do then please do let us know. Jo

Blog Post: Duck spotting

It’s a strange time for us all at the moment, but it’s lovely to hear how much nature helps lift your spirits through lockdown. We know for many of you, our Ribble Estuary reserves are a big part of providing enjoyment and solace in the natural world, so with that in mind we have a bit of a duck challenge for you this week… Fairhaven Lake Scaup and tufted duck For visitors to Fairhaven in winter the sight of bobbing black and white ducks upon the lake will be a familiar one. These birds are tufted ducks and each year we see sizeable flocks arrive to spend the colder months with us here at Lytham. Tufted ducks ate relatively common birds and can be found on lakes and large ponds across the country but if you look a little more closely you may spot something unusual among the flotilla of ‘tufties’… This last two weeks has seen a small number of scaup mingling with the tufted duck flock. Scaup are scarce visitors here and, like their more familiar cousins, they are a diving duck and they do look very similar to the tufties. So how can you tell the difference between these handsome birds? Both of these ducks are referred to as “aythya” ducks, derived from the Greek word “aithuia” which is a term for sea-dwelling ducks. Scaup are a truer sea duck than the tufted duck, breeding on Scandanavian coasts and mountain lakes, whereas the tufties take it a little gentler and are more commonly seen on lakes and ponds albeit fairly near the coast. Tufted ducks form larger flocks in winter and it is generally around this time that the scaup make their migrations southward from Scandanavia and Iceland and some join these wintering flocks on inland lakes. Scaup are generally a slightly larger duck and have a much rounder head and a somewhat longer neck. As the name suggests tufted duck have a tufted crest on their head which the scaup lack. Both ducks are similarly coloured. The females of both are brown; scaup females lack the tuft on the back of their heads and have a large white patch at the base of their bill. Female tufted duck can also have a similar white patch but it is much more pronounced in scaup. The males of each may look similar to one another at first glance too. Again, scaup lack the crest and have a greener gloss to their head whereas tufted ducks are much more purple, though this is often difficult to see. The drakes of both ducks have white flanks (sides) but the most easily seen difference is in the colour of their backs – tufted ducks have a black back whereas male scaups have a pale grey back. Both scaup and tufted duck can be seen at Fairhaven Lake and Marshside at the moment. There may well be more scaup dotted amongst tufted duck groups in other local parks and lakes – next time you go out why not see if you can spot one? If you do, then let us know where and when! Female scaup on Fairhaven Lake Jo Taylor Female tufted duck Ben Hall RSPB-images Male tufted duck Grahame Madge RSPB-images Male scaup Mike Malpass NEWSFLASH: There’s also been a “new recruit” spotted in the form of a male pochard . This little guy is un-mistakable as he has a red head. Again pochard are diving ducks which is the likely reason why he has joined this group. There was a male pochard on the lake this time last year too, so it’s plausible that this is the same bird. If you see any other types of ducks on the lake then please do let us know, we do get the occasional rarity, I think that this year could be our year? Mallard, pochard and tufted duck Jo Taylor Ribble Discovery Centre Work continues in the Ribble Discovery Centre, with the building now ready for some internal re-construction. Please bear with us the moment as we do not currently have a telephone number. For all bird and other wildlife enquiries please ring our wildlife enquiries hotline on 01767 693690 (9:30-16:30, Monday to Friday) For all shop related matters please click here A sneaky look in the centre! Jo Taylor Marshside We’re delighted that the car park and both hides are open daily, 8.30am-5pm, along with all the trails. You’ll notice we’ve made some changes to help keep you and our team safe: When visiting us, please observe current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and follow all signage. Hesketh Out Marsh We’re pleased to say the car park is open, along with the trails. As with Marshside, please be mindful that it has limited capacity and can quickly become full in fine weather. D o consider visiting at less busy times or have an alternative destination in mind if we are full when you get here. Please do not park along Dib Road, as it causes an obstruction for our neighbours and other visitors. On-site, please observe current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and follow all signage. Jo

Blog Post: Renovations at Fairhaven haven.

Ribble Discovery Centre renovations. Things are moving rapidly at the Ribble Discovery Centre (RDC). The contractors have now moved in and the internal walls are down already. The suspended ceiling is also gone exposing the original roof beams. It is deemed that these will remain on view, albeit I hoping the dangling cobwebs will be removed! The new office has taken shape, it’s much more spacious and warmer than the old one. Last week it was great to meet with Alison Butterworth from Radio Lancashire and explain what’s going on and just how exciting it is to be part of these major renovations works. You can tune in here , the feature starts 24:20 minutes in. In other Fairhaven Lake news a female scaup was observed on the lake last week, in with the tufted ducks. Scaup like tufted ducks are diving ducks, probably explaining why this one has allied itself to them. Keep your eye out for it and if it’s spotted again then please let us know. Twitter @RSPB_Ribble Facebook @ RSPB Ribble Estuary The new RDC The RSPB building the pagoda building was the original boathouse. The existing RSPB Ribble Discovery Centre opened in 1997 delivering outdoor education for visiting schools, a retail space and visitor centre. The renovated Pagoda Building will become the “Welcome Hub” of the the rejuvenated Fairhaven Lake site, housing a larger RSPB shop and visitor centre. New informative and eye-catching site interpretation is being created along with other exciting developments such as a 360 degree rotating kiosk and a free downloadable app packed with information about the area. After a hugely successful 2019 with visiting school numbers on the up we were looking forward to boosting this further this year, however with Covid hitting hard, all school visits were cancelled from March. With the new development, the classroom for visiting schools will be located in a purpose-built classroom within the Isaac Dixon boathouse, on the edge of the lake. The boathouse will also offer watersports sessions to schools and groups and there will be ample toilet and shower facilities, which will make a huge difference to our school visits. With expected completion of the buildings set for spring 2021 it will be perfect timing as we are hoping to be able to welcome educational visits back to the site at that time. We are currently taking bookings from April onwards and have already received a number of booking enquiries and requests, which is really encouraging. For more information about school visits please click here. The Fairhaven HLF Project The Ribble Discovery Centre renovation is just part of the Fairhaven HLF project. Supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund, the project aims to conserve and restore Fairhaven’s heritage buildings and landscape, improve the lake’s infrastructure and water quality, and provide an exciting new programme of events. What else is being restored? The restoration objectives focus on 4 key elements; buildings, landscape, lake and activity. Key features of building works include: External and internal restoration of the pavilion café building (original 1896 golf club house) Internal development of the current Isaac Dixon Boathouse (1920’s) to support water sports and community activity Restoration works to the Pagoda Building (1901) which is currently home to the RSPB Ribble Discovery Centre to enable a wider range of park heritage interpretation and act as main welcome centre to the park Key features of the landscape works include: Improved facilities for tennis and bowls Changed planting to restore historic vistas Restoration of the Japanese Gardens Creation of full perimeter pathway Forest School Island and Winter Bird Roost New adventure play area Key features of the lake works include: Lake dredging and aeration Lake edge innovative pilot projects Reconstruction of the Lake Inlet/Outlet (courtesy of the Sea Defence Project) Key features of the Activity and Interpretation include: Information points around the gardens to highlight the historic importance of Thomas Mawson’s original design and highlight the site’s international importance for wildlife Education offer expanded in partnership with RSPB and others Increased volunteer activity – in partnership with FOFL and UR Potential Significant increase in water based activity – kayaks, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, open water swimming Arts/Crafts/workshop activity delivered by private partners with links to hard-to-reach groups Annual events programme to include outdoor theatre, performance arts, sailing regatta and much more How you can support/get involved The project is looking for volunteers to support a wide range of activity. For more information contact Julie.vale@fylde.gov.uk You can follow the projects progress with details of events on Twitter with @Fairhaven HLF and on Facebook through the Friends of Fairhaven Lake page, and you can download the landscape masterplan here.

Blog Post: Time for change

Ribble Discovery Centre It’s been all systems go at the Ribble Discovery Centre since the beginning of September with the green light to clear the building in readiness for the re-furbishment. Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund , the Ribble Discovery Centre is being completely refurbished, along with other facilities and activities at Fairhaven Lake, as part of an exciting Fylde Council project. So, I have made numerous trips up and down the motorways relocating much of our existing stock to our other Lancashire store at the fantastic Leighton Moss reserve in Silverdale and also the other way taking education resources for storage at the wonderful Marshside . Many of you will be relieved to learn that the interactive estuary board which has lived in the centre for many years has been collected by the other half of our team at from Marshside so watch out for its resurrection somewhere on the reserve and the albatross which had been “hanging” around has been be adopted by Julie at Fylde Council. We are all super excited about the re-developments and have all pulled together as one team across the Northwest to aid in the preparation for the centre’s up and coming makeover. This means we that the Discovery Centre will be closed until March 2021. School and youth group bookings are being taken for April 2021 onwards. In the meantime, all our great bird care and feeding products and gifts can be purchased from our other Lancashire store at the fabulous Leighton Moss or from our online shop . The fencing to cordon off the buildings will be in place in the next few days. The pathway around the far side of the lake will still be in use but the pathway around the buildings will be closed off and the renovation works will be commencing very soon afterwards. The sea wall and promenade at Lytham is till worth a visit though. The sounds of the oystercatcher and redshank are unanimous with the estuary and hundreds of shelduck have been seen dabbling on the mudflats at high tide. There is also always the chance of seeing passing migrants, such as wheatear on the saltmarsh and linnets are often seen and heard around the dunes. Flocks of waders toing and froing across the estuary are also a fabulous spectacle. Marshside Over on the other side of the estuary at Marshside the skeins of pink footed geese are ever increasing as is the number of over wintering ducks. Numbers of wigeon , teal , gadwall and shoveler are on the up daily. Many are still in eclipse or juvenile plumage, just to test you. Snipe were also evident close to Nel’s hide earlier this week and there are good numbers of other waders too. Great white, cattle and little egret have all been observed recently and there has been 4 spoonbill in residence at Hesketh out Marsh. Snoozing teal (Jo Taylor) Spoonbill (Stuart Darbyshire) Sandgrounders hide has also had a make over. The old office at the back has been removed and the space has been opened up. The woodwork has had a lick of paint and it looks fabulous. Sandgrounders hide (Wes Davies) and male shoveler (Jo Taylor) There are social distancing measures clearly displayed in place in the hides, please adhere to these for your own and everyone else’s safety. Thank you for your support and we’ll see you at the Discovery Centre when our transformation is complete, we will keep updating as regularly as is possible and we look forward to seeing you all in spring 2021 with a shiny new shop and visitor centre. Follow us on: Twitter: @RSPB_Ribble Facebook: RSPBRibbleEstuary Jo

Blog Post: Breakfast Birdwatch, “Observations from my window” and Wild Challenge

This week we have been in touch with all our volunteers and we are pleased to report that they are all doing well. We are all making the most of the time at home to observe the birds and wildlife in our garden. This week we have two guest blogs. One from our retail assistant Liz who has written an account of the bird antics in her garden and one from Ellie, who has written about her sunflower competition with her brother Sammy. Views from my window – Part 1 Although I haven’t got a huge or horticulturally diverse garden, I am lucky enough to have fairly active feeding station and a selection of regular avian visitors to keep me entertained during this time of restricted outdoor activity. So far this week, I have managed to see blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, starlings, a pair of greenfinches , goldfinches , wrens , dunnocks , rooks, magpies, jackdaws, collared doves , wood pigeons and, surprisingly, several feral pigeons that are generally absent from my list of garden spots. In addition, I looked out the other day to see what might have been causing my dog to be somewhat anxious to find a beautiful kestrel sitting on my fence. I have never spotted one anywhere in, over, or near my garden before so this was quite exciting! He didn’t hang about for long and it hasn’t put off my regular feathered friends from dining in my garden. I am fairly new to the world of birds so having more time on my hands has enabled me to spend longer observing their habits as oppose to simply identifying them. Dunnock Grahame Madge RSPB-images Goldfinch Chris Gomersall RSPB-images #1 The Entertainer I have to give a shout out to the humble wood pigeons that are currently my number one for entertainment value! Being ‘that time of year’, there are all sorts of antics going on and the remains of an old climbing frame has provided the perfect platform for them to perform in full view. The ritual seems to start with Mrs Woody strutting around the grass seemingly ignoring Mr Woody as he follows her around head lowered doing a dainty little skip every few paces. After a few minutes off they both go to a nearby tree where they sit at an acceptable distance apart whilst she (presumably) decides whether he is a worthy suitor. Everything goes quiet for a while after that, they fly off separately, change trees, come down for some spilled seed, I make a cup of tea or whatever before the grand finale begins. Mr & Mrs Woody reconvene on top of my climbing frame, at a safe distance apart to start with. Mr Woody hops around and preens himself, showing what a fine specimen he is! Once suitably impressed, Mrs Woody joins him and they hop closer and closer until they are snuggled side by side; and then comes the most unexpected behaviour…he feeds her! You can see him regurgitating food and she takes the food from well into his gaping beak – quite extraordinary! Whilst she is feeding she is nuzzling closer and closer until she finally accepts his advances and the deed is done. Quite amusingly Mr Woody then literally turns his back on her and hops off to go about his business which normally involves eating!! My (grown-up) daughter and I usually put voices to the action and end up in stitches – Oh the joys of social lockdown. Liz We are also encouraging the #BreakfastBirdwatch. This takes place between 8-9am every morning. Sit back with a cuppa and your breakfast and enjoy the birds from the window. Let us know what you see on our Twitter page @RSPB_Ribble and Facebook @RSPBRibbleEstuary . RSPB Flower Power Wild Challenge Me and my brother decided we wanted to grow something during our time at home, so we checked out the RSPB Flower Power Wild Challenge. However being siblings we decided to make it into a competition. Why not try it yourself? It would be brilliant to have beautiful sunflowers everywhere to brighten things up. Step 1. You need; peat free compost, sunflower seeds, trowels and pots Step 2. Fill your pots with compost Step 3. Make a small hole in the compost with your finger and pop the seed in. Cover it up with compost again. Step 4. Water the seed and find a cool spot inside that provides light but protects it from the frost. When the seeds start to grow we will put them into bigger pots and put them outside and tie them to a stick so they don’t fall over. When they start to flower we will measure them and let you know which variety grew the tallest and which of us won the competition. Ellie

Blog Post: Get Ready for a Wild Challenge

Well, in this time where we are all adjusting to working and learning from home, there are fantastic opportunities to re-engage with nature. Whether that is in your garden, what you can see from your window or even what you see in your allotted daily exercise time. I have appreciated the wildlife in my garden more than ever before, taking more time to notice the pair of blackbirds in my garden that not only come for the tit bits dropped from the bird table but also to collect nesting materials. I’ve also been taking part in #BreakfastBirdwatch which is a great way to start the day and we’d really like to know what you are seeing in you’re gardens, there’s variety everywhere. There has also been lots of butterflies flitting around, such as small tortoiseshell and red admiral. Check out our Twitter and let us know what you’ve seen @RSPB_Ribble or Facebook page @RSPBRibbleEstuary. The learning team here at the Ribble and at Leighton Moss have been checking out the Wild Challenge activities and we will share our experiences doing them here on our blog pages. this one is from Jayne one of the Learning Assistants at Leighton Moss, who has decided to undertake the “Let it Grow” challenge with her daughter. For further information about Wild Challenge check out our page here. Jo Let it grow, let it grow… So spring has sprung and whilst we are at home trying to find things to keep ourselves and our children occupied, it’s a great opportunity to give RSPB Wild Challenge activities a try. Sign up now at www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge. Don’t feel that just because you don’t have children that this blog and the activities aren’t for you, whatever your age you can experience and help nature in your own garden, from your window or whilst out on your daily exercise walk (whilst observing social distancing guidance) There are many studies that show that time in nature can improve our mental and physical wellbeing, which we all need right now. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing activities you can have a go at, giving you some top tips about Giving Nature a Home at home and generally helping to lift your spirits. Last night I saw a message from my local council in South Lakeland that our green bin collections would cease for the moment to allow them to concentrate on refuse and recycling. Therefore the first Wild Challenge activity my daughter and I are going to do is probably the easiest of all…Let it grow. The clue is in the title, let a small part or all of your lawn grow and let it go wild. www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-families/family-wild-challenge/activities/let-it-grow/ The long grass will be great for insect life and you can keep a weekly photo diary to show how long and wild your very own mini jungle gets. If you decide to go for it and let your whole lawn grow then maybe you could mow a path through it, or create a maze, the possibilities are only limited by your creativity! So what can you do now to prepare to let it grow… Decide on the area of lawn that you are going to let go wild. Make signs and maybe put up a string fence or similar to let other family members know what you’re doing and remind them not to mow it whilst it’s growing. Take the first picture for your diary, measure the length of the grass today on day 1 and decide when you are going to take the next picture and measure it again, weekly is probably best. Then let it grow! Hopefully this sunny spring weather continues and you can have a go at this or other wild challenges. There will be more from us over the coming weeks so watch out, we will try and include challenges that can be done indoors too or adapted for a window sill or yard. To finish a quote from Rachel Carson the author of the book Silent Spring: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Jayne Buchanan Learning and Visitor Assistant Main photo tile Grahame Madge RSPB-Images