The RSPB – National Treasurers series
The RSPB's work is driven by a passionate belief that we all have a responsibility to protect birds and the environment. That's what a National Treasurer is all about. Bird populations reflect the health of the planet on which our future depends.
Your support is vital to the future of birds and the places where they live. You can join the RSPB to do your bit here.
Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire
Imagine you and your partner are the only ones on an island, stranded throughout the winter storms. You cook using gas bottles from the mainland, you take care of your own sheep come lambing time and your main companions are seals, rabbits and gannets on a nearby rock.
Such is the life that Greg and Lisa Morgan lead on Ramsey Island, a rock separated from the Welsh mainland by fearsome tides. Lisa and Greg were new to lambing six years ago but were taught by a local farmer, Derek Rees, who also brings their supplies in by boat.
During the warmer months, they welcome visitors from the St David’s area, who come to sample the unique atmosphere of this wild island and RSPB reserve.
The nearby island of Grassholm has 10% of the world’s population of gannets and Lisa and Greg monitor the population there, when the weather and tides allow them to make the crossing.
In birding terms Ramsey Island itself is also significant. Last year it was home to the only pair of lapwings in Pembrokeshire and it recorded its highest ever population of guillemots, at 4000 pairs. The critically endangered Balearic shearwater breeds on the island.
The best time to see seabirds at Ramsey is June. Come at any time and you’ve a pleasing decision to make – a boat trip around the island shows you hundreds of seabirds nesting on the cliffs, which are up to 120m high. You’ll be in good company because a large number of seals make their home on the beaches and rocks around the island.
Or, opt for an island landing and you are free to roam on a three-and-a-half-mile circular path. Keep an eye out for the red deer which live here too. Just don’t expect many people – apart from Lisa and Greg and a small number of RSPB volunteers and visiting scientists, the only humans you will meet are likely to be those who come with you on the small boat.
T 07836 535733
The reserve sticks out into the English Channel just north of Rye, making it a brilliant place for observing migrant birds such as wheatears and swallows.
Its shingle banks have built up over 5000 years and it’s classified as our only desert because it’s huge, dry and has very little vegetation.
As the RSPB’s most established reserve, Dungeness is also a National Nature Reserve. There is an excellent visitor centre where beginners to birdwatching can get plenty of advice.
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There’s also a strong programme of events, too. Children can borrow a Wildlife Explorer rucksack and follow a nature trail, or see what they can find pond dipping.
Don’t miss a trip to the top of the old lighthouse for fabulous views across the reserve.
T 01797 320588
Forsinard Flows, Sutherland
It was given the name ‘the flows’ by the Vikings and it’s as close to Iceland and the Arctic as it is to London.
Visit in modern times and you find the largest expanse of blanket bog anywhere on earth. Arctic birds and species from further south gather here in huge numbers during its very short summer.
Rare black-throated divers mate for life and return to the same loch each year to breed but their nests are easily flooded and many pairs only succeed in raising one live chick every three years. The RSPB helps them at Forsinard Flows by building mini floating islands which keep nests dry as the water rises.
Come here in summer, when the days are long and there’s a chance to see golden plovers, hen harriers and greenshanks.
Look close to the ground, too, for carnivorous plants such as sundew and butterwort.
T 01641 571225
The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall
As livestock grazed these areas in smaller numbers, the conditions became less favourable for the insects and larvae the choughs fed on. The last successful nesting pair was seen in Cornwall in 1947. Roll on to 2001 when a small number of the birds arrived, it’s thought from Ireland.
The RSPB has worked in partnership with Natural England on the Cornwall Chough Project, encouraging farmers to manage habitats and safeguard nests. More than 46 youngsters have fledged from Cornish nests.
Your best chance of seeing Cornish choughs is on the cliffs of the Lizard and Land’s End peninsulas. Head for the tip of the Lizard and walk the South West Coast Path towards Kynance Cove.
T 01767 693690 (birds and wildlife advice)
Minsmere RSPB Reserve
If you go to Minsmere RSPB Reserve you’ll find both an amazing coastal landscape, and superb campsites close by.
Minsmere is almost 10 square kilometres of reed bed, grassland and lowland heath, lying between the well-to-do seaside towns of Southwold and Aldeburgh within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.
The area has 100 species of resident bird, including 30% of Britain’s breeding population of great bittern. It also has adders, otters and an unusual breed of horse: Polish koniks were brought into the reserve 12 years ago and help to maintain the wetland by grazing.
The area is rich in history too – Minsmere has a tiny chapel, all that’s left of an abbey founded in 1182. During WWII this stretch of Suffolk was flooded as a defence measure and ultimately this lead to the RSPB taking over the land in 1947.
This part of Suffolk is rich in places to visit if you enjoy walking in wild landscapes, from wetland to shingle, and you like good beer (visit the Adnams brewery in Southwold), or good food (sit down at the communal table at Orford bakery to enjoy freshly baked bread and home-made soup).
T 01728 648281
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