I’m so very grateful to have a job that allows me to travel the world. When I travel, I try to take a few extra days to explore the natural area locally before returning home. Experiencing the native flora and fauna always proves rewarding. The UK is one of those places I so enjoy. On the last trip, I ventured south to Devon. This time, I’ve chosen to go north of London for a few days - but more on that later.
How do I choose where I go to explore? The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a big part of my planning process. Those who live in the UK are quite fortunate to have such a lovely organization. The RSPB has parks all over the UK for exploring birds and other wildlife. To me, their tag line, “Give Nature a Home”, couldn’t get any better. Check out their website and explore for yourself. Many of the parks have visitor centers with helpful volunteers who answer questions and share more about the local wildlife. Some even have little cafe’s for tea, coffee, sometimes even full meals. On one particularly dreadful cold and drab day, I stopped at RSPB Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire to see those adorable Atlantic Puffins, beautiful Razorbills and many other birds along the north coast. I was quite happy to discover their lovely visitor center and café. I was able to have my (at the time) 79-year-old mother enjoy the warmth there as I fought the cold winds down the trail out to the ocean where I could spot my colorful little friends. She, on the other hand, was able to spot those same little colorful friends on the live feed on the big screen in the visitor center. We were both delighted that she could spend her time learning from the educational displays and enjoying tea in the warmth of the visitor center.
On this trip, I chose 3 RSPB sites in close proximity to one another. My key goal for this trip: see the gorgeous Common Kingfisher. Since this was winter, the chances were obviously diminished for seeing the Kingfishers, but I wasn’t daunted. I hired a car and planted myself in a convenient lodge between them. Several locals had told me there was a fair chance of spotting the Kingfishers at RSPB Rye Meads, just north of London. The winter had been mild and birds around the English countryside had shown signs of some early spring behaviors.
Lucky for me, and the animals, many RSPB sites provide birding blinds. Blinds of course allow you to witness the many glorious birds without ever disturbing them. Once I arrived at Rye Meads, I walked the trail to the bird blind closest to the location most likely to see them – and see them I did! Not only one, but two, were busily flying in and out of the sandbank nest cavity – likely trying to determine if it was suitable for their nesting. I was in heaven! I spent the morning enthralled by the Kingfishers, then exploring some of the many other spots. I also caught a glimpse of a handsome fox meandering through the park just beyond the Kingfisher activity. I was also able to see - and experience the unforgettable sound of - a Mute Swan at takeoff. I couldn't help but think, to other birds, this must be to them like the difference between a 787 and a turboprop to us!) Also along the way I discovered the Tufted Duck, Gadwalls, Greylag geese and more.
I stopped so many times just to take in the beauty of the green everywhere – it was a sight for sore eyes. I stopped to listen to the stream and recorded a video of the water rushing over rising foliage underneath. I spotted an unsuspecting male pheasant and got a quick glimpse at a few other birds including a little Treecreeper. But otherwise, neither people nor birds shared my quiet morning meander along the 2 mile trail. It was just perfect to focus on the beauty and other lovely sounds of nature that I may miss while focused on the singing birds. It reminded me to take time to admire the trees, the gorgeous colors of the season, and the simple but soothing sounds of a babbling brook.
Three RSPB parks, three different personalities and experiences, it’s all here – and many thanks to the RSPB for bringing it to us. I’m now a card-carrying member of the RSPB, and now armed with my Member’s guide, I look forward to the many new parks I will one day explore. And, whether you’re a foreigner like me or from the UK, I do hope that you get the chance to experience the UK’s beauty, wildlife and these lovely parks for yourself.
Please remember to support your local wildlife carer/rehabilitator and reach out to them for any wildlife in need of care. Blessings …