With the 40th anniversary of the group’s founding coming up in 2012, we decided we wanted to celebrate our birthday with a special evening for our own members, but also to use the occasion to share our enthusiasm for birds and nature with the wider public. So with the Mersey estuary on our doorstep and one of the country’s largest cathedrals looming right above it, what more natural than to link the two with a Big Tower Birdwatch event, themed around migration !
We advertised a free programme of events during the day, including birdwatching with an expert from the top of the cathedral tower, and for those who didn’t fancy two lifts and 100 plus stairs, we ran some guided walks in St James cemetery gardens, a woodland park right next to the cathedral, in an 18th century quarry that eventually became a 19th century cemetery. To keep the children (and their parents) happy, we organised some indoor craft activities in the cathedral itself, and we also had pinecone birdfeeders on the go, as well as lots of literature about birds, migration routes and so forth to take away.
When September 22nd finally came, we had a perfect autumn day, with clear skies and sunshine encouraging lots of people to turn out and join us. 180 people climbed the tower to see what was about, and Jeff Clarke was able to spot not only meadow pipits and swallows, but also pink footed geese, a mute swan, several buzzards and even a distant osprey flying south. The cathedral has a resident pair of peregrines, who were showing well, as well as a pair of sparrow hawks. Over a hundred people also joined Richie the Ranger in the park, where they were able to spot a variety of woodland birds and butterflies (not to mention those peregrines again) as well as hearing tales of the graveyard.
Overall, we felt very pleased with the numbers who came along. Perhaps a third were members of our own group, or the RSPB nationally, but for many the chance to go up the cathedral tower had clearly been a big attraction, and it gave us the opportunity to talk a bit about the RSPB, as well as gather signatures for the contact sheets and the marine conservation zone petitions.
The publicity in advance of the day, through flyers, press releases, website mentions and local radio, also meant that the RSPB was being talked about a lot, so we were able to reach a very wide audience.
In the evening we continued the theme, with an excellent illustrated talk for our members on migration linked to Merseyside by Jeff Clarke, as well as a splendid celebration cake. Feedback afterwards has been really positive, both on the daytime and evening sessions, and one recent member wrote, “Just to demonstrate the impact of the day, let me tell you a story. On Sunday afternoon I still had all the thoughts of the day roaming around my head so I decided to go down to Hale Head to see which feathered friends may be there. I counted 18 species and one year ago I am sure that I would not have been able to do that. The Liverpool group has helped to keep me motivated. While wandering along the Mersey Way I encountered a couple also with binoculars so I made a comment along the lines of 'snap'! It turned out they are also members of the Liverpool group (Anna & Gavin by name) and they too had been inspired by Saturday's events to come down to Hale to look out for migrants. So, we had a chat about the event and then the wonders of migration. Don't forget that your actions are like pebbles. You throw the 'pebbles of information and experience' into the RSPB pool and then we take the ripples and spread the word.”