We were recently invited to the UK by the RSPB to give a talk at their headquarter, the Lodge. In addition we had a small bird hide workshop and visited a few of their reserves. The aim of our trip was also to look into the possibility of new bird hides that could cater to a diversified group of birders. That is both birders, birdwatchers (yes, there is a difference), bird photographers, sea watchers and more generally nature interested people. In our norwegian projects we have sought to make a series of bird hide types that will do just that. The idea is simple: you can't fit everyone in the same box. We are grateful to be invited to the UK to share knowledge and ideas. We returned to Norway much more inspired ourselves. As with many birding adventures, this one too turned out to be both more educational and inspirational then we expected!
On our recent trip we have been very fortunate to witness an important part of the future. No less! Everyone who pays a little attention to the state of nature knows that it is under an immense pressure from human development. Nature too often looses. A wide range of species are suffering from loss of habitat. Nature need us to be more clever.
Being an eager birder for many years I knew a fair bit of the work of bird conservation organization RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Still, after seeing the dedication and detailed knowledge behind RSPB reserve projects, I am left with a very positive sense of peoples ability to produce niceness! They are in fact showing us the shape of things to come: It is the necessary making of concentrated and highly productive nature. It is man made eco systems. People have become very good at producing for consumption. This happens at the expense of nature, and we simply need to improve our skills and our ways of treating nature. Experiencing the RSPBs making of nature is an uplifting experience. It provides an insight into how we should start producing and manage nature. Simply put, we need nature intact, and we can make that happen! Literally.
The front and the garage. For people and for nature.
Thanks to Mark Thomas at the RSPB hq and Adam Rowlands, Minsmere reserve manager, we stayed at a reserve cabin, and we got a tour of the reserve. It is great to see the wide variety of tasks the reserve team handles. From the business end to the massive job of managing the reserve. About 40 people man the reserve, and it serves a couple of hundred thousand people every year and bird wise it caters to a wide range of species and I don't know how many hundred thousands of birds. This is serious!
Bird city Minsmere - a densely inhabited place with a wide variety of species. In Norway the Black-tailed Godwits are very rare, in fact critically endangered. In Minsmere we saw many, and wide variety of other species.
Birders seemed to love the reserve too.
Marsh Harrier and Swifts over the reed bed.
Going aerial - tools for birder architects
At our architectural office we often need aerial views of places we do projects. When putting up a bird hide you need to know where the birds are and which routes they fly in the landscape. Location is the number one thing to consider. No point in setting up a bird hide at place where you will not find birds. Good aerials helps in the understanding of the landscape and habitats, and in turn the movement of birds. But, most importantly, good aerials help explain a project to other people involved. To be better birder architects we have acquired our own quadrocopter, letting us do our own aerials. A great tool. We just had to bring it on our UK tour. When Adam at Minsmere asked us if we could do a series of aerials for the reserve we happily provided that.
The Minsmere reserve from above:
Birds, birders & bird hides
We were very interested in studying the birder architecture in the UK. In Norway it was the lack of a type of architecture dedicated to birders that sparked our idea of being birder architects in the first place. In Norway it seemed the very same type of sheds where used for every occasion. We felt something was lacking, and that by diversifying the architecture for birders we could greatly improve the birding and the experience of nature. So we set out to design new concepts and then meet with people who where interested in making new things happen: Like a wind shelter / sea watch hide at Steilnes in Vardø, and a floating photo hide dedicated to close up views of arctic sea ducks and the bird tower and outdoor amphitheater catering to tour groups and school kids in addition to birders. Things are improving in Norway. I must admit too, that after seeing a few places in the UK, that it seems a wider variety of hides could be beneficial to birders, birdwatchers and nature interested people in the UK. However, the fact that great numbers of bird hides are in place is without a doubt fantastic! Very often the box bird hide is a great solution, but other times different approaches should be taken. This subject is still very much open to exploration!
Box bird hide and open type box bird hide
From the bird hide: The Bearded Tit - a bird that have eluded me many times. It really became quite the issue on mine and Martin Garners recent ´Pushing the Boundaries Tour´. Wherever we went the Bearded Tits seemed to hiding from me. And we did visit several places where we were told ´you will definantely see it here´. Like in Dorset or in Cley or Titchwell. On this trip too the tits where hard to find. We visited several places where they should have been, before finally seeing these über cool birds at Minsmere. Thank you Minsmere, for fixing the Bearded Tit issue! Got some pretty cool views, but did not manage any photos to brag with. For me this was still a trip highlight. In addition to the Savi´s Warbler found by our friend from Gullfest 2013, Jonny Rankin! I was second man on that rarity that day. Thnx Jonny for finding this bird! Check out the encounter story on his bird blog extraordinaire. Birding is cool.
Bearded Tit!!! A heavy crop, but still BT niceness. From the Island Mere bird hide.
We also saw loads of the very stylish Avocet and got close to the very loud Cetti´s Warbler.
The ultimate flying machine! Swifts are absolutely super stunning birds. Masters of flight - and very hard to photograph.
It was great meeting fellow birders and sharing ideas and inspiration. There are so many good stories to tell, and I am certain we will find time for them too. For now I would like to thank the very cool birders we met at the RSPB. Thanks Mark Thomas, Graham White, Graham Hirons, Adam Rowlands, Martin Davies and many other good people we met. Meeting Martin Garner again was of course nice as the RSPB hosted our ´Pushing the Boundaties talk´ at the Lodge lecture room. Thanks all birders and pro nature people we met on our UK tour!
Further explorations in architecture and nature:
I would like to make a proposal for an architectural contest, or in fact which ever profession is suited for the task, but this should concern architects! The RSPB have clearly shown us all how to make a ´bird city´.
Now: who can design the most productive and ecologically sound built environment, with people as a part of it? How to make a living environment with a high number of people combined with the highest possible biodiversity?
Could we even design urbanity with intact ecosystems catering to many species?
How dense could we populate a rich and sound ecosystem, without degenerating it?
We will be back. To be continued..