Your RSPB Local Group is the friendly face of the RSPB in the community and a great way to engage with nature near you. Over the next few weeks we'll be taking a closer look at RSPB Local Groups. This week Alasdair Mckee talks about one of the more unique ways his local group has helped him to experience wildlife.

Since RSPB Local Groups started in 1969, they have hosted over 80,000 wildlife talks and run more than 120,000 guided walks. These events have taken place in town halls, schools, nature reserves and, of course, the Mersey ferry. Yes, really.

It’s always exciting to show people just how much wildlife there is on their doorstep, even in a big city like Liverpool. So, on Saturday 12 October, RSPB Liverpool Local Group and 350 members of the public set sail in the Snowdrop, one of the ferries that usually does the commuter run across the river. As floating bird-hides go, it doesn’t exactly blend in – it’s a multi-colour tribute to WW1 “dazzle ship” camouflage, designed by artist Peter Blake. (He was involved with another local group in Liverpool – the Beatles! – and created the cover for their Sergeant Pepper album.)

The psychedelic pop art stylings didn’t put off the wildlife. We soon saw that Bella and Bertie, the famous golden Liver birds, had company. Peregrine falcons, which nest and roost in waterfront buildings, darted out to chase the local pigeons.

This year’s cruises have produced some impressive wildlife sightings with long-tailed skuas, razorbills, geese in their thousands and even a passing osprey. Birds weren’t the only attractions, with grey seals and porpoises also being spotted.

Commentary was provided by Chris Tynan, leader of RSPB Liverpool Local Group, who has mastered the art of juggling binoculars and a microphone. While he was keeping the passengers informed and entertained, other volunteers were providing activities for families with games and crafts for the youngsters.

Other members of Liverpool group were busy with a stall that somehow managed to hire out binoculars, hand out information leaflets, sell bird food and run a raffle all at the same time.

Thanks to their efforts the cruise was not only a great way of bringing nature to people, it was also a good way of raising funds for the RSPB to keep helping nature.

While they worked away below deck, Norman Sadler of RSPB Chester Local Group was bravely chucking chum – a bucketful of fish that had seen better days – overboard to bring the birds in closer. He was joined by other local volunteers who wandered round the boat helping people to spot and identify the wildlife.

Our three-hour trip took us out into Liverpool bay with fantastic views of the Sefton coast and the Welsh hills. By the time we headed back to shore in our Peter Blake boat, with the spectacular Liverpool skyline ahead of us, we really had enjoyed – wait for it – a magical mystery tour. I can’t wait for next year’s cruises.

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