RSPB’s Morwenna Alldis encourages families to celebrate Father’s Day this year by enjoying a special visit to their local RSPB nature reserve. She also reveals her top picks of some of nature’s best, worst, and most embarrassing animal dads.
Sunday 19 June is a chance to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to the supportive dads and father figures in our lives, and hopefully this Father’s Day we can give them a physical hug too. Maybe your dad gives the best pep talks, never fails to make you laugh, cooks the biggest and tastiest Sunday roast, or is still the most reliable taxi service in town (even though you’re all grown up) - this Father’s Day give him the most precious gift, time spent with you outdoors in the summer sunshine.
Photo above: Dad and daughter looking at their bug hunting discoveries by Andy Purcell (rspb-images.com)
As nature blooms treat your dad to a walk at one of our RSPB England Nature reserves. Find your nearest here. In June our reserves are bursting with colour and new life and we’re running some fantastic nature-themed events that would make the perfect wild gift for your father figures.
Here’s a selection of what’s on offer:
Photo above: View looking over gravel pit, Dungeness RSPB reserve by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Photo above: Glastonbury Tor overlooking reedbed and wetlands at RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve, Somerset by Colin Wilkinson (rspb-images.com)
Photo above: Clifftop viewpoint at RSPB Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire by Michael Harvey (rspb-images.com)
Family Wildlife Walk – Wed 1 June, 11am-1pm
Nightjars and other heathland wildlife –Tue 7 & 21, 8pm-11pm
Summer Wildlife Walk – Tues 14 & 28, 10am-12.30pm
Bird ringing demonstrations – Thur 16 & Thur 23, 10am-1pm
Plant ID for beginners – Mon 20, 10am-12.30pm
Birds for beginners – Fri 3, Thur 9, Tue 21, Wed 29, 10am-12.30pm
Suffolk Day – free entry for Suffolk residents – Tue 21, 9am-5pm
Minsmere 4x4 Safari – 24 June, 9am-12noon
Insects for Beginners – Sat 25, 10am-12.30pm
Hire a Guide Walks – Sun 26, 10am-1pm
Photo above: View of RSPB Minsmere's North Hide from Wildlife Lookout by Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
Nature's Best and Worst Dad's
Nature is also buzzing with new animal dads this month, desperately grappling with round the clock feeding demands, and overly adventurous feathery, furry, slimy, and scaly juveniles, getting into all sorts of bother. Here are our top picks of some of nature’s best, worst, and most embarrassing animal dads:
Photo above: Male ruff by Ruff by Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
1. Most embarrassing dad dresser: Ruff – the flamboyant breeding plumage of this large sandpiper, can’t fail to turn heads. In fact, it’s named after its plumage, thought to resemble the white neck ruffs worn in the Elizabethan period. Ruff breed between May-June and the male’s neck plumage and top of the head tufts can range in colour from black to white, midnight blue, fawn and oche, with an orange face. Whilst these jazzy neck feathers are affective at warding off rival males and attracting the eye of a mate, any resulting offspring would most certainly march dad ruff right back to the nest to change into more suitably toned-down attire.
Photo above: Mayfly by Ruff by Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
2. Best Dad dancer: Mayfly – After shedding the skin of their nymph stage in the water, mayflies only live for a couple of hours and with one purpose – to breed. Clouds of males take to the air at dusk for the performance of their life. They fly forwards and upwards to a height and then let their bodies float down, repeating this yo-yo dance over and over to attract a female. But their love affair is short-lived after the crescendo, the male chivalrously guards his baby-mama, as she flies down to the water, lays her eggs and both parents die.
Photo above: Male red fox looking at camera by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
3. Most devoted dad: Red Fox – fox dads dote on their kits and enjoy actively playing with them. For the first month after the kits are born the vixen can’t leave the den, she needs to feed her little ones and keep them warm. Fox dad out every four-six hours to hunt for his worn out mate. After the kits are weened, the dog fox brings them food daily up until six months when the kits are meant to leve the den and learn to forage for themselves. But this adoring dad doesn’t go in for tough love, he buries food near to the den under twigs and leaves, to help teach them how to forage.
Photo above: Marsh harrier soaring through the sky by Les Bunyan (rspb-images.com)
4. Sportiest dad: Marsh Harrier - the largest of the harriers and true acrobats of the air. Watching the male’s sky-dance to win a mate and food-pass to their partner has the nature wow-factor. As the male approaches the nest with food he calls to the female who flies out to meet him. They move into position, the female almost hovering directly under the male, and with incredible timing and skill the male drops the food, just as the female flips over and catches the food upside down in her talons. Gold award for both mum and dad and their aerial gymnastics.
Photo above: Turtle dove perched on tree by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
5. Worst dad nest builder: Turtle dove – turtle dove nests are so flimsy, just a small collection of twigs, that if you stand underneath them you can see the eggs through the nest floor. Most turtle doves nest in hedgerows or scrub and prefer thorny plants like hawthorn. Sadly, turtle doves are the UK’s fastest declining bird, threatened with global extinction. Loss of food sources at their breeding sites, loss of suitable winter homes, disease and hunting on migration are among the causes. Find out how you can help the Operation Turtle Dove Project.
6. Best birthing partner: Male seahorse – did you know that seahorses, along with their relatives the pipefish and sea dragons, are the only male species to get pregnant and give birth? They still need to mate with a female – after a beautiful danceathon together which can last for several days, the female seahorse transfers her eggs carefully into the male’s brood pouch (like a kangaroo pouch), the male then fertilises them with his sperm. After around 20 days the male gives birth in a very dramatic show, jetting out hundreds of tiny baby seahorses from his pouch. Some species can birth over 1000 young at a time. But after the birth it’s job done, the babies have to fend for themselves and if they stick too close to dad they may become a tasty postnatal snack.
7. Best singing in the shower dad: Nightingale - Christina Rosetti wrote: “Hark! that's the nightingale, Telling the self-same tale Her song told when this ancient earth was young”. But Rosetti, like many poets before her, was wrong in referring to the singing nightingale as a she. It is the males who sing and can boast over 180 different songs in their catalogues. Researchers at Freie Universitat Berlin have discovered that the complexity of the males’ song transmits important info to potential mates, such as his health, where he’s from, and whether he’ll be a hardworking and committed dad.
Photo above: Male nightingale singing in a tree by Graham Goodall (rspb-images.com)
The RSPB would like to say thanks to all the dads and father figures out there – whatever your place in the animal kingdom. We hope you get to enjoy some special time with you children (small or big) in nature this Father’s Day.
Photo above: Dad carrying young daughter on his shoulders, walking through a woodland by Leila Balin (rspb-images.com)
Find out how you can help the nature on your doorstep, here. To help us continue our vital work and give nature a home, please donate or become an RSPB member - we couldn't do any of it without your generosity and support.
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