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Make virtual balloon race a soaring triumph; Nature Notes.

The RSPB's Race for Nature is a balloon race with a difference - there are no real balloons!

Race for Nature is a virtual balloon race - where people can have all the fun of a traditional balloon race but without harming the environment.

Traditional balloon races can have devastating effects on our wildlife, as even balloons which are released miles inland can be blown away, littering the countryside and leaving debris in the sea.

Every year, many species of marine animals, including seabirds, marine mammals and turtles die painful deaths from becoming tangled in marine debris or ingesting marine debris they have mistaken for food. The virtual balloon race will be 100 per cent environmentally friendly. Not only will no burst balloons litter the landscapes, but the money raised will help the RSPB work for birds and wildlife.

With all the seasonal celebrations, wildlife can be put at great risk. We don't want to stop people from having fun but we do want to remind people that there are more wildlife friendly ways to celebrate - such as taking part in the virtual race. We will release all the virtual balloons from RSPB Middleton Lakes nature reserve on November 15.

You can personalise your balloon by choosing the size, shape and even the thickness of the rubber. A larger, more aerodynamic balloon may fly faster - but it also is at a greater risk of exploding! Balloons made of latex rubber are notoriously vulnerable. So if you chose thin rubber to make your balloon fly higher and therefore faster, your balloon could just explode if the wind speeds become excessive. But if your balloon is flying low towards rocky Earth, it could strike an electricity pylon or be burst by a church spire. Choose your balloon carefully.

Where the balloons will fly to will all depend on the real weather during race week. Over the week of the race, our system will cleverly track where each balloon would have flown to according to the real BBC weather for the week. The wind will blow, the rain with fall and over the week the balloons will fly or fall. Whoever has the balloon that flies the farthest in one week will win PS1,500! And there are more great prizes for the runners up too. Tickets are now on sale and cost PS5 each, or 5 balloons for PS20. Balloons must be entered by Wednesday, November 14.

Throughout the race, you can track your balloon's progress online. The race finishes on November 22. The winners will be informed and announced within a week of the race ending. Participants must be 16 or over to enter.

To buy virtual balloons and enter RSPB's Race for Nature, visit: https:// index.php?r=site/index.

People can also buy balloons at RSPB Middleton Lakes nature reserve.

Fen Gerry, RSPB Birmingham
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 8, 2012
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