London is full of life and greener than many think. This blog is a celebration of the nature of our Capital and a snapshot of the RSPB London team's work. Visit us weekly or sign up for our RSS feed to keep up to date on events, comment, campaigns and news.If you've got news of London's nature that you'd like to share, contact the RSPB London team on 020 7808 1260 or email email@example.com
A beautiful collection of rare eggs and a stuffed avocet are not usually things you come across at fetes and urban shows but I must congratulate the Metropolitan Police for a great stand. They were at the Lee Valley Wildlife Weekend showing the sort of illegal stuff they deal with.
It's nothing like those exciting TV detective shows. Their work is more mundane, but vital. A typical job would be inspecting development sites to ensure breeding birds aren't disturbed, or, checks on trees to ensure no illegal logging is taking place, with just the odd high profile case where ivory, eggs, animal hides or protected species are involved.
The next day I received disturbing news of a run of recent attacks in Sussex, including the shooting of seven gulls, a duck with a dart in its head and witness reports of some men trying to strangle a swan! Just what goes through the minds of the troubled and disturbed individuals that carry out these attacks, we'll never know. I just hope they are soon caught and in secure therapy. Today they target defenceless birds, who knows what tomorrow?
Vigilance is crucial and I'd urge as many people as possible to help by getting out into your local outdoor spaces. Get a breathe of fresh air, a bit of exercise and take time to really look at what's around you. There's a growing volume of research on the physical and mental benefits of being active outdoors but there are social benefits too. Casual acts of violence against nature diminish, anti-social behaviour declines and fly-tipping becomes too risky. Go on, be brave and reclaim the parks with your presence.
Research on the benefits of getting outdoors is now so convincing that the Government's considering ways of promoting it to help address the demands put on the NHS. Of course, it does mean some investment in outdoor space, such as better signage, better facilities like toilets and improved public transport links. All of this is welcome news and has the potential to give everyone access to a clean, green space where they can escape the stresses and strains of modern life.
With Summer almost here it's an ideal time to get out and explore all that London has to offer. There's a wealth of outdoor areas and of course the Thames. The river is a giant wildlife corridor leading from the sea to the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. At 346 kilometres long it's England's longest river. Visit ThamesWatch to find out more about it and some of the birdlife you'll find on a stroll along it. Later this year there will be a draw for children's clubs and groups that could bring the winning team £250 worth of goodies.
Of course there are always RSPB reserves to visit, like Rye Meads in the Lee Valley or our new reserve, Rainham Marshes, sitting alongside the Thames at Purfleet to the east of the city. Both are really easy to get to by rail or bike, so you don't have to worry about queueing for fuel.
If you're out enjoying wildlife in any of London's open spaces, just remember, these spaces don't exist by accident. They were created and are kept this way by the sheer hard work and determination of many people for the enjoyment of everyone. You may well find yourself confronted by an election candidate this week, ask them to do more for our wildlife and open spaces so that more people can benefit physically and mentally from the sanctuary such spaces provide.
I've said it before, but it's a sad fact London has more peregrine falcons that you'll find in some parts of their natural range in the UK's uplands.
Slaughter is a strong word, but it sums up what's going on in some parts of the countryside, including some parts of our protected and best-loved National Parks, such as the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and the Peak District.
If you map peregrine distribution in these areas and compare it with a map of upland grouse moors, you can see where unscrupulous gamekeepers and shooting estates are having an impact. Persecution by a minority is to blame for these blackholes. We work with many good estates and gamekeepers who're happy to see Birds of Prey overhead. There are others who have an inbred hatred of these amazing creatures.Other magnificent birds such as golden eagles, buzzards, hen harriers and red kites have also been targeted by these individuals, who argue the raptors steal grouse raised for commercial shoots.
It all seems a long way away from the urban lives of Londoners, yet the uplands and all the wildlife that lives there are as much a part of our heritage as the British Museum, our local parks and the NHS. Yes I'd love to take a break in the glorious surroundings of our National Parks, but not if they're stripped of their wildlife. The intrinsic value of the dales and moors is being devastated, which will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the tourist economy. Who wants to holiday in a lifeless National Park? The awesome landscape remains, but the magic has gone. It's like a Harry Potter film without the special effects.
The RSPB's calling on those responsible for the killing of our birds of prey to stop it immediately but they appear deaf to our demands. Help us shout louder by signing our pledge demonstrating the size of the opposition to this needless slaughter. If you can afford to make a donation, be assured we will use your money to protect these birds from persecution and gather evidence to prosecute.
Here in London I'm delighted to say our five breeding pairs are still with us and continue to raise an average of three fledglings a year each. Our star pair, Misty and Bert, are presently incubating eggs but should be back on show on the Tate Modern's chimney on the southbank in the near future. If you're lucky you'll get to see them training their young how to fly and hunt for tasty pigeons in the sky over St Paul's and the Thames near Millennium Bridge. London's a vibrant setting at any time, but a dusting of magic from this annual wildlife spectacle is an experience that will live with you forever.
If you want to do more to protect London's wildlife, bear in mind there's a local election coming up; when you get to say who you would like to govern London. Ask your candidates what they're doing for London's wildlife and get them to make a firm commitment you can hold them to. Nature's amazing, but it needs our help to keep it that way.
A statistic from the U. S. of A. claims that the League of Conservative Voters has asked Whitehouse contenders 2,975 questions, but sadly only six of those questions have concerned climate change. Compare that with the twelve questions posed on UFO's and you'll get an idea of the importance placed on the subject!
Here in London the Mayoral election is very different but also highlights a lack of general concern in a key area. All candidates have mentioned greenhouse gas emissions, but generally, references to wildlife conservation are as rare as some of the most threatened species we're working to save. Being the RSPB, we're working to bring this fact to the attention of both candidates and voters; with information to show why wildlife matters.
I often wonder what would happen if we found another planet that could support us. Would we have a care for any existing new lifeforms we find there, or would we be as considerate to them as we are to the lifeforms that share our existing planet? That's the sort of question my nine-year-old daughter would ask, but I offer no apology for including it here.
Our very presence has an impact on wildlife. If we take an historical journey back in time from the perspective of London's house sparrows we can see how exactly what I mean. Pre-Roman London was a wooded valley that would have had a healthy population of sparrows living in the dense undergrowth. As people settled and started raising animals the sparrows would have started to leave the woods and take advantage of the crops those early settlers grew and the food they put out for their pigs, horses and hens. Fast-forward and we'd see house sparrows abandoning the shrubs and woods for the settlements that grew and grew. The sparrow population expanded too until it reached such a level that these small birds became a pest that was hunted and slaughtered in the thousands. Then came the demise of horse drawn transport and the food-oats and horse-muck vanished from the city. Sparrows hung on but we then started using chemicals to control weeds and pests and the age of the car led to a great deal of land being lost to roads and car parking. Now house sparrows are vanishing at an alarming rate, unable to adapt to the surroundings we've created.
We have a moral obligation to conserve the cockney sparrow, just as we have a moral obligation to manage our planet for all the lifeforms that live here; including politicians. So, I urge you to look after your politicians. Sustain them by registering to vote. Put out information for them to consume about other lifeforms and with a bit of support, they'll help build a cleaner, healthier world fit for all its inhabitants.