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
I can't wait to go away on holiday and discover some culture, explore unknown areas and see new things. How often do you hear people say that? I've said it myself before now. Yet when the weekend comes, do I explore the area around my house? Do I seek out culture and new things? Nope.
That's part of the philosophy behind ThamesWatch, a joint initiative between the RSPB and The River Thames Guide. A free bird identification sheet is available online and if you submit your results, a winner will be drawn from the entrants and could land themselves a cruise on the Thames. It runs from 27 April to 4 May.
ThamesWatch takes in the whole 215 mile length of the river and its tributaries. It's not a scientific study, it's mostly for fun but it's also a way for people to find out more about wildlife and the area they live in. Give it a go.
Don't forget to take a camera. You never know what you may see. If you're exploring the Thames somewhere around London and you're going by public transport, take a look at the Mind the Bird website before you go. We're running a photo competition in partnership with London Underground. The idea is to show off the birdlife found within a five minute walk of a tube station.
Transport for London are a major land owner in the Capital. Their tracks are green corridors linking the countryside to the heart of the City and a wealth of birds and other wildlife rely on this land for food, shelter and safe passage. We've had reports of pheasants living near Brixton tube station, woodcock near Westminster station and sparrows living in tube tunnels.
There's an adult and a children's category. Show us what's living in London. All entries can be viewed on the official Mind the Bird Flickr site. It's free to enter.
Both of these activities, ThamesWatch and Mind the Bird, are about discovery and giving yourself permission to take time to enjoy the world around you. They're free, easy to do and can be done individually or with family and friends. Make like a bird, be part of the world, stretch your wings and take flight.
Peregrine fans, have I got news for you. But first, this Wednesday the results of January's Big Garden Birdwatch are publicly released, you can see the London results here.
For data dweebs this is an exciting time, the results give a snapshot of the state of our garden birds. It's not the immediate figures that are most interesting. Every year has its own story that changes with the weather. The real interest lies in the long term results. The survey, now the world's biggest, has been running for thirty years.
It was the first study that really triggered national alarm bells over the decline of both the house sparrow and the starling. These are our two most common garden species. They probably still are nationally. Look at the more local statistics and you get a different story. In 2008, house sparrows were more or less absent from Central London, surviving in a few isolated colonies.
The RSPB, along with local authorities and other conservation groups are working hard to reverse this decline. The mystery of the vanishing cockney sparra, hasn't yet been resolved, but we're getting closer to the cause. Gardening for wildlife is not the holy grail of sparrow restoration, but it will certainly help. That's why were on a crusade to convince gardeners of the need to plant hedges, shrubs and flowering plants. Sparrows need a seed and berry diet most of the year, but in the breeding season, they need insects to survive. London isn't bug free, but we've done a good job of reducing the number of creepy crawlies in our gardens.
Finally, here's the gossip you bird of prey fans clicked in to read:
I've been hearing good gossip on the sex lives of a pair of our London peregrines. They normally pair for life and the male does most of the hunting to feed their offspring. A couple of years ago, Misty, the female of the pair we showcase at the Tate Modern ditched her old mate (Houdini) and took up with a younger male (Bert). Now it appears he's got a young mistress! He's shuttling between Misty and the new one. Poor boy will be exhausted by the end of this breeding season. We'll have to wait and see what happens in this new soap opera. Let's call it Peregrinations; the wandering of a young bird about town.
Globally, it's a busy day for conservationists. There are meetings in Brussels and Istanbul and a report on the world's forests is due to be published in Rome. For someone famous for rasping out the phrase "I don't like Mondays" Bob Geldof could be putting himself in the firing line today (Monday 16 March). He'll argue that biofuel production could eradicate poverty across Africa when he addresses the World Biofuels Markets Congress in Brussels. As the song has it, "I'm going to shoot the whole day down". Biofuels may be a great cash crop, but it will take up land and water resources and more importantly, result in the devastation of land that supports fragile ecosystems and already threatened species. Sir Bob's heart is in the right place but this policy is not thought through. Tell me why, Sir Bob?
Water is a growing world concern. Global fresh water supplies are fast becoming an issue.The fifth world water forum, run by the World Water Council, gets underway in Istanbul. They meet every three years and this year, the stated aim is to move towards global collabortaion to address water problems. It's made up of water businesses so has been criticised in some quarters.
Finally, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation is today publishing a report on the state of the world's forests. Incidentally, did you know that it's World Forest's Week? If you've forgotten what a forest is, or if you've never visited one, nip out east from London to Epping Forest. It's a wonderland of plants, wildlife and trails where you can climb stumps and fallen trees, wiggle your toes in sparkling streams and luxuriate in fresh grass while this week's warm and sunny spell thaws our winter stressed bones.
The three events mentioned above seem far removed from our daily grind. But in reality, it's our daily grind that has created the need for the meetings and the report. We are dessicating our planet. We could celebrate St Patrick's Day in style Tuesday and forget about it all... alternatively, we could act today and start to reduce the impact of our individual daily grinds.
Ideas for this include eating less meat, turning any electrical kit off when it's not needed, fit low-energy lightbulbs, recycle more and don't leave taps running unnecesarily. Planting hedges and cutting grass less often also have a positive impact on wildlife and water retention. These are all often low-cost, simple actions.
Listen to the cacophony from the birds outside your windows this week. They're all full of life, hope and vigour as they get into their breeding season. They're all chirping and showing off to attract mates and mark territories. They are planning for their species' future. I like their song.