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
Taking a Star Trek approach to development is not a good idea, but before the newly announced Thames Airport review even gets started, Mayor Johnson's on the Today programme asserting his belief that it can and will be built.
The very real danger to planes and human lives of bird strike posed by the estuary's vast numbers of wild birds didn't seem to concern Boris. He is not Captain Kirk and neither Doug Oakervee nor Sir Norman Foster come close to being Scotty; they cannot whip out an engineering 'fix' to magic the issue away.
In all battles between man and nature, nature always wins; eventually. So we need smart development, not stupid development. We need to ensure today's investment creates jobs and infrastructure that improves communities and our environment; and enables local economies to grow.
The presence of birds isn't the only major issue to consider. There are areas protected by UK and European law for their natural and social or historic importance, whole communities of people, rare and threatened species of plants, marine life, river life, and wildlife. Add to this the economic implications of a development on this scale and you can see that a review is not going to be something that will find a galaxy saving solution within the half hour of a fictional TV series.
Boris, don't expect to be beamed up to safety by this estuary airport smokescreen this side of a mayoral election. Invest instead in better, greener transport infrastructure in London.
As I type I can hear a blue tit outside my back door, which is firmly closed against the cold. The bird is hidden in the dense ivy covering the wall between our garden and the neighbour's.
After the mild and mixed-up weather of the beginning of this year, the grey, wet and sleety conditions do feel more like winter. But it's somehow lost its mojo. It's not real winter, more of a half-hearted pretence of a winter.
So will there be any birds in my garden come this weekend's Big Garden Birdwatch? It's normally pretty busy with a range of small birds, and since laying a lawn last autumn, sightings of blackbirds and thrushes have definately increased. Judging by the worm casts in the grass, it's also attracted quite a lot of other wildlife.
When it gets cold, birds fluff up their feathers and shelter. Trying not to waste energy on any activity that will burn up vital calories needed to help them get through the cold spell.Eating and drinking is a neccesity, but flitting about is not if they want to live through to spring. So I may not get to see much going on in my garden at all.
If that's true across London and the UK, then that's fine. But if there's an absence of birds just in my garden, then I will have failed in my attempts to create a wildlife friendly garden. If there's a dearth of birds in my home borough (Hackney), then something's seriously wrong with my environment. That's why it's important to send in your Big Garden Birdwatch results, even if your outdoor space appears empty of life.
This idea of empty space is one that can be dangerous. Developers have to consider empty space carefully. What can appear to be unloved, uncared for muddy waste land to one person, may be a historic site of importance that supports a wealth of plants, bugs and birds.
Lately, developers have been joined by bankers, politicians and sociologists, all thinking clever thoughts around values and worth. Is 'empty space' land more valuable for its development potential and ability to generate income, or is it worth more when managed for its natural qualities?
We seem to value what we have less than what we don't have. So I'm campaigning to protect the Thames Estuary with its fish stocks, birds, wild mud-flats, communities and otherwordly saltmarshes. This is an estuary that has helped shape our country over the centuries. The Thames estuary has enormous worth and we should celebrate it, not decimate it.
it's childish. Dropping sticks off the side of a bridge and seeing which one passes beneath the fastest. A kids game. Yet it has an innocent charm that Xbox can't match.
Sadly, after visiting the Putney Bridge combined sewer overflow (CSO) the other day, I can honestly say the vision of pooh sticks bobbing along the Thames under bridges that I now hold in my mind, is far from innocent and is definately not pleasant.
Putney Bridge CSO discharges 34 times a year on average, accounting for 68,200 of the 39m tonnes of sewage that annually enters the river. Just 2 mm if rain is enough to set many of these overflows in action. Once that amount of pooh sticks enters the system, you just know something bad's going to happen.
That's why we're one of a growing number of organisations, including anglers, rowers, London Wildlife Trust and Thames 21, who've come together to form the Thames Tunnel Now coalition.
Tory minister Zac Goldsmith recently voiced concerns that conservation organisations like the RSPB are being too critical of government. We've said it before and I'll say it again, the RSPB is a great backer of smart development, but reserves the right to fight stupid development.
Zac says">Zac says: “London's existing sewer system is remarkable, given that it is 160 years old. But it needs an overhaul. We put enough raw sewage into the river to fill the Albert Hall 450 times, and that has to stop.” He added; “In addition to the environmental imperative, this project will create thousands of local jobs, and high quality apprenticeships, and contribute to getting us back on track economically.” He's smart.
Despite the biting cold and unsavoury task, round the world rower Roz Savage took to a jaunty yellow dinghy to bob along the Thames at Putney. Luckily for her it wasn't raining, so the overflow was dry and crusty - pictured left.
The tunnel is being opposed by people living close to areas where construction will be above ground. Roz sympathises and says, "I quite understand their concerns, but sometimes you have to put up with short-term pain for long-term gain. I've rowed through some pretty grim stuff on my travels but the Thames is heart-breakingly returning to the open sewer it used to be 200 years ago."
Apart from the obvious damage being done to the Thames, its forseshore, London's reputation and our wildlife, this sewage has a ripple effect on the wider environment.
There were gulls, crows, mallard, geese, cormorant and even a grey heron at Putney Bridge. There are fish in the Thames. It is alive, despite the pollution. But it's a clogged and congested artery in desperate need of surgery. The tunnel is a big step, a once in a lifetime opportunity. We can rid the Thames of pooh sticks, and Captain's logs, by boldly stepping-up our collective action for nature to create a greener "future London".