This blog is where you can read about the places we work to protect and the people on the front line. The scope of this blog covers planning, the policies and legal framework that exists to protect the best places for wildlife and of, of course, the individual cases that are the daily work of staff across the UK. We help BirdLife International partners overseas – and you will be able to read contributions from Europe and further afield.
Of course – probably of the best way to save a site is to a acquire it as a nature reserve – this blog will sometimes feature our reserves and the role they play in future of our wildlife, but the full story of the RSPBs network of nature reserves is told elsewhere: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves
This blog features the contributions of many individuals – I will have the pleasure of holding the ring and acting as the narrator to this compelling story. So a little about me; I’m Andre Farrar and my first active involvement with the RSPB was in the late 1970s as a volunteer with our Leeds Local Group http://www.rspb.org.uk/groups/leeds.
I was one of many who wrote to their MPs as part of the campaign to get the best outcome for what became the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It wasn’t perfect but it was a good start. Thirty years on, I’m still in the thick of it campaigning for our protected areas and special places for wildlife. Are we winning? Read on and find out, and see how you can help.
RSPB Nature reserves got double billing on BBC Breakfast with the weather forecast coming from ‘Home of Springwatch’ Ynys-hir (don’t forget Springwatch starts tonight for its three week run).
Our nature reserve at Dungeness has featured in this blog more than any other site and apart from a slight case of author bias (sorry) the main reason is our long-running opposition to the extension of nearby Lydd airport.
But today we’re celebrating a milestone in the restoration of a lost bee – the short-haired bumblebee – as they are released on to our reserve, not far from where they last occurred in the UK nearly a quarter of a century ago.
But of course the key to success is not just the return of the bee – but the quality of the habitat that is there for them. We’ve been working with local farmers to ensure the right nectar-rich flowers are there in profusion.
Short-haired bumble bee going in for the nectar. Picture Dave Goulson RSPB Images
The return of the short-haired bumblebee is partnership between Natural England, the RSPB, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Hymettus
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This blog has been following the story of many special places for wildlife and the people who work tirelessly to save them, nurture them and make them accessible for others to enjoy.
It’s 100 years since Charles Rothschild’s idea that the best places for wildlife should be protected led to the founding of a movement that, today, is the Wildlife Trusts.
There’s loads of fascinating material here and an interactive timeline and everything.
Over the years I’ve worked with several of the individual county wildlife trusts on innumerable projects, joint initiatives and pieces of casework bringing strength and breadth by combining our approaches.
Two nearly did become one – in the 1970s plans to merge the RSPB with the Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation (the forerunner of the Wildlife Trusts). Nearly but not quite – yet through all our recent shared history we continue to work closely together in the conservation family.
But our origins were very different. By 1912 the RSPB (the R was added in 1904 as we are in retrospective mood) had been pushing our campaign to stop the slaughter of birds for fashion for 23 years. We’ve always relished the long game!
This famous photograph of our sandwich board men telling the tale of the egret dates from 1911.
We would have been characterised as having a ‘species focus’ back then (though one possible name was the Society for the Protection of Birds, Plants and Pleasant Places) – and we still do. Rothschild’s list of 284 reserves published in 1915 framed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in different way with a clear focus on the importance of the land.
It wasn’t until the early 1930s that the RSPB had a go at the nature reserves game – we secured nature reserves through purchase and the gift of land on Romney Marsh and Dungeness. And we’re still there.
The protection of special places was a dominant theme during the 20th century – intensifying as pressure on our natural environment increased. After the Second World War legislation set up the ability to designate places as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Nice idea and nice badge – but not very effective at delivering real protection in the 1970s destruction or damage of SSSIs reached 12% per year.
This attrition of nature was dramatically slowed after the passage into law of the 1982 Wildlife and Countryside Act – SSSIs (Areas of Special Scientific Interest in Northern Ireland) had come of age. The landmark W&C Act was brought into law as a direct result of our membership of the European Union. Now the EU gets a very mixed press in the UK – but one aspect has never been in doubt, the environmental protection driven by the Nature Directives has been a buttress of protection of nature across the EU and in the UK.
The 1979 Birds Directive (require bedtime reading, I know) required the UK Government to put in place effective laws. Its sister act – the Habitats Directive came later and we can now celebrate 20 years of the best wildlife sites in the EU – they are labelled Natura 2000 sites (not a term that is familiar in the UK) and they are the best and most important sites for nature at a continental scale. Many of them feature in these posts. The Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, the Thames Estuary, Dungeness in Kent. The designation doesn’t make them safe ... but it’s a good place to start.
Along with Natura 2000 came LIFE funding – a mainstay of many vital conservation programmes over the last two decades. We’re grateful that LIFE funding is enabling us to bring our Futurescapes programme to life (pun intended) with new staff and engagement activities across the UK. Our programme complements the Wildlife Trust Living Landscapes as we all recognise that the future lies in working together and thinking big.
Happy birthday Wildlife Trusts, here’s to the next 100 years.
There was a time when buzzards were hemmed in the west of Great Britain. As a child buzzards were a holiday sentinel as we travelled from Kent to Devon or Wales or Cumbria or Scotland.
First-buzzard was always a special moment – a sign of special holiday places. But then the return had last-buzzard, a sad departure to the more intolerant east of the country.
Buzzards weren’t constrained by their own fondness for the west – their distribution map was plotted by decades of intolerance, a victim of Victorian industrialisation of hunting.
Back in Kent, in the 60s and 70s we didn’t have buzzards. Well, hardly – the odd rumour of a pair here or there.
My father often wondered if we should have them – the countryside looked ideal, he missed them in a way; the landscape wasn’t complete.
And then, slowly at first – the recovery began. I was living in the north of England at that stage and had seen the Cheshire buzzard population fall gradually to zero. And then they were back, here and there at first.
An outbreak of tolerance? Definitely. Stamping out (to some extent) the bad (and illegal) practice of poisoning making a massive contribution.
And eventually they returned to Kent. I saw one from the garden of my family home in 2002, catching the wind over the downs. Sadly my father didn’t live to see it – I think of him when I hear them call.
Huge credit is due to the local farmers and landowners around my home – the richness of the countryside in their stewardship (including buzzards) adequate compensation for sharing a few pheasants.
So that’s why I’m angry at the proposal by DEFRA to include draconian techniques of nest destruction (shooting or poking) and capturing adult buzzards as part of a project to reduce the impact of buzzards on the 40m pheasants released into the countryside each year.
I’m not alone, Martin Harper, our conservation director has more to say – and asks you to write to your MP, please do.
Buzzard by Mike Langman
For those of you who remember the comedian Bob Newhart – his stock in trade was giving one side of a telephone call to historic figures. Imagine the conversation if someone was to propose releasing pheasants.
Hi – yes, you want to do what? You want to release pheasants in to the wild.
... each year!
Have you thought this through?
They weigh how much?
As much as all the other birds in the country?
And then you want to shoot them ...
... not all of them
What happens to the rest?
3,000,000 get run over ...
... are you sure you’ve thought this through?
It’s not going to fly, is it?