It’s been a successful year for RSPB Cymru, over 300,000 people have visited our reserves, 9,000 children have enjoyed education experiences at our field teaching sites, numbers of lekking black grouse males have increased to 230 - the largest number of male birds since 2002, the Welsh red kite population has soared to over 1,000 pairs and bearded tits bred at RSPB Conwy for the first time.
From looking at these achievements and seeing how RSPB Cymru has grown into what you see today – employing 150 people, 900 volunteers, managing 18 nature reserves over 17,000 hectares – it’s hard to imagine that all this began with a couple from the island of Llanddwyn, Anglesey in 1911.
The RSPB’s presence in Wales does go back before this, with our work supporting red kite protectors across mid Wales, but from our records Mr and Mrs Jones were our first paid employees in Wales. Mr Jones, who was a ship pilot, and his wife, who both lived on the island of Llanddwyn, were paid as watchers to protect the island’s colony of roseate terns.
From then on the RSPB’s work in Wales grew as more watchers were employed, mainly to watch the bird colonies of the Pembrokeshire islands, and the charity got more directly involved in the protection of red kites – by then the only population in the UK. Until in 1948, we finally managed to secure our first nature reserve in Wales – Grassholm Island, which was bought for £550. Around 60 years and 17 nature reserves later we are still going strong and helping to protect birds and nature across Wales.
RSPB Cymru’s Centenary year is a historic milestone as it allows us to reflect on the achievements of the past 100 years, where we have worked with partners and other organisations to restore the fortunes of some of Wales' most iconic birds such as red kites, black grouse and chough, and protect varied landscapes and habitats.
However, there are still many challenges ahead and today, some of Wales’ most loved wildlife and wild places face new grave threats. The most recent edition of the partnership report The State of Birds in Wales, which charts the fortunes of Welsh bird life and their conservation success, has shown some farmland and woodland birds are in huge decline and several species soon will, or have already, halved in abundance since the Wild Bird Indicator started in 1994 - starlings have decreased by 58%, yellowhammer by 40% and curlew by 46%.
The picture is not all doom and gloom, as work is being done to improve the future for many bird species, it is particularly encouraging to see increasing numbers of some rare breeding birds such as avocet and bearded tit on our nature reserves where the conditions they need can be provided.
At this point, thanks must go to the thousands upon thousands of people who have and continue to support us every year - without you we would not be able to continue our improtant work. So with your support, our continued work on reserves and advisory work to help other landowners manage their land for wildlife, we will endeavour to help Welsh nature face the threats of the future.
So here’s to the New Year and the next 100 ....