I grew up in Bristol and went to Bristol Grammar School where a couple of masters (Derek Lucas and Tony Warren) were instrumental in fueling my interest in birds. I was in the Young Ornithologists' Club.
In the school holidays I practically lived at Chew Valley Lake - a bicycle and a pair of binoculars were all I needed.
My parents liked nice scenery and walks in the countryside and that gave me plenty of opportunities for birding.
I spent a few years when rare birds were very important to me but aside from the very occasional lapse they aren't any more!
I did a Ph.D. on pipistrelle bats but most of my research before joining the RSPB was on bee-eaters in the south of France (nice eh?) and great tits and marsh tits around Oxford. However, the first scientific paper I wote was about the lekking behaviour of great snipe.
I joined the RSPB staff in 1986 as a researcher, became Head of Conservation Science in 1992 and Conservation Director in 1998 - all have been great jobs!
Stepping up for nature - that's our latest campaign and you'll hear much more about it over the next weeks, months and years.
There was an interesting piece on the Today programme this morning (at about 0740) with RSPB spokespeople and the Defra Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, as well as Farming Today and an early start for me on BBC Breakfast.
Mrs Spelman said some nice things about the RSPB and the need for our campaign.
Today there is also a hand-in of the 350,000+ signatures from Letter to the Future into 10 Downing Street, an event for some of our campaigning members and another event this evening where Caroline Spelman will talk to us.
It's a long day but a good one.
JustAlark, Can I thank you for summing up, so successfully, in those few paragraphs, the essence of the arguments about predator / prey relationships.
Ruralgeek I think thats fundamentally wrong. While predation is of course an important part of population dynamics, there really couldnt be a more natural interaction. Studies which look for relationships between a species numbers and its predators will always find them, since they are integral parts of ecology.
As far as I know, predation only becomes a serious threat to a species long term when many other factors have reduced the fitness of a population to such a low level that it becomes vulnerable to carnivory. In natural systems, predator play relationships exist in delicate highly dependant relationships, which ecological time has stabilised to shallow relatively predictable reactive sine waves.
Its only introduced species that can upset that balance substantially, and ultimatley threaten entire ecosystems not just species (Eg brown tree snakes and Guam). Im interested in the BTO study that supports your claims, because Ive read none that do unless taken out of context. Where as many studies demonstrate the predator prey relationship, there are not any I am aware of that dont contribute the large additional factors that intensify that relationship.
Even grey squirrels are now being shown to have relatively little effect on song bird numbers where previously they have been painted as remorseless egg burglers. 'Predator control' is tackling conservation from the wrong end of the food chain. Where as in some places (introduced species) it may very well be a necessary last resort, its practice can have dramatic long term negative effects for the very species you are trying to save.
RSPB seem to be upsetting lots of different groups at the moment as reported that they blame gamekeepers for decline in Hen Harriers whereas shooting people say H H population on Isle Of Man drastically reduced yet no Grouse moors there.Don't know if this is fact but in Telegraph today,think they may have to build better relationships if they want wildlife to prosper.Some people now even suggesting it is a deliberate ploy to kick organisations to encourage increased RSPB membership.This is what seems to be a increasing criticism and when we visit reserves we get fantastic treatment,better than anywhere else so the staff and volunteers on the ground certainly doing a great job,find it hard to praise them enough.
Perhaps the RSPB don't accept that Birds of Prey are responsible for the decline in Song Bird populations because they are not and that comclusion is based on the available evidence. As for Badgers what are they doing clambering around in trees to get at Song bird nests? I'd of thought that their traditional diet of worms was a easier option
Why don't the RSPB accept that a lot of this farmland bird decline is due to the increase in predators such as birds of prey and badgers? The British Trust for Ornithology recognise this issue but the RSPB seems to just keep on pressing for more environmental regulations. Some of us are wondering whether the RSPB want more CAP money directed towards environmental projects as they are funded so heavily by CAP money themselves. Please take off your blinkers and look at what is actually going on, badger populations are exploding as are birds of prey and they've got to eat something!
Oh in fact i can listen via your links, thanks for this also
Way to stick it to me! Only a few days ago I commented on how I wanted the RSPB to be more vocal! Got what I wanted, how rare is that in todays world. Would love to have heard/seen them, but alas am in Thailand.
What are the alternative options for grazery farmers in terms of peripheral seeding? I wondeed about a subsidy payment to encourage farmers to refence 2-3 m from existing borders. Creating green corridors for grasses and herbaceous plants to reach maturity. Im doning it on the farm im involved with, but many would demand compebsation for lost resource. Ive digressed, as usual!
Just listened to the Today piece Mark. Overall a pretty good piece, only spoilt by the weak prodding from the Today presenter, who didn't push home the point about what people can do to influence the (down the plughole) trends in biodiversity. Instead she let CS prattle on about the Big Society and how important it was for (RSPB)volunteers to count the birds as they dwindle away.
Meanwhile the same Common Agricultural Policy that is paying farmers (generously) to sow seeds around the edge of their arable fields to feed the farmland birds, is at the same time forcing other farmers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, to destroy perfectly good wildlife + bird habitat in order that they can claim their Single Farm Payment. I have just blogged about this, but am reluctant to put the link in as you chastised me for it last time! I may feel sufficiently enthused to ask the SoS about this this evening.
Hope you have a fantastic day.
See you later