The accidental or deliberate movement of plants or animals around the world by man has been responsible for the global extinction of many species.
The British countryside hasn't escaped as many species from overseas are now on the rampage creating havoc for wildlife and their habitats. And the news today suggests that our ponds are in the front line of this battle.
Today's launch of the Be Plant Wise campaign, with the support of celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock, is a welcome start in the control of the non-native pond plants that are choking many wetlands, including several notable RSPB reserves across the UK.
One of the worst offenders is the innocuous-sounding New Zealand pigmyweed, which has escaped from the confines of garden ponds and is now affecting many sites across the UK, altering the environment of wetlands and excluding native plants. Individually, the plants may be pigmies, but en masse these, and other non-native plants, are creating yet another conservation headache we have to deal with while managing over 200 nature reserves for birds and other wildlife.
The main aim of the campaign, which has received widespread press attention, is to urge gardeners to be careful when disposing of these plants or when clearing out ponds.
There are some dishes I couldn't even contemplate eating without seasoning - who would want egg and soldiers without a sprinkle of salt on the runny yolk for example? Ooooh I'm salivating at the thought...
But salt could kill some garden birds and the RSPB is urging people not to use it as a de-icer in bird baths as the weather gets chilly again.
Salt is toxic to garden birds, even in tiny amounts, as their bodies can't process it and it affects their nervous systems. If they ingest salt they get very dehydrated and thirsty which simply makes them take in more, potentially making the problem worse. Salt also causes kidney disfunction so its imperative that we leave it out of our feeding efforts.
Keeping bird baths unfrozen in this sort of weather could be a full-time job and try as you might you can almost guarantee that when you nip outside in the morning in your dressing gown to check it will be solid! There is no scientific answer to this and when temperatures really plummet is a case of patience! But you can take measures to keep the water moving for as long as possible, such as placing a small floating item like a cork or twig in it. Alternatively, when you do fill your bath, try using tepid water to keep it unfrozen that bit longer.
Please also avoid food that contains lots of salt. Salted crisps and peanuts, processed cheese and leftover frozen meals are all likely to contain dangerous levels , even if soaked. More suitable leftovers include garted mild cheese, porridge oats, cooked rice, unslated bacon, cooked potatoes and pastry.
Farmland birds have not had the smoothest ride in recent decades. Populations of skylarks, yellowhammers, lapwings and grey partridges have all been declining for several years.
But the fight back may be starting in a tiny far flung corner of the country where a small brown and yellow bird is clawing its way back from the brink.
The diminutive cirl bunting has hit the headlines in the Guardian, the Telegraph and on the BBC this week after a survey showed its number have increased by 25 per cent since 2003.
Now that may sound like a lot but in fact there are still just 862 breeding pairs, and they are restricted to small strips of Devon and Cornwall. If you live anywhere else then your chances of seeing them darting from a hedgerow on country walk are pretty miniscule I’m afraid. In fact despite their recent success they still enjoy the dubious honour of being Britain’s rarest farmland bird.
I travelled down to the Devon coast to our reserve at Labrador Bay which is a haven for cirl buntings not too long ago. It’s a spectacular place if you’re ever in that part of the country. And while they may be a little tricky to identify they are friendly creatures and will reward a patient birdwatcher.
Whilst there I met a nearby farmer who is doing lots of work on his land to provide a habitat for the birds. He was delighted to be doing his bit to save a species that once clung precariously onto survival in the UK by a thread. It is part of the job of a farmer, he told me, to look after the countryside and everything in it.
I went away with a renewed sense of optimism. If we can achieve this kind of success with a bird as close to the edge as the cirl bunting, then surely with dedication and hard work conservationists and farmers working together can halt the declines in our beleaguered farmland bird species across the UK.
Positioned in the middle of the Mediterranean, the Maltese islands have always been a beacon of hope for weary travelers, well, except if you're a protected bird. Our partner, BirdLife Malta estimates that 79 species of protected bird have been persecuted over the last three years as these travelers pass over the islands en route to Africa or Europe. The pale-phase honey buzzard (right) was one of the ones I saw that didn't get away.
During a brief visit in autumn, the enthralling sight of hundreds of birds of prey pouring through on migration was tempered by the sadness of watching several of these birds dying at close quarters. Never before have I been greeted by the breathtaking sight of head-height raptors only to pray that they weren't so close. What I learned in Malta is that if the image of a flying bird of prey fills your binoculars, it's likely that a hunter will be sharing the same view reflecting down the barrel of his shotgun.
The picture of a young bird of prey dying on a vet's table is not a scene representative of a modern Europe. As a member of the European Union Malta has a responsibility to abide by the Community’s laws, including those protecting wildlife. Encouragingly, the majority of people in Malta believe this too. This week we are urging you - our members and supporters - to join us and our partners to bring these illegal and outdated practices to an end by sending a petition to the Maltese authorities.
These are Europe's birds and we believe that no single country has the right to flout international legislation or responsibilities. Geographically, Malta is on the fringes of the European Union; but, politically, the islands' government should aspire to take Europe’s wildlife laws to its heart.
Jellied eels, once the staple of many original Eastenders, should now perhaps be regarded as exclusive a dish as caviar, because in British waters, at least, the fish providing the ingredients for both culinary delights are Critically Endangered. That's one fin away from global extinction.Of the nine UK creatures listed as Critically Endangered, two are fish needing to swim between sea and freshwater, so it's no surprise that the construction of dams and barrages creates a major obstacle to them and is a principal factor in these species' declines.The good news this week is that our European eels are to be given more help bypassing these barriers. But the bad news is that the Severn, arguably the UK's most important river for migratory fish, is still besieged by various barrage proposals. The Severn has an extremely rich diversity of fish, with over 100 species identified in its ebb and flow. The Severn was arguably the UK's greatest river for that mighty royal fish: the sturgeon. It is also important for other threatened migratory fish, including two species of shad and two species of lamprey. If this diversity isn't enough it is also a major eel river, with once-important fisheries occupying the main river and its tributaries. A barrage would have extreme consequences for these species and of course the birds that occur there in internationally-important numbers too. Therefore we think it's vital that full consideration should be given to the river's internationally-important wildlife, as well as other considerations like increasing flood risk and the impacts on fishing, tourism and shipping. We know the Government has produced a report looking at the impacts of a barrage across the Severn, we can't wait to see it!