June, 2011

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

In the news

A week of the RSPB and wildlife in the news, delivered every Friday
  • Key to success: be a partner and a thorn

    The RSPB's press office this week was buzzing with calls from the media about the case of shamed gamekeeper Glenn Brown.

    Brown was caught red handed by the RSPB’s investigations team using a live pigeon to trap birds of prey, and this week he was found guilty and sentenced to 100 hours of community service and £10,000 costs.

    RSPB investigator Mark Thomas told the Daily Mail: “The population of goshawks and peregrine falcons in that area has collapsed and they are no longer producing young birds. Birds of prey are our lions and tigers – they are our most protected birds, we have an international responsibility to look after them.”

    The story was also covered on the BBC One O'clock and Six O'clock news and Channel 4 News.

    The RSPB’s conservation director Martin Harper was called on this week to defend its record of environmental action after criticism from former Friends of the Earth executive director Charles Secrett who railed against modern environment campaigning in an article in the Guardian.

    "Shock tactics have their place, but no matter how loudly you shout, you will become background noise sooner or later,” Martin told the newspaper. “The most successful modern NGOs are those that know when to be a thorn in the side, and when to be a constructive partner.”

    Nature is its own reward when a conservation project is successful. But a report out by the RSPB, covered on BBC News online, this week found that sea eagles which have been reintroduced to the Scottish Island of Mull have brought £5m to the local economy.

    The Telegraph quoted the RSPB in today's paper in a story about the danger to blackbirds from the current dry weather in the south of England.

    “You will be able to look at population charts for 2011 in future and say, ‘That was when we had the drought’. However, the birds have been in Britain for 10,000 years and they will recover from whatever this year throws at them,” our spokesperson said.

    On Tuesday, Radio 4's Saving Species programme turned its attention to seabird species as presenter Brett Westwood visited the Farne Islands, a vital site for gannets, fulmars, puffins and guillemots. RSPB seabird expert Euan Dunn was interviewed and you can listen again on BBC iPlayer.

  • Laying down the law for the natural environment

     This week saw environment secretary Caroline Spelman unveiling the Natural Environment White Paper – the first of its kind for 20 years.

    This important document sets out the Government’s future policy on wildlife and habitats and so, of course, the RSPB took a close interest in what was said.

    “The proposal for a series of nature improvement areas is based on a pioneering approach to conservation which brings together farmers, charities, communities and public bodies to make a real change across a whole landscape,” Conservation director Martin Harper told the Guardian. “It would see an end to the unconnected patchwork of environmental measures in our countryside which limits our potential to restore the natural environment.”

    Martin also appeared Farming Today on Radio 4 yesterday to talk about the implication of the paper for farming.

    The One Show this week waded into the debate on peat based compost. Presenter Dominic Littlewood visited former peat extraction site Chat Moss near Salford and spoke to the RSPB’s Tim Melling about why we are concerned about the destruction of carbon rich peatland habitats to provide compost for gardeners. You can watch the show again on the BBC iPlayer – the package on peat starts around 17 minutes in.

    Fishing has been in the news a lot recently thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign. But it isn’t just fish suffering from unsustainable fishing practices – birds do too. A study by the RSPB and Birdlife International has found that 320,000 birds a year die as a result of long line fishing, including albatrosses, shearwaters and fulmars. The RSPB’s Orea Anderson appeared on BBC Radio Scotland as well as being quoted in the Telegraph and on BBC online this week.

    The excellent Radio 4 wildlife and conservation series Saving Species (Tuesdays, 11am) focussed on the issue of declines in migratory birds such as cuckoos and pied flycatchers this week. RSPB head of international research Juliet Vickery was interviewed on our work investigating the causes of these declines. Catch the show again here.

    Elsewhere two RSPB appeals to the public were featured in the Telegraph this week. We called on people to take part in our swift survey to monitor these birds whose numbers are in decline and also to record the wildlife in their garden for our Make Your Nature Count survey. The results will come out soon so watch this space...

  • Flying kites

    We’re very proud of the RSPB’s farm in Cambridgeshire and we always jump at the chance to show it off in the media.

     On Saturday Countryfile’s John Craven visited Hope Farm to talk to about the debate over farmland bird declines. Some believe this is down to predation by birds like magpies, but, as RSPB conservation director Martin Harper told the programme, we have managed to triple farmland bird numbers at Hope Farm simply by using wildlife friendly methods. You can watch the show on iPlayer for another couple of days.

     Farmland birds were again the centre of attention on Bank Holiday Monday when early morning Radio 4 listeners were treated to a wet and windy trip round the RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve in Cumbria. Farming Today visited the reserve to talk to RSPB staff there about how they use livestock to help maintain an upland habitat suitable for wild birds.

    Also over the weekend the spotlight was shined on one of our most remote reserves, Ynys-hir in Wales. Why? Because it is the site of this year’s Springwatch of course! The show started this week, much to the relief of millions of wildlife lovers who will be glued to their screens in the coming weeks. The story was covered in the Telegraph, the Mirror and BBC News online.

    The popularity of Springwatch is one of the reasons why more and more people are getting out an enjoying nature, according to an article in The Guardian this week.

    “We get all sorts here, old, young, locals, passing bikers, and visitors from as far afield as Australia and America. Everyone is captivated by what they see,” the RSPB’s Geraint Williams told the paper from Glaslyn in Wales where he helps thousands of people see and appreciate the ospreys there.

    The RSPB’s latest wildlife survey Make Your Nature Count starts next week and this was previewed in the media with a double page spread in the Mail on Sunday magazine and a news articles in today’s Daily Telegraph. We’ll be reporting the results back in a few weeks so lookout for those in the news.

    It’s been a great year for the Cornish chough with 15 chicks hatching at four secret sites this season. The story, which was covered in the Telegraph and on BBC Online, is great news for the rare bird which is often found on coastal farmland.

    On Thursday this week the Government unveiled the National Ecosystem Assessment, which seeks to show the valuable services nature provides for our society. The story made several of the papers and Martin Harper was quoted on the BBC News website saying:  "The traditional view of economic growth is based on chasing GDP, but in fact we will all end up richer and happier if we begin to take into account the true value of nature.”

    And if you want to read more of Martin’s thoughts on this groundbreaking new approach to nature conservation, he has written an article for the Guardian website on the subject.

    One story that kept our press office busy this week was the reports from an Oxfordshire school of red kites swooping on the playground to steal food. The RSPB’s red kite expert Jeff Knott appeared on BBC Breakfast and Newsround to talk about the issue and it was also covered in the Telegraph, the Mirror and the Express.

    The hot weather continues this week and the dry spell is causing problems for wading chicks on RSPB reserves, according to yesterday’s Telegraph. Phil Burston, the RSPB’s water policy officer, told the paper: “Wader chicks feed on insects along the edge of pools, but the pools are dying out and insects are scarce. The birds are having to go further afield to find food, and the further they travel the more danger they face.”  The story was also featured on Radio 5Live

    And finally the RSPB is one of the partners hoping to rescue one of the world’s most threatened birds, the spoon-billed sandpiper, from extinction. As reported in the Guardian, the Times and BBC Online, a team of scientists is travelling to a remote part of far eastern Russia to find some of the last remaining individuals.