It was twenty years ago today...well this month...that I joined the RSPB. One of my first jobs was to promote the wildlife importance of the Thames Estuary as part of a campaign to prevent plans for a damaging development becoming a reality.
Now, 20 years later, I’m still working to promote the fantastic environment of the Greater Thames and oppose a damaging development off the Isle of Sheppey. The difference this time is that the plans are for a huge new airport. Should they ever be realised, around 20 square kilometres would be covered in concrete.
The Greater Thames is a magical, place for wildlife, made even more special by the presence of significant industry and millions of people that are all in the same area.
Building an airport in this amazingly varied landscape is to me akin to knocking down Canterbury Cathedral to build a superstore – all in the name of economic regeneration.
The worry is that the Chancellor, George Osborne thinks this is a good idea as he sees wildlife and the natural environment as inconveniences to his, arguably flawed plans for economic recovery.
It really is time that George woke up and realised that the natural environment, the wildlife and the landscape, are part of economic recovery.
Should I still be working for the RSPB in another 20 years, it would be fantastic to look back and see a Greater Thames full of thriving industry, thriving communities and thriving wildlife - and celebrating the fact that it was George Osborne who recognised that this integrated vision of the future was the best way forward for all of us.
That’s my dream – now take a look at George’s: http://www.rspb.org.uk/savingspecialplaces/
When you’ve had a chance to look what he might be dreaming about, click on the link and add your voice to the thousands of others asking him to wake up to the importance of the environment and take real steps to recognise this in his forthcoming budget.
Hi there and welcome to the first blog from the RSPB in the South East.
This is your chance to get to know the team and find out more about the work we do. You’ll hear personal accounts and get an insight into what goes on inside a conservation organisation.
We hope you will find us interesting, informative, significant and at times, perhaps even entertaining!
As Regional Director, it’s my job to make sure the work of the RSPB is carried out across the region – to protect our environment for the wildlife and people that depend on it.
The south east faces many conservation challenges from development to climate change.
We have a quarter of the UK human population in only 6% of the land area. But we also have loads of fantastic habitats and landscapes that support a variety of wildlife and provide special places for people to enjoy.
From the ‘churring’ of Nightjars on the Thames Basin Heaths and butterflies flitting across the South Downs, to the mudflats teeming with wading birds on the North Kent Marshes and noisy colonies of Sandwich Terns on our coastal estuaries. Needless to say the real work is done by the people across the teams – from our conservation officers through to the events team and fundraisers as well as those talking to our MPs.
So what exactly does the South East team do – or is it more a case of what don’t we do?
Current work includes:
- Saving special places from development pressures - a particular focus at the moment is our campaign against the proposed Thames Estuary Airport
- Working with partner organisations on major restoration and landscape scale projects, such as the Manhood Peninsula on the Sussex coast Working alongside farmers and other landowners to improve the fortunes of iconic species such as the Lapwing, Grey Partridge and Corn bunting.
- Increasing opportunities for people to get closer to wildlife, through activities such as our ‘Date with Nature’ projects.
- Finding new ways to increase support and raise vital funds for our conservation work across the South East, in the UK and also internationally.
- Ensuring children have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and experience the outdoors for themselves through our Living Classrooms field teaching programme and our Wildlife Explorers clubs.
We hope through this blog, to share this and more with you...
What I wouldn’t do for a job reporting from the rainforest with Amazon explorer Ed Stafford.
What, you may ask, has that got to do with the RSPB?
A lot of people don’t realise we’re part of a much bigger family – Birdlife International – and have some amazing projects happening around the world.
We work with BirdLife Partners in a number of other countries to protect species, sites and ecosystems – including rainforests.
And as part of our new partnership with Tesco, Together For Trees, we’ve launched a search for our first Rainforest Reporter.
Instead of battling to work on the train you could be walking through local villages, rather than sitting at a desk you’ll get to learn survival skills and at the end of the day rather than being sat in front of the TV watching travel programmes – you’ll be there for real.
Despite being home to more than two thirds of the planet’s land-based creatures, three quarters of all endangered bird species and with more than one billion of the world’s poorest people depending on them to survive, an area the size of a football pitch disappears every four seconds in the rainforest.
The winner of the Rainforest Reporter competition will get a day's pre-trip training with adventurer Ed Stafford, hands-on experience of some of the conservation work being carried out and they’ll get to report back on their experiences via a series of blogs and videos.
Jealous – me – never. Unfortunately I'm guessing the rules restrict RSPB employees from entering (hmm maybe I should check that out) – but you can...............
We’re looking for someone with a passion for conservation and a flair for storytelling.
If that sounds like you or someone you know, find out more at: http://www.togetherfortrees.com/
Ah, Spring! The scent of the blossom, the call of the chiffchaff, the ring of the phone...
As one of the team answering Wildlife Enquiries from the public, the arrival of Spring brings up a whole new world of questions.
A very nice lady asked me if she should continue feeding birds now that the bad weather has gone. While it’s true that feeding garden birds is absolutely vital when conditions are cold, it’s also useful as a supplementary feeding source over the summer. If parent birds don’t have to travel so far to get food, they can spend more time ensuring that their brood thrives.
Just watch how many feeding trips a blue tit will make and you can see that it is spending a huge amount of energy just to keep going. When they have hungry chicks to feed with caterpillars, the adults will find a quick trip to the feeder is much more convenient than roaming around the garden looking for their own food.
Inside a blue tit's nest-box. So many wee chicks to feed!
(Remember not to use whole peanuts in feeders when chicks could be around as they will be too big to swallow).
As garden birds start to build their nests, callers often ask whether there is still time to prune their hedges without disturbing the birds.
It can be very tricky to tell where birds are nesting and I would say that in the majority of cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hedges are a really valuable wildlife habitat, providing not just shelter but also sources of food for birds (insects in summer and berries in winter) and protection from predators.
And finally –
We always get calls asking us to identify birds over the phone.
I was delighted to be able to help a caller who had an unusual-looking sparrow that had been visiting her garden in recent days.
Often this can be a matter of an educated guess, but in this case the bird returned while I was still on the phone.
From her description, I was able to identify a chirpy male Reed Bunting – a lovely visitor!
A reed bunting singing his heart out at the RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve
As part of my role I get to meet loads of great farmers around the South East to find out what they are doing for wildlife on their farms, as well as advising them of any further actions they may be able to take.
A few years ago the RSPB thought it was about time that these farmers got some recognition for their wonderful work for wildlife, so we joined forces with The Telegraph, Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife and the Nature of Farming Awards were launched!
Every year, 8 Regional winners (who receive a £250 prize) are judged by a panel of experts who decide on 4 National finalists. It is then open to the public to vote and decide who is their favourite farmer, with the winner being crowned Nature of Farming Award Champion and winning £1000!
So, if you own or manage farmland in South East England and are not only producing food, but also looking after the birds, mammals, plants and insects on your farm – what are you waiting for?
You only have until 30th April to enter the UK’s largest farmland wildlife competition, the Nature of Farming Award, and a chance of winning that £1000! Download an application form here
In 2011, 22,000 people voted for their favourite farm in the competition, raising the profile of the crucial conservation work that many farmers are taking for wildlife. Despite some excellent winners from the South East in recent years, we have yet to see a national champion.......so if you think you are stepping up for nature, why not enter and we could see the crown come to SE England!