Having worked for the RSPB in South East England for over 15 years, I guess I’ve built up quite a lot of knowledge and experience of what’s important for wildlife in the region, and what the RSPB might be able to do to help. There isn’t a typical day really...I have my fingers in a number of pies!A big focus at the moment is the Arun and Rother Connections project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. We are about to take on a Project Officer to work on the next stage. If all goes well we will deliver major habitat improvements in the rivers catchments, such as removing obstructions to fish movements and tackling invasive plants like giant hogweed, as well as enhancing the visitor experience at Pulborough Brooks and elsewhere. This is a real Futurescapes approach, involving six delivery partners in addition to the RSPB, and promises to be very exciting.Talking of Futurescapes, I am the South East lead for this programme of landscape-scale activity, and have a particular interest in our South Downs work, including working with the National Park on the new Nature Improvement Area in the Downs. We are hoping to step up our delivery of farm conservation advice in this priority area for farmland birds like lapwings, grey partridges and corn buntings, and have recently met with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to plan ways of coordinating our work better.Inevitably there are a lot of meetings to attend, and I represent wildlife interests on such diverse bodies as the Forestry Commission’s Regional Advisory Committee and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy. I say “wildlife interests” rather than the RSPB because this work involves taking a broad view and speaking out for conservation as a whole; for example, at Chichester Harbour I represent two Wildlife Trusts and two Ornithological Societies as well as the RSPB. As a member of our Regional Management Team I am involved in helping set the strategic direction for the RSPB in the South East, and have done a lot of work on the South East England Implementation Plan, which sets out how we will put our corporate strategy Saving Nature into practice in the years up to 2020. I’ve been working closely with Sam Dawes (South East Conservation Manager) on some of the conservation outcomes, such as improving the lot of our threatened bird species – we have achieved a lot, but there are masses of things to do – in the case of the turtle dove it’s as stark as saving the species from extinction in the region. I started with the RSPB as a volunteer, and in a way I sometimes still am because I‘ve been doing a Volunteer and Farmer Alliance survey on a farm between Lewes and Newhaven. This lovely Downland site is inspiring because it has loads of birds! After two visits this spring I’ve recorded corn buntings, skylarks, linnets and stonechats among others, as well as a nice range of butterflies. I also keep connected with nature by doing Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts in Chichester Harbour during the winter months, an opportunity to see hundreds of waders and wildfowl in attractive surroundings (Chichester Harbour is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), even if it’s sometimes a bit chilly out there! As we set off on the journey towards 2020 we will need to use all our skills, knowledge and intelligence to do our best to Save Nature and I’m looking forward to making my contribution.
Turtle Dove - a species on the brink of extinction, but is still found at a few sites across the south east. Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
I heard turtle doves this weekend in Denge woods (East Kent) :-))