Get an exclusive insight into our work in the south east region and meet some of the people who make it possible.
We are all familiar with protecting the countryside – but how do you protect the sea bed and the many vulnerable plant and marine species which live there? And then there are the birds and animals which rely on the sea, directly or indirectly, for food.
The UK is an island with nearly 8,000 miles of coastline and many unique species, ecosystems and habitats. The government decided to introduce protection for the UK’s coast in 2009 by designating marine conservation zones. 127 were eventually proposed and after consultation, 27 were chosen last November.
Now there is an understanding that perhaps the first tranche didn’t go far enough and more protection is needed. In the south east, there are potentially seven zones which could be designated MCZs, including Bembridge and the Needles off the Isle of Wight.
The long and short snouted sea horses which live in the warm coastal waters off the Isle of Wight are a priority species for the RSPB. It is the only proposed MCZ where both of these native seahorses, which eat small crustacean such as mysis shrimp, can be found.
The sea off the Needles is home to the stalked jellyfish and it is also an important foraging area for cormorants and black-headed gulls. It is also a rich area for seaweeds, including the rare peacock’s tail seaweed.
As the RSPB has already pointed out, seabirds rely on marine habitats for food, breeding and shelter, including cliff-nesting birds such as the Seaford kittiwakes and the guillemots which nest on the Isle of Wight cliffs.
Nesting terns colonies around the Solent such as common and sandwich terns, will also benefit from MCZs having protection.
The next step is a public consultation to be held next year and Defra will look at evidence before making a decision as to which areas will become MCZs, with a further group of MCZs being proposed in 2016.
When I was young, my family always encouraged an interest in wildlife, from catching grasshoppers in the garden, to watching the birds on the feeders. Over time, it went from watching the birds, to feeding the birds, putting up boxes, keeping wild patches for the insects, and inspired a career working with animals. However, there's only so much any one person can do, and as much as wildlife patches in gardens have a really significant impact (as shown by the Give Nature a Home campaign!) it takes research and co-operation to help co-ordinate this difference, and that's why I am fundraising for the RSPB.
There might only be so much one person, and one garden can do, but by fundraising, I can help the RSPB to get all of these gardens to mean something, to really make a difference, and to help the wider picture of wildlife.
Once I decided that fundraising was the right thing to do, I looked at what to do. There is a whole range out there, and honestly, a whole bunch that just wasn't right for me. After a while, I found something that was for me, and I thought the hard part was just starting.
I thought getting people to part with their money would be hard, and the actual process of organising it all from there even harder! But, as cliche as it sounds, the actual process of fundraising has been easier than I could have imagined.
What I found was that people from the most surprising places gave more than I could ever have hoped for, and made the whole process of fundraising so worthwhile. If anyone was reading this, and thinking they'd like to fundraise, but they really don't have the time, or the support, or even an idea of what to do, so they probably won't do it, I would just say, it really is so much easier than I'd imagined, and people from all round help out! Just go for it.
Even if you do it once, and then think that, actually, you really don't have the time, at least you know for certain. And I would say, certainly for me, having that break from the routine actually helped me get more done in the time I had, even though I was doing hard training for my event, it gave me time for my head to relax! Just give it a go, and make sure you enjoy it!
RSPB chief executive Mike Clarke did a bit of nifty time travel last week when he visited the south east region’s office in Brighton.
Mike, who started out as a conservation officer in the south east office 26 years ago, got a chance to go back to his former role for a day last Wednesday.
He met and talked with frontline and admin staff and was accompanied on his two-hour tour of the office by south east Conservation Manager Sam Dawes.
Then four of the newest members of staff got the chance to have a longer chat with Mike about their first impressions of the RSPB.
For the bulk of the day he worked on a conservation officer’s task - to devise an ongoing strategy to protect nesting birds and Heathland wildlife in the region.
Mike’s work looked at what needs to be changed to revive the south east’s Heathland habitats, the obstacles to change and how they might be overcome. Mike also got a chance to try out Merlin, the online mapping tool, as part of preparing his presentation to the team.
Mike aimed for solutions to help put open habitats in a regional context while at the same time getting a flavour of the challenges facing conservation staff on the ground in the south east.
“I really enjoyed going back to the south east region for a day,” Mike said. “Obviously it has changed a great deal since I started out, as the seventh person in the office, as it was then. Yesterday I got a chance to meet many of the staff and I was impressed by their friendliness and commitment. I thought they were a great team and well-equipped to meet the challenges the society faces as we continue to fight the ongoing conservation battles.”