Way out west

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.

Way out west

South west England is rich in wildlife - from the high moors to the coast and out to sea, it's one of the most wonderful regions in the UK. This blog celebrates all that's wild about the region. Here we will share insights into our work to protect
  • Sika Deer at RSPB Arne Nature Reserve

    You may have seen some coverage in today’s newspapers about the management of deer at our reserve in Arne, Dorset, in 2010/11, in a story orchestrated by “You Forgot the Birds”. Here is the RSPB’s response in full:

    Over the last decade the sika deer population in Purbeck, Dorset, has increased to a point where the numbers had to be reduced to prevent damage to sites, like the RSPB’s Arne reserve, and to prevent the animals starving as there was insufficient food for such a large herd.

    The need to cull deer is a matter of last resort for the RSPB. When it is necessary we insist on high standards of professionalism, especially relating to animal welfare.

    In many cases we are required by the regulator – in this case Natural England - to reduce deer numbers to prevent damage to internationally-important sites. We work within guidelines of the Deer Initiative (http://www.thedeerinitiative.co.uk/)

    In 2005, the RSPB employed a local deer stalker – Mr Johnny O’Brien - to reduce the number of deer on site. Because of the well-known threat to human and wildlife health and environmental issues surrounding the use of lead, in 2009, the RSPB began a phased change to copper ammunition at all sites where deer numbers need to be reduced. Mr O’Brien agreed to change from the 2010/11 season.

    Despite no problems occurring at other RSPB sites across the UK with the transition to copper ammunition, backed up by a scientific trial, it appeared that Mr O’Brien had an issue. It was revealed that Mr O’Brien was using a caliber of weapon that was too small for copper to be effective, compared with lead. Mr O’Brien was asked to make the switch. Although meeting some resistance from Mr O’Brien, he made the change after which there were no further problems reported.

    Two years ago, the RSPB invited deer stalkers to tender competitively for the Arne contract. The new contractor has been using copper ammunition without issue, in common with other sites.

    Gwyn Williams, RSPB Head of Reserves, said: “The RSPB became aware that Mr O’Brien’s preferred use of a small caliber rifle with our requested use of copper ammunition was an issue, and we asked him to change rifle. There has been no subsequent problem at Arne or any other RSPB site.

    “The use of lead ammunition is a serious issue.  As the venison often enters the human food chain, we have a duty of care to consumers. We followed the guidance of states like California, which banned the use of lead ammunition based on these concerns.”

    The RSPB advises its contractors to only make a shot if there is no risk to people or other wildlife. Using this guidance, the RSPB does not believe that ricochet is a particular problem.

  • News: Hundreds from across the West Country take climate message to Westminster

    The following press release was issued today by RSPB in the South West today ...

    Hundreds of people from across the West Country will come together in Westminster today to ask that their MPs to take a stand in the global fight against climate change.

    The biggest ever climate change lobby will bring together people from every walk of life who are passionate about different things, but are united in their concern that climate change now poses a grave risk to the things they love.

    Climate Rally, London, 2009

    People from almost every constituency in the South West, will meet with their MPs face-to-face on the embankment outside Westminster to explain why they want the new Parliament to support national and global efforts to hold back CO2 emissions and build a cleaner economy.  Rickshaws will take MPs to meet their constituents amidst a festival atmosphere.  

    Simon Giarchi speaking for CAFOD in the South West said;

    “The people we work with overseas are telling us that a changing climate is pushing them and their communities deeper into poverty. We know it’s an issue of concern for Pope Francis, and as people of faith we’re called to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering.

    "This event is about speaking up for the people and things we care about most both here in the West Country and further afield, and by lobbying our MPs, we’re starting a chain reaction that will encourage the UK Government to lead the charge for a more sustainable world for all. No single issue will have a larger impact on humanity over the coming years than climate change, and we want to make sure that the voices of those hardest hit by it in developing countries are heard loud and clear.”

    Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the South West said;

    “It’s time to speak up for the wildlife we all love here in the South West. Climate change is the greatest long-term threat to our precious wildlife, here and further afield. Politicians and Government need to listen to the voices of the thousands of people here today speaking up for wildlife and other things that they love that will all be affected by climate change. Nature needs our help to adapt to the impacts of climate change, including a Government that creates more space for nature and looks after protected wildlife sites. But nature can also help us to adapt to climate change too, and some of the best solutions can help people cope with a changing environment, whilst also benefitting wildlife.”

    Stephen Dominy, speaking for Christian Aid in the South West said,

    “Climate change is increasingly becoming the moral issue of our times. Those suffering from it the most in the developing world bear the least responsibility for creating it. As the first country to industrialise Britain has a duty to lead the way in addressing this global problem.  We in the South West give so generously to help people in poverty around the world, so of course we are urging our new MPs to make Climate Change a real priority during this Parliament.”

    This year, global leaders will sign new agreements on climate and sustainable development - agreements that will determine what kind of future we are shaping for our children.

    The Climate Coalition wants our politicians to work together across party lines to create a low-carbon infrastructure plan, covering energy and transport and the restoration of nature. This plan should include:

    • Supporting a fair global climate change agreement that will end carbon pollution from fossil fuels by the middle of the century – critical if we are to keep global temperature rises well below 2 degrees.
    • Making sure the new Sustainable Development Goals to be agreed in September 2015 respond to the threat of increasing climate change and deliver low-carbon development.
    • Ending climate pollution from coal use in the UK by 2023, on the way to phasing out carbon from our power system.
    • Making 2 million of the UK’s low-income homes highly efficient by 2020, and all 6 million low-income homes highly efficient by 2025.

    See attachment below for what MP's are being asked to do.


  • RSPB News: “Biggest disaster for wildlife in the West Country in our lifetime”

    The following press release was issued today by RSPB in the South West today ...

    “Biggest disaster for wildlife in the West Country in our lifetime”: This chilling statement is how the RSPB is describing the potential weakening of laws that have protected the region’s  wildlife since the late 1970s. The RSPB is today appealing to people across the West Country to help to defend these laws. This is part of a European wide campaign launched this week, co-ordinated by Birdlife Europe.

    European leaders are considering weakening the laws that protect our most vulnerable wildlife and the homes (habitats) they depend on.  If these laws - called the Nature Directives – were weakened the RSPB says this would mean that that many of our most important areas for wildlife would be vulnerable to development and threatened species could be in even more trouble.  

    The places at risk would include our magical estuaries that provide much needed ‘feeding stations’ for migratory birds on their epic journeys across the globe, our heathlands, our wetlands, our uplands and our majestic Atlantic oakwoods - all home to much rare and threatened wildlife.

    The RSPB says that this could affect many natural places where people go on holiday, or picnic with family or go for a weekend walk with friends. Unpicking these laws would be catastrophic for all the wildlife that depends on these places.

    Tony Whitehead speaking for the RSPB in the West Country says; “The Nature Directives are the bedrock of nature conservation in the West Country; providing the highest level of protection that any habitats or species currently have – and they work.

    “Our region benefits hugely from the protection the directives provide, with significant places such as the Dorset Heaths, Poole Harbour, Salisbury Plain, Severn Estuary, Levels and Moors, South West Uplands, East Dartmoor Woodlands, Exe Estuary, Cornwall Coast, Isles of Scilly and the Jurassic Coast all designated under the directives as Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. Numerous scientific studies have shown the role they play in driving conservation success.

     “Despite this, the current political climate is hostile to any regulation in the European Union and there is a general desire to see it stripped away, regardless of the consequences. 

    “Sadly, this includes the Nature Directives. Whilst the Directives may not be perfect, we believe it is critical that they are not opened up for revision. If they are, many European leaders will take the opportunity to weaken them.  If this were to happen, it would probably be the biggest disaster for wildlife in our lifetime.

     “Without a massive demonstration of public support for the Directives, it will be very hard to prevent them being weakened. The RSPB and our partners across Europe are aiming for the biggest ever response to an EU consultation - one that will leave European leaders in no doubt that the general public really cares about nature and won’t tolerate a weakening of its protection.”

    Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says; “If you enjoy the dawn chorus, full of blackbirds and robins, or the once in a lifetime glimpse of otters or bottlenose dolphins, or birds of prey circling overhead as you cycle through the countryside it’s important to remember that if it weren’t for the Nature Directives, you might not be enjoying these wonderful sights and sounds.

    “At the moment, the laws to make sure these wonderful places are protected and remain special for wildlife work.

    “But if they get weakened these safeguards would be lost with potentially catastrophic consequences for our already threatened wildlife.  Your time spent in the great outdoors could look, feel and sound very different.”

    The RSPB is asking everyone to help intervene and convince European leaders to leave these laws as they are, and instead to focus on giving nature a home across the UK and Europe by putting them into practice. Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/defendnature for more information.  

    Follow all the latest RSPB South West news on Twitter via @RSPBSouthWest