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
  • Seabird news from the South West

    You may have seen media coverage recently about designation of some new Marine Conservation Zones, including around parts of our region’s coast. The RSPB welcomes these. However, we are still concerned that important foraging areas for mobile species, such as our seabirds, are not properly protected and so able to be safeguarded from harmful activities to ensure a safe future for seabirds at sea as well as when they breed on land.

    The importance of the south west for some of our region’s seabirds is highlighted in the latest edition of our annual Seabirds South West newsletter . . .

    Last summer a team of RSPB staff and volunteers surveyed seabirds on the Isles of Scilly. This all species, all islands count involved a lot of getting off small boats and scrambling onto islands and then counting all the different species including gulls, auks and shags. And for burrow nesting species such as Manx shearwater and storm petrel, it involved monitoring playback responses from underground burrows and night surveys. It was great to report breeding success for both these species on St Agnes and Gugh – islands where the removal of rats by the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project www.ios-seabirds.org.uk two years ago has enabled successful breeding for both. Our surveyors found storm petrel chicks on St Agnes for the first time in living memory! The survey found significant increases in numbers of Manx shearwater, guillemot and razorbill on the islands, but sadly significant decreases in kittiwake, common tern, herring and lesser black-backed gull, shag and cormorant. We will now examine the results and see what can be done to restore those species that are decline on the islands, and to ensure that the Isles of Scilly remains a premier seabird site.

    Courtesy Ed Marshall

    Our Dorset little tern protection project at Chesil Beach had another successful year, enabling the 33 pairs to fledge 34 young – a great result for this delicate bird on its only breeding site in the region.

    In August last year RSPB staff and volunteers joined with MARINElife for a synchronised survey of Balearic shearwaters that involved people counting from a series of coast watch points and from boats. This critically endangered seabird visits SW inshore areas over the late summer to early autumn period to feed and we wanted to see how many birds were using inshore waters around our coast and whether any areas were more favoured. We’ll be sharing the results in our next Seabirds South West newsletter.

    Courtesy Ed Marshall

    And finally we highlighted the problems facing our large gulls. Herring and lesser black-backed gulls nest around the coast and in many inland locations. Unfortunately their presence on roofs sometimes leads to conflict with some people. Both species are of conservation concern. We need to know more about current population numbers and reasons for declines in coastal populations, and examine ways of co-existing with gulls in urban environments. For example, gulls will break open rubbish bags and scatter waste food – but perhaps the solution there is changing our human behaviour so we don’t let so much food go to waste in the first place and put our waste in `gull proof’ containers?

  • 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.