Stuart Housden's blog

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.

Stuart Housden's blog

Director of RSPB Scotland. Blogging on conservation topics & many of our projects.There will be an emphasis on Scotland,but the rest of the UK & work with BirdLife International will get mentions too.You can also follow me on Twitter @StuartHousden
  • Join the RSPB at this year's Birdfair

    In one month's time tens of thousands of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will be flocking to Birdfair, the largest gathering of nature and bird enthusiasts in the world. It is also a meeting place for many wildlife focussed NGOs and all of the outdoor and nature associated industries – from optics and cameras, to wildlife artists, tour companies and clothing. This is truly the place to be in mid August!

    The event also showcases some entertaining and informative talks, telling stories from trips to far flung destinations, revealing insights from scientific studies into bird behaviour or conservation status, and bringing you up to date on conservation projects. In short there is something for everyone, which is why Birdfair goes from strength to strength. And the overall organisation is dependent on a great group of volunteers – well done!

    The RSPB is a co-sponsor of Birdfair, and this year we will have a major stand in Marquee 2. Several RSPB projects will be featured in the talks programme – I am particularly looking forward to Jane Sears talk on beaver reintroduction on Sunday at 3pm in Lecture Marquee 3.

    From our stand we will be promoting our investigations work – asking for help from birdwatchers in combating wildlife crime. The RSPB’s 220 nature reserves, which now extend to some 155,000Ha (c400,000 acres) are also part of our offering and we will be telling some special stories and conservation successes from many of these wonderful places. We are naturally very proud of our reserves – and as the first little gulls breeding in Britain, at Strathbeg, Aberdeenshire, show, they are very popular with birds and other wildlife too!

    RSPB members can get discounted tickets on the Sunday but we really urge you to come along and meet our staff, and enjoy Birdfair on whatever day suits you.

    All proceeds from Birdfair go to support a Birdlife International approved conservation project. Your participation and support will fund much needed action along flyways and tackle the big conservation challenges of the day.

    This year The Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB and Birdlife have chosen Madagascar’s Tsitongambarika Forest to be the recipient of the funds. Birdfair is also raising money for the next generation of conservationists: this year it will be supporting students in Africa. Read more about these important causes.

    Lastly, Birdfair continues to be great fun, and part of that fun is the RSPB Birders lecture held at 6pm on Friday 19 August in the Events Marquee.

    This year our speakers are top-flight international birders Yoav Perlman, Keith Clarkson and Paul French with Adam Rowlands chairing, and as the host on the evening I will be pleased to welcome you along. But space is limited – so make sure to arrive early.

    From all of us at the RSPB we look forward to meeting you and engaging with you at this year’s Birdfair. See you on 19, 20 and 21 August!

  • Letter to Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

    Letter to Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform


    RSPB Scotland has always believed that, because nature transcends national boundaries, it needs cross-border co-operation to protect it and a common set of international standards that enable it to thrive. Regardless of the future governance options or constitutional debates that may arise in Scotland following the EU referendum, RSPB Scotland will continue to campaign for the best standards of environmental legislation to safeguard our wildlife and to halt the impacts of climate change. With this in mind we, supported by other conservation organisations, have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, to ensure that there is an equivalent or enhanced level of protection for wildlife as that which is currently provided for under EU law. You can download and read this letter using the link below. 

    This letter to the Scottish Government mirrors the RSPB's calls across the UK following last week's referendum - you can read more on this in Martin Harper's blog.

  • Investing in Our Countryside

    Investing in Our Countryside

    Wildlife across Scotland continues to change, with serious long term declines now evident. So how do we have a greater positive impact on the fortunes of our species at a time when less government support is available? Protected areas for example have been essential to target corncrake recovery and blanket bog restoration in Scotland, but they’re not enough on their own to prevent wildlife declines. What’s more, other policies, like the CAP and CFP, continue to work in opposition to conservation measures, and the market pressures on food producers don’t yet value conservation so what’s the solution? These are some of the issues that were up for discussion at the ‘Investing in Our Countryside’ dinner, which we co-hosted with lawyers Turcan Connell on the 31st May.

    The event was part of Green Week - the biggest annual conference on European environmental policy, which this year took place from 30th May to 3rd June. Focusing on the theme ‘Investing for a greener future’, this year the conference aimed to contribute to answering the broader question of how to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe. Each day of the week focused on a different aspect of the main theme and member states were encouraged to hold satellite events, such as our dinner. 

    Nicholas Hanley, Director of DG Environment's Directorate for Global and Regional Challenges

    The evening was kicked off with the above address from Nicholas Hanley, Director of DG Environment's Directorate for Global and Regional Challenges, which was recorded in advance of the event. As Mr Hanley states, “...declining budgets have taken their toll on biodiversity” and “...it will cost a lot to replace natural systems with artificial solutions, therefore investing in our natural capital is not a cost, but saving cost – a true investment in a sustainable future.” I echo this and also agree that “...well managed protected areas deliver benefits for both wildlife and people.” It’s refreshing to have a European Commission representative stand up for the Natura 2000 network at a time when the directives behind them are in grave danger of being watered down, despite strong public and political support, including most recently from David Cameron.

    Though we are not telling anyone how to vote in the EU referendum, and understand people will decide based on multiple issues, the RSPB believes wildlife is safer in Europe wheere concerted action can address the needs of nature across the continent. But, whatever the outcome on the 23rd June, it is clear more investment is needed in the Scottish countryside. Over 60% of species have declined in the past 50 years. Nature matters, for its own intrinsic value and the ecosystem services it provides, but without conscious investment nature is likely to be further degraded, as ‘efficiencies’ drive more specialisation  and intensification of land use.

    We recognise that public finances are tight. So, the Scottish Government needs to be smarter in how public funds are used – more joined up, better targeted and focused on delivering real outcomes, such as those outlined in the Biodiversity Route Map to 2020. It’s apparent that there is also an underinvestment in education, training and advice, which would help to better equip those who work the land and manage the countryside with better knowledge and skills to do so in beneficial ways.

    The private sector could deliver a good deal more, too. There is great potential for Scottish businesses to trade on the basis of a clean and green image, but this must be based on substance. And we need to make it more attractive for the private sector to invest in nature, too.

    These are the views of RSPB Scotland of course, but as details were discussed and debated around the dinner table, spurred on by some fervent speakers, one thing became clear; we need the public to be alerted to the dangers and invest more effort in telling politicians they care. The first in a set of globally agreed targets for biodiversity – the Aichi targets –- states that ’by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.’ We all need to work harder to achieve this.

    ‘The countryside’ is often thought of as somewhere people visit for recreation and this idea of the environment and nature being separate from us first and foremost needs to change. There was a strong consensus around the table that, from childhood, people need to be reconnected with the land and wildlife around them. Children must be given the necessary experience to understand what nature Scotland must care for. People must be connected with nature to care.  

    It was also suggested that we need to mainstream a sense of concern and care for nature throughout society, in a similar way that the Climate Change movement has done. The media can help us do this, but people can feel powerless when they hear lots of doomsday stories. Similarly, it was pointed out that it’s not just the media that can be overly negative. Stakeholders, including ourselves, can all be guilty of starting from a place of discord when trying to work out new policies. And so maybe we all need to have a more positive stance, give hope, lead by example and so move forward by first seeking areas of agreement rather than dispute?