• ...and finally




    It's been great!  Thanks for everything.




    And if you want to keep in touch with Mark Avery in the future then visit markavery.info



    Did I mention the book of the blog?

  • And the blog goes on...

    I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog over almost 2 years - over 700 blogs have been posted.  Does anyone claim to have read them all?  I doubt it.

    I've enjoyed writing here enormously - sometimes it has been a bit tricky to fit in with the rest of my work and the rest of my life but it has been great.

    And being the RSPB's Conservation Director has been fantastic - it's a great job in a great organisation.…

  • Countdown - 1, guess what?

    The most common subject on this blog has been farming and the decline of farmland birds (and there are lots of extracts in the book of the blog). 

    Be in no doubt - many farmland birds have declined and they symbolise and stand for the declines in plants and insects in our farmland. 

    I say 'our' farmland because we British, maybe particularly we English, feel a great affinity for the countryside - it's in our literature…

  • Countdown - 2, ours?

    The UK Overseas Territories are a funny collection of places, mostly islands, which speak volumes about the UK's colonial past. 

    We will go to war to protect their sovereignty but will we protect their wildlife? 

    The UKOTs are populated by 240,000 British nationals and are visited by over 1.6 million UK citizens every year and yet are mostly overlooked in Whitehall.  Defra is the department responsible for the biodiversity…

  • Countdown - 3, buying land

    Much of this blog has been about what government should or should not do.  But thank heavens there are plenty of things that nature conservationists can do without bringing politicians into it at all.  And perhaps top of the pile is buying and managing land.

    I can remember when there used to be occasional tensions within the RSPB between those who wanted to save nature through policy change and those who wanted to do it…

  • Countdown - 4, hen harriers

    They are just one species of bird, and their numbers in the UK have increased a bit over the last couple of decades, but still the hen harrier's plight is resonant of a distant age when nature was persecuted freely.

    I believe, and the RSPB believes, that this is a species which is ruthlessly killed by some of those involved with grouse shooting.  The evidence for this comes from science, rumour, film evidence, a few…

  • Countdown - 5, a countryside full of Hope?

    Hope Farm is doing well.  In fact it is one of the aspects of our work on which I look back with considerable personal satisfaction.  Acting as a senior figure in a fairly large organisation one has a variety of roles - one of which is to make the big calls.  The RSPB going into arable farming in the hope that we could do it and produce a lot more wildlife was a big call.  Not mine alone of course but getting the idea together…

  • Countdown - 6, a Forest and Wildlife Service

    The Forestry Commission is a bit of an anachronism - a state timber outfit.  Why does the State need to be a timber grower?  I reckon there would be a better argument for State Farms or State Fishing Fleets than State foresters.

    The public interest in our State Forests is not because we are all hanging on the price of pulp wood it's because we like some of the forests that are not very commercial but are wonderful places…

  • Countdown - 7, peat

    In maybe 10 years time, the use of peat in gardens should become as frowned upon as blowing cigarette smoke into the faces of children.  It will become mainstream that the use of the precious natural resources, destroying wildlife habitats and sticking more carbon up into the atmosphere at the same time, for the beautification of our own private gardens, when alternative less-damaging alternatives are available, is anti…

  • Monks

    I have just done an interview, presumably my last for the RSPB, for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on monk parakeets (here is the link - it starts at about 48mins and 50 seconds).

    Small numbers of this pretty parrot have become established in southern England and Defra are aiming to get rid of them as they fear they may cause damage to crops, gardens, 'infrastructure' and maybe wildlife.

    Infrastructure needs…

  • Book of the blog - Blogging for Nature

    If you have enjoyed  reading this blog - and I do hope that you have - then you may be interested in buying the book of the blog!


    Blogging for Nature is not available through any good bookshops - the only way to purchase it is through a website which you can find by clicking here.


    A snip at £9.92 (+P&P) this book contains 143 of 700+ blogs which have appeared here over the last couple of years.


    The book…

  • Countdown - 8, biofuels

    Not all regulation is good.  The biofuel issue illustrates better than most others that if governments get things wrong, and impose that error widely, then disaster ensues.  And the biofuel issue illustrates the few options left to the individual when government makes big mistakes.

    I'm here talking about crops grown for fuel (and it doesn't really matter whether we are talking biomass or biofuel here) on a large scale…

  • Countdown - 9, regulation

    I've just sent Vince Cable an email and I am asking you to do the same, please.

    In a quite breath-taking move, the coalition government has put all environmental regulation up for grabs in the 'Red Tape Challenge'.  Potentially this is 'Bye, bye' Wildlife and Countryside Act and 'Bye, bye' Climate Change Act.  Surely some mistake, here?

    Even to refer to legislation like the Wildlife and Countryside…

  • Countdown - 10, non-native species.

    Following a blog on reintroductions how about one on reintroductions' evil twin - introductions?

    There is a general rule in biology that about one in 10 non-native translocated species becomes established in its new home - and that then one in 10 of those becomes an economic or conservation problem.  Non-native species are one of the prime causes of species' extinction and so carting species around the globe is…

  • Countdown - 11, reintroductions

    Reintroductions stir up quite strong opinions amongst birders, land owners and conservationists alike, yet to me they form just one of the tools in the conservation toolbox, and you just have to bring them out for the right job.

    There are sensible international guidelines on where, when and how to reintroduce species, which are always used to steer official reintroduction projects here in the UK.  They relate to trying…

  • Countdown - 12, long-distance migrants

    It's not just birds that migrate but they would win gold medals at it.  Whales do it, wildebeest do it, even educated painted ladies do it - but birds do it best in my humble opinion.

    And in spring, now!, every time you go out into the countryside there may be another summer migrant returning to fill the air with its song.  My list of summer migrants already seen is currently: swallow, sand martin, house martin, common…

  • Countdown - 13, rivers

    The state of rivers in England and Wales is pretty poor.  Only 22% of the length of rivers in England and Wales is in Good Ecological Status (GES, which has a rather technical definition but it means pretty much what you'd think it means). 

    And lest anyone thinks that this blog is being unfair, it is true that 24% of rivers are in GES (so smaller ones are a bit better than bigger ones) and that when you look at water…

  • Countdown - 14, ecosystem services

    The whole concept of ecosystem services has become much-chattered about in policy circles over the last decade even though the person on the Clapham omnibus would probably glaze over at the mention of it.

    Ecosystem services are those useful things that are provided by the natural world that benefit us and that therefore have a value even if that value is often not taken into account in our financial transacations. At…

  • Second chance in Eden?

    It's the Eden Project's 10th birthday - Happy Birthday!

    They asked me to write a guest blog and this is it.

    If you have any bright ideas - and surely you do - then please post them on the Eden Project's blog site (or here - but it would be friendlier if you posted them there).


  • Countdown - 15, Keeping the score

    Imagine you are watching the final of the cricket World Cup or perhaps the last Ashes Test, it is a little way short of the end of the first innings and the scoreboard goes completely blank.  The game continues but no one records how many runs are scored or how many wickets are lost.  It isn’t clear how far short of setting a reasonable target the first team is or what the next team has to do to better it.

    What has…

  • Countdown - 16, in the garden

    This is a lovely time of year and I love it when nature chooses to come to my garden.  It feels like a vote of confidence that I've been doing some of the right things when a bird or insect shows up on my land.

    Previous blogs (here and here) have said a little about what to do in the garden but I really am not an expert so I don't have that much to say.

     But I can see that I may have more opportunity to learn…

  • Good things to do Nationally

    Step up for Nature with the RSPB

    Farmers - enter your farm for the  Nature of Farming Award

    Get involved with the Big Climate Reconnection

    Help us make rivers a priority for government

    Vote for Middleton Lakes in this Countryfile poll of conservation projects


    And...maybe a good thing to do - back Silver by Nature each way in the Grand National.

    I was born early on the morning of Grand National day in 1958 (29…

  • Countdown - 17, trees off heaths

    Thomas Hardy used the fictional Egdon Heath in his novels to exemplify untameable nature whose enemy was civilisation.

    Since Hardy was born, the area of lowland heathland has shrunken considerably and since he died the rate of loss accelerated.  Some has been lost to housing, some to agriculture and much to forestry plantations.  Where pine plantations have been planted there is still a window of opportunity to restore…

  • Countdown - 18, egg collecting

    I'm rubbish at finding birds' nests, and rubbish at identifying their eggs, and so I have a small sneaking admiration for the skill of egg collectors but that is where it ends.

    Talking to RSPB Investifations staff, they are more hard-nosed on the subject.  Here is a selection of things they said: 'look like petty criminals and are', 'more obsessive than birders', 'often spotted by birdwatchers…

  • Countdown - 19, GM crops

    There was a period during my time as Conservation Director when a topical blog would have been dominated by the issue of genetically modified (GM) crops.  Over the last two years they have hardly had a mention - although you may be interested in this piece of historical commentary.

    But, I would imagine my successor may have to devote some time to this issue.  The emphasis on increasing production, rather than reducing…