When asked what his study of evolution had taught him about the workings of the mind of  the Creator, the biologist JBS Haldane is said to have remarked that it suggested 'an inordinate fondness for beetles'.  So does a look through the species recorded on RSPB nature reserves. 

So far, we have recorded over 13,300 different species on our 200+ nature reserves.  That's at least a quarter of all British plants and animals (and fungi and lichen).  Over 2200 of these species are beetles and another 2200 are flies.  3100 are fungi and lichens, 1100 vascular plants and 1600 butterflies and moths. 

Minsmere has over 5300 recorded species, Abernethy nearly 4100 and Dungeness nearly 2800. 

Now these are big numbers but somewhat meaningless!  Well, that's a bit sweeping perhaps.  They are meaningless in that the numbers depend critically on how much effort has gone into looking for species on these sites - particularly how much expert effort has gone into groups such as fungi and moths whose numbers can bump up the totals enormously.  We work closely with a range of other organisations and individual experts to understand more about the amazing diversity of life on our land.  If you are an expert and would like to add to our knowledge then please do get in touch.

And we take great notice of all these wildlife species from the medicinal leeches at Dungeness to the tooth fungi at Abernethy.  Our reserve management plans attempt to ensure that what we do for one species, whether plant or bird, does not conflict with the needs of other threatened species, whether spider or fish.  All this takes a lot of planning, dedication and knowledge.  Sometimes it is the knowledge that is in shortest supply!

I wish I knew more about more of these species.  As I walk around Minsmere on a spring day I can hear the nightingales and bitterns and spot the marsh harrier over the reedbed, I'm not bad at butterflies, can recognise the red deer and will certainly step back if an adder crosses the path, but I am largely blind to most of the species that I pass.  Because I don't know them I don't notice them. 

It's a good job that we have plenty of better-informed naturalists on the RSPB staff, and that we work closely with other experts. 

Oh! and there are a few birds too - about 380 species.  That's only about two thirds of all bird species seen in the UK whereas all the lamprey, hagfish, amphibian, reptile, cockroach and earwig species in the country have been recorded on our nature reserves.  You can see why we don't call these sites bird reserves - they truly are nature reserves!  We have an inordinate fondness for nature!


  • Your blog mentioning beetles caused me to recall Henry Harford, a cousin of Peter Scott's father, who, as a Lieutenant leading an attack during one of the early battles in the Zulu war caused some consternation when he was seen to fall to the ground.  Injured or killed?  No, he had just spotted a rare beetle which he needed to identify.  Having collected it, he continued the attack.  Biodiversity and its enjoyment thrills us even during the most extreme moments in life.