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 through land management.  One of my achievements, such as it is, in nearly 13 years of being the RSPB's Conservation Director is to calm down those tensions and get people behind the idea that we need both - why tie one hand behind your back when you need six hands to make much progress anyway?

Much of this blog has dealt with public policy but much of my working life has been given over to spending millions of pounds of the RSPB's money on fantastic nature reserves.  The first of these that we added under my Directorship was Dingle Marshes (still a great place) and I've never looked back since. 

We've been adding to our land holdings in the Flow Country - where I first worked for the RSPB in 1986, when we had no land up there at all.  Our Forsinard nature reserve is the largest of all our nature reserves now - that's a lot of growth in a mere 25 years. 

I like to think of our 200+ nature reserves as a rather large family of teenagers.  Why is that?  Because hardly any of them is fully formed and grown up.  But they have lots of potential. 

It is in the nature of land purchase that you rarely have the opportunity to buy all of, or just, the land that would make the perfect nature reserve at the start.  There's often that important bit of land (for access, or to allow proper control of water levels, or simply the 'best' bit) that isn't included in the original deal.  And it's also in the nature of things that you rarely know when the remainder will be available for purchase.  So I regard many RSPB nature reserves as unfinished - wonderful as they are, they are mostly unfinished.

But don't they do a great job?  Nature reserves have played a big role in the recovery of populations of marsh harrier, bearded tit, bittern, avocet (of course!), corncrakes, roseate terns and actually a whole range of other birds and, very importantly, not just for birds.  And over recent years, and into the future, RSPB nature reserves will also to do a good job for lapwings, redshanks, snipe, black grouse, choughs, cranes and who knows what other bird species?  25 years ago it would have only been the more visionary who would have seen that so many birds of the wider countryside would be increasingly concentrated in nature reserves.

Check out previous blogs on our nature reserves in general (here, here ) or some in particular (Nene Washes, Saltholme, Islay, Geltsdale and Otmoor).

Which is your favourite RSPB nature reserve - and why?

Did I mention there is a book of the blog?  It even has tips about how to blog so you could start yourself.

A love of the natural world demonstrates that a person is a cultured inhabitant of planet Earth.

  • I'm a bit late tonight, didn't anyone else realise there was a little game on! The RSPB's done a fantastic job of purchasing & developing some wonderful nature reserves & I hope they can keep it up. There's room for improvement on at leastsome of them, but by far they are doing a great work.

  • All - very interesting comments.  Just remember them (except perhaps mirlo and trimbush (but then we don't think trimbush is an RSPB member do we?)) when an appeal mailing comes to you (and me) from the RSPB.  Land - they're not making it anymore - Mark Twain wasn't it?

    A love of the natural world demonstrates that a person is a cultured inhabitant of planet Earth.

  • What a great blog Mark and there are so many fine reserves that it is hard to choose as I would feel that I was almost offending those not mentioned and those we have not visited but Dave Sexton on Mull has been more help than anyone can hope for and while not exactly a reserve it is more or less.The ones we visit most are Arne and Lodmoor,the latter a very underrated place and Arne has two young enthusiastic wardens who I will always remember that after hip op said if I could not make it all the way round someone would come and pick me up,surely that is beyond the call of duty.The buying of land for reserves has in my opinion been a great success and lots of us spend enjoyable days on them so congratulations to you and RSPB for giving lots of us so much pleasure.

  • Unlike Mirlo, my favourite reserve is the one nearest me. The RSPB have certainly not lacked enthusiasm in it's development. They had the good foresight to purchase the first area the year I retired in 1997 and I have been involved as a volunteer and work party member since the start. New purchases have been made and the reserve is now at least twice the original size. At the moment it is just amazing. All the warblers back (except the winter seems to have done for the Cetti's) with at least ten Groppers reeling away and Lesser whitethroats singing in the open better than I've ever seen them. The Sedge and Reed warblers are almost too numerous to count and the three cuckoos that call continuously will have a field day! On Good Friday a Turtle Dove returned and by the following day it had found a mate and had consumated the liaison. It appears at present that we are likely to have the best breeding season for Lapwings and Redshank numbers are up as well.

    Thanks for the blog Mark, I have thoroughly enjoyed it since my fellow work party volunteer and good friend, Redkite, introduced me to it. I enjoy many of the contributions and think that Sooty well deserves his place on the front of your book. I must say your tolerance and patience as a moderator sometimes astonishes me but it takes all sorts and I suppose we need to know some of the more bizarre attitudes that exist out there.

    Very best wishes for whatever you do in the future. Your country needs you.

  • Mirlo - don't - then - make silly statements and ask silly questions!

    You know you should know better!   Think about it!

    Hi SG - likewise JKS's - Glorious Twelfth!