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.
Good to read you blogging about the reserves Mark. Yes RSPB, please do keep buying land - as much as possible. Recent unexpected shifts in government policy have shown how uncertain the future can be. RSPB land ownership is some of the best long-term protection UK wildlife can have.
I first went to Minsmere in 1965, and it's still my favourite reserve. I was recently lent a copy of Bledgrave Hall, J K Stanford's fictionalised account of the first Avocets breeding there in 1947. At the end of the book the hero allows an egg collector to flee, unwarned, into an uncleared minefield on the heath with fatal results. Those were the days!
I have spent a great deal of time doing voluntary work for conservation bodies including the RSPB, including 1 month at Loch Garten, 6 weeks living under a peregrine nest etc. So please stick to commenting about things that you know something about or more precisely things that you think you know about.
Of course you must do both, but different conservation problems will be solved in different ways and the correct strategy is to do whatever is required to overcome the problem. Buying and better management of specific bits of land must be important but for many conservation problems just doing that would be a distraction. It's about scale and confidence that the 'wider' conservation measures will be as effective as they need to be, given that the degree of control will be less than owning land outright. But you've been right to champion both. Good luck in what comes next.
• My least favourite nature reserve is the one nearest to my home ie Campfield Marsh. i rarely ever visit this reserve.
• I feel that with a bit more enthusiasm from the RSPB this could easily have been a great reserve.
• As it is the viewing facilities are a waste of time and Money.
• As I now spend most of my time watching wildlife and almost no time on this reserve, something must be wrong somewhere.
…………………. “a bit more enthusiasm from the RSPB?”
…………………... “something must be wrong somewhere”?
Yes mirlo – there is something wrong – you’re supposed to get off your backside – and with your fellow local RSPB members prepare an action plan for improvement – and enjoy implementing it!
Blimey - I'm the very last one to defend the host organisation - but really ....!
Mirlo - let Mark or his successor know when you've started!
My least favourite nature reserve is the one nearest to my home ie Campfield Marsh. i rarely ever visit this reserve. I feel that with a bit more enthusiasm from the RSPB this could easily have been a great reserve. As it is the viewing facilities are a waste of time and Money. As I now spend most of my time watching wildlife and almost no time on this reserve, something must be wrong somewhere.
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