Yesterday was fun but a bit exhausting.

Being picked up at 0515 by the BBC to do a live TV slot at 0640 or so is fun, but by midday you feel as though it's already been a long day.

But in the afternoon we were thanking a room full of our active supporters for their help in Letter to the Future.  Lots of people signed up, and the campaign is still active, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for a few months yet, but the emphasis in England now shifts to Stepping up for Nature.

Do have a look at the Stepping up for Nature video - it has some fantastic images of beautiful creatures.  My favourite is the one of the blue tit being a cold heartless predator.  Which is your favourite?  When I was shown this video I wanted to watch it over and over again - it's only 4 minutes, but it's 4 minutes when nature can come into your life.  I can imagine having a sneaky look at it during my lunch breaks for weeks to come - why don't you too?

A room full of keen RSPB members is an inspiring place to be - and a somewhat humbling one if you work for the organisation.  Our members are great!  We had a question and answer session and the questions covered subjects as wide as EU policy, bird-killing in the Mediterranean, sea level rise and climate change, our rainforest work, using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, working with others and a host of other things.  What a great bunch.

And four of our active volunteers spoke at this event too - and they were just wonderful.  Dominik, aged 10, had handed in the Letter to the Future signatures to 10 Downing St that morning.  He is a really bright young man and I told him to come back to us in a while if he is looking for a job.  It was great to meet Gary who had cycled around all the RSPB's nature reserves last year - that is some feat (and some feet, too).  He was full of the thrill of nature and I promised him a trip to our Nene Washes nature reserve to hear corncrakes later this year.  And Joan and Gill from the North Kent Marshes are long-standing friends of the RSPB because we worked together to stop an airport being built at Cliffe.  Wonderful people all of them.

This was an uplifting event, and we had a short break where I grabbed a pizza and drank gallons of a well-known fizzy drink to keep awake, and then we had a more formal launch of Stepping up for Nature with our Chief Executive Mike Clarke setting out the thinking behind the campaign, Caroline Spelman, the Defra Secretary of State saying a few words and then our President, Kate Humble, rounding things off. 

We were grateful to Caroline Spelman for her enthusiasm for nature and for the RSPB.  I'm sure we'll irritate her now and again in the future, at least I am pretty sure we will if we are doing our job - so, rely on it, but she is a true believer in the importance of nature in our lives, and indeed as the basis for a healthy economy.  And Kate Humble, who I found wandering around in the street looking lost outside the venue, gave a very witty and inspiring closing address.  And we got to see that evil blue tit again.

The speakers had kept me awake but by now I was flagging a bit and it was a quick pint with colleagues and then to bed with another full and inspiring day at the RSPB coming to an end.


  • Mirlo I understand what you say but think the false publicity of farmers getting rich out of these wildlife payments has got you believing it,can tell you that in my experience these payments on most farms just cover costs of implementing them and paperwork.Think most farmers would happily do without subsidies as long as market place pays for produce but do not forget the idea of subsidies was to keep food relatively cheap to consumer not for farmers benefit.

    Think you should not worry about a hard working farmer running a business of over a million pound having a nice car,you would find if you looked around much worse misuse of your and my taxes.

    Can assure you but somehow do not think you believe that profits from wildlife grants do very very little for farm profits.

    Think the way to prove it is to find out how much towards the farm profit these wildlife grants come to on Hope Farm but allow some expense for paperwork claiming.Think that proves it.

  • This is exactly right - looking ahead to 2020. The horizons in politics are 5 years at best and next week at the worst. Its absolutely essential that the 2020 deadline is kept up there. My worry is that Government is not serious and will rely on pure rhetoric . Already Caroline Spelman, on Today Radio 4, brushed off the 30% cut in Natural Englands budget and portrayed the 2020 initiative as RSPB members helping to count wildlife.If thats all it is I don't think its going to make a difference. The litmus test will be the White Paper . The RSPB should make common cause with other environmental organisations in advance of the white paper to make absolutely sure that it breaks the mould and creates a foundation for a transformation of our approach to biodiversity here and worldwide.Its way beyond time that biodiversity is portrayed as far more than an 'environmental' issue - its absolutely crucial to maintaining the life support system on the planet. No business can survive without that. Its a political and economic issue and has to be driven to centre stage. A good place to focus would be on the media.Why dont the 'environmental' organisations mount a concerted and sustained campaign to shift the terms of the debate?

  • Sooty I am not kicking farmers, what I am objecting to is that my taxes are being paid to farmers to take part in the ELS scheme without having to produce any evidence of increase in biodiversity. I do not see much wildlife on many farms but what I do see is plenty of volvos, saabs and mercedes when I drive past the auction mart. Why should my taxes be used to enhance a farmers living standards. It is time that we stopped paying farmers any subsidies, grants or compensation at all  and made them earn their own income from agriculture and in a sustainable manner. Why should there not be a law made to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats without a compensation element. Good wildlife habitats are so few and far between nowadays that they should be strongly protected by law before we end up with nothing left.

  • Yes Graham you are absolutely correct but people tend not to blame the scheme it is always put at farmers door and while agreeing with you there are other serious issues affecting farmland birds as well as what farmers are doing as other types of birds are also declining that cannot be blamed on farmers,for certain House Sparrows living in towns probably suffered a more serious decline than farmland birds so more thought needs putting into the problem but for sure Arne RSPB patch of wild bird seeding is the most impressive thing for small birds I have seen and am convinced one in each parish would be a big step forward,been proved as well locally with a private reserve attracting lots of birds including Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings amongst others.  

  • I think the population trends for small farmland birds speak for themselves. Has the work done through stewardship schemes seen any increase in populations of tree sparrow, yellowhammer or corn bunting. Just look at the BTO figures. More is needed than some effective RSPB seed patches or a single project supplementary feeding. Sooty - I don't see why you see this as criticism of farmers - it's criticism of the scheme and what farmers are being asked to do.