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.
EP - your comment really is disingenuous and adds nothing to this debate. The fact is that bird populations on the whole have crashed and particularly farmland birds. There are numerous studies which confirm this and yes, whilst some species are doing better than others it's all relative. Just because the economy grew by 0.4% doesn't mean we've all got richer. When some species have crashed by up to 90% over the last 20/30 years there is something seriously wrong in the countryside and a snide comment from an NFU mouthpiece won't convince me otherwise.
Completely agree with Gert,Mirlo always complains about farmers and gets facts wrong which are farmers comply with what is asked of them,what you wildlife lovers need to do is recognise that a border of relatively sterile grass round a hedgerow is a waste of time compared with the wild bird mixture seeds that surprisingly GrahamHawker gets completely wrong and he needs to check out how productive Arne RSPB patch of wild bird mixture was in late February for hundreds of small birds and interestingly have never seen any of those larger birds on it when we visit,sorry Graham you got that completely wrong.I have come to the conclusion the RSPB make the figures look worse than they are to put pressure on farmers to do more not realising farmers do NOT have to do anything completely voluntary and not profitable,all that happens when they,Mirlo and others kick them is that farmers are likely to do less,really ridiculous.
If you say what farmers are doing is no good ask the E U to change what they are asking of farmers as obviously farmers are going to do what it is that they are paid for.As usual Mirlo,others and RSPB got it wrong way round.Repeat all farmers in scheme only get paid these grants if they do what is asked of them.
REALLY REALLY SIMPLE STUFF.For goodness sake if you are unhappy you have to get the rules changed.
Gert - yes HLS is fine generally. ELS is where my problem is.
Well, I've not got the best twitchers eyes but I reckon I counted 36 british bird species in the video. 26 are listed as common breeding birds on page 19 of the RSPBs State of UK birds. Of those 26 listed, 14 are increasing in terms of long term trend and 12 decreasing.
If thats 'nature in big trouble' I think the Advertising Standards Agency need to have another look at the RSPBs claims.
I have to strongly disagree with Mirlo and GrahamHawker. I have seen Higher Level stewardship make significant differences to bird, mammal and plant populations on farms where these are fully embraced. To say we simply abandon these for some other conservation projects oversees is defeatist in the extreme and sends completely the wrong message in this country. I agree that Entry Level schemes are open to 'abuse' in the sense that easy option will be chosen which will make little or no difference but it's all down to farmers embracing the spirit of it rather than a problem with the system per se.
The answer is certainly not to preserve some farms in aspic as some form of model reserve whilst the rest of agricultural land is allowed to be fully exploited. The whole point is that the landscape outside of reserves need to be connected to allow species to move and increase.
If you want to read a book on how we've managed to trash our countryside in this country I'd recommend Graham Harvey's (he's the agricultural editor for the Archers amongst other things) Killing of the Countryside or Marion Shoards Theft of the Countryside. Let's not abandon the precious little wildlife we have left in this country please.
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