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.


  • There certainly seems to be a ground swell of support among "the troops" for another rainforest project like Harapan and Gola before too long, assuming funds permit. Maybe funding support from the EU?

  • I agree with Mirlo, it's clear that some of these environmental schemes are a waste of money. Heard a great talk by Alan Larkman of Oxfordshire Ornithological Society recently. One of the main problems is that we can grow seed crops for birds but this is great for pigeons, jackdaws and pheasants while the small birds are out-competed. There's little or no effect on populations of smaller farmland birds and they still starve in January, February and March as by then the seeds are all eaten. So we need fields with lots of small weed seeds. Or as they have done provided feeding stations especially for tree sparrows which has significantly helped the population.

    On topic, stepping up is OK but many opportunities to do this will be lost as local projects lose funding so again the Government say great idea but provide no support, let local government withdraw support and leave it to the charities to do the best they can.

  • I agree with Essex Peasant , a nice video and I would say to him probably any of the birds in the video that can be classed as farmland birds have probably declined. Why we continue to throw money at farmers for environmental improvements or rather waste this  money I do not know. All the figures seem to indicate that these payments are not doing the slightest bit of good for our wildlife. Certainly for overwintering birds such as tree sparrows,reed bunting, yellowhammers etc it seems that it is better to buy a bag of mixed cereal grains and throw these onto a bit of stubble to attract many more birds than much farmland in environmental schemes. Please can the government spend some of this money on buying up some farmland and managing it similar to Hope Farm. Can we not have some farm national nature reserves?.

    To talk about biodiversity loss always confuses me. Generally it should mean the loss of a species through extinction, but it seems to be more often used as biodiversity loss on an area of habitat where I guess it means not so many NUMBERS of each species in this specific habitat, but also perhaps fewer species as well. Maybe we need some new words.

    I think it is great that the RSPB stepping up for Nature Campaign is to encompass global environmental problems more than in the past. Regarding tropical forests ( and I am pleased it wasn't stated as tropical RAIN forest) I feel that this should be concerned with both protection of existing tropical forest but also and perhaps as an even greater component the restoration of trashed tropical forests.

    Bob Philpott who is a regular contributor to this blog advised me to read a book called Green Phoenix Restoring the tropical forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I did this and it is an excellent book and shows just what it is possible to achieve. In summary the book describes how several enthusiastic and passionate conservationists, scientists and government officials worked together to develop Guanacaste Conservation area in Northern Costa Rica. It started off in 1989 as Santa Rosa National park at 39 square miles and developed over the next 11 years into 463 square miles of protected land and 290 square miles of protected marine area. Most of the land area had been heavily degraded mainly dry tropical  forest with only a few trees remaining. The forest revival has been extremely successful and the mix of dry forest rainforest and cloud forest gives life to 235,000 species or more of plants and animals. Many other species have been saved from local extinction that still remain unknown to science.

    The main promoter of the Guanacaste scheme was an ecologist called Daniel Jantzen. He was an exceptional fundraiser on a worldwide basis and raised 3.5 million dollars which was exchanged in a complex debt for nature deal and eventually the project had turned the initial $3.5 million sum into more than $17 million and now this project has a vast endowment which will maintain the conservation area almost indefinitely. As an aside the conservation area employs hundreds of people and is one of the biggest employers in the area. Definitely a recommended book.

    As i said in a previous blog if we redirect DEFRAs environmental payments to UK farmers to tropical forest restoration schemes we will be doing more for global biodiversity than what we waste the money on in this country.

    About bringing biofuels from the tropics to the UK; i feel this is so wrong and believe that biomass for biofuels should be produced locally . If we buy biofuels transported half way around the world we just do not fully understand the environmental implications involved in  their production

  • An excellent day Mark, I would think you and the team are feeling a bit tackered today! As mentioned,  if the RSPB, together with our Bird Life International colleagues in say, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, etc can have as much success and influence in the EU in the next few years with all the important issues coming up there, as recently in the UK that would be really something. To that end good luck.

  • Mark,

    really liked the stepping up for nature video.

    A little test for you, of the british bird species featured in the video, how many have increased, how many have been stable and how many have decreased since 1980?