I may have got this waxwing thing cracked - maybe.
On New Year's Eve, on the outskirts of Northampton, I saw a flock of 123 waxwings. They were sitting in the top of a tree and small groups would fly off and then they or others would return. People were walking past on the pavement underneath and the waxwings were cool about it. They twittered and burbled in the tree top. Not quite the last birds I saw in 2010 but a good way to end the year.
And then yesterday at Cheltenham racecourse, after the second race (where Oscar Whisky was pretty impressive, and I wished I had backed him but I thought the odds were too short, and, by the way, the ground will be very different at the Festival in March) I saw a distant flock of birds fly to the top of a tall tree. If it hadn't been a waxwing year then I might have assumed that they were starlings, but even at a distance I thought that they seemed 'waxwing possibles'. And they were 14 waxwings - a good racecourse tick, and on a day when I didn't have a bet (and so didn't lose a penny) a good start to the new year.
And this year will see me pass a significant milestone - at the end of March I will have completed 25 years at the RSPB and more than half of that time will have been as Conservation Director. It has been great, and it continues to be great, but I feel it is time to look for new challenges and so I will be leaving the RSPB in April. So there are probably fewer than another 100 more blogs in me on this site!
Some time after Oscar Whisky returns to Cheltenham and the jumping season's traditional end at Sandown at the end of April will see my last blog here. But between now and then there is plenty to write about, plenty of nature conservation to get done and maybe even plenty of waxwings to be seen?
Being unique is a claim that we can all make.
Being irreplaceable is, however, a rare talent. While I am sure the RSPB will find another great Conservation Director, I doubt that they will easily find someone who can match your enthusiasm and sheer passion for the issues that are at the heart of bird conservation. (For those who don't know, I spent five years sitting opposite Mark at RSPB Council Meetings).
On behalf of birders everywhere - thank you for all that you have done.
Mark - your legacy is enormous and you will be sadly missed by everyone at the RSPB.
And congratulations, I'm excited at the prospect of what I know you'll be able to achieve in your next 25 years
With huge respect
Well Mark, when you wrote on 1 January "Happy New Year. What more is there to say?" the answer was obviously quite a lot! Good luck whatever you decide to do.
All - thanks for your kind words. As far as I know I am not going to work for a windfarm company or for LACS! But I am in the position of not knowing what I will do next - that's the scary and exciting aspect of my chosen position. But this is a blog about nature conservation, not about me, so that's the last comment on my position for quite a while. There's lots of work to be done before I rest my blogging fingers! Thanks for all the nice comments though.
Oh Mark! We are so sad to hear that you are leaving the RSPB. You are an inspiration to us here on the North Kent Marshes. You have kept us well informed, supported us and made the sometimes very tough campaigning fun. Our love and best wishes for the future
Gill, Joan and George xxx
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