As I walked across St James's Park in the sun I heard a shriek and looked up to see two pairs of beautiful, small, green long-tailed parrots - ring-necked parakeets.  They are now a normal sight in the Park whereas a few years ago I hadn't seen them there. 

A few paces on, a tourist was photographing a grey squirrel and a little further on some children were feeding another squirrel.

Of course, grey squirrels come from the USA and were introduced into the UK by a land owner in the late 19th century, and ring-necked parakeets are not native to London, England nor even to Europe - they come from northern India.

It's difficult not to like attractive wildlife wherever it is, and particularly those aspects of nature that are brave enough and tough enough to live in the middle of big cities.  But some non-native species cause big conservation or economic problems.  Non-native species are the second largest cause of species extinctions on the planet.

Photo by Markus VerusvuoA good example is the impacts of rats on the fauna of Henderson Island in the south Pacific - we want to rid the island of rats - and yes, that means killing the rats - and are only a couple of hundred thousands pounds short of being able to do it.  So if you have a spare £200k please get in touch.  The existence of the Henderson petrel is at stake.

But we did have a question about parakeets and squirrrels at the AGM.  Defra is funding a study, by the BTO, of whether there is any evidence of harm to wildlife from these beautiful Asian parrots.  With grey squirrels we know that they cause conservation problems - probably not for woodland birds even though, of course, they do eat eggs and nestlings (so do red squirrels though) but certainly for our native red squirrel.

In fact one of the highlights of a very successful and enjoyable AGM was an address from his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales who was awarded the RSPB's Medal.  Prince Charles wasn't present in person, he is opening the Commonwealth Games in India today - I guess he may well see a ring-necked parakeet or two - but his statement said that he was honoured to receive the Medal and he was impressed by the wide range of the RSPB's conservation work from rainforests to red squirrels.

And we recognised the massive contributions of our members and volunteers to our work - we awarded several fantastic volunteers President's Medals.

There were a variety of talks which were all excellent - and I always learn a lot about our work from the talks.  I was glad to hear that the young cranes that  I saw in their cage somewhere on the Somerset Levels are now all flying around the Levels but choosing to come back regularly to their release pens.  Fingers crossed that this keeps going well.

The feedback from our members at events such as this is important - and we do take a lot of notice of what is said.  One lady whom I sat next to at lunch told me that she thought that RSPB staff were wonderful and she hoped we had enough opportunities to realise that!  Well that's a nice thing to be told.  And another two ladies told me that the AGM was one of their favourite days of the year - because they love birds, enjoy meeting kindred spirits and love to hear about the work that they are helping us to do through their support.

I met and talked to a few readers of this blog.  I now can put a face to Stackyard Green for example.

I was half-tempted to go to Hyde Park to see the white-winged black tern there but I walked back through St James's Park, saw an attractive grey squirrel, and headed for home,

Only another 373 days until the next AGM!

 

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