• Just for fun

    I see that a horse called Shooting Times failed badly at Kelso today.  It was beaten into 9th by a horse called Lawgiver.  Seems fair enough. 

  • Countdown - 20, the cormorant

    Where do you go for your information?  If you put 'cormorants the facts' into a well-known search engine you will probably find your way to this useful document on the Salmon and Trout Association website and also on the Environment Agency's website.

     But there are other places to seek your facts - for example this website, this one, this one, or this one.  You choose.

    Up until now Defra has tended to follow…

  • Change of style - let them eat cake!

     As regular readers may remember, I will be leaving the RSPB at the end of April - 28 April will be my last working day.

    From now on, starting on Monday, I'm going to make this blog a bit less topical and use it to comment on some of the conservation issues that face the RSPB and nature conservation in the years ahead.  I hope you'll find it interesting and stimulating.

    Although - you never know - I might be tempted…

  • Waxwings and BGBW

     This is a graph of waxwing sighting from this year's Big Garden Birdwatch - as expected it looks very different from those of recent years with many more sightings.

    And there seem still to be lots of waxwings around.  I heard today of sightings in Rothamstead, Herts and there are quite a few around in east Northants still.  A waxwing winter is turning into a waxwing spring?

    More than 600,000 people took part - one…

  • Take that

    Coverage of the Bribery Act reminded me of the only time I have put 'bribe' on my expense claim.  I was travelling to Ghana to see our partner the Ghana Wildlife Society, with whom we were working on the conservation of the beautiful roseate tern.

    I arrived at Accra airport and was going through the various checks of passport, visa, luggage etc when one official asked about the box I had under my arm.  I told him…

  • Snake in the grass?

    It is a pleasant change to report that Robin Page has written something in the Daily Telegraph with which I can whole-heartedly agree.

    He writes in praise of Natural England's (and the Zoological Society's of London and Oxford University's) work on adders - our only venomous snake.  Robin discloses a personal nervousness about snakes which is touchingly open of him. 

    Adders, or vipers, are apparently declining…

  • We don't have the energy any more

    The RSPB has had a green energy scheme with Scottish and Southern Energy since 2000.  It was one of the first, one of the best and one of the most successful green energy schemes around.  But, the scheme closes on 31 March this year.  I have moved my custom to another green energy provider.



  • In step with farmers

    On Thursday evening I took part in an event in Ely where the RSPB laid out our Fens Futurescapes plans to a room full of farmers and others.  It was also by way of a big 'thank you' to farmers with whom we have been working in the Fens for years on farmland bird recovery projects.

    It was nice to see the event and the project covered very positively in Farmers' Guardian and Farmers' Weekly

    Several farmers…

  • Shed alert

    Last year we met with the pesticide producers for a wide-ranging chat about life and death. 

    We agreed to work together to promote the safe use and disposal of garden pesticides (and I blogged about it at the time).

    Now we have jointly produced a leaflet which you may see in a garden centre near you over the next few weeks. 

    Here are the main points to keep in mind:

    Ways to ensure safe use:

    -       Do not buy more than you…

  • How green was thy budget?

    Prior to becoming Chancellor, George Osborne said the Treasury should put a fair and predictable price on environmental externalities - that means taking account of the harmful impacts of industries, such as pollution, resource depletion etc..  Well, the RSPB provided him with an excellent opportunity to do so – introduce a peat levy.  What a shame he’s failed to use this Budget as an opportunity to introduce…

  • What's your budget?

    It's the Budget today and it is clear from the media coverage already that it will be a Budget designed to provide economic growth (see here, here, here and here).

    But will the environment grow and prosper under the Chancellor's economic strategy? Has he given it a thought?  Will he give it a mention?  Will the Budget speech be at pains to tell us how sustainable is this package of measures?

    Will the 'greenest…

  • A confusing debate?

    Was it just me - maybe it was - but was Peter Kendall in a bit of a bad mood today?

    Have a look at the Farmers Guardian debate and judge for yourself.

    Peter seemed very keen to have a go at me and the RSPB whatever I said. 

    And how predictable to see NFU mouthpiece Guy Smith going back to criticising the FBI - there is precious little acceptance, by the NFU President  or by Guy Smith, that there is a problem with farmland…

  • Live today

    At 1pm today the RSPB is having a live debate with the very clever Prof Allan Buckwell from the CLA and the NFU's President Peter Kendall on whether UK farming is an environmental hero or villain.  For details - click here.

    You can watch the debate online and even join in.  No doubt I'll be blogging about it tomorrow if not before.  That is - if I survive.

    I wonder whether the NFU President will accept that farmland…

  • A predictable step in the spring?

    This morning, I repeated my walk of yesterday at Stanwick Lakes.  Yesterday I saw 52 species and today 54.

    The species I saw yesterday, but not today, were: shelduck (6 of them), goosander, great-spotted woodpecker, pied wagtail, treecreeper and jackdaw. Whereas today the species I saw which I didn't see yesterday were: buzzard, kestrel, golden plover, redshank, collared dove, kingfisher, redwing and greenfich.

  • A predictable spring in the step

    The seasons come around with their mixture of regularity and unpredictability.

    Last week it was thoroughly predictable that I would be standing on the Members' lawn at Cheltenham racecourse for much of the week.  It was fairly predictable that Sizing Europe would win a 2-mile chase (last year the Arkle, and this year the Champion) and that Alberta's Run would win the Ryanair Chase (just like last year).  These…

  • I know what made me happy yesterday...

    ...it was the results at Cheltenham.  A winning day with friends in the Cotswold sunshine - and more to come.  Well, more friends, more sunshine but we'll see how Sizing Europe does in the Champion Chase.

    I am staying with friends in David Cameron's Witney constituency and he wants to know what makes you happy.  In an earlier blog I provided the link to the Office of National Statistics consultation on quality of…

  • No Binocular in sight

    Today is Champion Hurdle day at Cheltenham and there were many who weren't going to overlook last year's winner Binocular when placing their bets. 

    Binocular's trainer, Nicky Henderson, was quoted in the Racing Post at the weekend that curlews usually return to his yard at Seven Barrows on the Monday of Festival week, but that this year they were 'back from Norway' two weeks early.  It's an interesting…

  • Who is killing those eagles?

    I expect Sigrid Rausing to get a letter from the Countryside Alliance in Scotland, and a write-up in the Shooting Times, for suggesting that the lack of eagles in some parts of Scotland, and on her estate in the Monadhliath, is due to the fact that sporting estates bump them off.

    But it is what I believe too.

  • Harried to death

    Every time that we mention that we believe that gamekeepers are encouraged to bump off hen harriers on grouse moors there is a predictable outcry from the Countryside Alliance, the Shooting Times, sometimes the National Gamekeepers Organisation and others.  They say there is no evidence to back this up and that hardly anyone has been successfully prosecuted for such offences.  We'd agree with the fact that there have been…

  • Waxwings - all gone?

    I haven't noticed any reports of waxwings locally for a few days.  Maybe everyone is getting blase about them.

    But they'll be off soon, back to Scandinavia.

    It really has been an exceptional waxwing winter - they arrived quite early and very abundantly - and then they were almost everywhere.  It's difficult to know, but I'd be surprised if we get another waxwing winter like this one for at least a decade.…

  • A personal request

    Calling Sooty, redkite, nightjar, trimbush, jockeyshield, gert corfield, mirlo, lazywell, Bob Philpott and Stackyard Green.

    I'd like to get in touch with each of you, privately, to ask a favour please.  If you are willing to hear more then please post a Comment here (which I won't publish) with your email address so that I can get in touch.

    Sounds very cloak and dagger doesn't it?

  • In another world...

    ...some time in the future, when the RSPB announces that it is embarking on an ambitious campaign to make the world richer in nature, the NFU will respond as follows: 

    'We welcome this campaign.   As stewards of the countryside, farmers are alarmed at the big declines in farmland birds that indicate wider declines in wildlife as a whole.  We are pleased that the RSPB works so closely with farmers carrying out free s…

  • Step up!

    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…

  • Stepping up for nature

    Stepping up for nature  - that's our latest campaign and you'll hear much more about it over the next weeks, months and years.

    There was an interesting piece on the Today programme this morning (at about 0740) with RSPB spokespeople and the Defra Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, as well as Farming Today and an early start for me on BBC Breakfast.

    Mrs Spelman said some nice things about the RSPB and the…