• A comment on some recent unpleasant events

    A few weeks ago, there was an aggressive and deeply personal online attack on one of my team. The colleague in question, a young and talented staff member, was singled out for simply doing their role as required at the RSPB: a job that they enjoy very much and do very well. Specifically, they were coordinating a letter to Alok Sharma (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) on behalf of 35 NGOs…

    • 4 Aug 2020
  • Some good and some worrying news for a Friday about turtle dove conservation

    It's increasingly felt like a lost year for conservation, but we have, where government restrictions have allowed, tried to maintain our essential activity including for some of our most threatened species.  Today, I am pleased to report good progress in restoring our fastest declining migratory programme both for here in the UK and also along their migration flyway.  But at the end of this blog, I also share some worrying…

    • 31 Jul 2020
  • A comment on today's speech by Environment Secretary George Eustice

    This morning, the Environment Secretary George Eustice will give a major speech outlining his plans for how nature will be at the centre of the green recovery.  This is an important moment for the UK Government to offer a clear vision for how they will restore nature in a generation. 

    To date, there have been mixed messages emerging from the UK government especially after the Prime Minister’s “build, build, build…

    • 20 Jul 2020
  • An update on the RSPB’s review of its policy on gamebird shooting (4): results of consultations

    At the RSPB’s AGM in 2019, our Chair of Council, Kevin Cox, announced that the RSPB was reviewing its policy on the most intensive forms of gamebird shooting especially driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native red grouse) and large-scale release of non-native game birds, primarily pheasants and red-legged partridges, now in excess of 57 million birds annually.

    We are very keen to provide…

    • 13 Jul 2020
  • 2020 – what next?

    2020 was branded a Super Year with major global agreements due to be struck on climate and nature but the Covid-19 pandemic arrived and changed our world. 

    While the political stakes have increased as a result of the economic crisis, there are some things that have not changed: the parlous state of nature and the urgent need for action.

    If anything, the pandemic has heightened the sense of challenge, opportunity and jeopardy…

    • 2 Jul 2020
  • A comment on UK Government plans to “build, build, build” and why we must grow back better

    On Tuesday, 10,000 people will take part in a virtual mass lobby of MPs to urge them to put people, nature and climate at the heart of plans to rebuild our economy.

    This is expected to coincide with a speech by the Prime Minister outlining his plan “to build UK back to health”.

    As widely reported in the media over the past few days (see for example here, here and here), the UK Government is developing plans…

    • 28 Jun 2020
  • How to kick-start the recovery of both nature and the economy

    Last week I wrote about the why nature must be at the heart of the economic recovery from the impact the pandemic.

    In the coming days, weeks and months, decisions will be made which will have profound consequences for our natural world and our climate for decades to come.

    At this crucial time, we need politicians to do three things: maintain and improve vital legal protections for our wildlife (eg by giving the Westminster…

    • 22 Jun 2020
  • A round up of some good news for a Friday

    I want to end the week with some good news: for mountain hares, for farm standards, for waterbirds and for albatrosses.

    First, it was fantastic to hear that after more than 10 years of advocacy, this week we finally secured protection for mountain hares in Scotland from large scale grouse moor culls following a vote in the Scottish Parliament (relating to an amendment the Animal Welfare Bill).  This news was incredibly…

    • 19 Jun 2020
  • A comment on why nature needs us all

    It seems crazy that in twenty-first century UK we still have to say it, but there is absolutely no excuse for the abuse and barriers that our Black communities face every day.  Racism is not acceptable.  And it is clear that our sector needs to do more to combat its impacts on our employees, volunteers, members, supporters and visitors. 

    It should be a national scandal that there is not equal access to nature (see for example…

    • 16 Jun 2020
  • Four reasons why nature must be at the heart of the economic recovery

    It’s now clear that yet another tragedy of this awful virus will be lost livelihoods and financial struggle for many.   

    Friday’s economic figures hit the headlines when the Office for National Statistics reported that GDP had fallen by 10.4% in the first three months of 2020 and by 20.4% in April.  .  We do not yet have the unemployment figure, but this is clearly likely to rise with the Office for Budget suggesting…

    • 15 Jun 2020
  • Help the Westminster Environment Bill return with ambition and teeth

    This week, we completed a review of our advocacy priorities in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.  While we are clearly stepping up our calls for nature to be at the heart of the economic recovery (more on this later in the week), we are also determined to finish what we started in calling for an ambitious global deal for nature, reform to our food and farming system and new laws to drive nature’s recovery across the UK.…

    • 11 Jun 2020
  • Tackling threats to our shared nature: court challenge to “illegal” Lisbon airport on internationally important wetland

    This week, I took part in the latest Global Council meeting of BirdLife International.  Unsurprisingly, we took some time to compare notes on the responses that partners around the world are experiencing in light of Covid-19 - a mix of the good (including the green recovery package outlined by the New Zealand Government), the bad (massive reduction in funding for protected areas in countries like Mexico) and the ugly …

    • 10 Jun 2020
  • Good news for World Environment Day: a boost for nature conservation in the UK's Overseas Territories

    We all need some good news especially on World Environment Day.  So, I am delighted to share some excellent news about a boost for nature conservation in the UK's Overseas Territories (UKOTs).  Below, my colleague Jonathan Hall, who leads our work in the UKOTs, reports on the support we have secured from the UK Government.


    The UK Overseas Territories hold over 94% of unique British…

    • 5 Jun 2020
  • A global response to a shared crisis

    I usually spend summer half term at my wife’s family hut on the Northumberland coast.  This year was meant to be different because I was due to be in Norway with the Cairngorms Connect team – to be inspired by landscapes which are analogous to the vision we have for the Highlands.  Instead, of course, I spent a week at home.  To expand my home range, I fixed my bike and explored the Cambridgeshire countryside…

    • 1 Jun 2020
  • A round up of some good news for International Biodiversity Day

    Today is International Biodiversity Day – a chance to celebrate the millions of species with which we share this beautiful planet. 

    I have always believed in the intrinsic value of species – the right for a species to exist.  It is the primary reason why I work in conservation.  But I also know that nature is fundamental to human existence – helping to provide food, regulate our climate, provide clean water,…

    • 22 May 2020
  • Our shared agenda for a green recovery and conditions for optimism

    Last night the Prime Minister outlined the headlines of a "conditional plan" for how we might emerge from the lockdown.  We were, of course, listening very carefully and will respond to any detailed guidance that emerges from political leaders across the UK.  Our latest statement can be found here.

    While there is intense interest in how government restrictions will be lifted, we are also keen to ensure the right…

    • 11 May 2020
  • A comment on International Dawn Chorus Day in Lockdown

    Tomorrow is International Dawn Chorus Day - a day to celebrate the early morning swell of birdsong.  Even if you don’t want to get up with the birds at dawn, it’s the perfect time to throw open your windows and let the birdsong in.   

    My daughter and I ventured out at dawn this morning to our local common and we were greeted with a cacophony from blackbirds, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, wrens and robins.  It was very…

    • 2 May 2020
  • An update on the RSPB’s review of its policy on gamebird shooting (3)

    The consultation phase of the review of the RSPB’s policy on gamebird shooting has ended, so I thought it would be timely to provide an update of progress. 

    As you may recall, we are doing the review because there is growing public concern and mounting scientific evidence about the environmental impacts of the most intensive form of shooting especially driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native…

    • 1 May 2020
  • BirdLife International call for a new right to be included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    To mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the CEO of BirdLife International, Patricia Zurita, has written to the Secretary General of the UN António Guterres to convince the UN to include the right to a healthy natural environment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

    The text of the letter is shown below. 

    Given the growing understanding of the value of nature to our own species, this right seems long…

    • 22 Apr 2020
  • An update on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the RSPB and our sector

    The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on global society.  My thoughts are with all of those affected by the virus and especially those working on the frontline in health services around the world.  All of us that have friends or families cared for by the National Health Service in this country are hugely grateful for the incredible work carried out by our medical professionals.

    As I wrote last week, the…

    • 20 Apr 2020
  • A comment on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the work of the RSPB

    Since I last wrote on 17 March, our whole way of life has been upended.  From a personal perspective, it's probably been the most challenging period of my career and arguably some of the most challenging weeks in the long history of the RSPB.  We’ve closed our nature reserves, halted our field work, postponed some vital conservation work such as the Gough Island Restoration Programme, brought home colleagues from…

    • 6 Apr 2020
  • An update on the Gough Island restoration programme

    As I said in my previous post, we have been doing a lot of contingency planning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is to make sure that as much of the RSPB's work keeps going as possible. That is the aim, but we also must be practical and ensure staff safety and project feasibility. It will sometimes involve making some tough decisions.

    One area of work where we have had to make an incredibly difficult but essential…

    • 17 Mar 2020
  • Short comment on the delay in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations

    It is now inevitable yet still deeply disappointing that I shall have to report postponements of major conservation initiatives over the coming days.  Today's has particular symbolism.  October 2020 was supposed to be the month the world made a renewed commitment to tackle the biodiversity crisis. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been working to develop an ambitious global framework of action for the…

    • 17 Mar 2020
  • Why 18,458 is a magic number

    This past week has been intense and deeply unsettling.  It is now clear that our lives will be massively disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

    Like everyone else, we have been doing contingency planning designed to keep the RSPB's work going, adhering to government advice and of course playing our part in keeping our people safe.

    While none of us know how this will unfold, I am determined to carry on sharing information…

    • 15 Mar 2020
  • Response to Budget 2020

    On Monday, I posed some environmental tests for the Budget: to back up strong political commitments to restore nature in a generation with adequate resourcing; to reverse declines in public spending on nature; and also to ensure the ensure that the UK Government sounds consistent and coherent on the environment.

    The new Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his first Budget and what follows below is our assessment based…

    • 11 Mar 2020