• MESMErised by and for wildlife

    Northumberland didn't disappoint.  It rarely does.  The rain stayed away and although the wind was strong, the skies were big.  The seabirds were, as ever, spectacular - none more so than the gannets.  Although the boats stayed in the harbour, I spent two delightful evenings watching the gannets do what they do best - go fishing.  But it is more than fishing - it is aerial harpooning.

    Staying at the hut meant that I missed…

    • 31 May 2011
  • Motorbikes and oily birds

    Stop press – some good news in today!

     Just over 4 years after the event, we’ve finally been compensated for expenses incurred by our response to the Napoli incident, back in January 2007. For most people the enduring image from the Napoli incident might be the cargo looting that took place on Branscombe beach, with opportunists rolling away full kegs of beer, and dragging out brand new motorbikes from the…

    • 27 May 2011
  • So, is this spring?

    Just my luck.  The rain has come and the wind has picked up.  This afternoon (after watching the boy perform as a clown in the school show), I am off up north to our hut on the Northumberland Coast for the long weekend.  I had planned to take the kids on a seabird trip out to Coquet Island or the Farne Islands (pictured in sunnier times) but I think the boats are unlikely to go out in this weather. 

    But, if you are stranded…

    • 27 May 2011
  • Recovering my breath

    The UK National Ecosystem Assessment is not going to disappoint.  I promise you.  But you'll have to wait a little longer - 'til the launch on Thursday 2 June - to get the full picture.

    Bob Watson - Defra's Chief Scientist - posed a fascinatig question today.  Can you think of any major enviromental problem that has been solved by behviour change alone without relying on incentives and/or regulation?

    I can…

    • 26 May 2011
  • Breathless over nature

    I’m off to get a sneak preview of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) today. “The National Eco what?” I hear you say, as you no doubt
    stifle a yawn and hover     your mouse over the x in the top right corner of the screen.

    Wait...bear with me...it really is quite interesting. The NEA is being launched next week and we think it’s great. It’s the first complete assessment
    of the UK’s…

    • 25 May 2011
  • Wildlife beneath the waves: out of sight, out of mind?

    I am off to my wife's family hut at the weekend for the Bank Holiday.  It's a wonderful location, perched on a (slightly eroding) cliff top looking out over Coquet Island.  I have spent many a happy hour sitting watching the terns and gannets feed wondering whether that great big black cloud will pass by or settle for the night.   

    Am sure that, weather permitting, there will be millions of us visiting the UK coastline…

    • 24 May 2011
  • I like eating meat but not this week...

    It’s probably a odd way to start a blog about National Vegetarian Week with the statement “I like eating meat” but I make no apologies, it’s true! So why have we pulled meat from the menu at the Lodge canteen today?

    The facts around meat production, and its effects on the natural environment are worth pausing to think for a moment. For the RSPB, livestock, particularly cattle and sheep are critically…

    • 23 May 2011
  • Get your hands dirty

    I like hot weather, though I rarely seem to find it when I go on my occasional holidays to the North East of England. But like many other sun-starved Brits, I have been enjoying the recent dry, sunny spell that we’ve been experiencing here at The Lodge.

    But not all Martins are such big fans of the dry weather. House martins, for instance, have been struggling with the recent lack of rain. Or, more specifically…

    • 20 May 2011
  • One big step forward and one little step back

    I hope you like the new look blog! 

    On Saturday, I mentioned the need for the UK Government to live up to its "greenest government ever" aspirations and to step up for nature.  This week, they've taken one big step forward and one little step back.

    First the good news...

    The Climate Change and Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne MP, announced that the UK Government will accept the Committee on Climate Change…

    • 19 May 2011
  • Hope springs eternal

    One of the joys of starting a new job is to be able to inherit the success of others.

    Hope Farm is perhaps one of my predecessors' great legacies.  Bought in 2001, thanks to the generosity of RSPB members, we have managed to demonstrate that it is possible to run a profitable arable farm and restore farmland wildlife.  I was there on Friday filming for Countryfile.  John Craven was putting together a package on farmland…

    • 15 May 2011
  • Greenest Government Ever? Not yet...

    Today, the RSPB has joined forces with fourteen other organisations to send the Prime Minister a letter  - a kind of end-of-year exam to let him know how he's getting on.

    Not surprisingly, it's a bit mixed. There are good things, bad things and quite a lot that's simply too early to judge. We think we've been pretty fair and we're not trying to make a political point.  The planet desperately needs the…

    • 14 May 2011
  • Missing word, Chancellor?

    The Chancellor, George Osborne, spoke to the Institute of Directors this week.  He cannot have been reading his speech very carefully - he seems to have missed a word.  He said:

    "On planning, one of the great obstacles to growth that no government has had the courage to tackle, we are now shifting the balance from delay and objection towards development and expansion."

    Surely he meant to add the word ‘sustainable…

    • 13 May 2011
  • Greenest Government Ever? Here's Caroline Spelman's view...

    Saturday 14 May is the anniversary of when David Cameron visited the Department for Energy and Climate Change and said "I don't want to hear warm words on the environment, I want real action.  I want this to be the Greenest Government Ever".

    People wll have their own opinion about whether the UK Government has lived up to the Prime Minister's ambition.  I'll share the RSPB view on Saturday but here's…

    • 12 May 2011
  • Food for forestry thought

    The Independent has just announced the result of their competition for the best essay on the future of England’s woods and forests. I am delighted that Andy Byfield, a fabulous botanist and former colleague from my time at Plantlife, has won the prize.  Andy is a passionate conservationist who writes with real knowledge and feeling for woodlands and other wildlife habitats.

    His essay makes some excellent points on…

    • 11 May 2011
  • Renewables in harmony with nature?

    The Committee on Climate Change published a major report on renewable energy yesterday.  This report matters because the so-called CCC, established under the Climate Change Act, has clout.  Ministers tend to listen to what they have to say.

    It's worth a read.  It gives a good overview of what the UK energy mix could look like up to 2030 and some of the challenges for the UK Government.

    The RSPB has welcomed the report…

    • 10 May 2011
  • Back to work

    For many, this will be a five day working week for well, it seems like months!  School holidays, Easter, Royal Weddings and May Bank Holidays mean that some of us have forgotten what it is like to put in a full week's work.

    But a season of big Westminster political announcements on the environment should keep us on our toes:

    - the fourth carbon budget must be set by 30 June 2011.  This will set the cap on UK greenhouse…

    • 9 May 2011
  • Happy 100th Birthday RSPB Cymru

    I have just returned from my first Council weekend.  The RSPB Management Board and Trustees have annual trips to get an insight into the work of different parts of the organisation. 

    On this occasion, we helped to celebrate the centenary of the RSPB’s work in Wales.  It was a chance to reflect on successes and look forward to some of our future challenges:  red kite, chough and black grouse populations all up; woodland…

    • 9 May 2011
  • Waking up to a new political landscape

    A resounding victory for SNP in Scotland, a stronger Labour in Wales, a night of mixed fortunes for the parties in the local elections and a rejection of a new voting system. The count in Northern Ireland is underway.

    As ever, it will take time for the implications of the results to become clear - particulalry for the UK Coalition Government. But we know some things already such as the new cast list of AMs and MSPs…

    • 7 May 2011
  • Hwæt! Listen!

    A cuckoo was calling from the heath today at the Lodge.  I didn't hear it as I was in a meeting - new job, new meetings.  But I did hear one on Bank Holiday Monday  at the Anglo-Saxon burial ground of Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk.  It was my first of spring.  It should signal the hope and optimism that comes after a long hard winter.  But recent declines mean that it can now be a wake up call to the shadow of a future…

    • 6 May 2011
  • Thursday - Elections (part 2)

    It's a big day today - not only are people voting for governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and for local authorities across the UK, there will be a referendum on a possible new voting system for electing MPs to Westminster.  While it's not really for us to comment on the relative merits of the Alternative Vote and the first-past the post systems, we can discuss the significance of the local elections…

    • 5 May 2011
  • Elections (part 1)

    It's quite a week to start a new job.  There are five elections going on - separate elections for national governments in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, local elections and a referendum on a new voting system.  Today and tomorrow, I'll offer a couple of thoughts on what these elections might mean for the environment. 

    Let's start with the country elections.  Devolution has been a reality for much of my…

    • 4 May 2011
  • First day in a new job


    I've started my new job as Conservation Director of the RSPB today. 

    I feel lucky to be doing a job that I love with a bunch of brilliant people around me. 

    My challenge is simple: to try to protect and build on Mark Avery's legacy and do more to look after the millions of species with with we share this planet.   Mark has made an enormous contribution to the RSPB and nature conservation over the past…

    • 3 May 2011