• Time for a break

    I have now been the RSPB's Conservation Director for three months.  It really is a fantastic job - I feel so lucky to be able to work with such talented and committed people and to have a window onto the breadth of the organisation's work.

    But, to be honest, I could do with a bit of a break.  So, I am off for a long weekend to our family hut in Northumberland and will soon be travelling to France for a fortnight…

    • 29 Jul 2011
  • In praise of the Big Birding Society

    Yesterday, the BTO, JNCC and RSPB published the latest Breeding Bird Survey results.  This updates trends in the UK's widespread breeding birds up to 2010.  At a time when we are being encouraged to think differently about how people can help the State deliver public services, it is worth remembering that the BBS would not happen without volunteers.  Last year, 2,519 volunteers helped to collect the data to inform the…

    • 28 Jul 2011
  • Help put sustainability back into planning

    The debate about the relative merits of the new National Planning Policy Framework has started.  As discussed on yesterday's Today programme, it seems that those who do not embrace the reforms will be painted as anti-growth and therefore somehow out of touch - not accepting the reality of the need for economic recovery. 

    But that is too simplistic and misses the point.  As my colleague, Simon Marsh, points out in his…

    • 27 Jul 2011
  • New planning policy is a step backwards for nature

    England is currently undergoing the most radical overhaul of its planning system in a generation, and today marks an important stage in this process. 

    Today the UK Government launched its own draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)  – an important document that will provide the national context for local planning decisions.  It is slimmed down guidance, replacing over a thousand existing pages of national…

    • 26 Jul 2011
  • Reflections on last week and the Game Fair

    I enjoyed returning to the Game Fair at Blenheim Palace for the first time in six years.  It has its own distinctive character - part summer garden party, part country fair and part serious conference.  The RSPB always has a stand and it was a good opportunity to catch up with friends and, for me, to meet new people who work closely with the RSPB.   

    I shared a panel debate on the Natural Environment White Paper with the Biodiversity…

    • 25 Jul 2011
  • Four fantastic farmers

    I'm heading off to Blenheim today (the stately home in Oxfordshire, not the battlefield in Belgium) to the CLA Game Fair. And I'm in an optimistic mood.

    It is the “art of the possible” that makes me optimistic. Optimistic that we really can see a halt to the loss of wildlife by 2020. 

    In the UK, our countryside can be rich in wildlife.  It can deliver us safe and wholesome food. It can lock up carbon…

    • 22 Jul 2011
  • Dotterel detectives

    MPs are finally heading off, a little belatedly, on their summer holidays. I imagine they will all take care to avoid being photographed in overly glamorous locations, lest they are accused of being frivolous in a time of national austerity.

    As well as exercising caution over where they are seen, they will presumably also be careful about who they are seen with. I imagine that the soirees of the so-called Chipping Norton…

    • 21 Jul 2011
  • Badgers, Brooks and Murdochs - another regular day for the Westminster village

    Yesterday, the media focused on the hacking scandal and the foam pie thrown at the most powerful media mogul in the world.  It was therefore perhaps not surprising that there were so few MPs in the House to listen to Secretary of State Caroline Spelman's announcement about a new bovine TB eradication programme.

    The announcement includes badger culling proposals.   The detail is as follows:

    • Defra is carrying out an…
    • 20 Jul 2011
  • An announcement on badgers and bovine tuberculosis is imminent

    Some time later today, Secretary of State Caroline Spelman is reported to be making a statement to the House of Commons on bovine tuberculosis and badgers.

    We'll respond to what comes out, of course.

    But, here in a nutshell is our position based on the proposal outlined by Defra in the consultation it conducted earlier this year.

    We are sympathetic to concerns within the farming community over the impact of bovine…

    • 19 Jul 2011
  • wet and wild times

    So, the final week of the parliamentary term starts now.  Some MPs, including the Biodiversity Minister Richard Benyon MP will celebrate the start of their summer break by going to the Game Fair later this week.  The RSPB will be there, as always, and this year we'll be celebrating our work with the wet bits of the natural world - apt given the weekend we have just had.

    With the media still dominating the media, it…

    • 18 Jul 2011
  • Feeling humble

    This weekend I am the latest character to feature in a half-hour BBC News Channel documentary series entitled On the Road with....

    The documentary will be broadcast on the BBC News Channel at the following times: Saturday 16 July 00:30am; 15:30pm. On Sunday the item will be broadcast at: 02:30am; 10:30am and 10:30pm.

    I feel humble because I am in good company: previous people to have featured include Nigel Kennedy,…

    • 16 Jul 2011
  • The policy bandwagon just keeps on rolling...

    The countdown to summer recess has started and that can only mean one thing - wave upon wave of policy announcements.  Despite being preoccupied by the hacking scandal, ministers and civil servants are keen to clear their desks before going on holiday.

    Sometimes, things just don't quite get resolved in time and with Parliament rising on 19 July, it is touch and go as to whether ministers will be able to announce their…

    • 14 Jul 2011
  • On the road to a low carbon economy?

    Chris Huhne published the long awaited Electrictity Market Reform White Paper today.  It outlines a vision for "secure, affordable and low-carbon electricity".

    It includes a roadmap for renewables energy deployment to 2020.

    Now, those that know me appreciate that I like a plan.  This is why I welcome the detail provided by today's paper.  If any government is serious about tackling issues such as a financial…

    • 13 Jul 2011
  • A picture of hope

    This is a picture taken by Martin McGill of the first spoon-billed sandpiper chick that has hatched in captivity.   It is an image that is sure to warm even the coldest heart and provides a clue as to the challenges we face in saving species from extinction.

    It comes as the result of a joint initiative led by Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust involving a number of organisations (including the RSPB and the BTO) all working to…

    • 12 Jul 2011
  • In praise of the River Cam

    Most weekends I go for a run along the River Cam, west to Granchester or east to Baits Bite Lock.  Perhaps best known for rowing and punting, for me it provides a little therapy before the week ahead and is also a haven for wildlife.  As the mind wanders, I'll always see mallards, swans and moorhens.  In summer, I am accompanied by the songs of various warblers and the sight of common terns fishing.  If I am lucky, and…

    • 11 Jul 2011
  • Making the news

    Part of the RSPB's mission is to raise awareness of nature conservation and to do that we need a cracking media team and an abundance of good stories.  We are not short of either.

    It was a good news week last week, and we very nearly featured in in a soap too.
    The Observer printed a feature about the land grabbing that's happening in Kenya's Tana Delta to make way for crops for biofuels. We arranged for the paper…

    • 11 Jul 2011
  • Fixing the forests

    Other than a few fleeting mentions in the media, the furore around the future of England’s public forest estate seems to have simmered. The Independent Panel on Forestry has started to examine the issues and a few public pressure groups have mobilised. But it certainly isn’t the political hot potato that it was in February and March of this year.

    But it’s important that we don’t forget about it. As we said…

    • 7 Jul 2011
  • Seabird City

    I love my job. I spent yesterday at the wonderful Bempton Cliffs nature reserve. A quarter of a million noisy, smelly majestic seabirds on a 2.5km stretch of the East Yorkshire coast.

    It was a joy to be able to go out on a boat and mix with the gannets, kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots and razorbills. It's the largest seabird colony in England with a rich history of seabird protection.  It was here at Bempton…

    • 6 Jul 2011
  • On the moors and in the sunshine

    Having been sunburnt whilst walking in the Mamores over the weekend, I spent yesterday in the sunshine at the Langholm Moor Demonstration project.  Didn't you know - it is always sunny in the hills of Scotland.  

    It was a privilege to be able to visit a site that I had heard so much about.

    Given the conflict that has existed between driven grouse moors and birds of prey, I wanted to see for myself what Langholm was…

    • 6 Jul 2011
  • This week and last week

    I'm in the midst of a very busy few days. Today I'm visiting Langholm Moor in Dumfries to see some of the work we do with our partners there. And then I'm heading down to our reserve at Bempton in Yorkshire to do some filming with the BBC. I'll tell you more about all of this soon. As far as the BBC filming is concerned, all I'll say is that I'm following in some very glamorous footsteps....


    • 4 Jul 2011
  • Tough times ahead for Europe's wildlife

    I have mixed feelings about the EU Budget announcement. 

    I feel frustrated that once again the European Commission has failed to come up with a budget to tackle the environmental challenges we face.  Yet, I feel relieved that our worst fears about cuts to funding for wildlife-friendly farming have been largely allayed.  And, I also feel proud about the way that the RSPB, working closely through BirdLife International,…

    • 1 Jul 2011