• The tension at the heart of government

    In the space of just three hours yesterday, the tension at the heart of government was revealed warts and all.

    First, I chaired a highly entertaining and informative marine question time with the Biodiversity Minister, Richard Benyon.  We wanted to put him on the spot over his plans for delivering a network of marine protected areas.  Ever positive and full of passion, Richard impressed the assembled audience of RSPB supporters…

    • 30 Nov 2011
  • In praise of the Habitats Regulations

    In 1994, John Major's Conservative Government brought in the Habitats Regulations to implement the European Habitats and Species Directive – a beautiful piece of legislation. Yes, that’s right, I did just describe a piece of legislation as beautiful.

    The Habitats Regulations are something to be proud of - they have been helping to protect English wildlife and wild spaces of European importance for seventeen…

    • 29 Nov 2011
  • Where’s the Green gone George ?

    Last  Wednesday, Caroline Spelman, at the launch of the Government’s new Ecosystems Taskforce stated emphatically that the natural environment underpins global economic performance.  She had good reason to sound authoritative – she has the weight of evidence from some of the most monumental pieces of research ever compiled in recent times, to back her up.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2004), the Stern…

    • 28 Nov 2011
  • In search of happiness - part 2

    I found some this week.  This may have had something to do with the evening I spent sampling whiskies at our Scottish Staff Conference.  

    The evening was hosted by our partners, Famous Grouse.  In 2008 they launched a new blend called Black Grouse.   And since then, sales have helped generate about £300,000 for black grouse conservation on RSPB reserves in Scotland (Corrimony and Inversnaid), Northern England (Geltsd…

    • 25 Nov 2011
  • What state the UK's birds?

    Today sees the publication of The state of the UK’s birds 2011. As ever, this aims to serve as a one-stop shop for the latest news on our bird populations.

    This year’s report has a particular focus on our waterbirds and the sites they use, noting that this year is the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar convention. Amongst the highlights, we report on:

    • The return and spread of the crane as a breeding bird…

    • 24 Nov 2011
  • Renewable energy revolution in harmony with nature – part 2

    I felt good about yesterday’s launch of BirdLife International’s new report on renewable energy: our partnership offering solutions to decision-makers across Europe to help them ensure the much needed energy revolution takes place in harmony with nature.  

    For me, this is part of what good leadership is all about – offering a picture of what success looks like and coming up with practical solutions to today…

    • 23 Nov 2011
  • Renewable energy in harmony with nature: a pipedream?

    Imagine a world where the RSPB and its BirdLife International partners never had to oppose renewable energy developments.  Wind farms would always be sited in places which caused no harm to wildlife, destructive concrete barrages would be confined to history and any bioenergy we use led to real carbon savings and did not destroy natural habitats around the world.

    For beleaguered Conservation Officers in the BirdLife partnership…

    • 22 Nov 2011
  • Crying out for leadership

    I want to achieve three things through this blog:
    - Share some of the great wildlife stories that the RSPB encounters in its day to day work. 
    - Highlight the fact that wildlife remains in deep trouble because of unsustainable development. 
    - Offer solutions about how we can save nature together. 

    If you bump into this blog every now again and fancy posting a comment, that would be great!  I want to stimulate debate as well…

    • 21 Nov 2011
  • Reasons to feel deflated

    Reading NFU president Peter Kendall's speech this week it is hard not to feel deflated.

    He called for ministers to switch agricultural policy away from biodiversity, and concentrate more on productivity. This comes at a time when Defra has clearly set out its stall to try to understand how to increase productivity whilst enhancing the environment.  It is only when all sides are open about the challenges we face that…

    • 19 Nov 2011
  • If it ain't broke...

    This week, a RSPB member sent our campaigns team a copy of a letter that he had found in his father's Bible.  The letter was dated March 1955 and was from PE Brown, Secretary of the RSPB.  This is what it said,

    "The Secretary of State has given notice of his intention to make an order withdrawing protection from the eggs of 13 commons and harmless birds, including the Robin, Chaffinch, Linnet and Wren. The Society is…

    • 17 Nov 2011
  • Protecting our assets

    Yesterday, Biodiversity Minister Richard Benyon released a Written Ministerial Statement on Marine Conservation Zones.  We're grumpy about what has been published.

    It's simple really.  We have been promised a decent network of protected areas in the marine environment to complement the network on land.  Our finest wildlife sites getting the protection they need.  This is what we and others have been campaigning for…

    • 16 Nov 2011
  • What has the EU ever done for nature?

    As the Eurozone crisis intensifies so does the rhetoric about reform of the European Union itself.  The Prime Minister last night said that it is time "for the European Union to focus on what really matters to underpin prosperity, stability and growth."

    I would argue that our economic prosperity depends on a healthy nature environment.  And the major legislative tools to protect the natural environment are the…

    • 15 Nov 2011
  • When was your first time?

    On Saturday afternoon, I went to collect my wife from Madingley Hall, where she teaches Literature.  I was late (probably) and she was sitting on a bench outside, waiting in the dusk, and spellbound by a flock of starlings coming in to roost.  As ever they were painting amazing patterns in the sky and for once my wife was captivated by birds.

    She is not a birder.  Over the years, she has sat in many cars/hides/fields reading…

    • 14 Nov 2011
  • In praise of the third Rainbow Warrior

    2011 is quite a year for the environment movement.  Three giants of the sector have reached notable landmarks: WWF is celebrating its 50th anniversary while Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace burst onto the scene 40 years ago.  Am not sure the RSPB's 122 year milestone quite lends itself to a party but colleagues in Cardiff and Bangor tell me that RSPB Cymru's cetenerary is still in full swing.

    Last night I was…

    • 11 Nov 2011
  • Facing up to climate reality

    Spending a day at the Royal Society discussing the latest climate science does not automatically give rise to optimism.  But I left the joint WWF, Natural England and RSPB conference in better spirits that I had expected.

    Yes, the evidence about our warming planet and future climate projections are grim - as Friday’s news of 6% rise in global emissions confirmed, we are not currently on track for global greenhouse gas…

    • 10 Nov 2011
  • Climate Change: Biodiversity and People on the Front Line

    An important conference is taking place at the Royal Society today.  WWF, Natural England and RSPB are hosting an event to assess the latest evidence of climate change impacts on people and nature and consider how we should respond.

    We are all getting used to living in an economic crisis.  Every morning we wake up to the latest news about the state of the Greek Economy, the Euro bailout fund and the UK Government’s trials…

    • 9 Nov 2011
  • Conservation and intensive farming: unlikely bedfellows?

    Am looking forward to today.  I have a meeting with our Council this morning which is always fun.  And tonight I am giving a talk to the South East England Agricultural Society.  We are debating whether conservation is compatible with intensive farming.

    I am not sure what sort of reception to expect, but I am sure it will be colourful evening.  Judging by the state of the farmland bird and farmland butterfly indices, you…

    • 8 Nov 2011
  • The quest for a global climate change deal continues

    Two years ago, the world demanded a fair and ambitious global climate change agreement.  60,000 people participated in marches in Glasgow, Belfast and London on the eve of the talks and 100,000 took to the streets in Copenhagen.  The collapse of the talks shattered public confidence in our political leaders ability to forge a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

    So where are we now?  In short - we are not in a good place…

    • 7 Nov 2011
  • How to... post a comment

    Every now and again I receive messages from readers enquiring how they go about posting comments. It’s a slightly confusing process and one that I thought required a bit of explanation so here goes.

    It’s really easy and well worth doing. Once you’re logged in, you can comment on not only my posts but the many others that keep you updated on things like marine issues, how to bring nature into a learning…

    • 5 Nov 2011
  • Whose side are you on?

    A colleague sent round a rather provocative email last night.  It was stimulated by a story told by a Defra civil servant at a seminar about the Nagoya Biodiversity Conference in December.  The civil servant said that the head of the World Bank turned up at the Nagoya meeting but was asked by surprised conservationists what on earth he was doing there.  The World Bank chap said to them that "the reason you are failing to…

    • 4 Nov 2011
  • 100 years on - birds of prey are still being poisoned

    There are some parts of my job which give me no pleasure at all.

    This is one such issue.

    One hundred years ago – three years before the start of the First World War – a law was passed to prevent the poisoning of wildlife, including birds of prey – an early piece of wildlife legislation. With this law in place you may be forgiven for thinking that bird of prey poisoning is an activity which should have been consigned…

    • 3 Nov 2011
  • When it's gone, it's gone

    Why doesn’t the RSPB do anything to help the Atitlan grebe, the Mauritius night heron or the Tahiti rail? Why does our international conservation department not launch any projects to save the Choiseul crested pigeon, the Jamaican red macaw or the impossibly named bishop’s o’o’?

    The simple reason is that it’s too late for these birds – they have already gone. Conservation can only save what we…

    • 2 Nov 2011
  • A million steps for nature

    Since launching our campaign, Stepping Up for Nature, in March this year, a staggering one millions steps for nature have been taken by RSPB supporters.  That's one every 18 seconds. 

    Our campaign is designed to help meet the international targets to halt the loss of wildlife and begin its recovery by 2020.  At our launch we said that it was right that governments should focus on those things that only they could do…

    • 1 Nov 2011