• FLASHBACK: Saving nature by numbers...

     [This post was written last weekend.  But a combination of wind, rain and computer gremlins have delayed its posting.  If you have not yet managed to post your results from Big Garden Birdwatch, please do so (here).  Every entry counts!]

    It's been a weekend of numbers: numbers of birds seen in gardens, number of species recorded, numbers of people that have taken part and numbers of cups of coffee drunk while waiting for…

    • 31 Jan 2014
  • Flooding: RSPB view on how we should respond

    Anyone who watches the news or looks outside the window knows that it's wet out there. Forecasters say the weather is going to get worse before it's better. 

    I am not sure that this is intentionally designed to coincide with World Wetlands Day on Sunday 2 February but it is certainly creating suffering for a lot of people. And it is, once again, opening up a debate about how we should plan for and respond to flooding…

    • 30 Jan 2014
  • The Battle of Lodge Hill (part 5 - the full story)

    Regular readers of this blog will know the RSPB has been involved in the case of a former military training school at Lodge Hill in Kent.  Before Christmas, in one of his last acts as Chair of Natural England, Poul Christensen confirmed the site as an SSSI (see here), and Medway Council withdrew its Core Strategy (the local development plan which included Lodge Hill as a strategic allocation for housing and employment land)…

    • 24 Jan 2014
  • The Lords on Lobbying

    Back in 2005, the Government introduced a law that required people to ask for permission to protest outside Parliament. For many, this was an affront to our democratic right to make our opinions heard.

    In response, the comedian Mark Thomas organised a series of “Mass Lone Demonstrations”. Hundreds of people applied for individual, simultaneous protests: some about environmental issues, like the need to reduce packaging…

    • 21 Jan 2014
  • A new dawn for Natural England

    Miles King kindly reminded us all through his blog last week (see here) that the new Chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, starts work this week.

    What a fabulous job: leading government's statutory body for nature conservation.  But it is not the easiest time to take the helm.

    Miles chose to focus his advice on Natural England's human resources (both Board and staff).   Mr Sells can do little about the economic…

    • 20 Jan 2014
  • Clues about how government plans to recover farmland birds

    Thanks to Wednesday's parliamentary debate on farmland birds, we now have a few more clues about how the Government will be rolling our the new Common Agriculture Policy package in England.

    Sir John Randall, former government Whip, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, champion for marine conservation and birder called the debate and eloquently put a spotlight on the challenges facing famland wildlife.   Parliamentary…

    • 17 Jan 2014
  • The CAP deal across the UK: looking back and looking forward

    While 2014 maintained its alliterative high with Monday's fracking announcement (following debates about offsetting, flooding, food and farming), I want to offer a flashback to events at the end of 2013. 

    If you remember, in December, the UK Government and devolved administrations had the chance to bolster progressive widllife-friendly farming by moving up to 15% of direct farm subsidies (in the so-called Pillar 1…

    • 15 Jan 2014
  • The tables are turned

    I was laid low with a heavy cold this weekend.  Plus ca change some might say.  When I am ill (yes, ill) I occasionally experience vivid, verging on hallucinogenic, dreams.  And last night was no exception.  I walked out of a country house to watch a starling murmuration and quickly realised that they were being joined by a large group of gulls (species unknown).  The gulls then swoop down brandishing a huge net.  It appeared…

    • 13 Jan 2014
  • F tests for offsetting

    The year has started on an alliterative high: food, farming, floods and offsetting.  The latter was the subject of a lively debate at the end of the annual symposium of the Cambridge Conservation Forum.  The Secretary of State's comments at the weekend about offsetting ancient woodland (see here) provided a spicy backdrop.

    I took part and tried to explain why the RSPB is, perhaps unfashionably, adopting a "yes, if.…

    • 10 Jan 2014
  • Exodus: apocalyptic weather and devastating cuts

    As a son of a vicar, it is probably not wise to make biblical analogies but the reporting of recent weather and my latest tentative foray into twitter (@martinRSPB) has forced my hand.  But through hyperbole I want to make a serious point about our response to the recent storms and floods.

    Being in Oxford this week has exposed me to some of the chaos that the recent weather has brought - homes flooded, roads closed and…

    • 8 Jan 2014
  • Protecting the best... in the uplands

    On Friday, I referred to the old conservation motto:  "stop the rot, protect the best and restore the rest".  I bemoaned the lack of progress we had made in protecting the best.   In the uplands, the situation is even more stark.

    And this is where my working year starts.  Not literally, as I'll be in of Oxford at the Real Oxford Farming Conference (see here). Today, I will  be debating the future of our uplands…

    • 6 Jan 2014
  • 2014: stop the rot, protect the best and restore the rest

    It's a good motto for 2014.  Trouble is, it has been the mantra of conservation ever since my colleague, Robin Wynde, first coined it nearly fifteen years ago.  And, for my first (proper) musing of 2014, I want to focus on the progress we have made "protecting the best".

    I will not dwell on the obvious tardiness in securing a network of marine protected areas - this will, of course, be a feature of the year…

    • 3 Jan 2014
  • That was the year that was: answers to the conservation quiz of 2013

    Happy New Year!

    Here are the answers to Tuesday's quiz about conservation in 2013...

    Question 1: Who or what controversially gave two but rejected one? 

    Natural England consented two licenses to control buzzards but rejected another.  See here, herehere and here

    Question 2: Who went feral this year and encouraged all of us to do the same?

    George Monbiot ignited a colourful debate about re-wildling on the back of his…

    • 1 Jan 2014