I returned to work this week after an excellent holiday in our family’s hut on the Northumberland coast.  We were lucky with the weather and although we didn’t quite get the heatwave, we spent most of the fortnight outside.  Yes, I did see the Pacific golden plover which had turned up near Boulmer, but the wildlife highlight of the week was probably watching the gannets diving for their evening meal incredibly close to the shore – thrilling as ever.

And it was nice to come back to some good news.

First, it is just brilliant that >58,000 people have, since Hen Harrier Day, emailed their local politicians to call on governments across the UK to take action to tackle the illegal killing of birds of prey and improve the environmental conditions of our uplands.  This is a joint campaign being run in partnership with Hen Harrier Day, Wild Justice and the RSPB and it is demonstrating the strength of public support for fundamental reform of driven grouse shooting.  It would be wonderful to try to get to 100,000 signatures by the end of the month and so, if you have not done so, please do support this campaign here.

Second, the UK Government published its plan for establishing legally binding targets under the Environment Bill this week.  In the same way that the Climate Change Act has set legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need new targets to drive nature’s recovery.  So the government proposals for biodiversity targets potentially covering species populations and habitat condition (both in and outside of protected areas) are welcome news.  My colleague Pip Goodwin and WCL Director Richard Benwell have written a really good critique of the government plans and they have helpfully highlighted three areas that still need attention:

  1. Give an early political commitment to a “headline target” for nature, ahead of the Convention on Biological Diversity next year
  2. Strengthen the Environment Bill to ensure that actions are sufficient to fulfil the stated ambition, with binding interim targets along the way.
  3. Set out a clear, science-based process for finalising the targets, with a chance for MPs, stakeholders and the public to consider and inform the final proposals.

It is worth remembering that the targets will only cover England (although possibly Northern Ireland – that still needs clarifying) and so not only do we have work to do to land this at Westminster, we need equivalent action from governments across the UK.  But this is a really important step and the culmination of many years of campaigning by the RSPB and many other NGOs. 

And finally, virtual Birdfair is now live.  It has been a heroic feat from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and the Birdfair team to get this up and running and the line up of events is as good as ever.  The highlight is clearly tonight’s State of the Earth Question Time with a stellar line up including Jane Goodall and Chris Packham, but you might want to dip into my talk today on wildlife tourism where I outline the results of a review of the evidence of positive and negative impacts.  Later today I shall post on this blog a longhand and fully referenced version of this talk.  It would be good to let me know what you think and if you can, please do donate your usual gate attendance fee of £15 to support BirdLife International’s work to stop the illegal trade in threatened species such as the iconic helmeted hornbill.

Enjoy Birdfair and have a great weekend.


Images courtesy of my colleagues Ben Andrew (gannet) and Mark Thomas (female hen harrier), both rspb-images.com