A week is a long time in Norfolk.
There was a public outcry when a video appeared last Friday of a sand martin returning from migration and failing to access a nesting burrow because nets had been laid over a 1.3km stretch of Bacton cliffs on the Norfolk coast. This was just one example of hundreds of images and videos of netting that have been shared this spring. It has led to two petitions on the Number 10 website, an intervention by a Secretary of State and a rapid reversal by a major supermarket and thankfully, as my colleague Fabian Harrison reported yesterday, by Norfolk District Council.
Credit for the image and the original video that ignited the sand martin campaign goes to @NorfolkBea
These images seemingly encapsulates our modern relationship with nature: the need to control it and the demand that it fits in with our plans. There’s no doubt that this relatively new phenomenon has resonated with the public. With netting, the public have found the perfect lightning rod on which to vent their collective frustration. It represents all that is wrong with how we treat our world. This is why the RSPB is campaigning for new laws to restore nature - meaning that practices like netting would come under closer scrutiny in the future*.
On Wednesday, when I visited Bacton to support our team and see what progress was being made, another video appeared in neighbouring Suffolk, this one at Minsmere showing a large group of sand martins at their main nesting site on our reserve. This was a timely reminder of what our network of RSPB reserves do best - giving nature a home.
Today, we have published our annual review of wildlife information from all our wonderful nature reserves, reporting the ups and downs of the bird breeding season. It is a fabulous read reflecting the incredible hard work of our staff and volunteers across 218 nature reserves covering a total area of 158,300 hectares – that’s an area four times the size of the Isle of Wight.
This is the information that drives our conservation management. It is why we can celebrate the recovery of species like roseate terns and why our teams will be working hard to reverse the declines of nightingales - both showcased in the report. I believe our nature reserves are world-class and provide the engine for our ambition to restore landscapes with our neighbouring landowners.
If you agree, then make sure you visit at least one over Easter and then preorder our single of pure birdsong. All profits we raise will support our work on nature reserves - the places where we Let Nature Sing.
*There is more information about the RSPB position on netting in general and the Norfolk case specifically on our website.
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