Sara Downes

Nature conservation is a slow job. Growing delicate new habitats, making sure species have just the right conditions to thrive, conducting years of research and campaigning for change, it all takes time. And sometimes work goes on quietly behind the scenes – over months, years or even decades - that culminates in a huge win for wildlife.

We’ve selected just three of these recent successes that wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of nature-lovers and RSPB supporters. Whether you’ve helped with funding through donations or membership, practical action, or even just being a lover of wildlife that makes your voice known, it all counts.  

One of the world’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries is created

In case you missed it, a huge new marine protection zone has been designated around Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic. This means that the rockhopper penguins, Tristan albatrosses, blue sharks, beaked whales and tens of millions of seabirds that call this their home are now protected. At 690,000km2, this marine reserve is almost three times the size of the UK and the fourth largest on the planet.

Northern rockhopper penguin - Andy Schofield (

Northern rockhopper penguin - Andy Schofield (

This is a significant achievement and not the sort of conservation commitment you see everyday. And your support played a part. Your valued donations for the RSPB mean staff have been able to build a 20-year partnership with the Tristan community to support and advance conservation and bring an amazing group of wider institutions together to enable this to happen. You can read more about what it means and watch an incredible short film of this pristine ecosystem here.

We can also now confirm that conservation work on Gough Island, which sits in the Tristan archipelago, is due to start in 2021. After a delay in 2020 due to the pandemic, work will now go ahead to protect eight million birds on Gough from possible extinction. The team heading out to Gough wouldn’t be able to do this without the generous donations of RSPB supporters, which have almost reached the target of £325,000.


Proof nature-friendly farming works

Hope Farm celebrated its 20th anniversary recently with significant boosts to numbers of threatened species. This farm in Cambridgeshire was established to help understand how nature-friendly farming can help both wildlife and farmers.

Yellowhammer - Chris Gomersall (

Yellowhammer - Chris Gomersall (

Recent species counts suggest it’s providing a vital home for wildlife. In winter, we surveyed over 150 red-listed linnets on the farm compared to only 8 when we purchased the farm 20 years ago – and the flash of a yellowhammer now reaches the heights of 250 individuals on average. There were just three recorded in 2000, but 716 yellowhammers were spotted across the three surveys undertaken last winter. Plus there are 400% more butterflies than there were in 2000 and 19 times more bumblebees than when compared to a control farm!

And the farm is maintaining a steady profit. It’s proving that investing in nature can benefit our farms while also helping tackle biodiversity declines and the climate crisis. And it’s very encouraging to see news this week that farmers will be helped to restore habitats, improve soils and reduce use of pesticides through new subsidy arrangements.

Members and supporters of the RSPB have helped fund research and practically demonstrate that agriculture can be more sustainable and better for wildlife, both on Hope Farm and beyond.


Protection for birds of prey

Did you see story after story earlier this year about the illegal killing of some of our glorious hen harriers and golden eagles?

Golden eagle - Chris Gomersall (

Golden eagle - Chris Gomersall (

Birds of prey like this are set to receive further protection in Scotland after the Scottish Government announced a proposal for the licensing of driven grouse shooting. The RSPB welcomes this as a positive and proportionate step forward that will encourage the sustainable management of our uplands.

The Government proposal is based on the Werritty Review, which was in turn influenced by years of research that showed just how many satellite tagged golden eagles were going missing in suspicious circumstances. Whether you’ve signed petitions to support the cause, helped with membership, or donated to the Birds of Prey Defender appeal, your support is helping and allows the RSPB’s investigations field team to be out on the ground every day, gathering intelligence about these illegal killings.

There’s still work to do to tackle the huge climate and ecological crisis that we face, but together we can really a make a difference. Thank you.


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