Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, is back with a new blog about the State of Nature.

25 not out

Last week, Alastair Cook scored his 25th Test century for England, I completed 25 years of working for the RSPB and the State of Nature report was launched by 25 conservation organisations – and there’s no doubt which was the greater landmark.  Health checks have been produced before on birds, butterflies, mammals and the like but this is the first time that it has all been brought together in one document.  Now we can all see how nature as a whole is faring right now in the UK.

Those 25 years have been good to me and I keep well but the report tells us that the same can’t be said for UK’s nature.  Sure, some animals are in rude good health, but so many more are ailing or on life support and there’s plenty that are just plain dead before their time.  Lots of reasons but, put simply, they don’t have anywhere to live.

Peppered moth by Tom Marshall (

The statistics are shocking.  Moths down by 28%, once common butterflies decreasing by a similar figure, 44 million fewer breeding birds now than there were 40 years ago.  The trouble is, though, that I find it very hard to visualise what those figures actually mean.  We relate much more easily to bite-sized chunks than the big picture.  So, I think of those losses as the little damp bits of fields where redshanks used to nest and curlews bubbled, that untended corner where I could always rely on seeing a small tortoiseshell.  And I miss them.

OK – so ‘State of Nature’ gives us the diagnosis but if that’s all it did, it would be a pretty unremittingly dispiriting read.  But, it goes beyond that and shows us the cure too – some of the species thriving now were basket cases not so very long ago but we found out what the problems were and turned them around.  So, I can think of bitterns and large blues, those meadows full of cuckoo flowers and orange-tips that were once lifeless fields, other places where I and eagles were unwelcome just a few years back but where they now nest and I’m always assured of a friendly chat.  It can be done. 

And that really is the message in ‘State of Nature’ – things aren’t good and, of course, there are problems but we all have the ability to turn it around in the gardens, parks, green spaces, bits of the countryside that we can influence.  And that’s how all those millions of flowers, birds, butterflies and bugs will be put back – one bit at a time.