Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn returns with a festive blog about a seasonal sighting at his local supermarket

Rockin’ Robin

I’ve had a bit of a cold the last couple of weeks so have had no sense of taste - though some of you who saw my Desert Island Discs choices in a previous blog might say I haven’t had any taste for a long time!  Anyway, at the weekend, I reckoned that a homemade curry was just the thing to blast its way through my tastebuds so it was off to the local supermarket to get the ingredients for my favourite Achari Murgh.

The chicken, spices and naan bread were all in the trolley when I became aware of a noise in the background.  Thankfully, it wasn’t Paul McCartney telling us yet again what a wonderful Christmas time he was having but a Robin singing.  I looked up and there he was belting his song out from a beam away up near the roof, puffing his chest out like another Robin on Saturday – Windsor doing his salsa in the Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.  

Actually, although I’m calling the songster ‘he’, it could just as easily have been a ‘she’ – unusually, both male and female Robins hold territory and sing in the winter.  But what a great place it had found – dry and warm with great acoustics and, since it wasn’t a 24-hour establishment, plenty of food, peace and quiet after the doors shut.  And it had found a great place from our point of view too – when I mentioned it to the lady at the checkout she said that quite a few folk had noticed it and said how much it had cheered up their day.  We hear so much about nature in retreat that sometimes it’s easy to forget just how resilient and resourceful it can be – that Robin was doing just fine, thank you.

I’ve been thinking about conservation successes and what they mean to us a lot recently – in fact, ever since I heard a superb talk by Andrew Balmford of Cambridge University.  His point was that conservationists have been perhaps too quick to concentrate on the problems that the world faces without offering any solutions - and problems without hope equals despair or denial.

To help counter this feeling of hopelessness, he’s just written a book, Wild Hope, that highlights some brilliant conservation success stories from around the world and how we can learn from them to deal with our own issues closer to home.  If you are stuck for last-minute Christmas presents or just want to treat yourself then I can thoroughly recommend it! 

Anyway, it’s kind of traditional at this time of year to look back and to look forwards.  No space for now to look at that wide view but, as for blogging, 2012 saw me taking my first steps into it which I’ve really enjoyed - this will be my last one of the year but I’ll be back in the New Year!  In the meantime, have a great break over the festives and here’s to a happy and successful 2013.