Controversial questions

Apparently people are cancelling their RSPB memberships in their droves. Why? Because they’ve recently been made aware that they kill common species (foxes, crows) in order to save rapidly declining or on the verge of extinction species (Curlew).

Let me get this straight first. I do not condone the killing. I had enough nightmares feeding farmed mealworms to Corncrake chicks! I spent my uni years (studying wildlife conservation) arguing with everyone about the ethics of taking a life to save another. And I graduated with this uncomfortable itch of not knowing where I belonged. Was I a conservationist and therefore needed to accept that killing grey squirrels, foxes, rats, etc. was what he had to do. Or should I follow my ethical instinct and keep arguing.

The RSPB is an evidence based organisation. They have a team of scientists, whose focus is on saving species. Before you save a species you need to understand why it’s population has crashed, can the problem be resolved? Like any scientist, they prove and disprove theories until they find the correct remedy.

For the Curlew they need to understand why the rapid decline. And there will be land management trials, predator control trials, and other types of trials. At the end of the trial period, the RSPB will be able to say with surety “this is why the Curlew is disappearing, we have the evidence”. And from there they can make sound decisions on how to project manage a species’ recovery.

So while we rant and moan about the speed of extinctions in our era, the RSPB are out there doing their best to save biodiversity.

When it comes to predator control in general, I’ve always believed there is usually an alternative method to killing. Unfortunately the other methods always cost more, take longer, and come up against strong opposition. If you gave the likes of the RSPB all of the money they needed and a license to do what they wanted, they may not need to kill anything.

I’ve moaned on many a time about issues such as releasing over 30 million inhumanely captive-reared naive pheasant into our countryside each year. If that doesn’t mess up nature’s predator-prey balance, then … well… You get my drift.

So back to the people cancelling their RSPB memberships. I have some questions for you.

1. Farmers spray herbicides and pesticides over invertebrates and wildflowers. This effects the whole food chain. The run-off from farmland pollutes our waterways. Have you stopped buying their produce? Do you choose organic?

2. Farmers kill foxes, corvid, badger, stoat, weasel. Have you stopped buying their produce?

3. Greenbelt is being used up to build new housing developments. Rabbits are gassed, badgers lose their foraging areas and go hungry, toads lose their natal breeding ponds, and any other wildlife that gets in the way disappears under the diggers. Have you chosen not to buy a new-build?

4. Many household cleaning products are tested on animals. Do you choose not to buy their products?

5. There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. It’s a myth. The planting of palm oil trees destroys ancient valuable habitat whilst also burning off all carbon stored in the ground and so adding to our global pollution and warming problems. That’s on top of all the wildlife that die due to having no habitat/home left. Do you buy products with palm oil in?

6. Plastic pollution is killing the life in our oceans. Do you buy single use plastic items or items packaged in plastic?

My point is that we are all harming wildlife with everything we do in our human lives. I listened to a friend and colleague a few days ago as she was challenged over her wearing leather boots. This friend gives her life to both conservation issues and animal welfare. Her very politely said response was “yes they are leather, but I do a lot of good stuff, whilst some people do nothing”.

The RSPB do so much good stuff. And they have never said they were an animal welfare charity. Their aim is to save as much of the diversity of species as possible. And they use the tools that they have available. So please, think, research, read, evaluate, before you judge. Without the RSPB, Britain’s birds would be in a far worse state and we’d have suffered a few extinctions more.

You are over one million members. Use your voices.

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Ria Formosa Natural Park, Portugal

in October…

Azure-winged magpie, Barn swallow, Bill-gulled tern, Black-headed gull, Black-tailed godwit, Blackbird, Blackcap, Cattle egret, Collared dove, Common sandpiper, Coot, Cormorant, Dunlin, European pond turtleFiddler crab, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Greater flamingo, Greenfinch, Green woodpecker, Grey heron, Hoopoe, House sparrow, Jay, Lesser black-backed gull, Little egret, Little grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Redshank, Redstart, Red-crested pochard, Ringed plover, Robin, Sardinian warbler, Serin, Shoveler, Spoonbill, Spotless starling, Stonechat, White stork, White wagtail, Wigeon, Willow warbler, Yellow-legged gull. (life ticks in bold!!)



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Shouty trees

Another glorious moonlit walk, with large shouty trees impersonating Tawny owl calls, brave red arrow bats,  and fabulous fungi – some whole, some chomped at …

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Night colours

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Footfalls and fairies

Out for a night time stroll in the Cheshire countryside. We heard a Tawny owl, ducks, jackdaws chattering in the trees (probably cussing us for disturbing their sleep). And for five magical minutes we were joined by a group of pipistrelle bats fly around our heads hunting bugs.


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Fantastic Beasts and where to shoot them

I’m waiting to board. Returning to the UK. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster these last few days.

Yesterday afternoon/evening swarms (yes swarms) of Marsh harrier and Honey buzzard passed over or roosted on Malta.

We position ourselves with good vantage points (to both show hunters that we are there and watching and to video them if they do break the law and take a shot). Yesterday evening I was up on a hill amongst the birds. Wherever I looked there were large raptors. Wherever I looked there were hundreds of them.

This experience has to be one of Earth’s greatest spectacles. It was fantastic but at the same time terrifying. The lower these magnificent creatures came,  the more vulnerable they were.

One enormous Honey buzzard passed us within a few metres. It passed my colleague so closely she heard and felt the air move from its wing beats. As it passed me we made eye contact. This giant was exhausted and just needed a place to rest the night. Our experience with this bird was such a thrill. Is that not enough? Why would you wish to extinguish such life?

That shift I did not witness the death of a raptor. But I did spot a Hunter furtively running with an over full game bag. He certainly wasn’t carrying a few turtle dove or Quail.

This morning we had the challenge of watching over these birds as they awoke, arose and departed. As a perfect farewell to Malta I watched (and videoed) another Honey buzzard plummet from the sky. Thank you Malta. I’ll be back soon.



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