This blog is a celebration of the nature in the South East and highlights ways you can get involved and explore nature in the region. If you've got news of the South East’s nature that you'd like to share, please contact the RSPB South East office on 01273 775333 or email SERComms@rspb.org.uk
Wasn't the weekend glorious? Saturday was the first day this year I was able to get outdoors and tart-up my garden. I cut the grass, forked over borders, gathered up fallen leaves, cleared old growth, sowed some seeds and enjoyed coming across some of the things that share this space.
There was a shield-bug, loads of fat worms, a couple of bees, a comma butterfly and an early painted lady butterfly; maybe it's from one of those grow your own butterfly kits that kids and organic gardeners love? Either way, the sunshine and fresh air left me feeling energised.
It was all so enjoyable I lingered into the evening, hoping to catch sight of the International Space Station scooting across the evening sky (I missed it yet again). The shocking truth pulling the rug from beneath this relaxing moment was that there wasn't a minute when I couldn't see at least one jet plane in the sky. With five airports, London's airspace is pretty busy.
Today, a new report commissioned by the RSPB, HACAN and WWF has been published raising doubts on the assertion that London's economy will benefit from increasing airport capacity.
It's been the assertion that London's economy is reliant on expansion that has driven Mayor Boris Johnson to pursue the creation of a mega-hub airport in the estuary (which he wants to call Margaret Thatcher International to "scare visitors" - call me naive, but I thought we wanted to attract visitors?). It seems the whole debate supporting airport expansion is built on flimsy foundations.
Flimsy or not, the real foundations for infrastructure development like airports involve a lot of concrete and tarmac; and an awful lot of space. Just like in my garden, stuff lives in these spaces. The cost of losing nature doesn't seem to worry the airport expansionists. They assert they can build new spaces for nature. 75% of Crops worldwide are pollinated by insects as are 94% of wild flowering plants. Bees, butterflies and more are vanishing at an alarming rate. Replacing wild spaces with new runways is not the way to support nature.
As the charity Buglife states, 'it's the small things that run the world'. Shrinking numbers of garden birds are a warning sign that nature is in touble. Rather than seeing airplanes soaring over my home, I'd far rather see developers investing in schemes which improve nature; allowing our communities, our economies and our well-being to soar. Protest against airport expansion by sowing native wildflowers and shrubs in your gardens and community spaces. That way, air passengers will be able to see a riot of colour indicating public support for nature as they fly into the Capital. Say it with flower power.
Can you spot the wigeon in this image of 10,000 black-tailed godwits?
No neither could I, but if there is one, it would have been identified by one of our keen eyed volunteers who used this image to count how many birds were in the giant flock.
This picture is amazing, not just because of the size of the flock, which is roughly a third of the UK's entire population of BT godwits, but because it's a few miles from the centre of London, concentrated on our Cliffe Pools nature reserve.
Much work has been put into creating the right sort of habitat at Cliffe, where wildlife can flourish, but this gobsmacking sight was not the aim. We don't want such large numbers of single species. We want them spread across the whole of the Thames estuary as they used to be. The sad fact is that they've congregated here probably because they could no longer find the right sort of habitats elsewhere. Don't get me wrong. It's an amazing spectacle and well worth the short-trip out to Cliffe to see. But, wouldn't it be better for them and us if there was more space for them along the length of the Thames?
Cliffe is also hosting hundreds of other species right now: 1,400 teal, 3,000 lapwing, 4,500 wigeon, and 8,000 dunlin; and that's just the birds.
The pools, mudflats and marshes of the Thames estuary are unique and prized. They are crucial for the survival of migratory birds and yet the spaces they favour are shrinking. Cliffe is a gem, but we're working hard with farmers, landowners, communities and businesses to ensure the whole estuary can better support nature. It's a win-win situation. The wildlife that's lived here for centuries will continue to survive, and the spaces they favour will continue to act as flood buffers protecting homes and businesses from more frequent storm surges.
Some see the estuary as an empty space that's of no value. They, like King Canute, would look to control tides and nature. Hopefully the sight of these black tailed godwits will spring their eyes open wide to see the world in all its mystery, power and beauty. The estuary is natures' home and we are privileged to be able to share it and must learn how to be good custodians; living, working and benefiting in harmony with its rhythms.