I grew up in Bristol and went to Bristol Grammar School where a couple of masters (Derek Lucas and Tony Warren) were instrumental in fueling my interest in birds. I was in the Young Ornithologists' Club.
In the school holidays I practically lived at Chew Valley Lake - a bicycle and a pair of binoculars were all I needed.
My parents liked nice scenery and walks in the countryside and that gave me plenty of opportunities for birding.
I spent a few years when rare birds were very important to me but aside from the very occasional lapse they aren't any more!
I did a Ph.D. on pipistrelle bats but most of my research before joining the RSPB was on bee-eaters in the south of France (nice eh?) and great tits and marsh tits around Oxford. However, the first scientific paper I wote was about the lekking behaviour of great snipe.
I joined the RSPB staff in 1986 as a researcher, became Head of Conservation Science in 1992 and Conservation Director in 1998 - all have been great jobs!
Yesterday afternoon we held a Parliamentary reception with the Minerals Products Association. This celebrated the good work that a growing number of mineral extraction companies are doing to create wildlife-rich sites after they have dug big holes in the ground.
The Minister, Richard Benyon, was present and was given a bit of a poke by industry about the loss of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (see earlier blog).
But I can't have a go at the Minister as he described this blog as 'very readable'. And he'd noticed that I said some nice things about him recently - but also noted that I don't always. This is the second time I've heard Mr Benyon mention reading this blog so I do believe he really does.
So, Sooty, redkite, BobPhilpott, nightjar, jockyshield and others you are in good company! Although wouldn't it be funny if one of you were Mr Benyon? Sooty - it isn't you is it?
I've re-read my "last post" - and can't see anything wrong there - where's 'the lot of rubbish'?
I picked up your imminent departure from the Shooting Times - of course I wish you well - I'd put you down for the CLA actually! Otherwise DEALS !!!
PS I had a fiver each way (@ 10/1) on Cornish Sett for old time's sake - very pleased for the grey!
trimbush - I do like your comments on this blog but you sometimes do talk a lot of rubbish. You have the habit of stating things as facts that you cannot possibly know anything about. It's an interesting technique. You do not know why I am leaving the RSPB (although I did tell everyone on 2 January) and I have never been silenced by the RSPB! But carry on - I don't mind except I wouldn't want you or anyone else to take silence as agreement with your 'facts'.
You say we are a bunch of lefty do-gooders. That reminds me of a view of the RSPB that someone mentioned to me recently, but none of us can track down, that the RSPB is for Telegraph-readers but run by Guardian-readers. There might be an element of truth in that - but it is certainly not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
“How has the RSPB actively frustrated the problem?
Have they campaigned on this issue?”
I think that if you visit the RSPB link above quoted by Gert you’ll see how the RSPB’s policy does both!
In my experience most (not all) anti-cull souls are Labour supporters or just ‘soppy’
Most folk that work for “businesses” such as the RSPB have the left wing-tendency.
What has “badgers” got to do with the RSPB? Ah – “badgers” comes under the heading of “Nature” – so what’s the problem with discussing the most important “nature” problem the UK currently has – it certainly isn’t waxwings and it is not selling off the forests!
The RSPB makes much of its political – non-scientific – assessment of bTB in badgers - so much so that it cannot tell its members what it submitted to the recent DEFRA questionnaire – it will not allow its Conservation Director to state either his or the RSPB’s current position.
Why not? I guess you are a member – you ask them!
Perhaps you were (all?) taken-in by the FERA (Dr Macdonald) statement reported so enthusiastically by the BBC a few days before the closing of submissions to DEFRA – about how wonderful the vaccination experiments were going - 74% cure was it? Total misinformation announced with intent to deliberately mislead!
The FERA (DrM) is left – the BBC is left – the RSPB folk are left! It’s a cosy club – don’t you know?
The so-called 'science' that came from the RBCT exercise was driven by Politics - and it's a science that ain't real!
Bovine TB is a political issue – don’t you see? It’s like ‘hunting’!
Mark? Well – he follows National Hunt racing so he can’t be all bad!
All - great comments.
EcoStudent -----what thoughtful comments and while I disagree with just a small amount of what you say you have stated a very good case for your opinions and it is good to have different ones on here.Badgers ,cattle and cattle owners are all innocent victims tied up in a web until someone bites the bullet and sorts it out,at the moment all of those are only suffering more the longer any delay on doing something to cure the problem takes.
P. S. I think you will soon find yourself in employment.
Thanks for your reply. It had not, in fact, escaped my knowledge that the RSPB mainly focuses on birds (the clues in the name!) but also the greater issue of nature, wildlife and conservation.
It's great that you agree that bird-friendly and nature-friendly farming is "fine" but I don't really understand why you seem so angry that the RSPB wants to work with farmers on this issue.
When you suggest "nature bites back" you seem to be implying nature is running a conspiracy to bring down farmers. You don't suggest that if it snows and your cows need extra food because the grass is buried that the weather is biting back do you? On several occasions you seem very angry AT the badgers, they can't do anything about it. This is a human problem, that humans must solve.
How has the RSPB actively frustrated the problem? Have they campaigned on this issue?
I don't think the RSPB should have a stance on EVERY agricultural issue, for example do they have a stance on hunting? I know of hen farmers who, like you, are angry because wildlife that is now protected has a detrimental effect on their animals. Which problems would you like the RSPB to address other than bTB? As you so clearly said at the start of your comment the RSPB is mainly a charity for bird conservation with a focus on nature because, as we all know, you can't just focus on one species, they are all connected throughout an ecosystem.
It would be interesting to know which RSPB "leaders" you are referring to as "Loony Left do-gooders", is it Mark? Do you have any evidence for these claims? Otherwise you're just making slightly abusive claims and assumptions. I've met many RSPB staff and volunteers from all three of the main political parties and they all seem quite happy to work together with whichever political parties are in power to improve things for nature.
Similarly, I think a lot of farmers are happy to work with the RSPB on campaigns and particular projects. For example before the cuts I think I read somewhere that Defra were planning on cutting at least 1 of the agro-environmental schemes, thus taking money from farmers, and now, thanks to the RSPB's campaigning, the schemes are being expanded in some areas. Surely this is the RSPB not asking for farmers help but working with farmers to help farmers and nature together? A win win situation?
In my life time the RSPB's campaigns and work has GREATLY improved farmland birds, among many other things. I am of the new generation who never remembers sky larks singing until the last few years, and most of them have been on those "little" reserves you talked about, which, by the way, covered 131,127 hectares, an area larger than Greater Manchester, in 2006 and has grown since then. Also, what's wrong with Arable Farming?
The RSPB isn't a farming organisation, it is a wildlife organisation. It's healthy to have different opinions and debate difficult issues from all sides, that's how the right decisions are made, and I'm sure the RSPB and groups like NFU will continue to debate/argue and also work together on projects for many more years. Most of the farmers I met at the Game Fair last year thought the RSPB did some good, but could still learn a thing or two about farming, which I'm sure they can.
You are entitled to your opinion but I think the RSPBs net Eco value is probably a plus. And I'm sure almost all the the 1.5 million visitors (per year) to those little reserves would agree. Or the many school groups the RSPB works with to teach about wildlife and nature. Or wildlife itself, but that doesn't have a voice of it's own come to think of it...
P.S. I don't think Mark's mentioned any reason for moving on to new things in April. I wouldn't go suggesting he has unless you have facts to prove it, sounds a little too much like defamation to me!
Well said EcoStudent
Hi Eco Student
You may have missed it but the RSPB used to be all about birds – but now it purports to be all about “Nature” and looks towards the Farming industry to support the RSPB's aims.
The RSPB wants bird-friendly and nature-friendly farming – that’s fine!
But when Nature bites back in the form of Bovine TB and the RSPB actively frustrates the resolution of the problem the farmer gets a bit irritated and speaking as a cattle owner – I have fallen out with the likes of the RSPB because it not prepared to constructively address the problem.
Thus we have an organisation "led" by Loony Left do-gooders pushing ‘birds’ and wanting farming’s help
Believe me – as far as I’m concerned the RSPB can go hang for all the good that it does – a little reserve here – a little reserve there – let’s get a Farm (Arable) and show how it should / could be done!
! Million members - 0a vast marketing budget – and all for very little return.
It’s no wonder that the current Conservation Director is moving on – he’s seen the light.
RSPB – it’s time for you all to have a very serious look at yourselves!
Draw up an Eco ‘Balance Sheet’ – RSPB real contribution? – not a lot!
Why does this Blog always defer back to bTB? I know it's an important and controversial subject but this isn't the bTB discussion Blog!
From what limited discussion (mainly on here) I have seen on the subject it seem the only sure way of stopping bTB is to eradicate badgers and other wildlife that carry the disease (do any other species act as carriers?) completely from the UK. Is anyone suggesting this? I don't like the idea of that very much myself!
I know a little more about other diseases which are carried by animals and can infect humans and by removing a group of carriers from an area for a time period there will be no sign of the infection. However, when environmental conditions become more favourable other will invade this space and the disease will reappear. So just because the disease has disappeared fora few years doesn't mean the method of gassing small areas works.
It's a pity that so many of these blogs get high-jacked by this issue. It is a hot issue and I know tempers are raised by it but some of the comments towards other commenters are often quite rude and that doesn't help the debate at all. Would you all be quite as confrontational in a face to face debate, or maybe a little politer...?
Mr Benyon is my MP so I have been emailing him in recent months and just now about the loss of the Aggregate Levey Sustainability Fund (an appalling decision, which even Scrooge wouldn't have contemplated, and which does little to reduce my cynicism). He might be reading but I hope he's listening.
I of course don't hide my real identity at all.
Thanks Gert - I'm sure you are right ....
And Sooty - you too! In all respects!
Well Mark like your sense of humour and think you have a very difficult job of putting the RSPB's case that inevitably I would guess is not exactly your own and also inevitable that one or the other of us will have a bit of a rant about and you still publish so I am going now as as well as being defeatist gone a bit soft but anyway thanks for hundreds of very good blogs and as is always the case with good people you realise how good they were after they have gone.Think if I am not Mr Benyon you may be in trouble if he reads comments for defamation of character.
I suspect this is the RSPB's position on Badger culling.....
If only that was all that happened on heather moors instead of the continued removal of Birds of Prey. Mind you I have had falconers complaining that their birds were mobbed by wild Peregrines. Some thing that does not happen now as it is nearly impossible to find a Wild Peregrine on a Red Grouse Moor!
Hi Mark -Whilst you are thinking about a reply may I just say that I was re-reading a falconry book re Memories of the Old Hawking Club which had a quote from March 25th 1921
“….The eagle owl was used today for the first time, and with great success – the rooks coming in well to mob him in the open, thus affording Best (head falconer) some good slips ……..Six flights and five kills!
And there’s a photograph of the Eagle Own ‘perching’ calmly on a leather gloved wrist – fantastic – just imaging working a pointer with a falcon on the moors – wow!