My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
I enjoyed an icy evening carol singing with the neighbours yesterday. It is rare that I have a chance to exercise my baritone voice in public (or in private nowadays thanks to my daughter's sensitive ears) and so I made the most of the opportunity. While we worked our way through some of the classic carols, the kids ran door to door collecting money for charity (alas not the RSPB). Apart from one house with a rather aggressive looking dog, we were given a warm reception and the rattled tins were filled.
There are about 170,000 charities in the UK, benefiting from the generosity of millions of people and playing an incredibly important role in modern society.
The RSPB is one such charity. And our million + members are our lifeblood. It's not just about the money - although in these tough times, their loyalty is much appreciated. We also have 615,000 volunteers who offer an incredible gift of time - undertaking over 1.5 million hours of work a year . They help us assess the status of wild bird populations, support nature reserve management, run wildlife explorers groups and advise farmers on how to manage their land for nature. Many of these activities are undertaken incredibly locally, either in or around people’s garden’s/neighbourhoods or within 10 miles of their home.
They also campaign.
As discussed in an article by Juliette Jowit in the Observer yesterday, supporters of charities will not stand idly by if their interests are threatened. Over the past five years, an astonishing 700,000 of our members have supported at least one of our campaigning actions. I am under no illusions, the environment remains low in voters' motivations. But, as I said to Juliette, our members do have a tendency to vote - 96% the last time we asked.
I would love it if politicians invested in nature because they knew it was the right thing to do, but I'd settle for them doing the right thing because it made sense politically.
So, if you are a member of the RSPB, thank you for whatever you have done to support us this year.
Nice blog Martin and in the case of RSPB my guess is we all feel we get more out than we put in.