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.
...show the love for everything affected by climate change.
Watch this film by Ridley Scott Associates, featuring a bespoke poem written by the award-winning Anthony Anaxagorou, and brought to life by Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, David Gyasi and Jason Isaacs with music by Elbow and the NHS Choir.
It's a love song like you've never heard before. It has been produced for The Climate Coalition of which the RSPB is a founding member.
We are involved because of the observed and predicted impact of a changing climate on wildlife and special places. For example, the catastrophic decline in some seabird populations, such as kittiwakes, has been brought about by a decline in sandeels - their favourite food. Cold-water plankton, is being replaced with warm-water plankton, which is less plentiful and not as good for the sandeels so the kittiwakes don't get enough food to rear their chicks. This has resulted in 70% declines.
The threat of climate change is real and, without urgent action to wean our economies off fossil fuels, will affect the things we love. So this Valentine's Day, #ShowTheLove and then take action.
I am told that this is my 1000th blog since May 2011. I feel a little exhausted just thinking about all the words that have been written. At times, it has felt like a labour of love. But, for nearly six years, it has provided an outlet for me (and occasionally others through guest blogs) to reflect on the state of nature, the pressures it is facing and the action that we are taking to try to make things better for wildlife and people. And, as I write this, the world feels even more chaotic and uncertain than it did six years ago.Yet, despite this turbulence, we are clear about the contribution that we can make with others to make things better. There is nothing like a crisis to provide focus and solidarity amongst our sector. My optimism and confidence comes from the impact we have had throughout our 128 year history and I am particularly proud of recent successes, all of which have relied on effective partnerships...
...raising the profile of the state of UK nature with over 50 other organisations
...recovering threatened species such as cirl bunting (with partners such as farmers and Natural England) and reducing the extinction risk to black-browed and black-footed albatrosses (through the BirdLife marine programme)
...piloting new ways to meet human needs while recovering wildlife such as at Medmerry (with Environment Agency), Wallasea (with many including Crossrail) and Kingsbrook (with Barratt)
...successfully defending the European nature directives (through a powerful pan-EU partnership of NGOs)
...making the case for a network of marine protected areas around the UK Overseas Territories (through the GB Ocean Coalition)
...putting in place the partnerships to restore landscapes at home (with RSPB nature reserves at their heart) and on 200,000 hectares of tropical forest (through our Gola and Harapan projects)
Today, we continue to benefit from passionate, expert staff and volunteers as well as 1.2 million members. And we are clear what we want to do next, how we shall do it, where and by when.
We want to make a contribution to global UN targets for sustainable development and biodiversity and ensure that...
...20% of land and at least 10% of sea is well managed for nature by 2025
...conservation prospects have improved for three groups of threatened species: migrants, seabirds (including albatrosses) and a suite of species associated with the UK uplands
...millions of people remain connected to nature
We will do this by...
...valuing expertise and equipping people to take action based on good conservation evidence
...though practical conservation projects, inspiring others to take action for nature as a contribution to both global and national biodiversity targets
..by investing in strategic partnerships (such as BirdLife International and The Climate Coalition) to influence the main drivers of change in nature
...growing support including accessing new sources of income to scale up action for nature
...investing in our future, by making sure the charity is fit for purpose in the 21st Century
We plan to have impact...
...in the UK, its crown dependencies and the 14 UK Overseas Territories on land and at sea
...along the Africa-Eurasia Flyway with and through our BirdLife partners
...globally, where the need is great and where only we can make a material difference
It's an ambitious plan, but the need is great, so we better roll up our sleeves and get on with it. Which is why this week, as part of The Climate Coaltion, you will see us wearing our green hearts on our sleeves to #ShowTheLove for the things that are threatened with climate change and next week, through the parliamentary launch of #GreenerUK, we shall be outlining how decision makers can make Brexit work for nature.
This is the path we are on and I look forward (!) to the next 1000 blogs to help inspire others to take action for nature.
A fortnight ago, I was checking the press release we were issuing in response to the latest plans to develop Lodge Hill. In it we referred to the 90% decline in our nightingale population in the last fifty years. I paused on the 90% figure. It didn't seem right. I knew the decline was significant, but for some reason I hadn't equated the nightingale decline to that suffered by turtle dove or willow tit. So, I went on the BTO website - the best place to check bird trend statistics - and this confirmed the 90% decline.
The nightingale population has declined by 90% since 1967.
Unless we take action to protect nightingales on its breeding grounds and work with others on its flyway and wintering grounds, we are going to lose this iconic bird from our countryside. Its evocative song, which adds so much to the avian soundtrack to our spring and summer, will be lost.
So, why on earth are we even contemplating developing the most important site for nightingales in England?
As I have written on eight previous occasions, Lodge HiIl (shown in the image above) in Medway, North Kent is protected as one of our best sites for wildlife - a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) . Normally I get excited if I hear one or two nightingales; in 2012, Lodge Hill had 85 singing males!
Now, Medway Council has just brought out a consultation looking at the overall future of the area in which they state their commitment to want to see the site developed; and we know they want 5000 houses to be built there. If, after the consultation, the Council does indeed put Lodge Hill into its Local Plan, it would help pave the way for one of the largest ever destructions of a protected site in the UK and would put two fingers up to the Governmental ambition to pass on the natural world in a better state to the next generation. I don't think the next generation would thank us for depriving them of nightingales.
We want your help to do two things......yes, to save Lodge Hill and its nightingales...but also to stop a dangerous precedent being set that would threaten all of our protected wildlife sites.
So we're hoping you will tell Medway Council that the nightingales matter and that to allocate it as a site for development would weaken the protection for all our best wildlife sites across England. The Council might think this is a local matter, but threatening such a nationally important site makes it a national matter. We need to #SaveLodgeHill.
Medway Council's consultation runs until 6 March 2017. You can join our campaign here and tell Medway why it must not develop the site. It will take you a minute and it would be great if you could add personal reasons why you want the site to be saved.
We have to change the current mindset that loss in inevitable and short term economic gain always trumps wildlife. And if you need any further motivation to act, remind yourself of the fabulous song of the nightingale here.
Andy Hay's photo of a nightingale (rspb-images.com)