The Royal Welsh Show is always a popular event with people from around the UK. If you're planning to attend the show next week, why not pop along to the RSPB stand to hear more about our work. If you're a farmer, there will be advice on hand to help you make the most of your land for wildlife, or discuss any concerns you may have about the Brexit process.
If you're not a farmer, there will be lots of activities to help you discover wildlife in Wales so do pop in and say hi!
Head on over to our 'We Love Wales' blog to find out more - more details on the blog here
Author and former Telegraph journalist, Louise Gray, on how protecting beautiful birds like lapwings can inspire us to farm in a more sustainable way.
Childhood experiences of nature often influence our whole lives. For Katie-jo Luxton, Director of RSPB Cymru, it was watching a lapwing protect its young that inspired her to spend a career in conservation.
Growing up in the Begwns Hills near Hay-on-Wye, Katie-jo was aware of what a beautiful bird the lapwing is, with its iridescent green feathers and delicate crest. But it wasn’t until she saw breeding behaviour that she realised what a bright bird it can be.
Lapwings are waders that generally live on grazed pastures or wet grassland. During the breeding season they nest on the ground which makes them vulnerable. As a result, lapwings nest in flocks and have developed strategies to cope with predators. If the female sees danger such as a fox approaching she will feign a broken wing to lead the predator away from her chick. Once the fox is away from his prey the rest of the flock will mob the enemy.
Katie-jo saw all this happen as a girl and if left a lasting impression.
“It challenged my idea that it is only humans that are the bright ones,” she says. “I realised that nature could be brave and clever too.”
RSPB Cymru at Hay Festival. Image: RSPB
At Hay Festival this year Katie-jo and I were part of a panel of farmers, ecologists and writers discussing the future of farming across the UK and how it can change post-Brexit to better protect wildlife. All the panellists told stories about their personal experiences of nature, but it was the story of the lapwing that most neatly summarised some of the actions that need to be taken.
Left to right: Prof. Steve Ormerod, Huw Irranca-Davies, Katie-jo Luxton, Tony Davies, Louise Gray and Kevin Roberts. Image: James Crook
Poet Martin Daws even improvised a poem at the end of the discussion that included the line ‘lapwings on our lips.'
As Katie-jo movingly admits, there are no substantial flocks of lapwings in the Begwns Hills anymore. The pasture that the birds need has been ploughed up to make way for arable crops that are planted in the autumn. This means that come the spring, when lapwings need to breed, the foliage is too high to be able to see predators coming, leaving chicks vulnerable.
The lapwing is just one species affected by the change in farming methods. In the recent State of Nature report the RSPB and other charities found numbers of our nation’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970.
The report made uncomfortable reading for farmers. But as the panel in Hay Festival agreed, the people producing our food are not solely responsible. Politicians could make it easier for farmers to manage land in a more sustainable way.
At the moment farmers receive subsidies based on the amount of land they own. After Brexit this is likely to change. RSPB Cymru wants subsidies to be based on a public good so farmers are paid extra to support wildlife like lapwings.
Katie-jo points out that measures like these will have wider benefits for wildlife and humans. For example, grassland absorbs water and can prevent flooding, tourists coming to Wales want to see wildlife and of course a beautiful landscape improves the wellbeing of the people who live in the area.
Farmers can benefit economically as ways of farming that helps wildlife can also raise high quality meat. For example, grazing beef cattle not only means grassland is left for lapwings but provides a nutritious source of meat that can be sold locally and exported abroad.
Poet Martin Daws. Image: RSPB
Finally, as Katie-jo points out, there is the benefit to our arts as a countryside full of wildlife inspires poets like Martin Daws.
"There are wider benefits to wildlife-friendly farming," she says. "It gives the landscape its characteristic local flora and fauna, it makes people proud, it informs our culture, our poetry...."
For more information about RSPB Cymru's event at the Hay Festival, please click here.