Earlier this week, I joined colleagues from across the RSPB Eastern England region for our annual regional gathering. This is a chance to share ideas and celebrate successes, both formally and informally.
We heard from RSPB Old Hall Marshes in Essex, where they are introducing new water management regimes to improve habitat for breeding waders.
We went back to our childhood making leaf and stick creatures as part of an exercise about improving our family events. My group made a red-eyed leaf-pig, which foraged through the leaf litter using its fantastic sense of smell and long nose to forage on earthworms, beetles and other soil invertebrates.
Buglife CEO, Matt Shardlow highlighted the importance of insects and other bugs in an excellent talk about some of the partnership work the RSPB and Buglife are doing in Essex, especially at Canvey Wick.
Bee-wolf by Steve Everett - one of the amazing bugs found at Minsmere
We also listened to an excellent presentation from Professor Jules Pretty of the University of Essex about health and wellbeing. Jules highlighted the many benefits of spending time in green spaces, emphasising how important our nature reserves, parks and gardens are to improving our physical and mental health.
We also enjoyed a great talk from our Regional Director, Dr James Robinson, which set the scene on exactly why we do what we do and looked ahead at plans for 2017 and beyond.
James started by setting world events into context: votes in the UK and USA that will change the political and economic landscapes and have a profound effect on nature; Leicester City’s Premiership title and Honey G’s X Factor performances that showed how much our lives are influenced by popular culture; and, of course, the loss of icons such as David Bowie and Prince.
Among the context setting, it was perhaps the reference to some recent reports on wildlife population declines that hit home the most:
For me, these figures are particularly alarming as I have just finished two books that go into some detail about how we have had such a negative impact on our planet’s wildlife for even longer than the period covered by these reports. Rachel Carson’s classic, hard-hitting book Silent Spring first brought the impacts of pesticides to the fore in the early 1960s, so even by 1970 our bird (and other wildlife) populations were severely reduced. My colleague, Conor Mark Jameson’s, Silent Spring Revisited looks at the many impacts, both good and bad in the years since Rachel Carson’s book and concludes with discussion on how today’s children will work from a much lower benchmark than we did, never mind our parents’ generation.
Back to Dr Robinson’s presentation though. After setting the scene with some of the bad news, he cheered us all up by celebrating some of the RSPB’s recent successes, especially in Eastern England:
Little tern by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Finally, James looked ahead to 2017, teasing us with news that black-tailed godwits are set to benefit further from EU-funded habitat restoration work at March Farmers, near our Nene Washes nature reserve in Cambridgeshire, and hinting at plans for new and enlarged nature reserves in the region.
Black-tailed godwit by Jon Evans
Coming full circle, James urged us to ensure that we continue to make the case for nature better, helping to influence both individual supporters and decision makers during these uncertain times.
So, will you help us by spreading the word?
Nature is amazing. Together, we can help nature.