RSPB, Birds and Airports

I got my replacement entry card for the RSPB yesterday.  I’ll be honest, and it may be due to the Alfred Hitchcock film, “The Birds,” but I am not a great lover of our feathered friends.  Especially not when they fly near to my head.  However, I recognise that they have an important place in the ecosystem, so I was pleased to get my new card.  Nowadays, of course, the RSPB is not just involved in the protection of birds, it is involved in other areas of conservation work.

The RSPB and I both have something in common, we are both pleased that the Airports Commission has ruled out the “Boris Island Airport.”  I don’t see the point of building a new airport somewhere completely different when there are two perfectly good airports elsewhere.  And yes, I do know the issues building another runway at Heathrow or Gatwick will cause, but for me, it’s about doing the least amount of damage.  And, if I’m honest, I was concerned that it would increase the risk of flooding down that side of the Thames.  I may have been completely wrong about that, and maybe there would have been appropriate precautions in place, but that was one of my fears.

The RSPB was established in 1889, without the Royal, because it was fashionable in those days for women to wear hats with elaborate plumage. Birds like the Great Crested Grebe and Kittiwake were decimated.

Things have moved on since those days, and the RSPB is now the biggest nature conservation charity in the UK.  There are more than 200 nature reserves managed by the RSPB, some of which Ancient Monuments and World Heritage Sites, so a visit to these places can be a mixture of history and biology.  (Sounds like a perfect day out to me!)

The society also arranges various events such as guided walks, workshops, day trips, equipment demonstrations (eg binoculars), talks about wildlife, wildlife watching events, and even events for children.  None of these events is particularly expensive so can be educational as well as fun.

Aside from this, the society also runs a number of different projects, including species protection, site protection and research.  One of these, for example, is “the prioritisation of UK overseas territories where invasive vertebrate eradication would yield the highest benefit and the priority list of islands in the UK where invasive vertebrate eradication would yield the highest benefit.”  Ok, I’ll admit, I had to take a second look at that one, and it’s all about alien species threatening the indigenous biodiversity of islands.

Alien species can do huge amounts of damage – just take a look at the native red squirrel in the UK, and how they’ve declined in number because of the introduction of the grey squirrel…

Or Japanese bindweed.  When I was doing my biology degree, I remember learning about the introduction of Cane Toads into Australia, because it was thought that they’d control the Cane Beetle, which damage the sugar cane crops.  Sadly, not only did the toads not have any real impact on the beetles, they spread rapidly across Oz (they were introduced in the North East and have now spread as far as Western Australia, as if they didn’t have enough nasty, poisonous creatures over there).  They are thought to be responsible for poisoning humans and pets as well as other environmental damage.  So you can see the importance of projects like these being run by the RSPB.

I hope the RSPB keeps up the good work for as long as possible, I know I’ll be making a point of visiting more places in the coming year than before.


(c) Susan Shirly 2014


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