Businesses and homeowners are being recruited to try and save one of the UK’s most iconic species of birds, the swift. Swifts migrate thousands of miles every year to the UK and Europe from Africa, nesting in the country for about three months beginning in May. However, over the last two decades, their numbers have declined by nearly half says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Lack of nesting spots
The wildlife conservation charity says there are probably multiple reasons behind the decline, but perhaps the most important is the lack of suitable nesting places as a result of modern housing developments. Jamie Wyver a spokesperson for RSPB says typically swifts would have found nesting spots in the spaces between the eaves, as well as small nooks and crannies in buildings. Unfortunately, modern buildings and their developments have done away with them.
Need to create spaces
Another issue swifts in the UK face is that the buildings they have used in the past to nest are now starting to be tidied up, with their nooks and crannies being blocked which means they can no longer be used. As a result, RSPB is asking the general public to create spaces that swifts can use for nesting. They can either install a traditional bird box, or if they live in a new development, owners can install purpose-designed “swift bricks”.
No need for huge investment
These boxes can be placed within the wall cavity with out outward facing small hole which is tiny enough for the birds to exit and enter but also keep the predators out. According to RSPB, as few as 1,000 new boxes or bricks are enough to make a real difference and their installation need not be at odds with the requirement to construct new housing developments in the UK.
Swifts are remarkable
Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall has embarked on a new policy of installing a swift box for every new home that it constructs. Ben Murphy who is the estate’s director says there have already been signs that birds are starting to nest in the boxes. It is still too early to say whether the policy has been a success, but so far blue tits have begun nesting which is good news because swifts usually arrive after them, kick them out and begin nesting themselves. Swifts are a remarkable species, flying continuously without landing for nine months of the year. They eat and sleep in flight and if they cannot find places to nest the species is at risk.
RSPB which is celebrating is 130th anniversary says that it is critical urgent action is taken to reverse the dramatic declines in populations of seabirds that live on the coast of the UK. The charity which was founded in 1889 by Emily Williamson after learning that hundreds of thousands of birds had been slaughtered simply to decorate hats. In 1997 the organisation reached a million members and has had remarkable conservation success; nevertheless, current RSPB chief Mike Clarke says much more work is needed to ensure coastal birds stay protected.
Urgent action required
Mr Clarke says on and around the coasts of the UK, RSPB will be advocating for urgent action and the establishment of essential protections to stop the dramatic decline in both fishing stock and the many seabird colonies that depend on the. The goal is to create the right conditions so that British seas are well managed. Mr Clarke adds that the scale and pace at which the world around us is accelerating and becoming more profound. The natural world is disappearing and urgent action is needed is wildlife and their habitats are to be saved.
The most recent academic studies suggest that sea birds are feeling the pain from climate change and ocean plastic pollution. Some birds have been found with over 250 pieces of plastic in their stomachs. One study by the University of Aberdeen produced results which suggests the species of bird that is most at risk are seabirds because of the competition they face from the fishing industry for food. The study found that since the 1970’s annual fishery catches have risen from 59 to 65 million tonnes a year. That sort of increase will obviously make it difficult for seabirds to find food.
Food and climate change
Dr Aurore Ponchom who co-led the study says that it is well known that most species of seabird find it difficult to change their diet and this means it is not likely that they will shift to other prey species. This means part of the decline in populations of seabirds that has been observed might come down to fisheries. Dr Ponchom adds that along with competition from fisheries, threats such as climate change, destruction and pollution of breeding habitats puts the global seabird population at risk.
Everyone has a role to play in conservation
Mr Clarke says that all stake holders have a role to play when it comes to solving the problem. Over the last century, nearly every aspect of daily life has been transformed. Irrespective of social, political and economic shifts, the RSPB continues to stay focused on its mission of saving nature. Mr Clarke concludes this is not something that RSPB can do on its own, and solutions need to be found that involve people. RSPB hopes to inspire people from all walks of life from politicians to school children must recognise and understand their connection to nature.
According to the latest assessment of nature published by the European Commission, Europe’s wildlife remains in deep crisis. The mid-term review of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy suggests that progress towards many of key targets for the restoration of wildlife that were established at the beginning of this decade has been very limited. In response the RSPB is urging the European Commission to take concerted action in order to reverse the decline in number of species.
One bright spot
There was one positive note in the report which was the European Union’s nature directives have been successful and are helping to provide the foundation for favourable conservation status for a number of species that face threats including birds of prey such as the Mediterranean monk seal and the Dalmatian pelican.
The findings of the European Commission Review match the warnings given by RSPB earlier in the year. In June RSPB published a report in collaboration with BirdLife Europe that basically suggested there was an ecological crisis threatening wildlife and we need to do more particularly for those species that depend on agricultural habitats across the EU. There has been a large fall in the population of farm land birds in the EU since 1980 which shows no sign of reversing.
“This review sadly confirms our analysis that the EU’s formerly splendid wildlife tapestry is becoming increasingly threadbare, with many of the greatest holes appearing because of intensive agriculture. We remain anxious that Europe is not on track to protect its wildlife treasures. However, the review does confirm that when the Birds and Habitats Directives are properly implemented they play a pivotal role in the recovery of threatened species.” Martin Harper the RSPB’s Conservation Director said.
Still possible to save the day
The RSPB and its partner BirdLife Europe are asking the European Commission to understand how important the directives within the Commission’s Fitness Check are. This is a process which undertakes a periodic review of how effective the laws are. Mr. Harper adds that time is running out to save Europe’s nature. There is however still a little time remaining to address Europe’s erosion of nature by providing incentives for more sustainable and environmentally friendly forms of farming.
At a recent meeting held in London, the Natural England Board said it would uphold protection for one of the most important sites in the UK for the nightingale whose population in the country has fallen by a disappointing 46 per cent since 1995.
Natural England notified Lodge Hill which is located in North Kent that it has SSSI status, which means it is a site of special scientific interest. The RSPB and other groups dedicated to conservation said they were delighted the site’s importance had been recognized.
“Natural England’s Board had a very clear brief: to examine the scientific data and come to a conclusion about the site’s national importance. After a laudable level of scrutiny, we believe Natural England came to the right decision based on clear, robust and reliable scientific evidence.” Martin Harper the RSPB’s Conservation Director said
The site in Lodge Hill is being considered as a site for major development that will be used for housing and other associated usage by the Ministry of Defense (MoD). The MoD has submitted a plan that would create as many as 5000 homes.
Given the fact that Natural England has reiterated SSSI notification for the site, the RSPB hopes the MoD will reconsider its existing plans. Mr. Harper added that his organisation would help Medway Council devise a new plan that would also offer new homes and create new jobs in a sustainable manner for its current population and for future generations.
According to a new study only one in five British children have a connection with nature. This is the first time a study has been conducted to find out just how connected children in the UK are to nature.
The study was conducted over three years and funded by the RSPB. The results suggest that just 21% of kids in the UK have a level of connection to nature that can be thought of as being ‘realistic and achievable’ for all children.
The RSPB thinks the greatest threat to nature in the UK is the lack of contact children have with the natural world and wildlife, with the results of the report only confirming those fears.
The survey results suggest there are statistically significant differences between the connection children have with nature at the national level as well as between girls and boys in UK rural and urban homes.
In May a number of conservation organisations including the RSB released suggests that 60 per cent of species in the wild that have been studied have seen population declines in the last few decades. The RSPB thinks that ensuring children feel a connection to nature will mean that positive attitudes to wildlife develop.
“This report is ground-breaking stuff. Millions of people are increasingly worried that today’s children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK, which means the problem hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. Nature is in trouble, and children’s connection to nature is closely linked to this. The recent State of Nature report shows that nature in the UK is being lost at a dramatic rate. We can all take action to put nature back into childhood, to ensure young people have better lives and a better future. For the first time, we have created a baseline that we and others can use to measure just how connected to nature the UK’s children really are. By adopting this new approach, we can all monitor children’s connection and we are recommending that governments and local authorities take action to increase it through policy and practice decisions.” Dr Mike Clarke, RSPB Chief Executive said
Over the last ten years, a huge amount of research has been conducted to determine the benefits children derive when they have contact with the outdoors and nature. Benefits include improved education, better physical health and kids are thought to have better social and personal skills as well as emotional well being.
The RSPB thinks all actors ranging from individuals, organisations and governments play a role in connecting kids to nature. As a result the RSPB has signed up to The Wild Network which connects organisations with one another as it seeks to connect kids with the natural world by having them play outside.
Category: Animal Charities, RSPB
Great news emanating from our friends at the RSPB shop, where you can now receive free delivery on all your goods when you spend £25 or more. Simply order online before midnight on Monday 5th July 2013 to enjoy this great offer –
- Add voucher code – T13ITH0036
- Free delivery on £25 plus spend
- Offer ends 05/07/13
They are also offering loads of different gifts with up to 50% off, including rucksacks, bird feeders, kitchenware, notebooks, toys, and loads of other amazing goodies. 150 Suet balls are only £19.99 instead of £25.50, whilst a 5.5kg of table is is now available at half price when you spend over £35.
So why not save yourself some serious cash and help the RSPB with every purchase you make. Your purchase provide much needed funds to help the RSPB to protect the amazing birds and countryside of Great Britain.
The RSPB and the Telegraph newspaper has now launched their search to find the UK’s top nature farmer, with a £1000 prize to the winner. They will be hunting high and low to discover which farmer has, over the last 12 months, done more to nurture threatened countryside wildlife, and you can help find them!
If you think you know someone who deserves to be mentioned in the category, then why not click on the link below to fill in an application for this year’s award. Judges will select up to eight regional finalists, before a panel of expert judges whittle them down to the final four. This year’s panel will consist of –
- RSPB Head of Conservation Manager Nick Droy
- Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive Martin Warren
- Plantlife Chief Executive Victoria Chester
- Countryfile Magazine Fergus Collins
Judging will then be decided by YOU, the British public, as you cast your votes either online, on the phone, or via The Telegraph newspaper. Entries are available until Thursday 18th April 2013, with last years winner being organic farmer Henry Edmunds. His establishment hosted a fantastic array of rare birds, bees and butterflies. He said –
I have witnessed our landscape deteriorate over the last 30 years – birds have disappeared, butterflies have been lost, and ancient grasslands ploughed up. I wanted my farming policies to reverse those trends. To do without wildlife is not an option. We all have a responsibility to maintain it and help it flourish, not sacrifice it for greater commercial yields. We need to step back, look sensibly at the way we farm and try to make it more sustainable and better for the environment in the long run.
With more farmers looking to run not just a profitable business model, but also care for the land and it’s inhabitants, this award is a great way to recognise the fantastic work farmers are doing to help nature. If you know of someone who you think deserves some recognition for their outstanding work, simply click on the link below to download the entry form for this fantastic competition.
If you would like to learn more about the fantastic work of the RSPB, or would even like to purchase one of their great memberships, check out our dedicated charity page for more information on how you can help.
Category: Animal Charities, RSPB
Have any of you heard any mystery bird songs during the evening? The RSPB has been receiving a lot of calls from homeowners who suspect that Nightingales may be out singing their winter songs. But the RSPB wildlife team seem to be pretty sure it’s actually our good friend the Robin redbreast that is having a good old sing song.
Robins are usually one of the first birds that are ‘up and at ’em’ first thing in the morning. This means they are used to singing in low light conditions, so the evening is also the perfect time to for them to clear their throats for a good old sing song.
Birds mainly sing to attract a mate, or to defend their territory. The Robin is one of the few birds who protect their own ‘patch’ during the winter, and this is also one of the reasons why they continue to sing when most other birds have stopped.
RSPB wildlife advisor, Richard James, said –
We’ve had lots of calls from people sharing what they’d spotted during their Big Garden Birdwatch, but many also called rather excitedly to say they’d heard nightingales singing in the evenings. They were a little disappointed when we told them the birds were almost certainly robins, although they were still surprised to find out these birds sing at night. Before the cold weather took hold, we had a number of reports of night-singing birds, but that stopped when the snow arrived. Since it melted across most of the country this weekend, the birds have started up again and as we head towards the breeding season, this should increase.
It’s strange to thing of a Robin having it’s own territory. I mean, it doesn’t exactly look tough! So if you hear an evening song, just know it’s a gang of Robins protecting their patch from some other hoodlums who are trying to step up, just to get a rep!
If you would like to learn more about the work of the RSPB, or would even like to purchase a membership, check out our dedicated charity page for more information.
Category: Animal Charities, RSPB
RSPB charity officials are sending out a warning to all the UK’s bird lovers, as the cold weather grips the nation’s gardens. This of course will cause major issues for our fine feathered friends, as water sources freeze over and food becomes scarce.
Now is the time for all of us to really step-up our bird feeding to provide birds with the nutrients and water they need to drink and wash. RSPB are suggesting that you leave a few more calorie-rich foods outside, including –
- Mixed seed
- Suet sprinkles
- Sunflower seed
- Mild grated cheese
- Porridge oats
to provide birds with some serious energy laden snacks during these sub zero temperatures. A fresh supply of water every morning will also be really helpful, and if you are finding that the water is freezing, try floating a ping pong ball in the bowl. This helps to keep the water moving thanks to the ball moving in the breeze.
RSPB’s wildlife advisors, Richard James, said –
The sudden drop in temperatures across the UK will have been a big shock to birds’ systems after spending the past couple of months with few worries in terms of food availability. Thanks to the recent mild weather, many natural food sources have been readily available and water has been easy to come by. Now the snow and ice are here birds will need all the help they can get to survive the winter. With the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch coming up on the weekend of 26 and 27 January, keeping your feeders, tables and bird baths topped-up will not only make sure your garden visitors are well fed and looked after, it’ll also encourage them into your garden just in time for you to take part in the world’s biggest wildlife survey.
Don’t forget that the RSPB Garden Birdwatch is just around the corner, so let’s hope the weather clears up by then! This will take place on the weekend of Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th January 2013, and is the world’s biggest wildlife survey! For more information on the Big Garden Birdwatch, checkout their page to find out how you can get involved this year.
If you would like to find out more about the work of the RSPB, check out our dedicated charity page for more information on how you can help by purchasing a membership card to provide funds.
Amazing scenes were filmed by a passerby in Cambridgeshire recently, scenes that really do show how rainy the weather has been this winter. As we are all quite aware, 2012 has been one of the strangest years for weather in living memory, and not in a good way. Whether it was the sunny November or the rainy summer, we really didn’t know whether we were coming or going this year, and neither did this seal!
The footage taken below shows a seal trying to climb over flood fencing more than 50 miles inland, having swam up the River Ouse from Norfolk. With all the flooding that has occurred throughout the country, the seal seems to have got a bit confused on it’s whereabouts!
The seal was spotted at the RSPB’s Fen Drayton Lakes reserve, near St Ives in Norfolk. Wildlife workers for the charity remarked that seals can sometimes be spotted inland in the rivers, but not FIFTY MILES inland!
Graham Elliot from the RSPB, said –
It would be the first time this has happened to my knowledge, that one has made its way into the lake. The floods normally come from ground water rather than the river and so if there is one it must have worked its way up in a ditch or something like that. It would be tremendous if one is there. It would be extremely unusual and it would become an attraction to visitors.
It’s amazing how much the weather can effect just us, but also the in built navigational systems of the animals around us! Here’s hoping that little seal managed to back it’s way back to the safety of the sea. If you would like to learn more about the work of the RSPB, check out our dedicated charity page for more information.