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Become a Life Member of the RSPB

I received a leaflet in the post this week from the RSPB asking me to become a Life Member, so I did. I’ve been a member for many years and it was about to renew at a cost of around £60 so that worked well. They offered a significant discount of £240 over the Single Life Membership cost meaning that it was reduced to £570. It’s not a matter of whether it’s cheaper to do it this way or not. At my ‘experienced’ age I’m perhaps unlikely to last that long but I’m glad to contribute to what is a very worthwhile cause.

RSPB leaflet

The thrust of the leaflet was that there needs to be huge changes in this country if we are to tackle the nature and climate crisis (on which our Government is doing very close to zero, my words not theirs). The RSPB plan is to double the amount of land they protect for wildlife – by 2030. That’s a tall order as it’s just seven years away and for that they’ll need a lot of money. So I’m happy to help.

I was not convinced a few years back that the organisation was well-managed financially; but now under the fresh management of Beccy Speight I wish them well. Please spend our money wisely.

The Government has committed to the 30 x 30 agenda to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature by 2030 as Target 3 in the Global Biodiversity Framework established at COP15 in Montreal in December 2022 (BW 34:4 p. 256) but the Government knows that it will no longer be in power come the next election next year so its happy to do nothing and will then pass the blame for their own shambolic failings over the past 12 years to others.

Elsewhere in the RSPB leaflet they talk about helping the record number of birds – now numbering 70 that are on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern. And as we all know one of these is our Common Swift. And whilst we all also know that the catastrophic decline has been caused by loss of nesting sites scientists studying Swifts say that our data suggest that falling first-year survival, partly linked to wetter summers, may be the most likely demographic driver of population decline. This, as I’ve said before, is nonsense based on very poor data. The actual reason is the huge loss of nesting sites that has occurred over the last 25 years, and I’ve put to them what science I believe they should have done a long time ago, but I’ve had no response on this.

I also recently received this leaflet recently from the BTO asking for people to donate today to their urban bird appeal.

It talks about the decline of the House Sparrow and of the Starling but oddly there is not a single mention of Swifts, or any mention of loss of nest sites being a cause of the decline of all three of our urban bird species. I honestly don’t know if scientists really do understand the problem yet. They should because I’ve been banging on about it for long enough, not to mention the fact that its blindingly obvious. But for some reason that is not enough. I was told about three years ago by a BTO staff member that I was categorically wrong in saying that the major cause of the decline was loss of nesting sites, and that in fact it was caused by loss of insects.

He said that the BTO had the science to prove it. Oddly no such science has materialised. When a senior BTO scientist came to see me last summer here in Hampshire I took him round to show him in detail how houses have been constructed for the last 25 years or so. I took him up onto the scaffold at the Cala Homes Development in Winchester so that we could see up close the details of the construction at eaves and roof level. I pointed out that all those houses built in that time will likely never have any birds nesting in them at all. He told me he believed that the major cause of the decline was the loss of insects. We also went to look at the Hospital of St Cross where Swifts had been stopped out of their nests about 15 years ago. There are now nine extra pairs nesting and four other completed nests (built by younger non-breeding birds) here since 15 internal boxes were installed just four breeding seasons ago in the winter of 2018/2019. I also took him to see the Highcliffe estate at Winchester where the City Council had been reroofing their properties and installing plastic fascias and soffits to replace the timber that had been used since the houses were built. In doing so they were blocking up all the holes used by the many Swifts, Starlings and House Sparrows. The situation had only been saved when the Council agreed to pay for and install a Swift box on each of the reroofed properties. 75% of those boxes are now occupied by House Sparrows and there are already 24 pairs of Swifts nesting in them.

So will I be contributing to their appeal? No, I’m going to pass on that. If they had requested money in order to study the real and blindingly obvious cause of the decline of our urban birds then I would certainly have done so.

And how cool are these T-shirts from the RSPB. My order has gone in already.


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