Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

 

RSPB giving nature a home

 

 

 

The RSPB celebrates 130 years

February 2019

Portrait of Emily Williamson, founder of the Society for the Protection of Birds in Didsbury. Manchester. 1889. RSPB (rspb-images.com)
Portrait of Emily Williamson, founder of the Society for the Protection of Birds in Didsbury. Manchester. 1889. RSPB (rspb-images.com)

Beginnings

130 years ago this month a philanthropist named Emily Williamson was reading, with horror, news about the hat trade. A growing trend in the late Victorian era was the addition of increasingly elaborate feathers, wings and even birds’ heads to women’s headwear. Emily realised that vast numbers of birds like egrets were being killed to fuel the fashion industry and that if no action was taken, many could be lost for good. With a group of friends at her home in Didsbury, she began the Society for the Protection of Birds (SPB), aiming to campaign against this destructive practice. The SPB grew rapidly, merging in 1891 with Eliza Phillip’s Fur, Fin and Feather Folk, a Croydon-based group. In the SPB’s early days all members were women, and they gained influential supporters like the Duchess of Portland, who was the Society’s President from 1891 until 1954!

In 1904 the group attained the Royal Charter, becoming the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Within the next couple of decades, the RSPB had its first big campaigning success: the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act was passed, forbidding plumage from being imported to Britain.

Campaigning

Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, singing from a hawthorn bush. Minamere. Suffolk. May. John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, singing from a hawthorn bush. Minamere. Suffolk. May. John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

This was to be the first of many extraordinary campaigning achievements. Recently these have included stopping development on Lodge Hill in Kent, the most important place in the country for nightingales. As part of Stop Climate Chaos, the Society helped bring about the UK's Climate Change Act in 2008. The Act requires reductions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and preparation for climate change. In 2016 RSPB supporters helped to save the laws that protect nature throughout Europe. The Nature Directives were under threat but thanks to 520,000 people across the EU (65,000 of them RSPB supporters) these laws were protected from being ‘opened up’ and weakened.

Nature reserves

View showing expanse of semi-vegitated shingle, Dungeness RSPB Reserve. Kent. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
View showing expanse of semi-vegitated shingle, Dungeness RSPB Reserve. Kent. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

In addition to campaigning, managing land for nature has also been an ongoing priority for the RSPB. The charity purchased its first ever nature reserve in 1930, Cheyne Court on Romney Marsh in Kent. The site was sold in 1950 after drainage of surrounding land meant it was less attractive to birds. The RSPB’s oldest existing nature reserves, Dungeness and East Wood, were announced in 1932. Now there are over 200 RSPB nature reserves in the UK, most of them open to visitors. Since 2018 these now include Sherwood Forest, world famous as the home of legendary outlaw Robin Hood. In total, the charity owns or manages over 150,000 hectares.

Working together

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, adult resting on a branch. Norfolk. August. Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, adult resting on a branch. Norfolk. August. Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

The fastest declining group of birds in the UK are those found on farmland, such as the turtle dove. So the charity also works closely with farmers, through projects like Operation Turtle Dove and by supporting the Nature Friendly Farming Network. The RSPB also manages farming operations on many of its sites and has a dedicated arable business, Hope Farm, which acts as a demonstration site for boosting biodiversity on farmland.

Outside land it officially manages, the RSPB also leads on numerous other conservation and public engagement projects. These include the successful Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery project, where working with communities to remove rats has allowed the return of Manx shearwater and storm petrel.
Partnerships, with landowners, other conservation bodies and the private sector are increasingly crucial for the modern RSPB. Working with supermarket chain Aldi, for example, has enabled the charity to run hundreds of educational sessions in parks and schools. Aldi donated money raised from sale of its plastic bags at checkouts to the Connecting Children with Nature Partnership.

The RSPB is also part of Back from the Brink, a major programme of conservation projects which focus on restoring populations of wildlife on the verge of being lost from England. Relationships with other conservation groups are key, and Project Godwit, a project run with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is an excellent example of this. The project aims to reverse the decline of the Limosa race of the UK's breeding black-tailed godwits, and includes hatching eggs and raising chicks in captivity.

Overseas, the RSPB is involved in conservation on many UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) like the Falkland Islands and the planned seabird restoration project on Gough Island. Then there’s vital work with the Albatross Task Force in the southern hemisphere, restoring vulture populations in India and Nepal and management of rainforests in Sierra Leone and Indonesia. In most places the charity teams up with the local partner organisation from BirdLife International – a worldwide conservation family of which the RSPB is the UK’s representative.

The future

Girls waiting for wildlife, Big Garden Birdwatch event. Cambridgeshire. October 2013. Rahul Thanki (rspb-images.com)
Girls waiting for wildlife, Big Garden Birdwatch event. Cambridgeshire. October 2013. Rahul Thanki (rspb-images.com)

In 2019 the UK’s biggest citizen science project, the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch celebrated its 40th anniversary. The public are asked to spend an hour watching their garden (or other local green space) and recording the highest numbers of bird species they see at any one time. Around half a million people now take part each year, meaning that as well as encouraging the nation to enjoy time with their wild neighbours the event gathers a significant amount of useful data showing how familiar birds are faring.

Since 2012 the RSPB has helped improve the prospects of 79 types of birds and numerous other wildlife in the UK and around the world. This means taking steps to diagnose problems, try out conservation techniques, and monitoring to check these projects are working. Here, numbers of cirl buntings, cranes, bitterns, red kites, roseate ternsand white-tailed eagles are at their highest since the RSPB, working with partners, became involved in their conservation.

Back in 1889 Emily Williamson may have had big ambitions for her group. But she probably wouldn’t have guessed just how big the RSPB would become, and how effective it would be in tackling the decline of nature and inspiring the nation to enjoy wildlife. What will the next 130 years have in store? We face big challenges: climate change, and growing demands on land and sea from human populations, for example. But the RSPB continues to go from strength to strength, ready to tackle these issues, and proudly carrying forward the legacy of those determined Manchester women to fight for a world richer in nature.

Find out more about the RSPB here: rspb.org.uk

 

Back to LaterLife Interest Index


Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this

Latest Articles:

Get in the flow with Tai Chi

man and woman doing tai chi

Did anyone out there hear of Tai Chi in the 1960s or 1970s? It was really only in the 1990s that this eastern form of martial art really started to take off globally. Now Tai Chi is practiced by an estimated 240 million people worldwide, including thousands here in the UK, and is said to be of enormous benefit especially to older people.

more

VisitWales

 

Welsh pubs with serious cwtch appeal

Ty Coch Inn, Porthdinllaen, Llŷn Peninsula by @enlliann (Instagram)

If there’s one thing Wales does well, it’s pubs. We may well be regarded as the land of song, but we can certainly sink a few pints too. Join in with the locals and enjoy a drink or two at one of these breathtaking Welsh pubs. Iechyd da! (or cheers if you like…)

more

What motto would you put on your Coat of Arms?

Coat of arms

Arms and crests are granted by a senior herald, one of the Kings of Arms, and actually anyone can apply for one.

more

Win great prizes in our current Competitions

Silver Travel Glynis Alfa

Click here to visit the competitions page.

Article Archive

The LaterLife Article Archive provides a comprehensive list of links, to all the current regular article series' as well as quick links to older articles.
 
Back to LaterLife Today

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site

Bookmark


Advertise on laterlife.com



LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti