I had an interesting discussion on Twitter last night with the RSPB's conservation director Dr Mark Avery last night. The topic wasn't his interesting blog but my growing worry at the direction that organisations like the RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) are taking.
For example I find myself a little repulsed by the Ruddy Duck cull. I understand why some feel the need to protect the White Headed Duck but I wonder how much of a threat UK Ruddies are compared to hunters in Spain and anyway how much damage does the cull do to other species of duck. If you read Lee Evan's blog on one of the culls you have to question whether this is anyones real interests. It doesn't go well when you see captive Ruddies breeding at Slimbridge and Barnes, security isn't that tight! If you want to have a collection then do it with birds where there is a breeding need. eg. the Nene Goose
To my mind the RSPB "SEEMS" to have become obsessed with high profile birds Sea Eagles, Red Kites and Bitterns - ooh look lets plant another 15 billion acres of reed bed.
Personally I'd rather they concentrated less on reintroductions and spent more on acquiring green spaces in urban areas. I'd imagine more people have been turned on to nature by watching a Blue Tit on a feeder, seeing ducks on the local pond and watching the much maligned Grey Squirrel than will do so by Sea Eagles in Suffolk - hypocrisy alert I'd go to see them!
To be fair Dr Avery responded with a long list of things the RSPB are doing and many of them I heartily applaud.
At least the RSPB are taking positive action at Titchwell and unlike Norfolk Wildlife Trust didn't spend money on a new visitors centre instead of protecting the reserve.
The WWT have spent a fortune at Welney but my visit this summer had me turning to a volunteer asking where all the birds had gone. I didn't see a single Common Tern and all the islands were grassed over and covered in Black Headed Gulls. The volunteer was equally frustrated since we can both remember it in days pre the new visitors centre when there was a diverse range of birds there. I'll pop along in January to see the Swans but I doubt I'll bother for the rest of the year.
Personally I don't really want to see reintroductions, I want to see the right habitat preserved/created and let nature do its thing. I will of course support a reintroduction on a species that is threatened (but I'm tempted to support Chris Packham's view on Giant Panda's) but I don't see the point of doing so when the species is doing well 23 miles across the channel and is "just" threaten in the UK.
Where I really do applaud the RSPB is with regard a species like the Osprey it turned up and the RSPB and its volunteers did a wonderful job giving the bird a fighting chance up at Loch Garten.