At the 28 January 2016 meeting, Daniel Jenkins-Jones talked to members of Cardiff Nats about RSPB Cymru’s varied activities during 2015. He summarised developments on RSPB Cymru’s nature reserves, briefly outlined the organisation’s political lobbying work, noted its ‘off-reserve’ conservation work, and looked at the ‘Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff’ campaign.
The RSPB owns and manages around a dozen nature reserves in
Wales, and manages a number of other sites. Daniel presented figures for
breeding pairs of birds in 2015 at these sites. There was bad news, in the
alarming decline seen in the UK for seabirds and other bird species, but good
news in that conservation action on RSPB Cymru reserves is protecting and
increasing bird populations.
Landscape work to extend wetland areas (using machinery
funded through landfill tax) at the RSPB Malltraeth Marsh nature reserve on
Anglesey, for example, has increased the lapwing population, and also resulted
in a pair of hen harrier nesting in the area (the last breeding pair here was
seen in 1974). Ynys-hir, a wetland area on the Dyfi estuary in Ceredigion, also
has breeding lapwing, and notable populations of, among others, redshank, pied
flycatcher, wood warbler and Greenland white-fronted geese. At Lake Vyrnwy, the
largest site managed by RSPB Cymru, habitat management is helping moorland-breeding
birds such as hen harrier, black grouse and merlin (the latter species has
suffered a crash in numbers in the UK).
On Ramsey Island, RSPB Cymru’s work is helping protect a
number of seabirds whose numbers are generally in decline; breeding success has
been recorded, for instance, for guillemot, razorbill, kittiwake, Manx
shearwater, storm petrel and chough. Daniel described how eradicating rats on
Ramsey Island, by employing a New Zealand company who used baited peanut
butter, was a key action in reducing breeding bird mortality. At nearby
Grassholm, part of the UK’s third largest gannet colony can be seen online
thanks to RSPB Cymru (Google ‘gannet cam Grassholm’). The organisation does
important work releasing gannets trapped by the plastic waste (mainly originating
from the Marine fishing industry) that they bring back to their nests. In 2015,
50 gannets were freed (550 in total have been rescued in the last few years).
With work on several other reserves noted, the scale and variety of RSPB
Cymru’s conservation work during 2015 became apparent.
Political campaigning is an important part of RSPB Cymru’s
work, and they have a regular presence at the Senedd - the home of the National
Assembly for Wales. 2015 was an important year in this respect, with the
drafting of the Environment (Wales) Bill, which will put into place legislation
for planning and managing Wales’ natural resources in a more integrated and
sustainable way. However, conservation organisations considered that, under the
influence of Natural Resources Wales, it placed too much emphasis on business
and not enough on nature; Daniel noted that the first draft did not even
mention nature, though lobbying by RSPB Cymru and other NGOs has put nature
into the Bill’s final wording. Last year, the RSPB was also very active in formulating
and promoting the Nature and Wellbeing Act. In addition, RSPB Cymru were
involved in advisory work with farmers, and around 100 case studies ranging
from small-scale to large-scale projects such as the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.
Following a report that showed the low level of engagement with
nature among Welsh school-age children, RSPB Cymru has been committed to more educational
work. One new initiative in 2015 was the ‘Giving nature a home in Cardiff’, which
involved hands-on practical visits to 90% of Cardiff’s schools. This was funded
with the help of the plastic bag charge in Wales. As part of the initiative, RSPB Cymru
undertook the ‘Tape’ project in Bute Park, with the help of Arts Council Wales
funding. This installation, which involved large amounts of non-sticky tape strung
around trees to build a raised structure that could be entered, was visited by
around 74,000 people (10,000 venturing inside). All the plastic is being
recycled to make wild flower planters to put around Cardiff.
Daniel concluded his talk with a look at how people can help
RSPB Cymru, through volunteering (not just habitat management, but also in
administration roles). The easiest way to support the organisation’s work,
however, is to join. Follow the link for further information:
Report by Stephen Nottingham