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RSPB finally recognise value of moorland management with their new campaign: 'Watch Your Step'

As the upcoming bird breeding season gets underway, the RSPB have launched a new campaign to help protect rare breeding wildlife - 'Watch Your Step', and we fully applaud it.

In a shift from the narratives we have become use to in recent years from the charity, which were often led by individuals with political agendas against moorland management, the RSPB's latest statement is a reminder of a time not too long ago when they were widely supported and valued by all.

The 'Watch Your Step' campaign seeks to educate the significant increase in people who have "noticed nature much more during lockdowns, as garden birds and other wildlife have helped lift spirits and connect us to the world outside. A recent survey commissioned by the RSPB showed that 41% of participants reported seeing wildlife near their homes that they had never noticed before between 2020 and 2021." Their survey suggests that almost half of the UK population have said they have tried to attract nature to their gardens but the RSPB is keen to highlight that many of our threatened species don’t use gardens and nest boxes when raising young.

Over half of England’s most threatened breeding species nest on or near to the ground, including curlew, little tern, nightjar and lapwing. “If you ask a child where bird’s nest, they are likely say a tree, hedge or nest box. It’s an image we’ve all grown up with but for some of our most threatened species it’s simply not true. Almost every natural habitat in the English countryside can be home to ground nesting birds and these threatened species are under increasing pressure due habitat loss, predators and climate change. Yet we can all help protect them from disturbance by simply following the Countryside Code and keeping to footpaths.” Sara Humphrey, Communications Manager

The statement continues:

"As birds nesting on the ground are at higher risk from predators; the nests and eggs they contain are often extremely well camouflaged, making them very hard to see and avoid. Rare birds like woodlark and nightjar nest on heathland sites, which are often popular places to walk, cycle, horse ride and picnic too. By keeping yourself and your animals to the footpaths you can help to keep chicks safe. Fire risk can also be very high on heathlands, so pack a picnic rather than a BBQ and take any litter home." Most reaassuringly however is the focus within the statement on the uplands. As anyone working or living in and around the UK's uplands can attest to, managed moorland provides crucial habitat for some of our rarest ground nesting birds in the UK.

As the RSPB reinforce in their statement:"Uplands and moors are vitals homes to ground nesting birds including curlew, lapwing, golden plover and snipe. The hen harrier, one of the UK's most threatened birds of prey, also nests at ground level in some upland areas."

Let us hope that this is finally the start of a more pragmatic and honest approach from the conservation charity which might just pave the way for improved collaboration in the future. In the meantime, to find out more, search #WatchYourStep on Twitter or Facebook.


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