A lovely piece in this week’s Cage & Aviary Birds from David Alderton about passing on what we know to the next generation…

“David Alderton, MA (Cantab.) grew up in a home surrounded by pets and originally trained to be a vet until an allergic dermatitis forced a change of career in his final year of study. Since then, David has used his experience, knowledge and passion for the subject to concentrate on writing about animals and the natural world.

David also broadcasts regularly on television and radio, and has recently set up the website http://www.petinfoclub.com while his blog can be found at www.davidalderton.com His books have currently sold some 6.5 million copies worldwide and are available in 30 languages. He has won various awards for his work, including the Maxwell Medallion from the Dog Writers’ Association of America, and he is well-known as a columnist for various newspapers and magazines, as well as being the editor of “Practical Reptile Keeping” magazine.”

This week, in Cage & Aviary Birds, David writes that basic regular contact with birds is ‘one of the most valuable gifts we have for the next generation,’ and that the simplest of activities, such as the recent World Wildlife Day celebrations held by Haith’s, the well-known bird seed supplier, can create a ‘lifelong interest in birds.’ This could also make us better people according to recent research undertaken by (University of Exeter) as ‘watching birds near your home is good for your mental health.’ Researchers Dr Cox and Professor Kevin Gaston found that ‘watching birds makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature’ (Cox and Gaston, 2016).

David was inspired by his headmaster, a man called Stanley Bayliss Smith, ‘quite a prominent ornithologist of the time,’ he writes.

The article also pays homage to Prof Cooper whose acknowledged debt to his mentor – the naturalist Maxwell Knight – is the purpose of this blog.


WWF calls on governments to fast-track action on conservation, climate change and sustainable development

New data released by WWF and ZSL (Zoological Society of London) today reveals that overall global vertebrate populations are on course to decline by an average of 67 per cent from 1970 levels by the end of this decade, unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact on species and ecosystems.


Global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent on average since 1970. This is an average annual decline of two per cent, with no sign yet that this rate will decrease. Populations that have been impacted by human activity include those of African elephants in Tanzania, maned wolves in Brazil, hellbender salamanders in the USA, leatherback turtles in the tropical Atlantic, orcas in European waters and European eels in UK rivers.

The Living Planet Report 2016 is the world’s most comprehensive survey to date of the health of our planet. It highlights how human activities including deforestation, pollution, overfishing and the illegal wildlife trade, coupled with climate change, are pushing species populations to the edge as people overpower the planet for the first time in Earth’s history. However, widespread ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change, new restrictions on the international trade in threatened species including pangolins and African grey parrots, and conservation measures that are leading to increases in global tiger and panda populations indicate that solutions are possible.

Mike Barrett, Director of Science and Policy at WWF-UK said:

“For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife. We ignore the decline of other species at our peril – for they are the barometer that reveals our impact on the world that sustains us. Humanity’s misuse of natural resources is threatening habitats, pushing irreplaceable species to the brink and threatening the stability of our climate.

“We know how to stop this. It requires governments, businesses and citizens to rethink how we produce, consume, measure success and value the natural environment. In the UK, this demands a serious plan to strengthen protection for habitats and species and new measures to fast track low-carbon growth. Britain, like all developed nations, must take increasing responsibility for its global footprint. December’s conference on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity would be a good place for the UK government to signal that it’s serious about helping tackle the global loss of species.”


Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International said:

“Across land, freshwater and the oceans, human activities are forcing species populations and natural systems to the edge. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them if we are serious about our own survival and prosperity.”

Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL said:

“Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact on freshwater habitats. Importantly, however, these are declines – they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations.”


Food production to meet the needs of an expanding human population is a key driver of the overfishing, hunting and destruction of habitats that is causing biodiversity loss. The Living Planet Report details the enormous strain agriculture places on freshwater systems, accounting for 70 per cent of water use and a substantial loss of wetlands. While large food industry interests have demonstrated they can feed the world, the report makes clear that the challenge now is to do so sustainably.

This year, international scientists recommended that humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared. And in the UK, the RSPB’s State of Nature 2016 report shows that over the last 50 years, 56 per cent of native species have declined.

Trump pulls plug on Obama’s clean power plan


Jane Goodall calls Trump’s climate change agenda ‘immensely depressing’

Trump climate: Challenges loom after Obama policies scrapped

BBC News4 hours ago
Opponents of President Donald Trump’s decision to scrap his predecessor’s climate change policies say they will organise a public campaign …
Trump Signs Executive Order Unwinding Obama Climate Policies
In-DepthNew York Times12 hours ago
Donald Trump launches an attack on climate-change policy
BlogThe Economist (blog)16 hours ago

‘More than 800,000 songbirds illegally killed’ on British military base in Cyprus – Robins and blackcaps are among the birds being trapped for food…

See The Independent online – The Express – The Guardian – BBC News


Maxwell Knight’s cabinet gets a mention on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show

Tune into the BBC iPlayer and fast forward to 2:44:42 to hear Maxwell Knight’s filing cabinet mentioned in today’s BBC Two World Book Day show…


The Vanishing: Europe’s farmland birds


The Head of Conservation for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia explains how intensive agriculture has made farmland birds one of the most threatened bird groups in Europe: 

‘Once upon a time, they were all around us,’ laments Iván Ramírez  – ‘sights and sounds as familiar as the dusky skies their flocks danced in or the wind whistling through the fields.  They were the tiny flashes of colour caught by the corner of your eye as you strolled in the countryside. They were the chirps, chatter, coos and caws making music in the hedgerows and the long meadow grasses. But that was before we destroyed their homes. Now, our common farmland birds are not so common…’ Read the full article here

In next month’s ‘Practical Reptile Keeping’ – The case of the hidden manuscript, James Bond & reptiles


Visit the Practical Reptile Keeping Facebook page to find out more. (Every month, Practical Reptile Keeping is packed with snakes, lizards, tortoises, amphibians and bugs. As well as stunning photographs, each issue features technical help, product information and health care advice to keep your pet in tip top condition).

To any herpetologist who was alive in the 1950s or 1960s the name Maxwell Knight will need no introduction. For all others: he was a founder member of the British Herpetological Society, author of numerous natural history titles (including How to Keep a Gorilla) and a popular BBC broadcaster appearing on Nature Parliament, Country Questions and The Naturalist. Herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) was his specialty, and he skilfully conveyed his advice and knowledge in his books and broadcasts.

It is the contrast between his life as a spycatcher and early environmentalist that intrigues. He lived two very separate, but equally influential, lives. His MI5 work reached the ears of Winston Churchill during the second world war, whilst later in life he had the respect of his naturalist peers, which included the professional zoo community and wildlife charities in addition to being given a platform by the BBC to broadcast to the nation.

His filing cabinet was left in the safekeeping of Professor John E. Cooper, who in his youth knew Knight very well. Their friendship was strong enough for him to consider Knight as his mentor, and they remained good friends until Knight’s death in 1968.

About World Wildlife Day 2017

Half of world’s #wildlife was lost in past 40 years. Habit loss, over-exploitation, poaching & trafficking are main threats #YouthVoices #WWD2017


“The UN World Wildlife Day (WWD) is the global celebration of the many beautiful and varied forms of wild animals and plants on our planet as well as an occasion to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to both wildlife and people and the plight of many threatened or endangered species. World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on 3rd March, the day of the signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973.

The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, with a focus on connecting young people around the world to explore what wildlife conservation and protection mean to them and instil a responsibility in them to take action for the future of both wild animals and plants.


WWD2017 will be celebrated around the world, with the main events at the UN Headquarters in New York. The social media component aims to involve the global community by raising awareness of the issues surrounding wildlife conservation and protection around the world; imparting a duty on young citizens to engage with conservation issues, as they will be the decision makers of tomorrow; and encouraging all citizens to consider how they can help conservation efforts locally for impacts at a global scale. We call on youth around world as well as all citizens to do one thing on this World Wildlife Day, and beyond, to help protect the world’s wildlife.”

See http://wildlifeday.org/ to find out more about WWD.

Half of world’s #wildlife was lost in past 40 years. Habit loss, over-exploitation, poaching & trafficking are main threats #YouthVoices #WWD2017

Simon King talks about feeding the birds on BBC Radio Humberside

Representing Haith’s (as an Associate Director) Simon King discusses the merits of feeding wild birds this winter… Tune into the BBC iPlayer to hear the piece… or click here to open the iPlayer in a new window…



Book update: A day’s research in London

John and Margaret Cooper joined Simon King to visit The Linnean Society (Piccadilly) and peruse their Maxwell Knight archive.

Then, on to the Natural History Museum (South Kensington) to see The Maxwell Knight Library.


In the evening, returning back to The Linnean Society for Founder’s Day.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the day productive and memorable. The project continues…