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.

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

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…



The Maxwell Knight Memorial Fund (1968) A Letter To The Editor…


The World Is Not Enough According To WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 (in fact, we require the ‘biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths’)

There’s a real-life international power struggle and the antagonist is man ‘demanding more from the planet than it can renew,’ reports WWF in the Living Planet Report 2016

‘Since the early 1970s, humanity has been demanding more from the planet than it can renew (see below). By 2012,’ writes WWF in the Living Planet Report (LPR), ‘the biocapacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in that year (Global Footprint Network, 2016). Exceeding the Earth’s biocapacity is possible only in the short term. Only for a brief period can we cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish, or emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the forests and oceans can absorb. The consequences of “overshoot” are already clear: habitat and species loss, and accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere (Tittensor et al., 2014; UNEP, 2012).’

Global Ecological Footprint by component vs Earth’s biocapacity, 1961-2012:

Carbon is the dominant component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint (ranging from 43 per cent in 1961 to 60 per cent in 2012). It is the largest Footprint component at the global level as well as for 145 of the 233 countries and territories tracked in 2012. Its primary cause has been the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. The green line represents the Earth’s capacity to produce resources and ecological services (i.e., the biocapacity). It has been upward trending slightly, mainly due to increased productivities in agriculture (Global Footprint Network, 2016). Data are given in global hectares (gha).

Source: WWF. 2016. Living Planet Report 2016. Risk and resilience in a new era. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland.

Read more about WWF’s conservation work or donate here


Did you know Maxwell Knight?


If you knew Maxwell Knight or have been influenced by him please share your story with us (it will not appear on this blog (or in the book) without your approval).

Are butterflies slipping through our fingers?

The results for this year’s Big Butterfly Count are in and conservationists are already ‘scratching their heads,’ reports Butterfly Conservation. Over 38,000 counts were apparently completed and an almost unbelievable 396,138 butterflies were counted and – despite favourable weather conditions – 2016 will be a year where ‘common species saw their numbers collapse over summer.’

‘Gatekeeper, Comma and Small Copper butterflies experienced their worst year in the project’s history, with sightings down 40%, 46% and 30% respectively compared to last year. The Small Tortoiseshell saw a 47% drop in numbers and Peacock slumped by 42% with both species recording their second worst years,’ declares Butterfly Conservation in an email sent today to its supporters.

One regular contributor to the count stated that he did not count this year as he’d ‘hardly any sightings.’

The State of Nature report published in September reported that one in ten UK species is now threatened with extinction and the Big Butterfly Count is further supporting evidence that butterflies may be slipping away from the UK.

Maxwell Knight would have been very disappointed in this news as I’m sure many others are. The question is, what can be done about it?

We can support Butterfly Conservation by donating to their conservation work: ‘£1 today could be worth £10 towards crucial conservation,’ they claim and that sounds like a canny investment in wildlife to me.

Click here to read the big butterfly count 2016 results.

It hasn’t all been bad news, though: seven species were recorded in larger numbers and the Red Admiral’s numbers are up by 70%.

The State of Nature 2016: One in 10 UK wildlife species faces extinction


Over 50 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take (The State of Nature Report) of all our native wildlife and it reveals that more than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

In Scotland, one in every 11 species assessed is at risk of becoming extinct (9%) and for some groups of species that threat is even higher.  For example, 18% of butterflies, 15% of dragonflies and 13% of plants are officially classified as being at risk of extinction. Across the UK as a whole, over one in ten species assessed are under threat of disappearing altogether (13%) and 2% have already become extinct.

The State of Nature 2016 UK report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough in London today (Wednesday, September 14), while separate events are being held to launch the Scottish, Welsh and Irish versions of the report in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast respectively over the coming week.

Sir David Attenborough said: “The natural world is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. The rallying call issued after the State of Nature report in 2013 has promoted exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, struggling species being saved and brought back. But we need to build significantly on this progress if we are to provide a bright future for nature and for people. The future of nature is under threat and we must work together; governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”

Mark Eaton, one of the lead authors on the report, said: “Never before have we known this much about the state of nature in Scotland and the threats it is facing. The partnership and many landowners are using the knowledge we’re gathering to underpin some amazing scientific and conservation work. But more is needed to put nature back where it belongs – we must continue to work to help restore our land and sea for wildlife. There is a real opportunity for the Scottish and UK Governments to build on these efforts and deliver the significant investment and ambitious action needed to bring nature back from the brink. Of course, this report wouldn’t have been possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who brave all conditions to survey Scotland’s wildlife. Knowledge is the most essential tool that a conservationist can have, and without their efforts, our knowledge would be significantly poorer.”

For full copies of the Scottish and UK wide State of Nature 2016 reports, and to find out how you can do your bit to save wildlife visit www.rspb.org.uk/son

The State of Nature 2016 UK partnership includes: A Focus on Nature, A Rocha UK, Association of Local Environmental Records Centres, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Biological Records Centre, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, British Bryological Society, British Dragonfly Society,British Lichen Society, British Pteridological Society, British Trust for Ornithology, Buglife Scotland, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management, Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Earthwatch Institute, Freshwater Habitats Trusts, Froglife Scotland, Fungus Conservation Trust, iSpotnature (The Open University), John Muir Trust, Mammal Society,Marine Biological Association, Marine Conservation Society, MARINElife, Marine Ecosystem Research Programme, National Trust for Scotland, National Biodiversity Network, National Forum for Biological Recording, Natural History Museum, Orca, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, PREDICTS, Rothamsted Research, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Badgers, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, Shark Trust, Sheffield University, Vincent Wildlife Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust Scotland, World Wildlife Fund, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Zoological Society of London.

Education: “It is the uninitiated that matter…

…They are the majority, and until more of them are made conservation conscious all or efforts will be wasted.” – Maxwell Knight (The Frightened Face of Nature – unpublished – Chapter XV).

“Laws, rules and regulations will not themselves solve the problems of the future of wildlife,” wrote Knight in 1964 “It is only by education that anything will be achieved, and it is the younger generations that one should have in mind though a little education in its true sense will not be wasted on those of riper years.”

Here is a project documenting “Young people’s vision for the natural world in 2050” and it’s interesting that The Frightened Face of Nature contains many of Maxwell Knight’s prescient observations for 2000 and beyond and was written in 1964.