A brush with nature - Simon's Blog

At a recent meeting of lead officers from protected landscapes in the south and east of England we found ourselves in a minibus on route to look at coastal management. A shout from the front of the vehicle made us all aware that a Marsh Harrier had been spotted.

Lead officers from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks are not known for their flexibility but within seconds individuals were contorting themselves within the confines of their seatbelts to get a view of Britain’s largest harrier.

While the bird is a magnificent sight it is not particularly rare and although it remains on the ‘amber’ list the RSPB note it is more secure now than at any time during the last century.

What was more of note for me was the reaction from my sometimes hard-nosed colleagues at seeing this bird. It made me consider some of the headline statistics from the recent State of Nature 2016 report that brings together data and expertise from over 50 organisations, providing an update on how wildlife is faring across the UK.

There is some grim news with 56% of UK species in decline and 165 species considered critically endangered. However we have the knowledge and expertise to reverse these declines. The fact that nationally 7.5 million volunteer hours went into monitoring the UK’s wildlife, and many thousands of volunteer days go into improving wildlife habitats, not least in our own AONBs, it can safely be assumed that many in society have an interest in helping our wildlife.

And with good reason too, and not just for nature conservation reasons. The landscapes and wildlife on the Suffolk Coast and in the Stour Valley that attract so many support a growing visitor economy with our excellent hospitality.

So those lead officers craning their necks and ordering the driver to stop had it right. A Marsh Harrier is a sight to behold, but it is as much a symbol of everything else that can benefit society. Don't forget to get out and enjoy nature first hand. As I tell my children it is good for you and for society.

First printed in the EADT on Sat 15 October 2016.

By Cathy Smith on October 17th, 2016

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