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  • Marina Pacheco

Report of the 8th Kingston Biodiversity Network Meeting

January 27th 2015

Marking the 8th KBN meeting, motivating talks were given from Colin Cooper, Chair Executive of SWLEN (South West London Environment Network) and Chair of FORCE (Friends of the River Crane Environment), Rob Gray. Following from this was a presentation by Dave Dawson on the decline of House Sparrows which left us with little hope for their return!

Colin Cooper spoke on Friends groups around the UK – and presented us with some interesting facts of just how many there are: 4000 friends groups in the UK, amongst 140,000 hectares of green space – with over 80 friends groups in Richmond alone. Discussion aroused when Rob Gray asked the group if they know of any friends groups in Kingston, with little response to knowing of any. The Lower Mole Project was mentioned as one organisation that acts similarly to a Friends group, providing the support and funding to activities within the aims of the trust. Another one spoken of was Friends of Canbury Gardens. The fact of there being so little known highlighted an area of concern, though there was mention of the yet to be unleashed potential of Friends Groups within Kingston, though facilitation will be required in order for small community projects to thrive.

Rob Gray offered an inspiring story behind FORCE, now almost 12 years old, an organisation run entirely by volunteers. It began with a small community group of about 6 active members, getting together to do what they could to oppose a threat to their environment - growing organically over the years into a fully registered charity, now with 500 members. Projects to protect the River Crane were endless so FORCE had little difficulty with receiving funding - perhaps with the addition of perseverance and optimism. Many of these projects continue through partnerships - partnering with other organisations who recruit volunteers to carry out regular work for community well-being, such as The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and the Environment Trust. Rob concluded his presentation with a motivating comment - 'just go and do something!'

Rob Gray and Colin Cooper giving an inspiring talk on the roles of FORCE and SWLEN

SWLEN has worked in partnership with FORCE on various projects, hence Colin explained the role of SWLEN and the help they offer to groups who may want to form a Friends group in their area. They aid with fundraising, legal advice, forming constitutions, offering a tool and equipment library service and helping projects to obtain a Green Flag standard, to mention only a few of their services. Currently this help is being offered to projects across Richmond and Hounslow, and it seemed as though it is time for Kingston to speak out and get involved.

Dave Dawson's presentation on the decline of House Sparrows in South West London took us on his journey of attempting to find the cause. The Garden Birds Feeding Index on the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) website has shown a 70% decline from 1976 to 2013, and Dave's own findings in Wimbledon Park found a decline from about 60 house sparrows in 1985 to just 1.5 at current.

Dave explained that house sparrows like to breed in buildings, tending to prefer high density buildings, staying within a small geographical boundary. There are many causes as to why house sparrows may have declined, however they are all debatable and after much research there is still no solid conclusion. Some of these suggested causes include urban air pollution, pesticides, competition for food, suburban affluence tidying away food and an increase of sparrow hawks.

Dave Dawson giving his interesting presentation on the decline of London’s house Sparrows.

Many surveys later over many years, Dave tried to search for trends that had positive effects on house sparrows - and found trends on the distance to allotments, domestic outbuildings, sports/park grass and shrubs and hedges.

The uncertainty of the cause deemed true as discussion arose after the presentation - with members of the audience expressing various different opinions on the decline of house sparrows in their own gardens.

Elliot Newton addressing all of the attendees.  

Report by Mena Shah. 

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