TN94 Mark Avery’s Fighting for Birds


A conversation with Dr Mark Avery, former RSPB Conservation Director, birder, blogger, and writing dynamo. In this wide-ranging (and often irreverent) chat we discuss ‘Fighting for Birds‘ – the second book Mark has written since leaving the RSPB – politics, future conservation policy, farmland birds, why the ‘shooting industry’ should be be keeping its nose clean, whether Mark would accept an OBE for services to conservation (or, indeed, take up a seat as Lord Avery of Raunds should it be offered)…and Mark unkindly mocks his interviewer for not noticing a Sparrowhawk which flew (in my defence) behind me.

The podcast was recorded in two separate outside locations, as Cambridgeshire’s previously quietest village suddenly became inundated with traffic and the rain started to fall necessitating a move (keen birders will hear the difference immediately I suspect). There is therefore some distracting background noise in this rather long podcast, but rather than repeatedly keep starting the conversation again I preferred to keep the flow of the more spontaneous discussion we were having. I think it was the right decision…



Mark Avery is a scientist by training and a naturalist by inclination. He worked for the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for 25 years – for the last 12 of those as its Conservation Director. As a senior figure in UK nature conservation Mark played a part in buying land for nature reserves, projects to reintroduce threatened species and campaigning to change government policy on farming, fisheries, forestry and energy production.

Mark’s latest book, published by Pelagic Publishing is entitled ‘Fighting for Birds – 25 years in nature conservation’. The foreword is written by Chris Packham.

Mark says ‘I love the natural world. In my writing I aim to describe its beauty and stand up for it when it is under threat. The world of nature needs all the help it can get‘.


Follow Mark on Twitter @markavery

Mark writes a daily blog about UK wildlife issues at

Like Mark’s Facebook page



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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores


  1. A very informative and thought-provoking conversation. I shall certainly be buying Mark Avery’s book.

    As an RSPB member who spends much of his spare time on the local grouse moor looking in vain for hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, and short-eared owls, I was surprised (and frankly livid) to learn that the RSPB’s royal charter prevents it from campaigning against grouse-shooting. The organisation might be reluctant to drop the ‘Royal’ title (personally, as a republican, I wish they would drop it immediately), but I wonder if it has ever considered requesting that the wording of its royal charter to be amended. There is a process for doing this. More at:

  2. Charlie Moores says:

    Hi Richard, thanks for commenting (and for the previous Twitter RT). Mark did sort of drop the ‘royal charter’ thing into the conversation and I perhaps should have reacted to it, as it is quite a shocking fact isn’t it? He did talk more ‘off-air’ about forming a coalition of birders, conservationists, and scientists to tackle the grouse shooting industry and that’s definitely something I’d like to see develop – and I’d be more than happy to pitch in if it would help!

  3. I’m actually in the middle of writing a book about my local moor. I have tried to stay moderately neutral on the subjects of grouse-shooting and heather-burning (well, not so much neutral as seeing them as necessary evils, if the moor is to be managed properly and not to be covered in stupid wind turbines), but I shall be making a few amendments to what I have written in light of your podcast.

    I have to say, I have always been surprised at the RSPB’s apparent lack of concern about grouse-shooting. Now I appreciate their position – and I think they should change it. (I also think they should change their neutral position on cats, but I’m sure that would alienate an awful lot of fee-paying members.)

    I don’t consider myself a birder (although I do spend a lot of time watching birds!), nor a conservationists. I am certainly not a scientist. But I would be willing to lend support to any campaign which at least gets the pros and cons of grouse-shooting discussed.

  4. Fascinating podcast. I, too, wasn’t aware of the restrictive nature of the RSPB’s charter. That was a shocking revelation for me. But beyond that, I found the podcast illuminating across a range of conservation issues and my next act will be to order Mark’s book..! Having worked in Defra and now for GLOBE (where Lord Deben is President), I was pleased to hear Mark’s comments about Rt Hon. John Gummer. We need more politicians with conservation and the natural world in their DNA. Identifying, and voting for, them is one thing we can all do.

  5. Sue Wright says:

    What an eye-opener! It’s amazing just how much the R in RSPB holds them back from doing far more than they have been, especially where the poor Hen Harriers are concerned! Very thought-provoking indeed and I will certainly be buying the book now. Shooting concerns me greatly and I’m all for there being a whole new rethink as to the so called ‘glorious twelfth’.

    I’m in total agreement of not waiting until birds are down to red) to help them, as soon as their numbers are getting considerably lower then surely then is the time to act – quickly!

    Just a thought to Mark: I would certainly like to buy the book now, but have you had it produced on “Audible”? I have an ailment that stops me from taking in the written word very easily, so to have it done on Audible would be marvelous.

    A lovely talking voice for interviewing, Charlie, you should be doing more….though forgive me if I’m not aware that you already do!

  6. Charlie Moores says:

    Many thanks for your kind comments, Sue, I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast. Mark was talking about an e-version but not – as far as I’m aware – a spoken version. That seems like an excellent idea to me, and unless Mark’s already lined up someone much more famous than me I’d be happy to volunteer to do the honours :)

    I have done a fair few more podcasts, incidentally, Sue, but so far I’m still waiting for the BBC to phone and offer me a job so at the moment I can only be heard on Talking Naturally.

    Thanks again

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