Europe and Central Asia
30 Mar 2018

A cold spring

By Angelo Caserta

Angelo Caserta, Director of BirdLife Europe Central Asia, celebrates the first green shoots of spring in the editorial of the latest issue of the BirdLife ECA newsletter. Read the full issue: March Newsletter: Spring Alive!

It’s “a cold spring” wrote Elizabeth Bishop, “the violet was flawed on the lawn. For two weeks or more the trees hesitated; the little leaves waited, carefully indicating their characteristics.” It feels almost as if these Pulitzer prize-winning words, written back in 1956 and on the other side of the great Atlantic, have somehow lifted off the pages, travelled over land, sea and time and fallen down over our old continent like a touch of frost. For many weeks or more, our trees have hesitated, our leaves have waited – kept at bay by Europe’s big freeze.

While people eagerly laced their skates and took to the frozen canals of Amsterdam, and giddy children across Western Europe praised the ‘Beast from the East’ for their  school-free snow days, I found myself troubled sitting here in Brussels with my extra layers – the words ‘climate change’ sitting heavy upon me.  I waited anxiously for the first green shoots of spring.

And while the official spring equinox has come and the crocuses have begun to emerge, a chill remains in the air. A series of articles in The Guardian this week have put into stark relief the environmental crisis on Europe’s farmland. News of the ‘catastrophe’ of France’s bird population collapse due to intensive agriculture and pesticides came as a shock to its many millions of readers, though BirdLife has spent many years campaigning for a radical reform of the great driver of unsustainable farming, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for precisely this reason. As Iván Ramírez, our head of conservation, told The Guardian in a follow-up article, “Europe is facing biodiversity oblivion” on its farmland, with scientific studies attributing the loss of birds to EU farming subsidies”. A point hammered home by our agriculture policy officer, Harriet Bradley, in Barkham’s next piece – “it’s a massive scandal but the farm lobby is so powerful it hasn’t penetrated public consciousness.”

Lapwing in the snow © Dick Coombes

As I said, it is ‘a cold spring’.

But let us not forget that Elizabeth Bishop’s poem also overflows with hope, and the joys of spring return triumphant with “a chill white blast of sunshine”. The next day is much warmer, she writes; the hills grow softer, the grass grows longer, the smallest moths flutter “like Chinese fans” and the fireflies dance “like the bubbles in Champagne”.

And the Champagne corks were certainly popping when the European Commission announced the finalists of 2018 European Natura 2000 Awards. Of the 25 projects shortlisted for the coveted European Citizens Award – voted by the public – six projects involved the work of BirdLife partners. We couldn’t be prouder of this well-deserved recognition of their work. Voting is open until 22 April and the winner will be announced on 17 May. Good luck to all the nominees - your work proves that old saying true, ‘hope springs eternal’.


Protection and conservation action for Roseate Terns on Rockabill Island’ - BirdWatch Ireland

Of geese and men: Reconciling the interests of farming and conservation’ – BSPB (Bulgaria)

Joint conservation efforts along three continents to save the sacred bird’ – BSPB (Bulgaria), HOS (Greece) & RSPB (UK)

Cooperating over wildlife conservation in the Czech-Polish Krkonose’ – CSO (Czech Republic)

Shiant Isles recovery project’ – RSPB (UK)

Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity’ – SEO (Spain)

Partnership to stop the poisoning of imperial eagles’ – MME (Hungary)

The Salt of Life: a tale of the lake, salt, birds and people’ – BSPB (Bulgaria)

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.