David Lindo: “Communication is the best thing – confrontation just gets people’s backs up.”
Did you notice ‘wildlife crime’ when you were young?
When I was growing up, urban wildlife crime and other misdemeanours such as racism happened every day. With wildlife, I didn’t necessarily think of what I saw as a crime, I just didn’t want to be around these ‘bad boys’.
When was the first time you became aware of it?
One time, I told my mum was I was nipping round the corner, but actually myself and my mate made this intrepid journey – taking four buses – to pre-RSPB Rainham Marshes in East London. In those days, it was a feral land with dogs that weren’t under control and people who were taking potshots at anything that moved.
We accidentally came between some guys with air rifles trying to shoot lapwings, and we just turned tail and were chased out of town with pellets buzzing around our ears. I think I was about 11 years old at the time.
When did you first make a stand?
It was some years later, and I was outside Middlesbrough Football Club’s ground, and I saw some kids trying to stone some lapwings. I was watching from a piece of derelict land, and something in me twigged, and I felt very angry about it – so I confronted them and got them to stop.
You’ve had issues in your local patch, too?
Yes, at Wormwood Scrubs – some years ago, I realised we had five or six displaying meadow pipits, the closest breeding colony to Central London. They were in a grassy area which people were walking their dogs through, so I gave the council a ring and suggested they put up some signs asking them not to – it’s an offence to disturb breeding birds. Initially, they did nothing, and it was only when I went on Springwatch that they did something.
But people still do?
Yes, and I do feel angry when I see someone walking through the area where they’re nesting with a dog off the leash, but usually I’m there with someone who gets me to calm down – as they point out, I’m only there for half an hour in the morning, and this sort of thing goes on all day. It gives me a reality check – I realise there’s only so much I can do.
So you take a less confrontational approach now?
Communication is the best thing – confrontation just gets people’s backs up and it becomes us versus them. I’m much more interested in explaining to people why they should feel happy to have meadow pipits nesting so close to the centre of London – it’s incredible.
And does this work?
I think so. When I became the Urban Birder, it became my mission to encourage people to fall in love with urban wildlife and get involved. A few years ago, I was at Wormwood Scrubs, and this chap came over to me and said, “Have you heard about these meadow puppets nesting here?” That made me smile.
Find out more about Birders Against Wildlife Crime
David Lindo ran the Vote National Bird campaign in 2015