In addition to the general election there has recently been two more national polls. One to find the nation’s favourite birds, and one to do the same for wild flowers. This is an area of engagement with nature in which we in Britain lag far behind other countries, especially America. Over there every state has a selection of official birds, flowers, insects, fish and other wildlife. Some even have state dinosaurs! In an age when there is great concern about introduced species some of those designated are not even native to North America: twelve states have the European honey bee for their state insect.
The designation of species is often done by the state legislature. Some might think that our county councils would be well employed debating such things, rather than apparently ignoring nature conservation for most of the time. Here it is voluntary bodies which do the job, as is the case with birds and flowers now.
In the vote for our favourite birds most votes went to the robin, followed by barn owl, blackbird, wren and red kite. One of the organisers, David Lindo, said “ Despite being a seemingly friendly bird, the robin is hugely territorial and very defensive of its territory and I presume that reflects us as an island nation, that we will stand our ground. ”
In Plantlife’s wildflower poll our favourite flowers turned out to be bluebells in England, and primroses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Curiously we do actually have ‘official’ national flowers: England the rose, Wales the daffodil, Scotland the thistle and Northern Ireland the shamrock. Did you know though that, thanks again to Plantlife back in 2002, there is a list of local favourites? In
Birmingham and the Black Country we chose the foxglove, in Staffordshire heather, Warwickshire honeysuckle, and Worcestershire cowslip.
This may all seem like just a bit of fun, but there is a serious purpose behind the exercises. Nature is under continual threat and pressure. Politicians and others are constantly faced with making decisions that affect the wildlife where you live. They need to know that you and your neighbours are aware of, and care about, local nature. There will be times when that may be crucial to saving your neighbourhood’s nature reserve, last piece of woodland or fragment of wildflower meadow.