Boris’s trouble with birds

Colourful London Mayor Boris Johnson has taken on a few adversaries in his time, but none may prove harder to defeat than the migrating bird.

Johnson has been forcefully campaigning for a new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary – dubbed “Boris Island” – as an alternative to further expansion at Heathrow. However, at the end of February, UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman included the Thames Marshes on a list of 12 “nature improvement areas” qualifying for millions of pounds in funding as a result of its critical importance to migrating birds such as avocets and marsh harriers.

The news will be well received by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which, in a January statement, described Boris Island as “utterly absurd”. In the same statement, RSPB South East England director Chris Corrigan said: “I’m sure the Mayor doesn’t want to go down in history as the man who decimated not just birds in the Thames, but global species too, while putting air passengers lives at risk due to bird strike.”

It’s not the first time Johnson has ended up faced with a tough opponent in his battle for the future of London’s infrastructure. Last year, he memorably said the London underground public-private partnership for the refurbishment of the tube network “would be called looting in other countries”. This was a battle he won when the contract ended up back in public hands. Defeating 300,000 migrating birds may prove more difficult.