Eyes in the field …. BAWC @ Buxton

Informative and ‘moor’ importantly it was an inspiring day.   Birders Against Wildlife Crime are to be congratulated on a fantastic Eyes in the Field Wildlife Crime Conference.  Even the tempremental technology failed to dampen the enthusiasm generated by the gathering.  A packed room saw some 120 delegates meeting in Buxton in the Peak District to hear empowering talks, to discuss strategies and to meet Henry ….

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Conference speakers take a break to enjoy the Derbyshire air.

Charlie Moores opened the conference and Chris Packham (in his Massacre on Malta t-shirt) and Dominic Dyer set the scene with their infectious passion for championing change for wildlife benefit.  Both spoke with informed and reasoned rationale, both offered options for solutions.  Both recognised the ‘political’ aspects and complexities.  Both had tried to take the measured route but accepted that there comes a point when compromise has failed and a change of tack and focus is needed.  Packham encouraged a stance I have long found to be an energising option, the “use anger as a force for change”.  It was particularly interesting to hear Packham’s view on his role on Springwatch, in so far as the main audience were “not a wholly committed audience”, he sought to encourage people that “caring is not enough” and urged people “to actually do something”.  He explained why he had chosen to play the “long game” and it seemed as a consequence he had taken some criticism for that stance.  That is sad, but human nature is fickle and oft only sees the surface?  Packham explained that the biggest issue in his view is that ‘wildlife crime’ is not a crime, and it is not seen as a real crime.  This despite the various pieces of legislation which are infringed, broken or ignored.  Dyer highlighted issues with Natural England and whilst acknowledging that there were good individuals in the Defra agency, he considered they were no longer “fit for purpose”, his solution would be to see them replaced by an independent wildlife protection agency.

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Chris with his new ‘friend’ Henry, who we understand that he may be ‘appearing’ somewhere near you this coming year.

Bob Elliot and Paul Tillsley provided examples of case studies they had been involved in.  Ruth Tingay introduced the audience to “Natural Injustice: the failure of wildlife crime enforcement in Scotland”.  “Natural Injustice: Eliminating Wildlife Crime in Scotland” offers some 20 recommendations, none of which appear particularly onerous, but then conservation is not everyone’s passion?

Alan Charles (Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioner) and Chris Williamson (MP Derbyshire North) spoke of practical and political perspectives.  It was as they say ‘a refreshing change’ to hear a politician being honest about his past as well as his passion for addressing wildlife crime.

Other presentations were made by the Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group and Craig Fellowes, a retired police officer who now organises training for wildlife crime recognition and reporting.

Mark Avery as anticipated both entertained and offered thought provoking suggestions.  There are ten days left till his epetition is closed, so if you’ve not already signed it you might like to consider ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’?    Currently it stands at 21,971 so let’s see if we can have a last push and get it past 22,000?  A prolific writer his next potentially controversial offering is perhaps appropriately entitled “Inglorious“?

The other ask from Avery was that the audience consider voting for the nations favourite bird, an online (& at selected nature reserves) poll.  One cannot fault Avery’s logic about the benefit of the accolade to any of the usual suspects likely to receive the ‘crown’ (robin, wren, blackbird, kingfisher etc.) but if the Hen Harrier were to get into the top three for example then it would see a relatively unknown candidate see immense benefit from having a raised species profile.  Apparently there was surprise expressed by the Urban Birder when the Hen Harrier made it into the top ten.  So, Vote for Britain’s National Bird and send politicians and others a clear message?  

There was a Q&A session where the issue of brood management received a resounding thumbs down, so where does that leave the Hawk & Owl Trust?   150321 Q&A panel hrk 882

The Q&A session rounded off an excellent day’s conference …. here’s to next years and to Hen Harrier Day 2015 (9 August) and to the publication of ‘Inglorious’ just ahead of the ‘infamous’ 12th!   In the interim we all have plenty to do in terms of conservation campaigning ahead and beyond the forthcoming General Election in 46 days time?

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Watch this space for details of 2015 Hen Harrier Day.

Recognise: Record: Report

First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win. 

(Mahatma Gandhi)

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