Archive for the ‘Executive Secretary’ Category

Peatlands for Birds; Fens, Mires & Bogs

September 17, 2017

Peatlands for Birds; Fens, Mires & Bogs was a three day conference in Sheffield, facilitated by Prof Ian D Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University.  An excellent series of thought provoking presentations which offered useful updates across a series of complex and at times controversial issues.  Blog readers might ponder the relevance to our local moors, but there are similarities of issues that peat sites, whether upland or lowland face.

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Delegates saw first-hand the issues around multiple stakeholder interest in a site on the visit to the Peak District Eastern Moors.  Here condition of the site and the complexities of trying to accommodate all stakeholders interests within the framework of a protected site designation were discussed.  The Peak District National Park is the second most visited park in the world with an estimated 25 million day visits a year.  Despite this one of the principle problems from various stakeholder perspectives is the loss of the Ranger Service which has left the sites open and without any information being made available to visitors once they are out on the moors.  Funding generated from the increased visitor based economy does not go back to those who provide and manage the resource.  The dry heather moor is vulnerable and has been the target of deliberate, malicious fires during drought periods. Increased night time use of high impact mountain bike and joggers lights is visible across two to three kilometres.  Aggressive drainage in the 20th Century and failure to redress and rewet the Eastern Moors by grip blocking is exacerbating the situation.  A case might be made that some of the issues are also to be seen here on Hatfield Moors and Thorne Moors?  Without sufficient aforethought the rush to ‘develop’ visitor attractions and experiences we risks the very nature and resources remaining on these beleaguered peatland sites?

Left above: Prof Ian D Rotherham explaining the issues of stakeholder interest with right illustrating three interests (do-walkers, mountain bikers and ecologists/archaeologists).

The scene was set on day two by Prof Ian d Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University who sought a “wild but not wilderness” future for the moors.  Whilst they had a rich and well recorded history, albeit not as detailed as might be liked in today’s evidence based society, there was an agreed need to safeguard their future so that they continued to be a resource for public benefit through contribution to carbon sequestration, through water purification and slowing the flow as well as their benefit to wildlife and to human recreational pursuits.

Advocates for management for grouse shooting, especially driven grouse shooting tried to persuade the delegates that this traditional and popular sport was not the preserve of the rich.  Proponents presented a case of concern about the fate of ground nesting birds and the need for predator control to address this issue.  Interestingly but hardly surprising was the failure to mention or acknowledge the illegal raptor persecution which appears to be on the increase on areas of upland moors managed for grouse shooting.

The slides above, amusingly reported as shouldn’t really be included as part of a presentation to conservationists, mmh …. so the audience isn’t sufficiently astute to be able to differentiate reality from spin or understand that the figures offered in some scenarios are oft short of fact?  

What was also interesting to learn was that the neglect of sheep in the uplands which could result in sick animals dying and being left out until infrequent shepherding visits located animals or visitors reported fallen stock.  Eventually they might be collected and then left dumped to rot down which attracted predators who were then in turn blamed for losses of ground nesting birds.  The audience also learned of the damage that sheep can inflict on breeding waders such as Lapwing, Curlew and Snipe, albeit unintentionally from results obtained through a Natural England funded study.

Prof Des Thompson of Scottish Natural Heritage, the keynote speaker on Day 2 provided an overview of the issues from a Scottish perspective.  Afforestation tax breaks afforded to landowners under the Thatcher Government until  1988 when Nigel Lawson ended the public support have subsequently required expensive restoration.  The Scottish Government has now set a target of 20,000 hectares a year being planted with trees.  It was a relief to hear Rob Soutar (ex Forestry Commission Scotland ) provide assurances that this would not be on blanket bogs as had historically been the case.  There was recognition that this might have the potential to impact on the woodland-grassland margins important for such species as Black Grouse.

Above left Prof Des Thompson and Dr Colin Shedden (BASC) and right the costed example of tax incentivisation to afforest uplands.

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Other differences between Scotland and England is that Vicarious Liability exists in the former.  The Scottish Government are considering introducing a licensing system for shooting alongside introducing taxation of income generated by this sporting industry.  Perhaps Westminster might be encouraged to consider this option as a method whereby England will benefit from much needed income into HMRC Treasury and if this income stream were ring-fenced then it could be used to restore, manage and monitor the management of the uplands for public benefit?

It was particularly pleasing and an honour to introduce Dr Lucy Ryan to delegates and who enthralled the audience with a well-received presentation on our very own Nightjar project.  The outstanding science which underpinned the talk shone out as exemplary.

Natalie Bennett, a veritable champion for persecuted raptors particularly the Hen Harrier considered that it was not the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Regulations  that had failed “bioabundance” but the politicians.  Whilst a conversation was needed with landowners delegates were reminded that persuasion had failed in terms of the management of Walshaw Moor and as a consequence  it was considered that  failure had made a significant contribution to the catastrophic floods  suffered by residents of Hebden Bridge.   Discussion also raised the issue of Brexit and the need to ensure that if “better than Utopian” were not possible then environmental safeguard regulations were at “least as good” as those the EU had provided.  It was interesting to hear a politician (with a degree I agriculture) advocate the need’ to do’ politics rather than have it ‘done to you’ and to hear that the science should be gathered and used in the fight for environmental safeguard and conservation.

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Angela Smith MP, the Hen Harrier Champion for England in Westminster sent a clear message to the delegates  that “The persecution of the Hen Harrier has to stop BEFORE any progress can be made”.  It is hoped that the representatives from the shooting groups in the audience heard that message and that they take it back to their membership.

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Dr Richard Lindsay reminded delegates that the UK is a significant emitter of carbon into the environment from peatland loss and that it was important to consider fens in the wetland system and neglect of these resulted in fen carr and he used the example at Foulshaw Moss where the re-introduction of lagg-fen had seen it become the wettest he had known. Thereafter bogs become self sustaining as a climax system.   Dr Lindsay also advocate caution from results of short term studies and that the results might be treated with suspicion and warned the audience that burning alters the structure of the surface of the peat and relies upon the eventual regrowth of sphagnum to help recovery.  We need to think timescales, a veteran tree lives for 800 years and takes 800 to die with conditions for some species such as the Queen’s Executioner Beetle becoming right over time.

In summing up Dr Pat Thompson (RSPB) echoed the anticipated call for more research and monitoring and concern around how this might be funded post Brexit.  There was a recognition that there were certainly challenges but also opportunities for our beleaguered bogs.

Certainly delegates left with much to think about and much to follow up on but in the interim, the first Ring-tail Hen Harrier has been seen on Thorne Moors.  When will the first ‘Silver Ghost’ arrive?  I saw one 7 October last year, so eyes peeled …. please let us know if you ‘catch the early bird’ via execsec@thmcf.org

 

 

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Updates & Volume 10 of T&HM Papers

September 5, 2017

Apologies for the lack of posts but things have been very busy recently, not least the days & nights with [fantastic] Fern-owls.  Also things like the great turn out to the Hen Harrier Day in Sheffield, and indeed elsewhere over the weekend of 5th and 6th August.  Congratulations to the organisers BAWC, Sheffield Environmental and Sheffield WT.  Pleased that the Sheffield event attracted around 350 people to listen to (image below right) l-r: Liz Ballard (S&RWT) Dave Dickinson (Sheffield Environmental) Dr Ross Cameron (Sheffield University) Dave Wood (Sheffield Bird Study Group) Dr Mark Avery (author of best selling Inglorious: conflicts in the uplands), Blenaid Denham (RSPB Skydancer Project Officer), Natalie Bennett (Green Party) and Iolo Williams of Springwatch fame question the impact that driven grouse shooting continues to have on upland moors.

Then there was the Birdfair 18 – 20 August at Rutland Water, another fantastic opportunity to acquire some bargains, to network and to hear some excellent talks as well as the great debates around the future for the environment and wildlife.  “The Politics of Wildlife Protection in Britain” and “Brexit and the Environment: the way forward” were both excellent but it was a shame that the MP scheduled to appear had to send apologies.  The debate would might be better described as a discussion around how the speakers thought that we (yes, that’s all of us) could contribute to raising the profile of wildlife and the natural environment amidst the plethora of other (rightly) high profile topics such as the future of the NHS etc.

Then there’s the fieldwork to continue and the ongoing issue of trying to understand the issues around the local badger populations which continue to receive unwarranted attention.  Is it because Government are sending out an unsavory message through rolling out extensions to the badger cull in the south west counties (and the Welsh Government too have decided to cull in some areas despite the previous successes without culling)? It is interesting that there are people who have cancelled family holidays to areas where culls are being rolled out, likewise people are beginning to look closely at animal welfare issues around the dairy industry.  None of this is helpful in so far as farmers or poor brock are concerned.

Amidst all this we’ve managed to get Volume 10 of Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers in print and in no small part down to the tenacity of our Editor Dr Paul Buckland.  In keeping with tradition it has a wrap round photographic cover, comprises of some 140 pages with 10 papers (containing colour photographs), a short note and a book review.  The Executive have decided to offer the latest volume at below cost, and are offering it at £5 plus £1.70 s/c p&p.  If readers would like a copy then please send a cheque made payable to T&HMC Forum for £6.70 to Publications, PO Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5WU.

Volume 11 is already in hand and will focus on Hatfield Moors so if any reader has any research or observational note relating to Hatfield Moors then please give thought to submitting it to the Forum’s Editor for consideration.  Guidelines to Authors are available upon request or can be found in the various Volumes of the journal.

Days & nights with Fern Owls

July 11, 2017

I’ve always had a fondness for Nightjars or to be more specific Caprimulgus europaeus.  It’s their evocative country names such as Fern Owl which offer insight from past naturalists about the haunts of these enigmatic birds?  If we accept that the term ‘fern’ probably equates to bracken and that their strange utterances might be considered owl-like in at least as far as they are generally heard in late evening then we can perhaps see why they were so named.  Additionally they are associated with areas where bracken occurs nearby to woodland habitat.

Here in the Humberhead Levels they are pretty much restricted to the peatlands with outlying areas of heathland occasionally attracting a few birds.  The population on Thorne & Hatfield Moors have had mixed fortunes over the decades.  In my youth it was not uncommon to flush birds from the tracks across the moors on regular basis but as the industrialisation of peat mining took its toll the population declined dramatically.  Fast forward and we are fortunate that the land is now public land and supporting good numbers of these fantastic birds.  The milling fields, once described by a local MP as resembling ‘battlefields’ is slowly but steadily being healed by nature with some assistance from European funding through a LIFE+ project.

Despite Fern Owls desirability as a birders ‘tick’ they are not easy to study and whilst there are many research projects from the southern heathlands and plantation clearances the Humberhead population is little studied.  Palmer (2000) was the last piece of statutory funded detailed research before that currently being undertaken in conjunction with the LIFE+ project.

One of the birds being studied was first ringed as an adult on Thorne Moors in 2013 so it’s doing well for a bird weighing less than 100gms.  Each May they return to breed and this study is being undertaken to assess the impact of the re-wetting of the peatlands upon the Special Protection Are (SPA) citation species (nightjar).  As the areas become wetter the birds which require dry ground may be displaced.  Where will they go?  Are there areas on site which have the potential to mitigate for this?

The intensity of the work has seen Lucy Ryan and her team spend extraordinary amounts of time in the field, and to their credit they could certainly not be described as ‘clock watchers’ or ‘nine to fives’.  Their dedication to the project has probably seen them suffer sleep deprivation as they clock up the hours in the short window that is the nightjars breeding season.  This project is scheduled to run for three years and saw a first year trial in 2015.  2017 is the penultimate season.

It has been a privilege to have spent time out there with them and to have such fantastic views of the birds in the hand.  It is rare to be able to gain this kind of access and it adds substance and understanding to the passion for these migrants who spend their breeding season with us.

It’s meant late nights and walking over punishing terrain, particularly with a damaged knee but these sessions have provided experiences which will last long in the memory.

Images above (copyright) show a male nightjar.  The white patches to wing tips and outer tail feathers are diagnostic.  The white patches on this bird’s outer tail feathers are particularly large.

Images above (copyright) show wing of female nightjar (no white spots) close up of head to show bristles and close of foot showing the comb on the nightjar’s middle toe.

Nightjars lay two eggs on bare ground without any material gathered to form any kind of nest. Nests have been found on bare ground with moss and leaf litter.  Some are in the shade of vegetation others in the open and exposed to the elements.

Images above (copyright) show eggs laid directly onto bare substrate. The chicks, thought to be about three days old still retain the egg tooth on the end of the bill (click on image to expand detail).  Interestingly, unlike many birds nightjars just leave the egg shells abandoned in situ after the young have hatched.

Images above (copyright) show a female nightjar about to be released after her vital statistics have been logged.  The two nestlings represent the future of the Humberhead population of this special bird?  Their cryptic camouflage hides them well but increased public access means that they are vulnerable to disturbance and displacement.  If a female is flushed from brooding young chicks they can die from exposure and cold.  Dogs off the lead running free, unknown to owners can maul chicks, so please help conserve these magical crepuscular Fern Owls by exercising care and caution when walking the moors.

Please note that this project is compliant with current legislation and has all the necessary authorisation, approval and licences required.  

Images, ALL copyright: H R Kirk

Yorkshire’s NHS – for naturalists, for nature, for the future?

April 19, 2017

The YNU Spring Conference 2017 was held in York on Saturday 8 April and was well attended by a range of people, including ‘amateurs’ and ‘professionals’, and whilst the audience was predominantly ‘old’ it was pleasing to see one under 18 year old (accompanied by the obligatory etc.)

Dr Roger Morris (co-author of WildGuides British Hoverflies)* was the key note speaker and raised a number of issues around the proverbial discussion on the future of natural history societies and their relevance in today’s electronic environment.

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The meeting recognised that we live in a data hungry world and that nature conservation needs data.  Biological recording is a growth industry (no one mentioned the proposed deregulation post Brexit to assist development).  Morris did pose the question, had the technical capacity kept pace?  This alongside a whole series of considerations in relation to needs, demands and natural history societies involvement and continued relevance.

The electronic age is heavily dependent upon a small number of specialists.  Capacity is heavily stretched and cannot absorb that many new demands.  Dedicated field naturalists are being turned into computer jockeys.  Unless new capacity is created, the modern fixation with growing the volume of biological will come unstuck!  Electronic ID is no substitute for the traditional slide mount, vasculum or pin.  Specimens grow greater depth of competency and create a more complete data set.

We were asked if traditional societies are an anachronism.  The case against offered that there would always be a cohort of people who liked to meet up, read newsletters or journals and contribute to the activities of the NH Society, but that there was not a strong group of young people attending meetings.  Morris made the case that these were the old people of the future and are therefore the seedlings that would maintain the forest.

The case for continued relevance was made and particularly compelling was that Morris considered that most web based naturalists do not realise that the resources they use would not be there without NH Societies.

Biological recording has undergone a process of evolution and maturation.  In the UK traditional taxonomists have been replaced by data managers.  New organisations have emerged or existing ones have morphed into replacements for NH Societies.

Internet, digital photography and cheap colour printing have made it easier to acquire knowledge with joining NH Societies.  There had been a massive growth in biological recording but recorders and data users have failed to grasp the connection with traditional societies.

Morris suggested that to recruit the younger generation, societies should start to understand what non-members want and what would get them to join NH Societies.

Derek Whitely, stalwart of the successful Sorby Natural History Society offered vast experience from many years of practical delivery, as did Roger Key whose role when employed by Natural England also included public engagement.

It was an interesting day, as ever with these events good opportunities to network and to catch up with old friends but you left pondering “will we be back in ten years discussing the same topic?”  Given the data dilemma and it’s recurrent nature then I suspect the theme will provide much more mileage for the ‘academic’ discussions to continue to run?

*A review of first edition of British Hoverflies can be found here

 

 

 

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Birds & beetles: updates on research @Thorne & Hatfield Moors

February 21, 2017

We recently posted advance notification about the Forum’s Annual Meeting on Friday 31 March 2017.  We are delighted to provide the titles of the two talks by researchers currently working on Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI.

“Dynamic habitat selection of the European Nightjar from a Thorne & Hatfield Moors perspective”  Lucy Ryan (University of York).

“Gimme shelter: Role of refugia and impact of restoration on insect conservation on Thorne Moor”  Ashley Buchan (University of Edinburgh).

Lucy’s talk in 2016 was very well received and in no small part down to the enthusiastic and informative delivery by a researcher clearly passionate about her subject.  This year will see her providing us with an update on her research which will continue through the 2017 season and also involve the 2018 season.

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Nightjar chicks: fantastically camouflaged and not easy to spot when they remain motionless to avoid predation.

Ashley is looking at invertebrates and the succession assemblages across a host of areas ranging from parts of Thorne Moors which saw peat extraction cease in the 1950s through to the early 2000s when the Government of the day bought out the extant planning permissions from Scotts (UK) Ltd for some £17.3m  Ashley’s work has involved looking at characteristic species of particular habitats and how these habitats change over time.  This work along with Lucy’s will hopefully inform management planning for these important sites.

The talks, which are scheduled to take place after the formal business (Forum members only), are open to the public but places do need to be booked, contact the execsec@thmcf.org to register an interest.  There is no charge for the talks but a donation in lieu for refreshments and light buffet lunch will be used towards the purchase of more research equipment (particularly the tags needed to track the nightjars activity).

Copies of the two recently produced faunas Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Thorne Moors 1837 – 2014 and The water beetles of Yorkshire will be available for purchase along with other Forum publications.

The water beetles of Yorkshire

February 16, 2017

The water beetles of Yorkshire

Martin Hammond is to be congratulated on the publication of this useful record of Yorkshire’s aquatic coleoptera.  The Executive are delighted to have been able to assist him in this endeavour.

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There is a limited print run of this atlas available and we are able to offer a small number to blog readers, Forum associates and network.

Copies can be obtained locally (Thorne): please contact execsec@thmcf.org for details, or York by arrangement with NEYEDC (see contact details below).  Copies will also be made available at the Forum’s Annual  Meeting on Friday 31 March 2017 which is being held in Moorends, to reserve a copy contact execsec@thmcf.org 

The water beetles of Yorkshire

Water beetles are among the most diverse freshwater macro-invertebrates: in still waters, around half the species detected in a typical pond-net sample will be beetles. This makes these insects important to any understanding of wetland biodiversity.

Yorkshire has a particularly rich fauna of aquatic Coleoptera. Amongst the groups covered by this atlas, 78% of the British species were recorded in the County in 2000-2016. This reflects the unique biogeography of our region, straddling the divide between the northern and western uplands and the eastern lowlands. Saltmarshes, ponds, fens, bogs, upland tarns, rivers and springs all support their own distinctive assemblages. Numerous species reach the northern or southern limit of their English distribution in Yorkshire, so this atlas will provide a baseline to help monitor future changes. Forty-eight Yorkshire water beetles are categorised as Nationally Scarce, 17 as Near Threatened and eight as Vulnerable.

This atlas is based on an intensive survey of Watsonian Yorkshire producing just over 62,000 records for the period 2000-2016. Records are mapped for each of the 210 species at a tetrad (2 x 2 km square) resolution, providing a fine-grained picture of regional distribution.

In addition to the species accounts, there is a brief history of water beetle recording in Yorkshire, a review of Quaternary subfossils, advice on survey methods, a summary of additional species recorded in the 19th and 20th centuries, and a chapter on wetland habitats.

The water beetles of Yorkshire by Martin Hammond

324 A5 pages, spiral bound

Published by YHEDT Publishing

Available for £6.00 + £2.95 p&p per copy from:

North & East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre

10a Minster Gates, York YO1 7HL (we can also offer collection in person from the NEYEDC office in York, by arrangement).

Tel: 01904 641631, E-mail: info@neyedc.co.uk

Please make cheques payable to: Yorkshire & Humber Ecological Data Trust or email for information on payment by bank transfer.

Observations & advance notifications

February 7, 2017

It seems a long time, last year in fact when we last posted anything.  To regulars who missed us, sorry.  To newcomers or just casual browsers of blogs welcome and here are a few items of potential interest:

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The first adder of the season has been seen, the second earliest record of the year since modern records have been compiled.  Three mature animals were seen on Friday 3 February basking in the sunshine, this after a couple of days of mild weather.  They were well hidden amongst the bracken and leaf litter and test the skills of the experienced naturalist to locate their likely location.   Will this be an early season or will inclement weather cause them to retreat underground again?  Image: Martin Warne.

Raptors have been showing well for those prepared to put in the hours and legwork, with some superb views to be had.

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Peregrine (above) and Merlin (below) Images: Martin Warne

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Advance notification of our Annual Meeting

Friday 31st March 2016 (Thorne)

Speakers include Lucy Ryan (York University) who enthused, enthralled and educated us last year with the initial findings from her tagging of Thorne & Hatfield Nightjars.  We are delighted that Lucy has agreed to come back and provide us with an update.

Further details to be confirmed include a second speaker, the venue and timings.

There is no charge for people who work with the Forum but donations would be most welcome and will be used to support the tagging and research being undertaken by Lucy (tags are expensive and thus far have only had a 50% recovery rate, which is actually considered pretty good).

Anyone interested in attending is asked to contact execsec@thmcf.org

Other events involving the Forum include:

Peatlands for Birds is another in the series of Wilder Visions Conferences organised by Dr Ian D Rotherham and his team.  6-8 September 2017, Sheffield.  More information is available by clicking here.

The Yorkshire Naturalist’s Union Annual Conference Yorkshire’s natural history societies – for naturalists, for nature, for the future is being held in York on Saturday 8 April 2017.  For more information including details of charges and booking form click here.  The Forum have been asked to present their work and involvement with the safeguarding of Inkle Moor as a case study, so come along and discover more about the hidden gem of a forgotten fen.

Those readers interested in butterflies and moths might like to consider purchasing a copy of Ron Moat’s magnus opus?  Available at £7.  176 pp including 42 colour plates of species recorded from Thorne Moors.  Copies can be purchased from the Thorne Times office in Thorne or contact execsec@thmcf.org about postal copies (postage charged at cost). Copies will also be available to purchase at the Annual Meeting (details above).

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Iolo Inspires in the Idle Valley?

December 12, 2016

State of Nature 2013 delivered a very strong message, Iolo Williams was passionate and erudite and it seemed as if he was calling conservationists to arms?  A variation on theme was delivered at the 2015 Bird Fair, it went down a treat with a packed audience. It’s worth listening to the animated champion for Wales and its wonderful wildlife, entertaining definitely and some might say disrespectful in parts?  Much of the Bird Fair version was also used in Friday nights offering, but extended and a entertaining Q&A session.

Friday night he was the Nottinghamshire Wildlife’s Trust guest speaker at the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre. He treated a packed audience to a whistle stop tour of Wales and it’s amazing biodiversity and stunning landscapes.

Iolo’s wonderful mellifluous Welsh lilt entertained and informed in equal measures.  At times quite critical of the state of nature and the agenda which had caused it. When asked how he saw the future it was through education, holding the view that if youngsters were introduced to nature at an early age then a love of it would stay with them.  Whilst we can I’m sure subscribe to that view, why does it seem that there are missing conservation champions from one if not two generations?

Pride in his Welsh roots added to the presentation particularly the descriptive local names of birds like the boda tinwyn or Hen Harrier which when translated becomes the apt ‘white bummed buzzard’? Tinwen y garn or Wheatear ‘white ar**d chat’ – you had to be there to appreciate the nuances!

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Iolo Williams : two of his books, then & now

Anyone planning a holiday in Wales would benefit from reading some of the detail offered in his latest book Wild Places: Wales Top 40 Nature Sites.

If I were to be honest I probably preferred his 2005 offering Wild about the Wild.  It takes you through a year (September 2004 – August 2005) with observational gems and a refreshing honesty.

Just one negative, that Seren Books the publisher of Wild Paces have been let down by their proof reader because Page 143 is not an iconic Red Kite the national bird of Wales!  but that should not stop anyone from enjoying the landscape images or benefiting from Iolo’s knowledge of the sites.

If readers ever get chance to hear or meet Iolo then take it up, would that there were more like him in every country and county, championing their local patch!

 

Who owns England?

December 2, 2016

Apologies for the recent silence in terms of blog posts.  We’ve been busy with a number of projects and we will report on these at a later date.

The absence of updates does not mean that there hasn’t been activity, either recording or campaigning.  In terms of campaigning there is a recent discovery that we’d like to share with you.

Many readers will be familiar with Andy Wightman’s seminal tome “The Poor Had No Lawyers Who owns Scotland (And How They Got It).  See also Andy’s blog Land Matters

See also  Andy Wightman listed as Scottish Green Party on Scottish Parliamentary website Another website of interest is that of Who Owns Scotland

So, it was pleasing to discover the English equivalent Who Owns England recently.  It was one of those purely by chance moments, a discovery resulting from researching a Twitter news feed relating to the proposed sell off of the Land Registry.  The information available through WOE is recommended reading to anyone interested in such topics as those listed below.  It is a valuable tool in terms of researching land use associated with land ownership.  It also aids understanding behind some political decisions as well perhaps?

It appears that the website was launched earlier this year around August and its team are to be congratulated on the content thus far, long may they continue to shine their torch into murky corners?  For readers who Twitter see also @guyshrubsole  Who informs us that he is a Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. I tweet about climate change, nature, coal, floods, land, politics. All views my own.  See other Shrubsole articles via Open Democracy.  

There is a whole host of interesting posts including: England’s Missing Acres, Who Owns England’s Grouse Moors, Defence of the Realm MOD land holdings, To the Manor Born: Mapping the Grosvenor Estate, Who Owns Parliament, Liquid Assets: Land owned by the water utilities, What does Whitehall Own, The Birds and the Trees: Land owned by the RSPB and the Forestry Commission, What do the Oxford Colleges Own, Why we must open up the Land Registry, How much Public Land is available for House Building.

 

 

Trick or Treat? #BDGS ‘Debate’

November 3, 2016

‘Honourable Friend(s)’ …. is an oft used term in the Palace of Westminster.

After sitting through some three hours of Parliamentary TV and subsequently reading the Hansard transcript of the Debate to ‘Ban Driven Grouse Shooting’ subsequent to Petitioner (or ‘perpetrator’ per R Benyon MP) Dr Mark Avery securing some 123,077 signatures.  Surprisingly the counter petition currently standing at 24,361 also secured a part in the debate despite not reaching the requirement threshold of 100,000 signatures.  As yet I’ve been unable to locate how the Parliamentary Procedure allows for this.  Yes, there are excuses in Hansard offered by vested interest MPs involved in the debate.  But as a young blogger asks, how is anyone taking an interest in Governance of the country to understand the process if it is oft adjusted to accommodate private interest?  Is this democracy on the hoof?

I don’t think anyone involved in the campaign to secure safeguard of the upland moors as a safe haven for raptors, for their flood alleviation potential, for their usefulness in water quality delivery or for their climate change function expected MPs to recommend a ban on the sport.  But what has shocked so many observers is the utter contempt and disregard of the petitioners.  Personal attacks, obfuscation and filibustering were rife.

The live ‘performance’ is available online as is the transcript.  One has to experience the pain to understand why Parliament and some Parliamentarians are held in such low esteem?

Many more eloquent writers have provided some excellent critiques of the proceedings and are worthy of being read.

Wilde About Birds offers us Don’t Dismiss The Public NGO

The debate – some first thoughts from the Petitioner Dr Mark Avery

Even someone ambivalent to BDGS (James Common) comments on the behaviour of the ‘honourable members’ …. The Grouse Debate: some follow-up thoughts

See also Anneka Svenska Driven Grouse Shoot Debate – Flooding, Burning & Wildlife Crime talking to people about why they traveled to Westminster to register their opposition to the ‘sport’ and the issues associated with it.

I’ve not yet managed to relocate the reference by one observer to the more reasonable and better quality offerings coming from female MPs.  It has to be said that Rachael Maskell, Kerry McCarthy, Angela Smith and Caroline Lucas did their best to restore quality to what rapidly declined from debate to debacle, sadly they were in a minority.

I think this chapter in the campaign is quite well summed up by Angela Smith MP who tweeted “This is the most frustrating debate I have ever attended.  Polarised and missing the point most of the time”  I couldn’t agree more and if in the cold light of day we recognise we didn’t expect a positive outcome but we did have to give Parliament a chance.  Parliament has shown it’s contempt for their own published process of petitions.

More analysis to follow …. the role and stance of the NGOs, where were our MPs and did they represent our voice in this debate?

In the interim the next chapter takes shape, the fiasco that masqueraded as ‘democracy’ served well to harden the campaigns resolve to continue …. from a first skirmish onwards to the battle?

Honourable Friend(s)?  The best offering is that written by Caroline Lucas, the ‘debate’ to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting and the behaviour of a score or so of MPs on Halloween in Westmionster Hall certainly brings the reputation of some Parliamentarians into question?

Parliament debates Driven Grouse Shooting : trick or treat?

October 30, 2016

The epetition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting reached the required level of signatories and then some.  The House of Commons Petitions Committee decided to hold an evidence session where the petitioner Dr Mark Avery and Jeff Knott of the RSPB answered questions from the Committee members.  Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association and Liam Stokes of the Countryside Alliance had, according to some bloggers a much easier time from members of the Committee who had at least declared vested interest in pro DGS.

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Rob Sheldon offers us a view of the proceedings in “A grouse about evidence-based decision making”

Ollie’s Birdwatching Blog also provides a pretty good critique of the HoC Petitions Committee conduct?

But lest we be accused of bias, the readers are encouraged to watch and read the Parliamentary record

The Parliamentary website offers public access to the 477 submissions made as well as the Oral Evidence taken on 18 October 2016.  Parliament TV also makes available the proceedings and the nuances which cannot be as easily sensed from a written format are laid bare to the reader here?

Will tomorrow’s Debate in Parliament see Driven Grouse Shooting banned?  Here’s hoping for a more evidence based debate tomorrow, with MPs offering facts and not fiction.  To see the erroneous peddled as fact then read the series of submission critiques by Avery.  Of particular interest are submissions from ex-gamekeepers and local communities troubled by grouse shoots, there are some heart wrenching pleas to accompany the more academic critiques citing reports and papers.  The tragedy of the increase in illegal raptor persecution is offered by the dedicated raptor workers who have monitored the decline over decades.  Together it is a pretty damming indictment of a ‘sport’ and the submissions offer a compelling case for reform?

But this is Westminster, this is Parliament – will it be for the many or for the few?

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Henry wants to safeguard his pals future & we enjoy their visits to Thorne & Hatfield Moors, so let’s hope we’re in for a treat tomorrow?

Lepidoptera of Thorne Moors

October 19, 2016

The Executive are delighted to announce that Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Thorne Moors 1827 – 2014 is back from the printers.  Good news also around the cost, cheaper than estimated

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Copies are available at £7 with postage at cost either first class @ £1.71 or second class @ £1.54

Copies are available from the Thorne Times Office or from T&HMC Forum Publication Sales, P O Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5WU.  Please make cheques payable to T&HMC Forum (£8.71 or £8.54).

As well as the extensive checklist of species it contains a paper “Landmarks in the documentation of the Lepidoptera of Thorne Moors” by Colin A Howes.

Unsurprisingly it is already out of date as new species have been added and one updated significantly.

Despite the autumnal weather there are still butterflies and moths about – let us know what you find.

Interested in local archaeology?

October 16, 2016

Then perhaps South Yorkshire Archaeology Day on Saturday 19 November 2016 is for you?  This years SYAD organised by the South Yorkshire Archaeological Sevice is to be held at the Showroom Cinema in Pasternoster Row in Sheffield.

An interesting programme is offered including:

Oliver Jessop, The Jessop Consultancy
Recording Birch Hall, Sheffield: The secrets behind the pebbledash
Max Stubbings, MAP Archaeological Practice Ltd.
Manor Farm, Bessacarr: Investigating a multiperiod landscape
Bill Bevan, inHeritage
“Hands on History”: Community archaeology in Barnsley
Jeremy Freeston/Tim Sutherland, Dragonshead Productions Ltd.
“Medieval Dead”: Filming the story of Carl Wark
Kevin Mounsey, Wardell Armstrong Archaeology
Excavating Nether Mill, Penistone
Glyn Davies, ArcHeritage
Against The Flow? Recording works to weirs on the River Don
Tom Brindle, University of Reading
Rural Settlement in Roman South Yorkshire
Patrick Daniel, Wessex Archaeology
Balby Carr & Rossington: Excavating Iron Age & Roman period settlements

£13 charge (£7 concessions).  For full details and booking form click here.

Lynx appeal – help needed.

October 7, 2016

There is much in the news at the moment around rewilding and we’ve been approached by one of our associated members Dr N J Whitehouse for help with one of her students Jordan Williams.

Jordan is studying Geography at Plymouth University. He is in his final year researching people’s attitudes towards a reintroduction of Eurasian Lynx to the UK.  Please click on the link below and complete the survey

Attitudes towards the reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx to the UK

For a bit more background information about the animal and its advocates, see Lynx Trust UK

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/63/Lynx_lynx2.jpg/512px-Lynx_lynx2.jpg

By mpiet (http://www.mindbox.at/gallery/) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

State of Nature,who cares? Calling conservation campaigners?

September 29, 2016

The natural environment and wildlife seems to have had its profile raised recently if the upsurge in epetitions is anything to go by?

We had the “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting” one which is now scheduled for oral evidence session in Westminster on 18 October (deadline for submitting written evidence 5 October).

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Henry needs our help still – have you written to your MP yet?  See here for useful tips.

Then Simon King launched “End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas”, this petition is currently around 48,500 and has until 25 February 2017 to run, so it looks set to be another Westminster discussion.

Philippa Storey initiated “Suspend Natural England license to kill buzzards” currently around 13,350 with a deadline of 3 February 2017.

A lesser well known epetition was that launched by Zach Haynes “Protect UK Environment & Wildlife – adopt European environmental legislation” this will run until 6 January 2017.  Whatever our views of Brexit, I would like to think that readers of this blog are keen to see the natural environment and wildlife safeguarded, this petition recognises that “The vote to leave the EU could leave our wildlife at risk. The EU has developed a strong set of laws that protect the environment and our wildlife. As these laws will not apply when the UK leaves the EU we need new laws for the UK that give our precious wildlife and environment the same protection”.  Currently standing at around 5,750 signatures.

Wildlife champion and campaigner Chris Packham seeks to “Introduce a moratorium on the hunting of critically declining wading birds”this petition is scheduled to run until 23 March 2017 and currently has some 12,690 signatures.

“Woodcock, Snipe and Golden Plover are shot in the UK despite serious, ongoing population declines. A moratorium should be imposed to allow the impact of shooting to be established by independent scientific investigation and any necessary regulations introduced to ensure that shooting is sustainable.”

The State of Nature 2016 reports continuing decline in habitats and species in its usual almost apologetic way.  But just thinking over one’s own lifetime, the losses we mourn or at least those of us who can remember hedgerows, dew ponds, lapwing nests a plenty and flushing nightjars and woodcock from underfoot?  Where are the conservation champions?  Where are the challengers to the convention of constant compromise?  Should we just accept that development and private or corporate profits are more important than the natural environment?  If you subscribe to the notion that we all need clean air, clean water etc. then is it not incumbent upon us all to act responsibly, act with principles?  To engage, educate and empower others to help safeguard an environment which will still be there for future generations?  See also twitter.

Perhaps we might all consider signing the various ‘conservation’ petitions and then try to encourage others to do the same?  So, please share this blog blast amongst your network, family and friends.  Wildlife needs us today, tomorrow is too late and yesterday is like the Passenger Pigeon – gone!

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Call for evidence: Parliamentary debate on Driven Grouse Shooting.

September 23, 2016

Readers who are able to manage to keep up with the pace surrounding the complex and controversial ‘discussion’ around Driven Grouse Shooting will be aware that the long awaited date for Parliament to hear evidence on the issue has been released.

Tuesday 18 October 2016, will see Dr Mark Avery and Jeff Knot of the RSPB offer robust evidence for the case to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting whilst, as yet un-named representatives from the Countryside Alliance and the Moorland Association will offer evidence that the sport should not be banned.  Why are the names of those supporting driven grouse shooting not named?

The Parliamentary website is also inviting submissions to be sent to that same Committee Inquiry:

Scope of the inquiry (terms of reference)

The Petitions Committee has decided to hear evidence about grouse shooting before a debate in Parliament.

The Committee would also welcome written contributions from people who want to share their expertise on this subject. In particular, the Committee would welcome evidence on the following points:

  • Should the law on grouse shooting be changed? If so, how?
  • What effect does grouse shooting have on wildlife and the environment?
  • What role does grouse shooting play in rural life, especially the rural economy?

The website also provides links to the two epetitions on their site, one which has achieved this ‘discussion’ the other which seeks to “Protect grouse Moors and grouse shooting”.  There is also the opportunity to link through to the Countryside Alliance paper which extols the virtues of grouse shooting and its many (perceived) benefits.  As with much of the marketing material provided by pro driven grouse shooting and therefore intensive upland moorland management, it does not provide any validated or peer reviewed science to underpin the claims.  Perhaps they will be made available in due course?

Anyone willing or able to submit evidence to the Inquiry is invited to do so and has until Wednesday 5 October to do so.  Click here for more details.

As more information becomes available on the issue we will update the blog.  Particularly the list of MPs who will be provided with (we assume) the written submissions and then hear the oral evidence on 18 October.

To date the only list made available relates to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Shooting and Conservation, see here.  It is interesting to note, perhaps, that the secretariat is provided by the BASC.  The Chairman is Geoffrey Clinton-Brown) Con. (The Cotswolds).  As well as supporting the Govt position on bTB he also opposes the ban on snares.  It maybe that as the Chairman he will hold a neutral view on matters placed before the group, it may be that as Chair he is required to act with impartiality?  It would seem that the Vice-Chair Lord Cunningham of Felling has more experience in environmental politics?

Please, those of you who signed the petition (and even if you didn’t but wish you had) write to your constituency MPs* asking for them to make your views known.  All MPs are entitled to attend the Inquiry (currently there are 650, so if each were to be given a 10 minute slot then the Inquiry would need around 108 & 1/2 hours, so approaching three weeks?  We have one of our Humberhead Levels MPs prepared to attend the debate, diary commitments permitting.  We are grateful for the letter received back from The Rt Hon Andrea Leasom MP on the issue. We are informed by the SoS that “grouse shooting” delivers “water regulation and carbon storage” services.  We will seek clarification on those claims, particularly set against the costs of utility company treatment of water to remove sediments and colour from the drinking supply.  Similarly the costs through the public purse of restoration projects in the uplands where management has damaged deep peat through burning etc.

See a recent post where details of a Durham University study condemns upland burning as a management practice. See also the link below:

A modelling study and investigation into how annual burning on the Walshaw Moor estate may affect high river flows in Hebden Bridge.”

A well researched and referenced critique of the sport is available, and there is also a paperback version, which contains an update chapter.

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* To find your MP visit TheyWorkForYou.

Twitterati : confession time?

September 20, 2016

Technology has added greatly to all our abilities to communicate with a wider audience, be it through an email network or a blog such as you are now reading.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter has thousands of users and followers.  But is it  the epitome of mindless gossip for folk with nothing better to do?

Sat at a conference recently I pondered more deeply than usual the question as to whether it could work for us, could it bring benefit to environmental conservation campaigning at our level ?

If the recent campaign initiated by Dr Mark Avery through the on-line epetion to “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting” then despite being something of a skeptic, I have to confess that I can see positives.  So, as I was told perhaps a year or so ago, “get over it and get on with it” so we have ….

Follow “Bog-trotter”  @4peatssake2 

Be patient, it’s a learning curve.  We plan to ‘tweak’ the website again shortly and embed the above Twitter account in.  We also hope to incorporate a ‘calendar’ so people can see up and coming events which might be of interest to them.

 

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Ryedale Folk Museum at Hutton le Hole is where CCT’s Cornfield Flowers Project can be seen.

Another bit of news which might be of interest to readers with an interest in the Humberhead Levels and Lower Derwent Valley geographical is that the Carstairs Countryside Trust have just launched a new website here.

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Thanks to all readers who have signed Avery’s Ban Driven Grouse Shooting, having just passed 123k it is credit of tenacious campaigners (Avery, Packham, Oddie et. al.) that it has achieved the required number of signatories for it to be ‘discussed’ in Parliament.  It is also indicative of the reach of social media, the mycelium of which are beyond the influence of ‘mainstream manipulated media’?  Watch this space for updates.

The State of Nature & That’s LIFE+ ?

September 17, 2016

After a scorching hot day on Thursday, the forecasters got Friday’s weather right  -it  rained!  It didn’t really matter as the LIFE+ ‘Mid Project Event’ which was held in Crowle was indoors.

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Linda McAvan MEP demonstrated a knowledge and understanding of the value to local people of our peatlands and recognised the local community campaign to secure their future.  Image courtesy of Peter Roworth ARPS.

There were a number of talks and presentations predominantly by those involved in the delivery of the project.  One quote which struck me as strange when you consider the reality of the landscape and vista out there on the moors included one which talked of “looking out onto open space”.  Perhaps I expect too much of people’s observational skills?  Then we were asked at the end to make comments through Facebook accounts to NE so that “staff would be motivated more”. The Vision described for the moors included the usual collection of sound bytes, that they were used as a long-term experimental site, a site which would deliver high level international research, public understanding, volunteer strategy, apprenticeships, more progress in restoring.  There was no mention of the wildlife value nor safeguarding or protecting the sensitive species, or sustainable exploitation in terms of the “asset”.  There seems to be a drive for use rather than an appreciation, an interval of calm where assessment of impact of all the engineering and scrub clearance can take place, a time to observe the change in fauna and flora which finds suitable habitat and takes up residence.  This type of considered monitoring offers a potential blueprint for other schemes, as it documents natural establishment following management.  As more visitors are encouraged, then impact of the increase needs to be assessed?  Already naturalists are beginning to question the origins of some species being recorded, are they natural occurrences or has there been more unregulated introductions and releases?  See Kirk & Melling (2011) Volume 8 of T&HM Papers for example.

The site visit was, in the main, a mini bus tour of Thorne Moors.  It was a shame about the rain because for some visitors it was clearly their first ‘moors experience’ and initial impressions often remain.

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An attentive audience trying to get to grips with the complex issue of the engineered structures which should deliver favourable condition for the Natura 2000 site in terms of management of the site’s hydrology.  Image courtesy of Peter Roworth ARPS.

At least out on site the visitors did notice the ever increasing number of turbines which are slowly creating a ‘ring of steel’ around Thorne Moors.  The other very obvious landscape was the featureless monoculture of agri-industrial sized fields, factory farming on a scale where nature stands little chance?  We drove past fields either already sown with next years crop, or fields being prepared for drilling.  Gone are the days when stubble was left for birds to forage in, no longer the mixed finch flocks in their hundreds and occasionally their thousands.  No hedgerows laden with berries reading for the wintering thrushes.

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Prairie farming to the north east of Thorne Moors, a landscape devoid of wildlife interest?  As soon as crops are harvested, fields are prepared for the next crop with no time for fields to lay fallow.  Heavy use of chemicals can impact upon the  micro organisms essential for a healthy soil structure and function.   This type of agri-industrialised landscape is heavily subsidised through the public purse.  Following ‘Brexit’ we have the opportunity, but it will also be a challenge to ensure that public funds deliver public benefit?  The State of Nature 2016 Report continues to chart the decline in wildlife.  The statistics make painful reading but to anyone involved in conservation, anyone observing how government continues to disregard the environment it is unlikely the findings will come as a surprise.

 

Recent events, forget illegality let’s go for conflict resolution?

September 16, 2016

Day two of the Sheffield ‘Raptor’ Conference.  With apologies for the delay in this posting, in part caused by another exciting invertebrate discovery in the Humberhead Levels, more on that in due course!

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The Workstation and Showroom in Sheffield were the venue for the recent two day Raptor Conference.

It’s human nature perhaps to focus on one or perhaps two aspects of a problem?  As someone who was aware of raptor persecution, upland management issues around damage to peat through burning, increased run off potentially increasing flood risk downstream, increased costs associated with water quality, increased home and business insurance etc. I can appreciate the complexities, I can see a need for calm and considered discussion and solutions through consensus.

Where I struggle is the entrenched views that land ownership and land management for private benefit from the public purse should continue.  Public funds, and we are told every public service is facing continued cuts, then surely there is a need to evaluate returns on expenditure?

There are other websites now who have provided analysis of the presentations at the conference, Raptor Persecution UK have intermittently provided transcripts from some of the presentations.  These provide a useful resource to compare other reports elsewhere, which might be perceived as selective or subjective.  For sure, the conference has been applauded and admonished in equal measure.  What it did do was keep the debate about upland moorland management in the public arena and that can only be good as Government start to consider where ‘subsidies’ will be provided post Brexit and CAP ‘support’?

Speakers included Rhodri Thomas (Peak District National Park), Barry O’Donoghue (Eire National Parks & Wildlife Service), Tim Baynes (Scottish Land & Estates), Sonja Ludwig (Langholm Project) and Alan Fielding (contributor to the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework still to be published by Defra).

In terms of the introduction of Vicarious Liability in Scotland*,it transpires that SLE ‘did a lot of the work to put it in place’ in Scotland.  The first case involved a landowner who was not aware that the law had changed but in fairness the speaker did acknowledge that ‘ignorance is no excuse’.  Might the issue have been one of communication?  Who should have undertaken communication?  The Scottish Government certainly but Estates have a trade body so it would be strange if that trade body did not alert its membership and indeed the wider audience?  The introduction of VL in England is an option, it is unlikely to solve illegal persecution of raptors on sporting estates but it might be a measure which sends a signal that this Government is no longer prepared to tolerate increasing levels of wildlife crime?  *It [VL] is not available in England.

It was fascinating to hear an appeal for anecdotal science to be taken into account, an attempt was made to persuade the audience that land managers views should be regarded as valuable social science.  One couldn’t help but wonder if this was because some of the shooters ‘science’ had been found wanting?

Why are we still waiting for the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework update (previous was published in 2011)?  Fielding suggested that the numbers to be reported would be lower than anticipated.  He further tried to suggest that there was insufficient understanding of Hen Harrier ecology, something challenged by some of the audience.  Whilst all would probably accept the need for ongoing study it is evident that ‘conflict resolution’ has failed because the numbers continue to decline?  Those promoting themselves as being able to ‘fix it’ because they already have landowners ‘signed up’.  If public funds are to be used in any re-introduction in the south, or ‘brood management’ trials (supposedly when ‘a threshold’ of  breeding success has been reached then it seems reasonable to assume that any commission will be awarded through the usual open tender process?  There is also a potential conflict of interest for Natural England to consider as they would be responsible for the issuing of licenses, how would the support for the buzzard cull to protect commercial pheasant shoot be reconciled given the interests of commercial Red Grouse shooting?  Credibility might be an issue where they are pressured to co-operate with developers and land owners yet they are reputedly responsible for safeguarding protected species?

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Pause for thought along the route back to the car park, reason or radical measures?

Who will be the voice of reason and passion when he goes? Without agenda, personal gain, or fame? Just nature.

David Attenborough bringing the wild into heart of Sheffield. I’d love to hear his reasoned voice in grouse debate.

Reasoned voices have witnessed continued decline, conflict resolution has failed so what is the solution?  There is passion, passion and drive has brought debate and a raised profile of the associated issues, well done to all involved in the delivery of the Sheffield Raptors Conference.

If readers haven’t already signed the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting then they might consider doing so?  See also the series of short informative videos on “The Real Price of Grouse”.

Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Land Management & Issues

September 9, 2016

Day One of the Sheffield Conference “Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Land Management & Issues” yielded an interesting selection of quotes across a range of speakers.

It has to be said that there was certainly selective quotes used by some to try to further their particular case(s), but ever the case when politics enters the arena at the expense of robust facts?  There were plenty of placatory sound bytes but also some excellent talks based on studies, so a collection of thought provoking offerings.  Tomorrow promises more but in the interim dear readers could you match the quotes to the speakers?

Day One speakers are listed at the bottom of this post.  Please note that I have not provided a quote from each, some speakers have more than one quote offered here and not all speakers are quoted.  Answers to execsec@thmcf.org 

“Love these moors with a passion”:  A member of the RSPB and who recognised the work of Moors for the future on the most degraded moorland [locally].  Mentioned the RSPBs withdrawal from the Hen Harrier Action Plan.  That the challenge is clear now and that whilst politicians prefer consensus, grouse shooting is now in the ‘last chance saloon’ and a precursor to any compromise is that the illegal killing has to stop.

Chris Packham was described as “talking out of his a**e” because of his view that it’s about the science.

“A junior keeper acting on his own” [referring to a recent pole trap incident].

“It was an utter disgrace” and “it really is despicable” [reference to illegal activity].

“Everything done to date had not produced anything” [reference to the decades of seeking consensus and compromise].

Referring to the southern re-introduction “sourced birds would not be from northern England but European and the programme would follow IUCN guidelines”.  

“Government has made it clear that it will not ban it [DGS], or licence it, but it will back the  Defra six point plan”.

“It’s a trial, [but only] when the threshold is reached”.

I did ask the Natural England representative (Policy) later what that threshold was, but …. guess what, so watch this space perhaps?

“A lot of moorland land managers are signed up all ready to be receptor moors, many would be honoured to have hen harriers on their land”.

Paid tribute to Mark Avery’s “Juggernaut”.

“Scotland are ahead of England as they have Vicarious Liability”.

“Vicarious Liability has so far not been allowed in England”. 

The fact that the Minister refusing to consider this option was himself a grouse moor owner might have been a factor in this issue?

Day One speakers:

Angela Smith MP, Steve Redpath (Uni. of Aberdeen), Stephen Murphy (NE), Adrian Jowitt (NE), Philip Merricks (H&OT), Pat Thompson (RSPB), Adam Smith (GWCT), Alan Charles (former Derbyshire PCC) and Mark Avery (Inglorious).

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Who should get the right to kill this?  A Hen Harrier to feed its young or shooters for a hobby?  Image (with permission): Tim Melling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hare loss, more dead badgers & missing science?

September 2, 2016

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The latest in the series of videos which explain and expose the practices used in upland moor land management associated with driven grouse shooting has been released, watch by clicking “Grouse medication and hare loss”

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Hopefully readers will have already signed the petition “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting” and perhaps also written to their MPs about the issues?  If not yet, then Mark Avery has provided an excellent series of “Firm Briefings” which provide guidance around contacting your representative in parliament.

A reminder also that an excellent group of speakers (including Mark Avery) are lined up for the forthcoming conference in Sheffield on 9 & 10 September 2016.  But be quick as Sunday is the last day to book for

“Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands: Conservation, Land Management & Issues”

 

Another uTube video well worth watching (less than 20 minutes) is the talk given by Dominic Dyer at the Birfair, to promote his recent book “Badgered to Death”.

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The clip is great and the book is well worth the read as it provides an excellent synopsis of the sorry saga.

Dyer and Dilger in their discussion were, I believe right about people attending the Birdfair, that they do enjoy contentious issues such as the badger cull, raptor persecution etc. being brought to the public’s attention.  May the trend of the last couple of years continue.

So, another petition to sign dear readers is that created by Simon King

“End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas”.

It has already reached the 10,000 signatures required to receive a response from Defra, that response is already three days overdue.  It is pleasing that it continues to head to the next milestone of 100k when parliament may consider it for discussion.  Two wildlife issues pushed onto the political agenda by grassroots activism, long may it continue ….

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Image, with permission, courtesy of Tim Melling.

Whatever happened to the promise of evidence based policies? 

What happened to the robust science?

 

To cull or not to cull? 1

August 31, 2016

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Image with permission, courtesy of Tim Melling.

I wrote recently about the informative and inspirational talks at the Birdfair last weekend.  After hearing Dominic Dyer‘s passionate presentation about the history and ongoing politics which lie behind the Badger Cull I bought the book and would thoroughly recommend anyone wanting a ‘potted history’ of the politics behind the issue to consider doing the same.  Well written, readable and informative, my only slight grumble is that there is no list of reference sources or further reading.  Readable – if you can cope with being irritated and astonished by the utter incompetence detailed in its pages?

Whilst I’d not claim to be an expert on the subject matter nor the politics behind the issue I do consider myself to be a reasonably informed member of the public observing the astonishing debacle which is costing taxpayers monopoly figures and where frustratingly there appears to be no winners.  The losers are both the farmer and the badger.

I suspect amidst all the managed media reporting of the cull, the public forget that after the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001.  Six million cows, sheep and pigs were slaughtered to halt the spread of the disease, whose epicentre was in Cumbria.  The crisis was estimated to have cost the UK taxpayer more than £8 billion.  But that is only part of the picture because the restocking of cattle to replace the huge numbers that had been slaughtered as a result of F&M, brought a new problem in the form of a wave of bovine TB that was sprayed across the country.  Dyer informs us, and it is on public record, at Maff’s Chief Vet made it clear to Nick Brown and Tony Blair that key steps should be put in place before any cattle restocking.  It included a rigid testing and movement control system for cattle.  The NFU priority was to get the farming industry back on its feet as soon as possible, that is understandabale as farmers lives and businesses had been devastated by the crisis.  Their President put huge pressure on Tony Blair and Nick Brown to override the concerns of the Chief Vet and to allow rapid restocking, including many from the south west of England (a TB hotspot).  As a result over the next 12 months hundreds of thousands of cattle were moved across the country, many from TB hotspot areas in the south west, particularly Devon and Cornwall, without any TB testing or movement controls.  Many were moved through markets with poor biosecurity, many of which according to the Chief Vet should have been closed down to prevent further disease outbreaks.  

This resulted in the largest increase in boveine TB in cattle ever recorded in the UK.  From 2001 – 2002 the number of cattle slaughtered for TB increased by 300%.  By the time TB testing had been restored in 2003, the figure slaughtered was 25,000. 

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So, have the politicians learned anything since then?  It would seem not as the Minister has recently announced an extension to the cull zones.

Since the culls commenced no badgers have been tested by Defra for bTB after being shot, why is this?

I recall a politician recently asserting that there would be evidence based policies?   One might ponder accountability for ‘breach of promise’ in such situations?

Will readers consider supporting Simon King’s petition:

End the badger cull instead of expanding to new areas.

Only into its second day it has already doubled the required signatures to receive a reply from Defra, let’s help it get to …. 100,000 signatures, when the Parliament website tells us…. “this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament”.

Wildlife (abuse) is well and truly on the political agenda?  Please, consider writing to your MPs about the mis-management of upland moor land and the illegal persecution of raptors, the lack of science behind the expanded badger cull as well as the significant cost for no gain to either farmers or badgers.

 

 

Uplands, raptors, badgers, campaign updates and Short-winged Coneheads.

August 26, 2016

Last Friday at Rutland Water listening to inspirational campaigners and naturalists.  Today back on the moors.

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The first bird of the day was a Hobby, a fantastic little falcon who breed here and then depart for their winter quarters in Africa in September.  We were fortunate with perhaps four birds seen including a juvenile.  They are aerial masters and easily take sizable dragonflies on the wing and can be seen eating their catch in the air or from a perch.  Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were the other raptors seen.

Waders were evident with Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Snipe in good numbers as well as Lapwing on the exposed margins of pools.

The intriguing observation of the day was of a female Short-winged Conehead, spotted on the car window as I crawled along Limestone Road – where had it heralded from?  The curved sickle shaped ovipositor a good identification indicator and distinguishes it from C. discolor (Long-winged Conehead).  Records of this species are uncommon in Yorkshire but understood to be increasing although there is no mention on the YNU website of any occurrence on Thorne Moors.

SWConehead MW 160826 webConocephalus dorsalis: Image courtesy of Martin Warne.

CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN UPDATES

Readers having signed the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting are asked to follow this up by contacting their MPs about the possible Parliamentary debate on the issue.  Obviously bespoke letters are best but for useful pointers and guidance see Mark Avery’s ‘Firm Briefings’

Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Conservation, Land Management & Issues

Friday 9 & Saturday 10 September 2016: Sheffield. 

For more information see here

 

Another equally controversial topic is that of the ongoing Badger Cull which is to be rolled out to other areas.  One of the excellent but equally frustrating talks at last week’s Birdfair was that given by Dominic Dyer, Chief Executive of the Badger Trust.  This small but incredibly energetic organisation has led the campaign opposed to the unscientific Badger Cull.  Badgered to Death is a compelling read, but it is also a horror story in so much as it provides a critique of failure by Government to address the real causes of the bTB outbreaks.  Bad enough that Badgers are illegally baited against dogs, that they are now demonised by Government who have discarded their own scientific evidence and ignored their own veterinary advisers for what?  Slaughtering badgers in a cruel, inhumane and astonishingly expensive way has failed to address the spread of the disease, failed to help farmers combat the disease of cattle, that is to say bovine Tuberculosis.

Any blog reader with an interest in the Badger Cull / bTB issue is recommended to read Dyer’s critique of the sorry saga as it contains much useful background and brings focus to failure to underpin policy with evidence.

B2D

A reminder too that Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands is now available in paperback and has an additional chapter providing an update to the campaign to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting’s progress.

Missing again?

August 19, 2016

Just a quick post, to recognise today’s Birdfair contribution to the debate about the future of the British Countryside, and for facilitating a debate on the topical issue to “Ban driven grouse shooting”.

Conspicuous by their absence were the Moorland Association, the GWCT and the Countryside Alliance.  No sign either of YFTB spin bowler Botham either, perhaps still licking his metaphoric wounds from recent radio debates?

Simon Lester (retired Langholm Project gamekeeper) did his best to defend the indefensible?  He received a welcome and due acknowledgement for his attendance, and it was refreshing to hear him acknowledge publicly that grouse shooting walked up / over dogs is not economically viable.

160819 BDGS panel SL hrk 337 web

It was great that the leader of a political party also attended and did an excellent job in advocating for the wider public interest in the issue of upland land management, Natalie Bennett was very well received by an appreciative audience who realised that she had a good grasp of the topic, the Green Party is the only political party to have made a Manifesto commitment to Ban driven grouse shooting.  She certainly held her own when it was inferred that because she’d not worked on grouse moors, she couldn’t understand or appreciate the complexities of the issues.

160819 BDGS panel NB hrk 334web

Panel left to right: Mark Avery, Natalie Bennett, Chairman, Simon Lester & Stuart Housden.

It was an inspiring day with some excellent speakers and if the Ban driven grouse shooting debate attendees all 500 each went away and did write to their MPs, did talk about the issues around upland moorland management with family, friends and colleagues then the panel did a great service and are thanked for their motivational offerings.

160819 Chris P & Tim A hrk 339 web

Chris Packham and Tim Appleton enjoy a lighter moment. 

It was suggested and clearly supported by the 500+ audience that the Birdfair organisers having, in the words of Mark Avery ‘dared and won’ should make this kind of event / debate a regular feature – I agree, to have this debate and to hear Simon King‘s talk “Enough” is good; people were engaged, they were educated and they were empowered so well done Birdfair!

Charlie Moores and the BAWC team, Dominic Dyer (Badger Trust), Simon King and Chris Packham and not least Mark Avery – thank you.  As was recognised, the hard work is just beginning.

The first casualty is truth?

August 17, 2016

So says George Monbiot in yesterday’s Guardian and who describes the grouse shooters campaign against the RSPB as a shameful example of ‘astroturfing’. Adding that the public should beware.

It is certainly a hard hitting piece and well worth reading, one might wonder if it will now see Monbiot as a ‘target’ alongside Packham, Avery and other high profile campaigners?

Readers are asked to consider writing to their MPs ahead of the forthcoming debate in Parliament to “Ban driven grouse shooting”, Mark Avery provides a template via his recent blog post ‘Writing to your MP’.

Interestingly the Doncaster constituencies have increased steadily but haven’t yet achieved the campaign target for each of the parliamentary constituencies.  The only HHL constituency nearing the 154 target is Brigg & Goole with 140 as I write.

Don Valley, Caroline Flint MP : 124

Doncaster North, Ed Miliband MP : 95

Doncaster Central, Rosie Winteron MP : 125

To find how your area is doing click on the petition map link herePlease help push the word out so the numbers increase to the extent that when MPs are contacted by their constituents they can see how many have already signed it, there is still just a little over four weeks left to run, the closing date is 20 September.  It’s not just about the Hen Harrier but the land management practices associated with driven grouse shooting which have consequences and impacts on all of us through the public purse and increased costs to resolve some of the problems arising from ‘sporting practices’ not least illegal persecution of raptors.

For anyone considering a trip to the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water this coming weekend, there is to be a debate on the issue of driven grouse shooting on Friday at 16:45 until 17:30 in the main events marquee.  There is seating capacity for 500!

For some interesting videos outlining the issues surrounding driven grouse shooting see Chris Packham’s website here.  Judge for yourself who bowled the best over, Packham or Botham?  See also the BTO statement around the report cited by ‘Sir’, what an own goal?

https://i1.wp.com/markavery.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/NotsoGlorious-23.png

 

butt%20henry

 

Humberhead Levels; handkerchief sites and natural history gems?

August 16, 2016

The Humberhead Levels has some great sites in terms of natural history interest.  The two principle lowland raised mires are gems, but much altered by industry and more recently through the implementation of Water Level Management Plans and the LIFE+ Project.

There still remain some pocket handkerchief size sites, some managed by county Wildlife Trusts and local authorities and these are coming under increased pressure as open access areas and playgrounds for people.  There are two sides to any coin and if we don’t explain to the casual visitor why they are nature reserves or protected areas then we risk their future because these days we are told everything has to have a monetary value, eco-system services have to be evaluated in order to be able to present a case for fresh air and clean water and such.

Some sites remain in private ownership, as was the case with Inkle Moor on the western periphery of Thorne Moors.  If it had not been so then the chances are it would have been ‘improved’ or managed and consequently probably lost much of its special biodiversity interest.  There are others and we have been looking recently at one such site, another SSSI which has historic data indicating quality.  Surveying has not been helped by the amount of precipitation standing on the site.  Bare peat has been waterlogged which may not help rare species such as Curimopsis nigrita which has a very specific micro-habitat requirement.

Undeterred, intrepid naturalists donned wellington boots after applying a liberal lathering of insect repellent as a precaution as it was very warm in the open, reaching 29 degrees at one point in the early afternoon.

Despite the lateness of the season, Diptera were targeted alongside coleoptera that it had not been possible to search for when particular areas were waterlogged.

160815 3 H pendulus 284 hrk web

The sunshine certainly fueled invertebrate passions, count the pairs of wings in this Helophilus pendulus …. something of a natural ‘menage a trois’ perhaps?  H pendulus is separated from H hybridus by the black band preventing the yellow merging on segments T2 and T3 (as seen in the above image).  Other features to check include the amount of frons dusting the colour of the hind tibia (H pendulus has apical third black as opposed to half in H hybridus)  and these features are best checked with the benefit of a hand lens. A common and widespread species and these were observed after their very vocal buzzing drew attention to their presence.

Also present in good numbers were a number of species of Araneidae, including the HHL special Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus.  See

160815 A m pyramidatus hrk 253

Of good HHL records it is also worth mentioning that a new micro moth has been added to the Thorne Moors list, regular visitor and able photographer Martin Warne noticed this specimen of Apodia bifractella on a Fleabane flower-head.

Apodia bifractella  10082016 mw

This dainty moth was first recorded in Yorkshire in 1994, so a relative newcomer.  Previously known from 13 sites, with the new Thorne Moors record a fourteenth site for the county and a sixth site for Vice County 63.

‘Ideal’ moth nights in terms of weather have been few but perseverance can pay dividends, as was the case when I added Black Arches to a site list.  Patient observation and a knowledge of the more common can also reap reward as can quick reaction and a steady hand to capture images of sufficient quality to provide evidence to validate the identification.  So, two examples of what can be achieved with effort?

A pleasant six hours or so in the field, countless ahead in determining the material …. watch this space for updates.

 

 

 

 

A glorious ‘inglorious 12th’?

August 12, 2016

As I compose this brief update on the Ban driven grouse shooting petition, I recommend readers visit “Our St Crispen’s Day” post by Mark AveryWhat a day, in excess of 10,000 signatures added to the petition! 

Add to that the fact that the advocates for driven grouse shooting look like they have metaphorically shot themselves in the foot (maybe even feet) by the exposure of erroneous argument to further their cause?  It seems highly probable that the interview on Radio 4’s Today programme involving Sir Ian Botham has helped the ‘ban’ case, Packham was far more erudite and knowledge but I suppose that view is no surprise to readers?

Why is it that the BBC appears to be allowing selective reporting, why are their interviewers failing to ensure points raised are addressed, why do they duck the illegal persecution and the damage to peat which can exacerbate flooding in places like Hebden Bridge?  It is fair to say that they have been signposted to reports such as the Leeds University study EMBER, but they fail to refer to it, why?  Congratulations to ‘Ban the Burn’ for their contribution to BBC Look North earlier this evening.  A shame that the interviewer allowed the Moorland Association spin bowler to get away without explanation why they promote the burning peat and by virtue the damage and associated costs it causes to the public purse?

Will they, that is to say the BBC now that the Botham’s erroneous statement has been found lacking (to say the least) provide a statement explaining why they allowed reference to it?  Will they apologise?

Marks & Spencers too have capitulated to public pressure and have issued a press release stating that they will not sell red grouse in their food stores.  We are still waiting to receive a response about the levels of toxic lead residue in the grouse meat that they consider safe for human consumption, and a copy of their much mentioned Code of Practice developed with the grouse industry.

As I sign off the petition which is rapidly approaching 98,000 – it is still possible that it might reach that magic figure by midnight but if not then it will be early tomorrow morning – somewhere in the hundreds of comments, someone has written that the ‘phlebs’ have taken back the ‘glorious inglorious twelfth’, it most certainly feels that way?  Here’s to the next chapter of the challenge ….

Thank you to all who have promoted the petition, Henry too I’m sure feels supported.

butt%20henry

 

 

 

 

 

First there was Brexit, now it’s Clexit?

August 10, 2016

Political agendas with a little p seem to be gathering traction since the UK voted to leave ‘Europe’?

Principally promoted by business who sought to divest regulation and constraints for an open market where trade deals would be easy and of course the UK tax payer would still be expected to subsidise private businesses (agri-industry, banking, pharmaceutical research etc.)?

There is now a group Clexit recently established – well, perhaps they’ve existed previously, but have now gone ‘public’?

According to Michael Gove MP (lead Brexit campaigner) and repeated by Dana Nuccitella, people in this country have had enough of experts.  Interestingly there are no statistics offered to support this, nor a study or report cited, so is this Ministerial spin?  Do politicians really believe what their script writers say?

Clexit calls for withdrawal from climate treaties, rejects the conclusions of 97% of climate science experts and 95% of economics experts.

So much for government saying policies would be evidence based?

People new to conservation campaigning ably capture the mood and the momentum which is gaining pace as we head towards the “notsoglorious 12th”.  Entry Level Naturalist, met Iolo Williams at her first ever HHD and little wonder she’s now engaged?

The 38 degree petition “BBC – Don’t sack Chris Packham” steadily gains support as the word spreads that the popular conservationist appears to be in the Countryside Alliance and shooter’s sights?  As this post goes to press the petition has in excess of 19,000 signatures in just three days.

Readers might recall that in June this year the National Trust served notice that the current shooting leases at Hope Woodlands and Park Hall in Derbyshire will end in April 2018.  This is a brave step and one which we must congratulate the NT under Dame Helen Ghosh‘s leadership.

That is an excellent start and we noticed recently that a local group, Friends of Derbyshire Moorlands have now acted in the interests of two other areas which are managed for grouse shooting benefit, perhaps you might take the time to read and consider their case, “No moor management for grouse-shooting on two National Trust estates in Derbyshire“?

Other petitions of potential interest:

Suspend Natural England licence to kill buzzards.  7,437 – approaching the level which requires a response from the relevant government department, yes….  Defra again!  Curiously it is Therese Coffey MP whose constituency which leads the petition in terms of contributing signatories, close behind is the ex-Defra Minister Rory Stewart’s constituency with Ian Liddell-Grainger MP a close third.  Can we help to boost the Humberhead Levels support?

Ban driven grouse shooting.  82,296 as we approach the “notsoglorious 12th” wouldn’t it be ironic if it were to reach the magic 100k on that date?  Realistically the following week – and just imagine the cheer going up from Rutland Water (Birdfair) if that were announced over the PA system?

butt%20henry

Please, readers let us know if there are any online petitions you think are worth while supporting and promoting through this blog?  Please bear in mind the aims and objectives of the Forum and relevant subject matter.

 

BBC to investigate Packham ….

August 9, 2016

It is not that long since there was a call for Packham to be sacked by the BBC and an online petition set up seeking support for this proposal, it reached 5,031 signatures  (see https://www.change.org/p/bbc-chris-pacham-is-on-nearly-every-bbc-wildlife-program-he-s-anti-shooting-and-not-impartial).   Interestingly this epetition is still open and has added 26 signatures since I last checked it.  Conversely  another online petition (which is now closed) was set up asking the BBC to retain Packham’s services and this one passed 80,000 (see https://www.change.org/p/bbc-don-t-sack-chris-packham)  doesn’t that tell you something?

In excess of 80,000 people expressed support for Packham’s campaigning stance, after all argued many, he wasn’t actually employed by the BBC rather he was occasionally contracted to deliver popular television viewing.

So what’s this latest episode about?

BBC News offers an insight with selective quotes,  John Vidal‘s piece “Countryside Alliance urges BBC to sack Chris Packham in conservation row” written in September 2015 offers background to the latest attempt to gag passionate conservationists. Listen to Tim Bonner (erroneously describing Packham as an employee) call for his sacking subsequent to his  article in September 2015 edition of BBC Wildlife Magazine.  Bonner (CEO Countryside Alliance) says Packham was pursuing “obsessive crusades” and that the BBC was printing “blatant political propaganda”.  Read for yourself, extremist?

The recent on line petition, Don’t sack Chris Packham, set up two days ago  has already passed 14,500 signatories.  Do the BBC Trust really want another public backlash?  The licence fee payers clearly see Packham as value for their fees?  The BBC Trust is a public body and subject to scrutiny, one assumes it operates a transparent modus operandi?

It is also interesting perhaps to consider other recent words used, recall …. The Rt Honourable Sir Nicholas Soames MP retweeted that Packham was a ‘nut job’ after his autobiography Fingers in the Sparkle Jar revealed he had Asperger’s Syndrome.  The then Prime Minister Cameron informed us that “Mr Soames is a backbench Member of Parliament and all backbench MPs are free to express views that do not necessarily reflect official position of their party or of the Government”.  Interpret those words as you wish?

Are these two instances examples of a disconnect with the public?  Perhaps we’re biased but robust science should prevail and I’m oft reminded of a piece of advice I was given by “The guardian of the Yorkshire Landscape” the late Stephen Warburton many years ago …. “always be courteous to your enemies, it infuriates them”.  What is gained from ‘tasteless and offensive’ dialogue, media will love the sound-bites but how will history report it?

We ask you readers to consider signing the second edition of “Don’t sack Chris Packham” petition via the 38 degrees website here.

Ban driven grouse shooting as supported by Chris Packham, Bill Oddie, Mark Avery and others is delightfully picking up pace, currently 80,654 …. will it reach the magic figure by Friday: the Inglorious 12th?  Will it get there by the following weekend, the Birdfair at Rutland Water?  What we must do is make sure it reaches 100,000 by 20 September so then according to the petition website, “this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament” ….

It’s not just about shooting, but land management which has been shown to exacerbate flooding, cause issue with water quality, muir burning damages sensitive areas for the benefit of a single species which is required to be available in high densities …. you’ve heard it all before, and from a variety of sources.  An excellently researched critique Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands is available now as an updated paperback edition.  If the facts were not true then I suspect we’d be reporting a pending court case.

To hear a reasoned case, watch a video which offers bite sized chunks of information about land management practices which are required to support driven grouse shooting.

Inglorious front cover

Wildlife and the natural environment is under threat, it needs those of us who care about it to speak out.  It needs robust science and evidence to underpin our case and remember those other wise words “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then … you win” [attributed to Ghandi but not verified].  If we are to hand it in a better state to future generations then we need collaborative critical mass to challenge the attrition which is destroying so much.

800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

Effort rewarded?

August 8, 2016

The weather at the moment is somewhat changeable and one has to make the most of opportunity?  Whilst not perfect, barely ideal but worth the risk?  The actinic moth trap was left overnight to see what if any species could be added to the site list ….

160804 Actinic hrk 203 - web

Next morning, as I logged the anticipated ‘usual suspects’ such as Large, Broad-bordered and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Swallow Prominent, Ruby Tiger, Beautiful China Mark and Marbled Beauty amongst others, there tucked beneath an egg box was a ‘real’ beauty; a pristine male Black Arches! 

160804 m Black Arches hrk 171 - redfile

I don’t think I fully realised the significance of this specimen patiently awaiting my admiration of its bold markings, not to mention those fantastic antennae until earlier today when I began to research the species status in Yorkshire, then I recalled an exchange of emails about another specimen being the highlight of another VC63 trapping session!

According to ‘Yorkshire Moths‘ there have been only seven records from seven sites since 1833!  Three of which herald from VC63.

It was just one of those gems which turn up quite unexpectedly, one of those occasions when the effort proves worthwhile.

It was released unharmed after posing for its photograph and a place in local lepidoptera history.  It opted not to reappear the following evening so hopefully it’s found a mate and their offspring will delight me with their presence in future seasons ….

All this goes to show that effort can be rewarded, and that applies to habitat management as well as recording the assemblage that benefits from an environmentally sympathetic regime?

Defra; a disgrace?

August 6, 2016

Defra; a disgrace?

Many blog posts have been written by far more erudite scribes than I about the role and remit of the government department responsible for nature conservation.  Defra are also responsible for agriculture.  Some might see those two aspects as incompatible, others would seek the ideal where they work together for the best interests of the environment and the public interest.

Other examples of Defra failing to heed the public mood were the ‘forest sell off’ and particularly the debacle that was and continues to be the badger cull.  The science has been challenged, the significant costs are met from the public purse (estimated to be in the region of £6,775 per animal, with the BBC reporting in September 2015 that the cost had reached £16m) and yet appear to have made little impact?   Irrespective of robust science the new Minister is to carry on regardless?

The Hen Harrier [In]Action Plan and the associated failures to uphold the law in regard to illegal raptor persecution could be offered as another failure?  Its last thread of credibility was surely lost when the RSPB withdrew support for it?  Land management issues relating to the uplands where sporting interests receive public funds  and where management is reported to exacerbate flooding, water quality etc. is surely something which needs closer scrutiny?

We now have a situation where Natural England have granted a licence for a shooting estate to cull (up to 10) buzzards.  It is unlikely to come as any surprise to regular readers to be made aware of an epetition on the Parliament UK website calling for the suspension of that licence?  Background information on the matter can be found here along with some 175 comments!  Some readers will recall that back in 2012 a ‘trial’ was proposed, a subsequent public outcry saw a u-turn.

Patrick Barkham expresses a view on The Guardian’s website (444 comments) “With business interests being prioritised over wild birds, a deadly precedent has been set. The natural world is under assault and needs all our help”.  Sadly I don’t think business interest is restricted to avifauna but anything environmental which has the potential to impact upon the bottom line of their balance sheets?  However, we remain agnostics ….

Natural England is a Public Body and as such accountable to its public paymasters, but they have refused to release information so have failed the transparency test?  This sounds oh so familiar, it is a repeat of the badger cull saga.  It gives the public no faith in them as an agency of government, but then are government using them as a shield for the Ministers?

If pheasant shooting is seen as important then it seems reasonable that the thousands of birds adorning road side verges or mangled on busy roads should be ‘accountable’?  Such losses would form part of a ‘risk assessment’ and as such then they might be insured?  They are reared as a business enterprise, so if they cause damage or worse to motorists and passengers then it seems only reasonable and fair that their owner is accountable and claims allowed against them?
Dogs are now chipped and if they attack people then their owners face prosecution, pheasants can be ringed or tagged and ownership traced.  Other livestock reared as a business have ‘passports’ in order to track and trace their movements.  Why not game birds raised as a business enterprise?  As we understand the present situation they are deemed to be wild birds once released from their rearing pens.  How can this artificially high population be regarded as wild birds?  To then seek dispensation to maintain that artificially high population by culling birds of prey is reminiscent of a bygone era and Barkham provides interesting background around how one high court judge has caused British wildlife fear for its future.
So, if you like Barkham and others believe that this is the thin end of the wedge and will set a precedent then please consider signing Philippa Storey‘s epetition

Suspend Natural England licence to kill buzzards.

RSPB withdraws support for the Hen Harrier Action Plan!

July 25, 2016

There are various opinions as to why the RSPB supported the Defra Hen Harrier Action Plan in the first place and now there are a number of assessments as to the very public withdrawl from it.

Irrespective of the reasoning for either scenario, they may well have, at a very fortuitous point in the calendar dealt a considerable blow to the new politicians at Defra?  Erudite as ever, Avery ponders Ms Coffey’s capability to pick up the pieces left by her departing colleagues.  He reminds us that as Ms Truss departed Defra she rejected the findings of the Lead Ammunition Group and it is certainly worth readers recapping on that ‘saga’ and easy enough to by using the links provided in Avery’s blog posts on the various ‘chapters’ which can be found via the menu on the right hand side of his blog under the heading ‘Lead’.  He also asks us to remember the speech by Theresa May about being on the side of the many rather than the powerful few? Here’s your chance to live up to those fine words. [May et. al.]

Martin Harper suggests that by their withdrawing support licensing is the only viable option.  Many conservationists never believed the [In]Action Plan had any chance of success, despite as Harper writes the RSPB played a full part in the production of Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan and despite disagreeing with certain points (notably brood management), welcomed its publication earlier this year.  The RSPB appears to be supporting licensing despite many believing and providing some case studies as to why it is unlikely to work.  Are they following the previous model …. “I’m generally very patient.  My natural preference is to build partnerships and work to make positive change from the inside with those who want to abide by the law and deliver progress.”  Laudable but the decline continues apace for the magnificent Hen Harrier and other raptors.

But, let’s celebrate this announcement and let’s keep the momentum up that this carnage in the uplands must stop.

Please spread the word, persuade friends, family , work colleagues and anyone who loves wild places and wild things to join Avery, Packham, Oddie et. al. to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

See other assessments of today’s announcement

RSPB humming Shania Twain

RSPB walks away from Hen Harrier Action Plan

And from the metaphoric horse’s mouth, via Martin Harper’s blog:

Why the RSPB is withdrawing support for the Hen Harrier Action Plan

Another useful site to offer friends in order that they can understand some of the background which has brought us to the current situation is Raptors Alive UK

For more information on events and gatherings this year across the country see details via HHD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not so glorious?

July 24, 2016

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Regular readers will be at least aware, if not familiar with the issues of raptor persecution in the uplands where driven grouse shooting occurs, and where equally worrying is the management regime practiced by those managing these uplands for the ‘sport’.

A series of short, very informative videos have been produced which are being released in the run up to the “Not so glorious” 12th August.  For anyone familiar with the ‘quaint, archaic and outdated practice’ that is the day on which thousands of Red Grouse are shot for sport, it is the first day in a season which extends to 10 December in England and Scotland, 30 November in Northern Ireland.

These excellent videos are worth a couple of minutes of anyone’s time, and for more information on the topic see Raptor Persecution UK where one of today’s post reports on an incident in North Yorkshire!  See also Standing up for Nature and for events relating to see also Hen Harrier Day – help make 2016 “the biggest yet”.

The first in the series “The Real Price of Grouse”

Released today, the second  “The Real Price of Grouse: Greenhouse Gases” outlines issues relating to the management practice of burning peat and the unseen cost to us all.

These videos presented by Chris Packham, provide a bite size chunk in each as to why ordinary members of the public, taxpayers, should seriously consider signing the epetition “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting” via the parliamentary web site  here

The epetition is approaching 64,000 signatures but we need more …. “At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament” the response made by Defra upon reaching 10,000 signatures might have been considered by some as patronising and selective in the statistics it offered, indeed there have been some suggesting that it might even have been written by advocates for the ‘sport’,

Remember also that there is an excellent opportunity on 9 & 10 September (in Sheffield) to hear a range of speakers at “Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands : Conservation, Land Management & Issues”.  For more information and a booking form see UKEconet.

https://i1.wp.com/markavery.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/NotsoGlorious-23.png

 

Nature’s cure?

July 14, 2016

There’s nothing like a day in the field to recharge batteries.  After the last couple of weeks of political pantomime, or would it be better described as a farce, fresh air, a pleasant landscape and stunning wildlife were a refreshing change.

160630 Banded Damoiselle IS mw

This stunning male Banded Demoiselle was just one of perhaps forty or so of the species present along a relatively short stretch of the River Idle.  No sooner had you got your camera focused on them than they flew off just a short tantelising distance away.  This species is reasonably common in the Humberhead Levels where they can be found along clean water courses and a few remaining ‘hidden’ ponds where they have not been absorbed into the expanse of monoculture.  I’ve even had one in my garden!

The Humberhead Levels has a number of pocket handkerchief gems, sites where time seems to have stood still.  These sites are few and far between and not always well known, they are often in private ownership which can be either a blessing (as in the case of Inkle Moor) or a curse.  There are some farmers as opposed to agri-industrialists who turn a blind eye and let nature alone.    The issue might then be if they change hands and the new land owner or next more business minded, profit orientated generation seeks return from investment.  Perhaps with Brexit the review of agricultural subsidies, or agri-welfare payments call them what you like (ex CAP), we might see payments made to farmers who are able to evidence tangible public benefit from receipt of public funds?

Drainage to benefit agricultural intensification can be detrimental to wildlife. We reported infill of a pond in the HHL recently, one where we understand there had been Great Crested Newts in the vicinity, likewise Water Voles.  Both these species are protected by legislation.  But, it seems that the public are now expected to provide evidence of presence rather than those with a duty?

The Biodiversity Duty: Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 places a duty on Local Authorities to consider biodiversity in the full range of their activities. It is a legal requirement that:
“Every public body must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as
is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of
conserving biodiversity”.

Note that there have been some changes to primary legislation around biodiversity duty.  However, much still remains.

Some species of ‘dragons and damsels’ are quite sensitive and have particular habitat requirements.  Such species need land management practices which take account of ecological requirements.  Where water courses are managed by the Environment Agency there seems to be a better understanding and a willingness to work with others to achieve biodiversity benefit.  Local Internal Drainage Boards, despite being Public Bodies and in receipt of substantive public funds appear to have little knowledge or regard for relic populations in their districts.  Biodiversity Action Plans seem to favour easy quick wins such as a few Barn Owl boxes along deep trapezoidal drains.  How many have a biodiversity inventory for their catchment areas?  How many undertake collaborative projects with third parties?

160512 4SC mw

Four Spot Chaser is another commonly encountered species in the right habitat.  This and the Broad-bodied Chaser below are both recorded from Thorne Moors.

160622 Broad-bodied Chaser BWDE mw

Images courtesy of Martin Warne.

 

 

Henry’s ‘picnic’ in the Yorkshire Dales NP

June 22, 2016

We understand that the picnic/stroll/chat about the lack of Hen Harriers in England this year will be at Grimwith Reservoir car park at midday on Saturday (this Saturday, Saturday 25 June).

Henry the Hen Harrier

We are informed there is ample parking at the reservoir which is on the western side of OS Explorer map 298, Nidderdale, at 063641.

For more information see http://markavery.info/2016/06/22/25165/  or https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/hands-off-our-hen-harriers-picnic-at-grimwith-reservoir-yorkshire-dales-national-park/

Other events to pencil in to your diaries perhaps:

Hen Harrier Day 2016: Sunday 7 August.

Details to follow when available.  Alternatively keep an eye on http://henharrierday.org/

Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands: Conservation, Land Management & Issues  on Friday & Saturday 9 & 10 September in Sheffield, see http://www.ukeconet.org/raptors.html for more details.

Will you be going to Henry’s picnic rally?

June 19, 2016

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Readers of this blog will be familiar with the ongoing issue of raptor persecution, particularly that involving  Hen Harriers and the issue of upland management for driven grouse shooting. 

We are informed that there is to be a ‘picnic’ next Saturday, 25th June 2016 in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  It is being billed as a Hen Harrier rally to mark this year’s virtual absence of nesting Hen Harriers from the English uplands.

The details will be released on Wednesday this week, for details visit Standing up for nature via http://markavery.info/blog/  and or Raptor Persecution UK via https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/

Another useful and informative website is Birders Against Wildlife Crime, Charlie Moore’s recent blog post is worth a read via  http://birdersagainst.org/where-do-you-stand/

Have you booked your place on the Raptors, Uplands and Peatlands conference to be held in Sheffield on 9 & 10 September?  For more details visit http://www.ukeconet.org/news/raptors-upland-peatlands-conference-2016

Meet the author of “Inglorious” at the above event.  An authoritative tome which presents a well researched case against the management of the uplands for grouse shooting.

Inglorious front cover

Help get the epetition to Ban driven grouse shooting to the 100k in order that it can be ‘considered’ for discussion in Parliament, via https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003

 

 

‘Moff’ matters including a new publication.

June 17, 2016

The Executive are delighted to announce the forthcoming Technical Report No.20.  This latest, A5 sized publication, comprises 180 pages, including 22 in full colour.  It also contains a map with areas mentioned plotted on.  In addition to the checklist the TR contains an informative paper by Colin Howes on the historic ‘moth-hunters’ of Thorne Moors.

Moat Front Cover

This volume will be a limited print run and in order for the Executive to try to gauge the level of interest, we are asking people to contact us to register an expression of interest.  The publication will cost no more than £8, postage will be at cost and is estimated to be in the region of £2.

To register an expression of interest in TR20 please email execsec@thmcf.org 

Four go ‘moffin’

The weather seemed to have improved a little recently, certainly for those interested in observing and recording the wildlife interest of the Humberhead Levels.  So an intrepid team of four ‘moffers’ headed for a piece of fenland to see what they could record.

Web edn coven hrk 576

Three MV lights and an Actinic produced some 64 species of moth.  It is widely acknowledged that MV lights generally attract the greater volume and diversity of species but it is always useful to have an actinic present as they can attract different species which prefer the actinic light spectrum rather than that emitted by Mercury Vapour (MV) lamps.  The presence of a Queen Hornet as we opened the actinic at the end of the evening saw caution applied as we also extracted a beautiful Elephant Hawk Moth amongst an assortment of other species.  Maiden’s Blush was perhaps the night’s best moth in terms of rarity.  This species despite extensive recording on Thorne Moors was not trapped on the site until July 2014.  It was known on Hatfield Moors from Geo. Hyde’s time and more recently includes two recorded last year in August (2015).

Mothing doesn’t have to be a nocturnal activity there are species to be observed in the day time.  Common and Lattice Heath along with Emperor Moth are commonly enough encountered.  This tiny longhorn moth was spotted on a much maligned nettle and would appear to be an uncommon record, or simply one not reported very often?

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Cauchas fibulella on nettle.  Image: Martin Warne.

Get out there, see what you can add to the various ‘inventories’ of the invertebrates of the Humberhead Levels.  Drop us a line, share your images and become part of the network which places importance and value on the wildlife of these special local ‘wildernesses’.

 

 

Breaking News ….hope for Hen Harriers?

June 10, 2016
6694350331_79fdccefcb Tim M HH

Image: Tim Melling

We are delighted to report that the National Trust have evoked a break clause in a tenancy agreement and have given notice on a lease for driven grouse shooting in the Peak District National Park.

So, to borrow Raptor Persecution UKs words, the NT have gone from “zero to hero”.

The lease will terminate in 2018, some 22 months hence.  But, let Raptor Persecution UK, BAWC, Mark Avery, Chris Packaham and so many others who resolutely refuse to be intimidated enjoy the well deserved victory.  It is worth reading the comments on the post via the link below.

For more details on the story see Raptor Persecution UK post https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/national-trust-pulls-grouse-shooting-lease-in-peak-district-national-park/#comments

See also Raptor Politics

http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2016/06/10/national-trust-give-notice-to-rescind-grouse-shooting-lease-after-gamekeeper-deployed-decoy-hen-harrier-in-peak-district/

Other comments will be available on other websites such as that of the Moorland Association.

This story is sure to run, will the notice be challenged?  Will the BBC and other media cover the story? Watch this space as well the key campaigners websites.

Avery’s Ban Driven Grouse Shooting epetition is now at 41,216 – let’s keep pushing it to that all important 100,000 that will see Politicians ‘consider’ discussing it in Parliament.  Defra did eventually issue a response to the petition quite some time after it passed the 10,000 mark.  See the link below for that statement, the constituency map and to sign the petition

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003

Apologies that we’ve had to include lengthy links but for some inexplicable reason the usual link option is not available …. now if one were minded towards conspiracy theories ….

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Lest we forget the evidence?

May 27, 2016

Amidst the mayhem of ‘Brexit’ claim and counter claim and the call, nay plea for science, facts and evidence a group of us spent a pleasurable day learning about Auchenorrhyncha the other day.  An introduction in a classroom type setting, a field session at a nearby peat / fen land SSSI then back to the microscopes.

Some forty species of Hemiptera were recorded including uncommon species and species local to the Humberhead Levels.

As anticipated entomologists are often interested in more than one discipline so other taxon were recorded including odonata with an early Brachytron pratense being observed on Hawthorn blossom.

In terms of a biodiversity site inventory,  we are building one up steadily with a good amount of very useful data.  The site is certainly a promising one and we hope to undertake a mothing session soon  and given the different habitat types present there is clearly potential for interesting species to be discovered from the site.

Dolycoris baccarum 160520 HGF mh

 Dolycoris baccarum.  The excellent British Bugs website offers a vernacular of Hairy Shieldbug, whilst other sources offer that of the Sloe Bug.

Zicrona caerulea 160520 HGF mh

Zircrona caerulea aka ‘Blue Shieldbug’, the metallic hue on this specimen appears to favour green?

The work ongoing on this wetland site of considerable nature conservation interest is such that it has received funding for implementation of a Water Level Management Plan. Further to, this raises the issue of survey and monitoring pre and post implementation?  Failure in either aspect raises the issue of evidencing value and impact of works?  All too often in our opinion is the dash to spend the cash on engineering projects without first understanding or appreciating the assemblages present and their importance in national, regional or a local context.

Other survey work is ongoing on the periphery of Thorne Moors SSSI, again this work relates to fen habitat and species.

Cocksfoot moth19052016

The danger or risk of using a vernacular or common name for a species is illustrated above by the Cocksfoot Moth nectaring on cardamine!  To give it its scientific name of Glyphipterix simpliciella (Stephens) ensures that anyone in any country in the world is able to understand what species is being discussed.

R punctatus  S&CF 160523 hrk 470 b

Another species slightly off piece is Rhacognathus punctatus, or the Heather Shieldbug.  This specimen was swept from an area of fen, some distance from any calluna so the moral of the story is perhaps twofold?  Common names can risk confusion and invertebrates don’t read books ….

Images: Dolycoris baccarum, Zircona caerula and Glyphipterix simpliciella courtesy of Martin Warne, Rhacognathus punctatus H R Kirk.

Thanks also to Jim Flanagan and Stuart Foster for their excellent tuition and involvement with the workshop and field work which thus far has seen forty species logged, impressive for an afternoon ‘bug hunt’?

 

Pernicious Myths?

May 21, 2016

We are hearing much at the moment claimed as fact in attempts by some people with ‘political’ agendas to persuade us to join or rather support a particular perspective?  Plentiful supposition and short on robust science offered by both sides?

Peacock @ BD  21042016 mh

Has nature a value, or is it simply a resource to be traded, used or abused on a ‘whim’?

Whilst our area of interest is broadly speaking a geographical one, the Forum takes a wider interest in peat matters and would encourage responsible use of all finite earth resources.  Politicians and those in power appear to have long since abandoned any long term strategy opting instead for short term benefit likely to keep them in lucrative posts?  We offer the post detailed below as a little ‘food’ for thought amidst the tedium of the claim, counter claim and downright ‘Jackanory‘ (for those of a certain age who may remember the programme) of “Brexit“?

Dr Glen Barry presents a view that Nothing grows forever. The myth the economy can is destroying the biosphere. 

The present human condition is predicated on one of the biggest lies ever – that the economy can grow indefinitely. In a self-serving logical contortion, economists in service to the oligarchy measure the well-being of a society by how fast the economy grows, with little regard to the state of natural capital, human inequity, the welfare of ecosystems and other species, or the extent to which people and society are happy. Natural capital is defined as Earth’s stocks of natural assets including ecosystem services which make all life possible, which is unmeasured and thus undervalued by indices of economic growth.

Read the full article “The Pernicious Myth of Perpetual Economic Growth” here and others on the EcoInternet website here.

Image above: Peacock butterfly sunning itself on Thorne Moors, for how much longer will such sights be everyday and common?  Are we right to just take such things for granted?  Courtesy of Martin Warne.

Nut job?

May 13, 2016

Yesterday we reported on habitat loss and failure to address by a number of public bodies.  Today we raise the issue of the behaviour of an MP, an elected public servant ….

Some readers may be aware that Chris Packham has written “Fingers in the Sparkle Jar”.  It is reviewed in the May issue of BBC Wildlife and  also features as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week.

Packham’s stance on the Hen Harrier issue is well known, it has gained him supporters and conversely it has attracted  abuse from some quarters.  Whilst campaigners might expect to attract criticism and to some extend verbal abuse, is it acceptable that a Member of Parliament ‘tweets’ in support?  To make matters worse, the MP in question is a Right Honourable  …. For more detailed background on the sorry story see Springwatch host Chris Packham branded “nut job” by hunting firm after Asperger admission.

Miles King and Mark Avery have both featured analysis of the slur on their respective blogs.  They are worth a read thus far and in all probability as they update the saga.

Bad enough that a business elects to use offensive terminology towards someone with opposing views to theirs, notably someone who is vehemently against illegal activities involving protected birds of prey.  But that an MP then supports their stance is quite out of order, MPs are reputedly public servants and it seems wholly reasonable that they behave in a courteous and polite manner?

An honourable gesture in light of the slur, which has the potential to offer more than Packham would be for ‘The Rt Hon’ Nicholas Soames to apologise?

Packham has responded and said: “It’s very disappointing to see such comments retweeted by an MP.  “People with Aspergers are not ‘nut jobs’ they are simply different.   Hunting Solutions and their supporter ‘The Rt Hon’ Sir Nicholas Soames MP clearly has a different opinion, and we are all entitled to opinions but the issue being is it right he uses such terminology given his public office?

We understand that attempts to contact him through social media were blocked, perhaps a polite note via email might persuade him to reconsider labeling people with Aspergers as nut jobs, and to apologise to Packham for inappropriate and offensive language?

End illegal persecution of protected species and manage the upland moors for public benefit?  Then ….

Ban driven grouse shooting

 

 

 

When is a pond no longer a pond?

May 12, 2016

We oft hear of hedgerows and field ponds being an intrinsic part of the rural landscape.  Fishlake Parish in the Borough of Doncaster had many delightful such features.  Howes (1997) catalogued the decline of these features and we now mourn the passing of another ….

A pond such as this below in a quiet corner could assist alleviate the impact of flooding, it could be useful when biodiversity value of a land holding is assessed?

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Pond beginning to be infilled

Had this pond been checked for Great Crested Newts?  Had the local planning authority, that is to say Doncaster MBC, been asked about the presence of any protected species within the vicinity via their Local Records Centre?  Had the Environment Agency been contacted?

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Shows the same pond above filled with reclaimed soil from the nearby barrier bank

Crucially, had permission been sought for the use of barrier bank soil to infill it?  If so who was involved in any ‘discussion’? Had Danvm Drainage Commissioners as the Public Body responsible for drainage matters in the area been involved?

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Shows the barrier bank removal scar

What risk assessment had been undertaken which determined that there was no need for this bank in terms of flood management?  It seems wholly reasonable that given the low lying nature of the area that features were installed or created for a reason and if that was now redundant then it would receive approval from the appropriate authority for an alternative use?  Who was and who is now that appropriate authority or agency?

Does the landowner involved receive stewardship payments for the feature (ie the pond)?

The function of the IDBs is land drainage and their powers are through the Land Drainage Act 1991 (as amended), it is the Environment Agency who is responsible for flood prevention/alleviation/mitigation etc.

In the words of Gerald Manley Hopkins “Oh let there be left wildness and wet; long live the weeds and the wilderness yet”?

What will be left of a once pastoral landscape for the next generation, some would say it’s progress and for landowners to do as they wish with their own property?  As oft the case, much is underpinned with public funds.  IDBs receive significant sums via a levy collected through the local authority and there is reported to be an expectation of public benefit for those funds.  IDBs have Biodiversity Action Plans for their catchments, but these are often little more than words and tangible outputs from the expenditure is as scarce as field ponds?  The DDC website offers an array of BAPs, the relevant BAP Pond and Great Crested Newt Action Report (2014) simply details a survey of a couple of sites, not a catchment survey, and no actions so one might be forgiven for pondering the claim of BAP ‘implementation’?  Implementation would generally mean tangible activity post assessment?  Do the local IDBs have any biodiversity inventory relating to the areas managed by them, it would seem reasonable given that the management service provision would at least hold a baseline inventory of protected species as a minimum with periodic updates? Parallels could be drawn where nature conservation organisations (both charitable and statutory) do hold relevant data material to their management function of land and water courses?  How else can they deliver appropriate management without an asset register of key biodiversity interest?

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Low lying land in flood plains are a resource to alleviate the impact of increasing rainfall events? 

 

Objectionable?

May 6, 2016

Could we encourage readers to visit Standing up for Nature, and look at the issues raised by Avery in his synopsis of the case for objecting to a retrospective planning application to continue damaging upland moorland at Midhope Moor to the north west of Sheffield?

The application seeks to secure retrospective planning permission for a temporary track to a line of grouse butts.  There are some 30 objections to the application, although Avery points out that there are none from any conservation organisation, why one might wonder is that?  It is interesting that the applicant is supported by Natural England.  See the downloadable pdf available via the planning portal.

PEAK DISTRICT MOORS SPA/SOUTH PENNINE MOORS SAC/THE DARK PEAK SSSI  Application ref.:  NP/S/0316/0214

Natural England write in support of the retrospective planning application for the lightweight access matting laid over the soil and vegetation along the route from Lost Lad to Mickleden Grouse Butts within the above named designated sites. 

If this was a legitimate restoration activity and had discussions taken place ahead of this infrastructure being laid then one could perhaps understand Natural England’s position, but it appears that the works had been undertaken to provide access grouse butts rather than facilitate conservation management?  More than one commentator questions why NE have supported retrospectively, considering they should have better advised the landowner in the first instance given the public funding relating to the site.

Note also that the Screening Opinion recognises that the application falls with Schedule 2 of the Regulations but it is not considered by the Planning Manager to have a significant impact on the environment.  The creation of easy access to facilitate transport of shooters and their entourage is surely part of the plan or project, not merely the placing of matting?

One interesting aspect to note is that the PDNP make public commentators personal details available, this is clearly stated and obvious when opening consultees correspondence.  It appears that different public bodies adopt different policies and there is no consistency across such matters.  Another example would be that a number of Internal Drainage Boards operating in the Humberhead Levels, particularly associated with the Doncaster area have redacted some personal details from correspondence and on other occasions have published them.

Anyone wishing to make representation has until Monday 9 May to do so.  That is this coming Monday, so the weekend to consider and compose some correspondence to the Peak District National Park Planning Team.    The link to the page provides the array of material documents and there is a form to submit comments.  Remember if you wish to object to the application then you need to ensure that you indicate (by ticking the relevant box) that your comment is an objection, in support, or simply a general comment.

Cuckoos, missing Hen Harriers & moorland (mis)management?

May 2, 2016

Often called the ‘Cuckoo Flower’ Cardamine pratensis or ‘Lady’s Smock’can be found in wet meadows and pond margins.  The plant can still be found in such places in the Humberhead Levels but sadly like so many meadow flowers it is not as common as it once was even, in my memory.  The decline is due to loss of habitat, areas previously hosting this delicate plant have been been drained to facilitate increased agricultural intensification.  There may be remnant meadows, hidden gems secreted away where this and other meadow species can still be found.  Pastoral areas of the Doncaster borough still have some fields which retain hedges for stock and are cut for hay in summer months.

160430 Cardamine pratensis hrk 266 - web

The Cuckoo Flower, so called as it is often in flower as the cuckoo arrives with us is the county flower of Breckonshire and Cheshire where it was called ‘Milkmaid’.  The origins of the vernacular ‘Lady’s Smock’ is not as innocent as it might first appear?

Cuckoos have arrived with one logged on Hatfield Moors on 23 and on Thorne 28 April.  Wheatears, hirundines and swifts too are here for the breeding season, all we await now is our nightjars and given that it appears to be an early season they probably won’t be too much longer.  Recent early dates include 19 May 2013 on Crowle Moors.

Missing Hen Harriers & moorland (mis)management?

We seem to have lost the Hen Harriers for the summer season, with the last being seen on on Thorne Moors 19 April and 25 April on Hatfield Moors.  As our wintering birds leave us for the uplands, let’s hope they avoid persecution which appears to remain rife in areas with managed grouse moors.  Two items which may be of interest to readers relate to raptor persecution and the issue of moorland management and the EU!  One is a quite astonishing piece of footage and equally astonishing is the various exchanges of correspondence it has generated not least on Avery’s blog and Raptor Persecution UK (formerly RP Scotland).

Will we ever get the 300+ pairs of Hen Harriers in the north of England that the habitat could host?  Help get the deficit discussed in Westminster, if you’ve not already signed the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting epetition created by Mark Avery.  It’s doing well nearing 34,000 but we need it to reach 100,000 soplease spread the word.  Listen to the passion behind the message on the first HH Day in 2014 by Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Charlie Moores.

Realists will acknowledge that the epetion is unlikely to see a ban introduced, but if we can achieve the required 100k signatures then it might be discussed in Parliament.  It is just one of the tools in the big box.  Many of us know the sincerity of Ministers words from the variety of correspondence received, but for the Government to ignore its own words ….

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Help Henry – sign up to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

Add(er)ictions?

April 24, 2016

Addiction is, according to an online dictionary definition, a medical condition that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviours.

So are those of us who expend countless hours searching out and observing the enigmatic Vipera berus thus afflicted?  Adderholics?

Locally, that is to say the Humberhead Levels supports a reasonable population of the reptile.  But with increased pressure from Open Access and engineered management works currently being undertaken on Thorne & Hatfield Moors the population is potentially at risk.

The Adder, the UK’s only venomous snake is a reptile favouring open predominantly dry habitats.  Heathland and commons, moorland, sea cliffs and chalk downland, open woodland and woodland rides, road and rail embankments  are also used.

The images above of a male adder show two key aspects, namely the dark rostal and its head pattern – a unique feature to all individual adders.  Images: H R Kirk.

Adder M&F GB mw - web

The image above shows the general colour difference between the male and female adder.  Note also the paler brown as opposed to dark rostal indicative of a male adder.  Image courtesy of Martin Warne.

The two images above show (left) a female adder approaching sloughing, indicated by the opaqueness of its eye and (right) a sloughed skin discarded amongst vegetation.  Images: Martin Warne (adder) & H R Kirk (sloughed skin). 

Examination of local historical data (pre 2000) and moderately recent data appears to indicate a decline in adder numbers.  As Thorne Moors particularly becomes wetter through the implementation of a Water Level Management Plan currently being delivered by Doncaster East IDB and Hatfield Moors is the focus for increased public access, what are the ‘new’ or ‘modern’ implications for this sensitive species?  What monitoring is being undertaken by either of the Public Bodies currently undertaking significant management works?

Nationally too there is concern about decline in adder populations, see abstracts from Herptofauna Workers Meeting 2013 via http://www.arc-trust.org/pdf/hwm2013-presentation-abstracts.pdf

The  photographs above were taken using  a zoom lens. The adders were not disturbed. The interests of the adders, a protected species must come first.

Converted, for peat’s sake?

April 22, 2016

Why is it every decade there seems to be a revisit of the need to emphasise that peat is not an essential component of the gardeners tool / growing shed of resources?

This time The Guardian offers the confessions of past peat user Robbie Backhall-Miles who explains “Why I changed my mind about peat”. It’s worth a read, B-M says there’s no excuses for continued use of peat by gardeners and even infers horticulturalists as well?  We’d agree but we’d also recognise that the big growing media companies still promote peat above alternatives and pedal the usual argument of the need for consistency and reliability in performance for the horticultural trade.  I would dearly like to buy some of the plants offered in nurseries but I will not if I discover they are grown in peat.  That’s peat in every sense be it SSSI peat or from a non SSSI site.

160422 Looking E across GM hrk 195Moody but magnificent so for peat’s sake leave it alone ….

The battle for the bogs here in the Humberhead has been over some five decades or so and whilst the corporate carnage has in the main ceased there is still the issue of hydrological integrity and drainage.  Then there’s pressure on sensitive species from encouraged access.  What should be the priority?  The habitat, the species or people?  Is there potential conflict or can a balance be achieved?

For sure, as a species we are wasteful and generate veritable mountains of rubbish which we have to dispose of.  Much of it is green waste, be it municipal landscaping off-cuts or our grass cuttings.  If this is composted then it can be used to improve soils.  If it is commercially composted and processed through a rigorous routine then it can be used to grow plants.  One such excellent product was Terra Eco’s peat free compost.  This used straw, an agri-industry by product and Thames Water treated waste*.  Morally when you see the damage out there on damaged or destroyed peat bogs and then factor in the loss of carbon sequestration opportunity ask yourself …. do you really need peat as a growing medium?  But, like so many issues we leave it to market forces supported by massive advertising campaigns to ‘sell’ us the need.

*Evans T.D. (2009) Using composted biosolids as a peat replacement. Proc. 14th European Biosolids and Organic Resources Conf., November 2009, Lowe P.(ed), Aqua Enviro, Leeds, UK

Diversions & Defra odds & sods….

April 17, 2016

This delightful Wheatear, recently arrived with us from Africa along with the other Spring migrants such as Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows already with us is looking a little puzzled perhaps?  Not quite sure which way to go but happy to have found a refueling station extremely rich in high quality Humberhead protein.

160417 Confused migrant hrk 124

Buddleia is often found high on buildings but this Yew takes some beating for tenacity and resilience – how much longer it will be able to reside on Periplaneta’s roof is another matter.

160417 Yew on P roof hrk 082

‘Moor grousing’?

Thanks to readers who have signed the epetition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting posted by Dr Mark Avery on the Government website.  It has long since passed the 10,000 signature requirement to receive a response from the appropriate Government Department.  Defra have missed the target (no pun intended) and we’ve all been Waiting for 24 days for a government response”.  In the interim, momentum is propelling the epetition to the target when we are told “At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament”.  Call me a skeptic but as ever there’s a caveat in that piece of ‘information’?  Just in case readers and are still considering the issues then if the loss of that fabulous ‘silver ghost’ from our local moors each winter isn’t sufficient motivation consider the land management issues and impact on flooding and water quality?  This evening signatories approach 28k so come on let’s help keep the momentum for change going ….

The Humberhead constituencies have provided, to date:

Brigg & Goole (Andrew Percy) 41.  Don Valley (Caroline Flint) 27.  Doncaster Central (Rosie Winterton) 25.  Doncaster North (Ed Miliband) 18.  Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) 17.

Another epetition on an equally contentious issue and discussed widely is Ban toxic lead ammunition. This epetition is similarly posted on the Government website by Rob Sheldon and has received support from a wide range of conservation NGOs.  It is underpinned by peer reviewed evidence and reported on by Mark Avery amongst others.  As far as we are aware the findings of the Lead Ammunition Group are still to be published, one might question why we are still waiting?  We have asked Ms Truss and received the anticipated excuses, that is to say it is not for Defra to publish the LAG Report but for the Group to ….. See the Lead Ammunition Group website, last updated July 2015.

The Humberhead constituencies have provided, to date:

Brigg & Goole (Andrew Percy) 29.  Don Valley (Caroline Flint) 21.  Doncaster Central (Rosie Winterton) 15.  Doncaster North (Ed Miliband) 18.  Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) 14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adders, Tick alert & 100k?

April 15, 2016

The hirundines are with us, Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin.  So too the early warblers with Chiffchaff vociferously proclaiming territories.  Wheatears, another delightful passerine have been recorded on both Moors  heralding the new season – how long before that other high flying master of aerial manoeuvre the Swift arrives with us and then our speciality, the crepuscular nightjar?

The adder, the enigmatic and much mis-understood reptile appears to be holding its own across the Moors but with the implementation of the Water Level Management Plan on Thorne Moors by Doncaster East IDB through it contractors JBA Consulting and the LIFE+ Project being rolled out by Natural England alongside Open Access, the question must surely arise about potential impact upon the necessary suite of habitats for the species?

Adder 17032016 mw

This stunning image of a female adder was taken from well back so not to disturb the animal from basking.  Cameras of today are so powerful there is no need to cause disturbance or distress to sensitive species.  Image courtesy of Martin Warne.

Another far more dangerous inhabitant of the Moors and indeed other vegetated areas where deer and other livestock can be found is the TICK There are various species but suffice to say, dress appropriately when visiting the moors as they are already out and have been ‘hitch-hiking’ for their next meal.  If you do find one of these critters attached, then you are advised to visit your doctors surgery and get the nurse or appropriate medical practitioner to remove it as they can carry and spread  Lyme’s Disease

Other early signs of spring have been Orange Underwing  and that wonderful sulphur yellow of a male Brimstone butterfly.

Orange Underwing 1 Crowle Moor 5.4.16

The image above, showing an Orange Underwing from Crowle Moors is unusual as it is a species more often seen flying around the top of birch trees and rarely ‘captured’ stationary as here.  Image courtesy of Phil Lee. 

Orange Underwing is a woodland edge species flying high in bright sunshine.  The species passes the winter as a pupa, and the adult moths emerge in early spring to lay their eggs in time for their caterpillars to feed on newly formed birch catkins.  Three seen on Thorne Moors on 25 March constitute the earliest record for this species on the Moors, and possibly Yorkshire.

Congratulations to Mark Avery whose relaunched epetition BAN DRIVEN GROUSE SHOOTING has galloped past the first 10k hurdle and is now racing towards the 100k!

 

 

Did you hear a ‘gabble ratchet’ on All Fool’s Day?

April 2, 2016

Or a Goatsucker or Fern Owl perhaps?

Nightjar (PP)

“Bog birds and bugs” was the title of a talk given by Lucy Ryan, a masters student at the University of York to an enthralled audience at the Annual Meeting of the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum held on 1 April 2016.

Lucy’s presentation which was supported by some superb images explained about the monitoring of the nightjar population on Thorne and Hatfield Moors.  This study had a pilot year on Hatfield Moors in 2015, but this coming season will see the study scaled up and undertaken on both Thorne and Hatfield Moors.  The three year study, funded for its first year by Natural England LIFE+ Project will look at the impact the management works undertaken by Natural England on the key species and interest feature of the European Natura 2000 Site.  The Water Level Management Plan being implemented by Doncaster East Internal Drainage Board is not undertaking any monitoring of impact post implementation, instead handing responsibility to Natural England?  These two major engineering projects costing in the region of £5.2m are currently being carried out on Thorne Moors are it is hoped will safeguard the site for its carbon sequestration capacity as well as its wildlife interest and as a natural wilderness for people to study and enjoy.

A second talk “Who started the drainage?  Iron Age & Roman Landscapes in the Humberhead Levels” was given by Dr Paul Buckland who offered options as to the man-made and natural influences upon our local landscape.  With the aid of aerial photographs showing crop marks and more recent LIDAR images Dr Buckland took the audience through time to the present day and to a very different landscape to that historic wetland once present across the Humberhead Levels.

THMCF GM 2 pk

After an excellent lunch provided by the Moorends Miners Welfare and Community Development Centre, intrepid explorers braved the dull weather and headed out along Broadbent Gate Moor, also known as Jones’ Cable to reach the tilting weir along the Southern Boundary Drain.

P1050482

As if on cue a Marsh Harrier flew overhead offering evidence of the wildlife interest of the site.  The number of sightings of this species has increased over recent years and this Natural England attribute to the wetter conditions they are creating across the site.  The cessation of industrial scale peat extraction at Thorne Moors also reduced disturbance for a period but increasing visitor numbers encouraged through Open Access has also seen new threats to rare breeding species and NE have had to close down parts of the site to protect them in recent years.

160401 AM to Tilting Weir hrk 486

To those who attended for the first time, after a series of great talks amidst great company about a great site …. see you again next year?

Do Hen Harriers deserve a future in the uplands?

March 20, 2016

Readers of this blog (others are available) will recall that there has been much discussion over the plight of raptors, particularly the Hen Harrier.  There is just something absolutely magical at the end of a day spent on Thorne Moors when a ‘silver ghost’ drifts in to view, glorious ….

But that stunning bird which we see here in winter is under serious threat, despite legal protection on its upland breeding moors.  Where land management practices on some large estates continues to see decline or absence.

Anyone who has listened to a talk by Chris Packham,  Mark Avery or Iolo Williams amongst others will be familiar with the issues surrounding the ‘debate’?  Anyone who has read Inglorious: Conflict in the uplands has a wealth of research available to them to consider the evidence as presented for a change.

It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that Avery has just launched his third epetition on the issue, titled unsurprisingly Ban driven grouse shooting.  Readers are encouraged to consider signing it, they are encouraged to read the various blog posts which offer evidence and insight into the issue, read Inglorious, read the EMBER Report and then offer justification against a change in upland management practice?

If one sets aside the legal status, i.e. the bird is protected in law full stop, is one permitted to enquire, should landowners receive public funds without delivering public benefit?  With rights go responsibilities?  We hear constantly that such estates are beneficial for wildlife, yet these same estates appear devoid of raptors so where is the balanced ecosystem?

If you’ve not heard Avery speak on the subject then remember that we provided advance notification of a two day conference in Sheffield Raptors, Uplands and Peatlands : 9 & 10 September 2016.  See also UKEconet and download the booking forms.

Ban driven grouse shooting

150821 MA


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Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

Bird and other wildlife information service for Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, UK © HMBSG 17/11/2010

Mark Avery

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a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

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