Posts Tagged ‘Hen Harriers’

2016 – resolved or resolute?

January 2, 2016

Should New Year Resolutions be a personal issue or can organisations take them up?  Perhaps organisations call them Business Reviews, wonder what politicians call them?

The author of this post decided to start the year proactively and whilst not a serious NYD list, a few species of note were recorded making the short excursion worthwhile and carbon neutral by virtue of cycling ….

Stunning views of two Short-eared Owls hunting over arable grassland reverting to scrub, very wet and waterlogged in the lower areas of the field, ideal small mammal habitat.

Short-eared Owl Image copyright: Tim Melling

Short-eared Owl
Image copyright: Tim Melling

The same field, in a drier area, provided a sheltered microhabitat for Viola arvensis or field pansy, something agri-industrialists would consider a weed.  But on a cool ‘winter’ day quiet delightful.

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year's Day 2016

Viola arvensis: Field Pansy flowering on New Year’s Day 2016

So, in terms of ‘New Year Resolutions’ that ticked the

*Get out more and enjoy the wildlife / spend ‘moor’ time out in the field recording findings,

*Reduce carbon footprint (including continued *cutting back on ‘commercial’ meat),

Which leaves:

*Focus on a couple of key ‘conservation’ themes to ‘campaign’ on, research them thoroughly to ensure up to speed with the current science involved to underpin case.  Topical issues at the moment might include climate change and what better example to use than the recent flooding episodes and the role of the various agencies and drainage boards?    The use of and impact of neonictinoids on pollinators?  Equally topical might be fracking?  It might be badger culls or illegal persecution of raptors (particularly Hen Harriers)?  In case any reader hasn’t signed the epetition ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ then that might be a topic to consider?  Management of upland moors (burning) for grouse has been shown to be damaging for water supplies as well as other eco-system services, see Leeds University’s EMBER Report Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins.  For background reading an informative and well researched book Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands provides a good understanding and a starting point for further investigation into a sport which has cost implications for all tax payers.

*Enter into ‘regular’ correspondence with a variety of ‘people’.  Ministers, Defra officers, media, MEPs, MPs, local councillors etc.  Write a minimum of one letter a month to relevant MP / Minister (ial Department).

*I suppose we might / should also consider taking up ‘Twitter (ing)‘?  I recall an audience being told, or at least those who didn’t  to ‘get over it’ and effectively get on with it …. whilst I recognise the gains made through the use of ‘Social Media’ I’m not entirely convinced that it is something for us, but ever an agnostic?  Rural internet is sadly still none existent in parts of God’s own county and its hinterlands, so blogging isn’t as easy as it ought to be, twitter and tweeting – I thought that was something the birds did?

*There has been suggestions made that one should review the NGOs you support, and there has to be merit in periodic reviews of this nature because there are the large, medium and small or for those sufficiently motivated there’s always the option to DIY if a gap exists?  Whilst the large can have impact through advocacy on some key issues, they may not help local community groups protect locally important sites.  The regular direct debit becomes a habit.  Regional offers or specialist organisation can help you learn identification skills and can confirm difficult identifications, and are valuable networking opportunities and generally appreciate contributions from volunteers.  It’s not a case of what you receive but what wildlife receives for your contribution and some it has been suggested spend too much on recruitment, PR and spin through regular press releases?  Conversely, they can be a force for change?

*Remembering the late Stephen Warburton, one of the Forum’s founding members, we should remain true to those principles, particularly Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

*Enthuse the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts / amateur naturalists.  Once upon a time, that would almost certainly have been deemed to be children and whilst that is important, there is a resource with considerable capacity that could take up natural history as a hobby and or conservation campaigning to influence change etc. and they are the early retired proportion of the population.  We should be promoting wildlife and natural landscapes as important habitats at any and every opportunity.  If we don’t then they will be lost to agri-industrial intensification, to green belt development or mono-culture commercial theme / country parks?

So a few for nature conservationists to consider?

Here’s to 2016 – challenges and opportunities it’s sure to bring?

Greenblobpride

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‘Thunderclaps’ & rough weather to benefit environmental justice?

November 11, 2015

Technology as a tool for conservation campaigning is something we should all embrace?

This has to be where the knowledge and the expertise combine to create a collaborative critical mass for the benefit of the cause?

It looks like there is to be a bit of rough weather out there soon?  Rumblings in the region of 5,000,000?

The ‘Thunderclap’ that is scheduled to break at the end of November in support of justiceforannie is being promoted by Mark Avery who appeals through today’s blog post to sign up in support of the appeal from Moving Mountains Nature Network. There is a network of groups and organisinations working collaboratively to seek justice for protected species and for legal compliance with the legislation.  See also Birders Against Wildlife Crime website, not just about birds but Wildlife Crime in general.

Let’s help them get a debate in Parliament?

Image: Tim Melling

Image: Tim Melling

 

So, who was ‘Annie’?  For readers not familiar with the ongoing issue of declining raptor numbers and particularly Hen Harriers in the uplands, then read and sign up to Standing up for Nature and there are occasional references on Martin Harper’s blog, a recent one ‘Reflections on the Hen Harrier season’ provides a flavour of the issues involved.

‘Other brands are available’ …. please contact the Execsec@thmcf.org if you would like to submit a guest blog.

 

Diary date reminders:

Northern England Raptor Forum Conference: Saturday 21 November 2015.

DaNES Insect Show: Saturday 21 November 2015.

South Yorkshire Archaeology Day: Saturday 14 November 2015.

 

‘Moor’ badgerings, ‘hare’ we go again and spiders?

January 18, 2015

The BBC reports that Ministers and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) believe culling badgers will curb TB in cattle.  Ms Truss, the Minister claimed the government’s “comprehensive strategy” was supported by leading vets. 

But protesters have claimed independent monitoring has been dropped and attempted to have the cull halted at the High Court.

The move was rejected by judges, after which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We have always been clear that the independent expert panel’s role was to oversee the six-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.

“This year we have made changes to monitor effectiveness and humaneness and the culls will be independently audited.”

An independent report by the expert panel into the first year of culls found that “controlled shooting” of free-running badgers could not deliver the level of culling needed to lower TB cases in cattle and was not humane.

Try as we might we are unable to offer any link to any science which underpins the Minister or the NFUs ‘belief’.  Having said that one might reason you don’t actually need evidence, let alone allow it to be peer reviewed to ‘believe’?  What motivates Ministers?  The abiding memory for many will be the u-turn on the ‘independent monitoring’ of the culls?  Like so many promises made by politicians, it seems to have fallen by the wayside once the spotlight had been distracted towards other topical issues?

150118 Dug sett  hrk 761

What really saddens us here in the Doncaster area,  which is as far as we are aware a bTB free zone, is the systematic destruction of badger setts.  Whilst it was pleasant to spend the afternoon in the field so to speak, it was far from pleasant to witness the loss of another sett in the district.  The sett on agricultural land, accessed via quiet country lanes with locked barriers, was also in view of distant properties.  A large sett with a number of active entrance holes had been well and truly dug.  Even the hardened badger workers were quite shocked at the sheer extent of the ‘diggers’ activity.

What was apparent was the length of time the ‘diggers’ would have been at the site to have dug at least seven of the holes and one of them to considerable depth.  What surprised me but was readily explained by one of the group was the absence of badgers, or parts thereof!  Apparently a live badger for baiting and the associated gambling is worth around £800!  So, it followed that they would have carted off as many as they could.  That in itself would have been a particularly interesting logistical operation and one requiring a team of  strong individuals, cages and in all likelihood a vehicle.  No one saw a thing?

What really hit home as well, was the inhumanity that had to be inherent in the individuals engaged in such activity.  The sows would either be heavily pregnant at this time of year or they would have recently given birth.  If the ‘diggers’ didn’t reach a sow then the chances are such that the stress level would cause her to either abort or to kill the cubs.

The loss of this group pushes the ‘Doncaster’ population to the brink of extinction.  As groups are lost to areas, any remaining become isolated and weakened by inbreeding as there are no neighbouring groups to recruit from or to join.  Brock an iconic mammal of the quintessential British Countryside could be lost to us in a couple of years or so in the Doncaster area if the current persecution rate continues.

The other aspect which was quite noticable was the damage to the agricultural land, albeit in the main, the headland.  However the digging had clearly encroached onto land which would in due course be worked by large and expensive machinery.  The site had been left a mess and the landowner was left with reparation of his land to return it to a safe state, in order to work it, come time to harvest the crop.

Whilst badgers might elicit mixed feelings across the spectrum of emotions, such activity is against the law and it certainly appears to constitute tresspass aggravated by possible criminal damage.  Factor in the local ‘intel’ that gangs of criminals are working rural areas, it seems reasonable that there could be benefit from collaborative working?

Please if anyone sees anything suspicious, then please do report it to the police via 101 or to the South Yorkshire Badger Group.  Please, remember it is important to report the crime to the proper authorities as soon as possible. If calling the police (in an emergency use 999, otherwise use 101) ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) and make sure to get an Incident Report number.

An excellent site which makes much useful information available is Birders Against Wildlife Crime.  They have an excellent ‘motto’ Recognise, Record & Report!  Similarly the Badger Trust website has regular updates on the situation and Government stance.

Greenblobpride

ePetitioning for protection from persecution (aka ‘campaign corner’):

Mountain Hares are killed in large numbers on grouse moors because they carry ticks that might affect Red Grouse numbers. The shooting industry doesn’t want Red Grouse to die of tick-borne diseases – instead they want them to die by being shot by paying customers on grouse moors.  Much other wildlife is an inconvenient presence including Mountain Hares and raptors, notably Hen Harriers.

This epetition asks Scottish Natural Heritage to protect this native species from persecution from the shooting industry.  SNH is concerned about this issue but has only asked for voluntary restraint from grouse shooting.  We struggle to recollect voluntary codes or guidelines which have worked, two examples which spring to mind and might illustrate that suggestion are the reduction of peat in growing media and MPs sorting out their own expenses?
Buglife, an excellent wildlife charity, is asking for support for a tiny spider only known to live in a couple of sites in the world – one of which maybe destroyed by house building.  A planning enquiry starts next week so any signatures gained by this epetition will help to demonstrate public support for thisapparently insignificant spider (size isn’t everything in nature).  Whilst the epetition is about a rare spider, the bigger issue appears to be that of a planning system which is in such of a ‘pickle’?
Then this really is just in case …. you don’t know that there is an e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting that has stirred things up quite a bit over the last few months. It passed the 20,000 signature mark before Christmas and every further signature is valuable in the run-in to the general election campaign.

‘Moor’ campaigning?

January 14, 2015

Wow, who’d have thought when we started this blog that we’d pass the 10,000 views milestone?  Well amidst the recent hiaitus we did – thank you readers.  Today’s posts are a bit of a catch up of comings and goings and in the main linked to concern for the natural environment and wildlife.

Readers will have noticed that the Government released the results of the badger culls just before Christmas and it seems that the culls are scheduled to continue this coming year despite another season of failed and realigned targets dressed up by Ms Truss the Defra Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs when the Report was made public. The Yorkshire Post ran the headline (in the weekend farming section) Calls to extend culls after latest pilot hailed as a success.  Around the same time the Farmers Guardian reported on a failed appeal by a farmer found guilty of falsification of the results of a bTB test.   

  800px-Deceased_Meles_meles_-_head[1]

Of other persecuted wildlife, the Hen Harrier controversy continues.  Mark Avery in his Standing up for nature blog reports on the Mutch case.  The RSPB video  posted on another media site is sickening and one wonders if slowly there is a change in the attitude of the law around wildlife crime? It is to be hoped that it does not turn out to be like the MPs sorting their own expense scandal out?

Sightings of Hen Harrier on Thorne and Hatfield Moors appear to be down this winter but the Blacktoft roost is still attracting a handful amidst the good numbers of Marsh Harriers. One observer in neighbouring Lincolnshire commented of a coastal site “Having completed the winter roost surveys since 1982/3 this is the poorest year of any for Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl”.

Readers might also be interested (but dissappointed if you’ve not secured tickets because I see that it is sold out) in the forthcoming Eyes in the Field Conference being organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime on 21 March 2015 in Buxton Derbyshire.  It is essential that we collectively continue to keep the issue in the public arena and the profile high, only then is there any chance of change.  Patrick Barkham (author of Butterfly Isles) writes in the Guardian of The mystery of the missing Hen Harriers.  The entrenched attitude of some has forced people like Avery to adopt a high profile stance by creating a GOV.UK epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.  

Greenblobpride

Another recent issue, well perhaps it would be better described as recently reported, are the stink pits full of Mountain Hares reported killed because of the need to eradicate disease which threatens bags of Red Grouse.  Readers might like to consider supporting another epetition Protect the Mountain Hare?

At least the Tawny Owls are still contentedly calling despite the cold winds outside as I sign off on another post.

Environmental politics: a rise in ‘green blobs’ needed to keep on badgering?

October 12, 2014

I wonder how many of you subscribe to environmental campaigning newsletters or conservation blogs from the likes of Mark Avery or Miles King, George Monbiot or Naomi Klien?  Hen Harriers and badgers appear to be the top of the list in terms of species ‘popularity’ at the moment, and quiet rightly so if you have been following the issues which has brought attention to their plight?  Miles King has recently written a very short but certainly eye opening post about spending cuts and the debt.  It questions the claims that the national debt is being paid off, yet by providing part of a letter from the UK Statistics Authority it is clear that under the ConDem Coalition the Public Sector Net Debt has increased by nearly 50% during this Parliament.  Rightly King questions the privatisation of the Royal Mail, large parts of the NHS and selling off of public land and askks what has this achieved, clearly not a reduction in the national debt.  Yet departments like Defra have had cuts of around £800m between 2010 and 2016.  Was it the banking bail out which began the drain on the public purse?

Owen Patterson, badger hater and master climate change denier should perhaps be given a copy of Klein’s latest book.  This Changes Everything Capitalism vs. The Climate is an expose, an explanation and perhaps even a call to arms to the environmental movement after its austerity derailment.  The Shock Doctrine ought to have been an influential and inspirational motivational book but maybe it was a lost as austerity hit?    Here in the UK we seem to have lost momentum, what happened to the promised aftermath of the State of Nature?  Various other reports have been published, including the recent Living Planet Report 2014 Species and spaces, people and places but where is the inspirational rally to create critical mass and effect a challenging conservation collaboration to achieve change?  Where are the party manifestos in which the natural environment features as a priority?  We hear that the badger cull is the fifth most written about issue to MPs, but how many people have written about the Hen Harriers and driven grouse shooting, how many have called for reform of agri-welfare payments and HLS to landowners who are unable to demonstrate public benefit?

It’ll soon be Christmas …. perhaps when Santa asks you what you’d like, This Changes Everything ought to be up there on that wish list?  Then you can begin to draft up your series of New Year Resolutions which collectively and collaboratively we can, as a critical mass, make those purporting to represent us do just that?   If they fail then we hold them accountable?  Listen to Klien’s resume of fracking and how our politicians are pandering to capitalist corporations at our expense.

The Guardian article in which is embedded an interview with Klien explains how UK Ministers’ rewriting of the law will allow fracking to happen beneath people’s homes without their permission flouts basic democratic rights.  Klien said that the UK government’s changes to trespass laws, to speed up the ability for shale gas companies to frack beneath landowners’ property, was energising resistance to fracking in Britain.

But, despite the mess that we the voting public permit politicians to create, just occasionally enjoy the fresh air (while we still can) and remember that there is beauty around us, and that we should strive to live with our natural neighbours ….

The image above shows two tunnels, that on the left the beginning of a chamber.

The image above shows two tunnels, that on the left the beginning of a chamber.

I spent the afternoon with a great bunch of passionate people determined to help poor beleagured brock, it was a healthy reminder of why we must keep badgering the politicians into doing the right thing, that is for people and not for profit.

In Klein’s words  …. “I think we need to be very clear about this – the only way you can win against forces with a huge amount to lose is to build a movement of people, many more people, with a huge amount to gain.”  The issue of Scottish independence, brought out around 85% of the electorate.  The two and a half party system will remain just that whilst apathy remains and the Westminster village refuses to reform?

Greenblobpride

A Tale of Blue Bigots and Green Blobs, might persuade you to think about things that you might be able to do, be it for badger, hen harriers or the bigger political picture?  Small steps build momentum and collaborative endeavours build movements ….. be part of it?

 

EMBER …. Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River Basins

October 3, 2014

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the issue of grouse moors, Hen Harriers and campaigning to hold upland shooting estates to account through the launch by Dr Mark Avery of an online epetition to Ban driven grouse shooting.  Others are far ‘moor’ erudite and knowledgeable so I hope when I offer links to such blog posts or articles that readers find the information or critique useful and persuasive?  In keeping with that theme, we join with other campaigning conservationists to encourage you to read the recently released

Brown, L. E, Holden, J. and Palmer, S. M. (2014) Effects of moorland burning on the ecohydrology of river basins. Key findings from the EMBER project. University of Leeds.

Given that Government is funding quite a number of peat restoration projects, the findings of this report should give civil servants and Ministers serious cause for a rethink on funding for upland grouse moor management?

Controlled heather burning on Derbyshire grouse moors.   Paul Adams: Wikipedia Commons Licence.

Controlled heather burning on Derbyshire grouse moors.
Paul Adams: Wikipedia Commons Licence.

Of the fifteen key findings outlined in the report’s Executive Summary, we offer below a sample as ‘evidence’ that we believe that a serious review of the practice of heather burning should be undertaken and funding for estates which practice burning be similarly reviewed.

Prescribed burning on peatlands was shown to have clear effects on peat hydrology, peat chemistry and physical properties, river water chemistry and river biota.

Burning reduces the organic matter content of the upper peat layers.  The net result is that the peat is less able to retain imortant particles known as exchengeable cations.  In other words, the peat in burned sites is deprived of chemicals which are important for plant growth and for buffering acidic rainfall. 

Sphagnum is an important peat forming species.  Changes in the hydrological properties of the peat after fire make the peat less conducive to Sphagnum moss growth.

River flow in catchments where burning has taken place appears to be slightly more prone to higher peak flows during heavy rain.  However, this was not a conclusive finding.

Particulate organic matter (predominantly peat) deposits were increased up to four-fold in the bed sediments of burned rivers compared to unburned rivers. 

It is interesting additionally to note that the authors report that “while the area of burned moorland has increased in some areas of northern England significantly since 1995*, the implications for peatland soils, their hydrology and biogeochemistry, river flow regimes, water quality and biota remains poorly understood”.  *Yallop et. al. 2006.

Read the key findings here.

I’m not sure of who came up with the title to create the acronym, but they certainly seem to have a sense of humour.  How long will it be before the ashes settle for the final time on this archaic practice?  Was there a great a loss or inconvenience to the agri-industrialists after stubble burning was reviewed and banned?

So, if the epetition nears its target of 100,000 signatures by the end of the ‘window’ made available by this Government will the ConDems allow discussion in the ‘House’?

Perhaps there’s an opportunity here, sell tickets to raise funds for charity or better still to help finance independent scrutiny of grouse moors in receipt of public funds or maybe Hen Harrier monitoring?

Defra’s response to it achieving the 10,000 signature milestone was late and when it arrived it was somewhat lack lustre.  Avery’s analysis of it made far better reading, the kind of persuasive prose which should encourage others to expend a little effort and contribute energy to the campaign for change.  Critical mass can deliver conservation, the failed forestry sell of is perhaps an iconic example?

 

‘Moor’ badgering, upland Hen Harriers, Natural England have a new Chief Executive & Beverley Common.

June 27, 2014

BADGERS

The plight of beleaguered brock was brought home to me recently when I attended a meeting to explore ways of safeguarding the last few setts in the area.  We knew the situation was bleak but apparently it’s actually worse than we’d imagined and local naturalists are pretty hardened to public attitude to wildlife and the natural environment.  We were aware that South Yorkshire is the known cruelty capital and Doncaster is particularly bad.

Why do people enjoy inflicting cruelty on animals?  Why are the police unable to secure prosecutions?  Why do such crimes go unpunished?  Perhaps more cattle should be farmed here where there is a reduced badger population and then there would be no need for Paterson to continue his vendeta against the species elsewhere in England?  Recent press coverage questions efficacy of the culls.

HEN HARRIERS

Of persecution, the Hen Harrier epetition “Ban driven grouse shooting” created by Dr Mark Avery continues to secure additional signatures and now stands at 5,861 could it reach the 10,000 threshold by the inglorious 12th?  Anyone interested in attennding a peaceful day out with like minded folk is invited to meet not only Mark but Chris Packham as well, see “Standing up for nature” post for ‘moor’ details.

The Ethical Consumer Research Association (May 2014) has written a very readable, well researched and informed report Turn your back on GROUSE A popular campaign against greed and intensification on England’s grouse shooting estates.

NATURAL ENGLAND

Another bit of news material to any reader interested in the politics of Defra agencies, is the announcement of the new Chief Executive of Natural England, James Cross.  The usual PR material is available on various websites but suffice to encapsulate the spin, Andrews Sells, Natural England’s Chairman, commented: “I am delighted to be able to announce the appointment of James Cross as our new Chief Executive. He brings a wealth of experience which will be invaluable to us.

“Natural England does vital work on behalf of the environment and we are keen to drive forward the programme of reform outlined in the Triennial Review, further develop our status as a trusted advisor to government and build confidence and respect among our many stakeholders and customers for the way we work with them. James will bring an important combination of experience, energy and drive to enable this to happen.”   

Previously CE of the Marine Management Organisation we await evidence to back up the words.  Interestingly Dave Webster who was appointed Natural England’s Acting Chief Executive in March 2012 and continued in the role while the Triennial Review was underway, confirmed in March this year that he would not be seeking the role on a permanent basis and will be leaving Natural England on 18 July 2014 to take on a new executive role within Defra.  Natural England’s Executive Director, Guy Thompson will act as interim Chief Executive until James Cross takes up the permanent Chief Executive role on 1st September 2014.  So along with the recent restructuring how long before there is any robust science to underpin the dash to Dedicate Open Access across all publically owned NNRs?  We’ve already had reports of increased equine access and even 4 x 4’s attempting to cross ditches to access Hatfield Moors …. one might be forgiven for having concerns about the proportion of reduced budget has been spent on yet another restructure, redundancy packages, recruitment and the like?  Nature conservation a very poor second perhaps even third if you contrast against access and engagement?

BEVERLEY COMMONS

Readers may be aware that in the ERY applications are progressing to Deregister and Exchange Land at Beverley Westwood COM544.  It seems that the local authority have been writing to objectors ahead of the Public Inquiry seeking to get the withdrawl of those objections.  The campaign has hit the front page of the Hull Daily Mail.  There is a real fear that a precedent would be set by the approval of such an application.

The Open Spaces Society have added their objection to a growing call for more open and transparent conduct of business by the local authority.  For details of the full saga then the reader is signposted to the excellent Beverley Commons Blog which regales the debacle in full technicolour.  There are a number of related issues which add to the complexity including procedural issues around the application by developers to build luxury housing on the former Westwood Hospital.   The ERYC planning website refers to the development as application 3876, yet a letter received by the Forum yesterday refers to the same description as application number 0573!  Confusing, definitely!  Even more so when I tried to locate the Forum’s representation, as rare as a South Yorkshire Meles meles!  In fact it appears rarer …. so watch this space for updates.

It is a dilemma of modern living perhaps that finds what we previously took for granted as being protected sites are slowly being eroded and nibbled away at the edges to benefit business and not retained for the public benefit, the basis on which they were established.

& finally for tonight ….

For those readers who are not able to receive the Thorne Times as a newspaper, then read the June edition of Ramblings and nature notes of a bog-trotter here.

 

 

 

Ramblings around and ‘moor’ grousing?

June 2, 2014

With poorer weather forecast for the coming week, we made the most of yesterday and headed for the Yorkshire Dales.  It was not bright hot sun but it was pleasant and conducive to a lovely walk along the banks of the River Ure and up to Redmires Force.

140601 Redmire Force hrk 110

Redmire Force, a lesser known ‘cousin’ of the popular Aysgarth Falls, tranquil and a natural haven abundant with wildlife.

The meadows and tree lined banks are the kind that remind you of what is special about Yorkshire, habitats rich in wildlife.  Milkwort was abundant, quantities such as I’d not seen in a good few years.  A veritable grassland carpet with Heath Speedwell and Wild Thyme, Salad Burnet and Pignut all plentiful along the riverbanks.

Oystercatchers too were very vocal along the river bank and a pair tried their best to distract us as we walked across one of the riverside meadows.  A Common Sandpiper with a beak-full of food an indication of breeding success.  The ornithological epitome of Dales haymeadows, the Curlew was vocal with much bubbling heard.  Dancing mayflies too were evident but not in vast swarms recently emerged.

140601 Oystercatchers hrk 105

A pair of Oystercatchers: with perhaps as many as four pairs along the stretch of the River Ure around the village of West Witton, clearing a rich feeding area along the river bank and the meadows leading down to it.

140601 Green Lane hrk 116

The Yorkshire Dales landscape has feature boundaries such as this above, this one forms part of a green lane leading back to West Witton and had Herb Bennet, Dog’s Mercury, Wild Arum along its route, and as it led up into the village between some cottages a good sized Hart’s-tongue Fern.  Phyllitis scolopendrium is so named because the fern frond was said to resemble a deer tongue (hart being an old name for a deer).  The ash tree, clearly distressed but still hanging on to life was supporting a host of other species capable of ultilising the dead wood.  Full of emergence holes and woodpecker enlarged holes created as they searched for grubs.  If you check out the dead trunk just above the left hand branch of flowering hawthorn then you might just spot the fruiting body of Daldinia concentrica, a fungi also known as King Alfred’s Cakes.

The gentle walk delivered up quintessential scenes of what we like to think of as the English countryside; rolling green flower filled meadows and tree lined river banks. This is the kind of farming practice which I have no trouble being supported through taxes. Returning from North Yorkshire back to South Yorkshire and what a contrast, the ever expanding ‘ring of steel’ around Thorne Moors SSSI / Natura 2000 site strung across the home horizon.  Acres of industrial units (not one sporting any solar panels) and industrialised agriculture, massive fields devoid of hedgerows and trees.  Some serious savings could be made here in terms of CAP payments and recycled where environmental benefits are being delivered?

A recent post informed readers of a petition which seeks to Ban driven grouse shooting, since that mention the network has spread the word and the signatories have almost doubled in just a few days, so is there hope such as that expressed by its creator Dr Mark Avery?  Avery’s next post (same day) updates his readers on an event which might also be of interest to readers of this blog?  Hen Harrier Day, along with an invitation to join him in the Peak District.  Readers of both will be aware of the background and rationale to this event.  Let’s hope this and the other actions (across the country) do indeed raise the profile of issues around illegal raptor killings.

Migration Massacre on Malta …. an update

May 4, 2014

Well, let’s hope that it’s been a busy time I guess for the MEPs who had conservation minded constituents contact them after they’d been suitably motivated by Chris Packham’s video diaries posted via his website.  He also asks that we Tweet our MPs and ask them to attend the debate in Parliament this Wednesday 7 May ….

The House of Commons will debate “UK policy on protection of migratory birds in Malta” on Wednesday 7 May in Westminster Hall, 4.30 – 5.00pm.

Malta

OK, so we don’t all Tweet  – in which case then email them or phone their constuituency offices.  If they ask what this has to do with us then think of that Nightjar being released, will it make it back to the UK and possibly Thorne or Hatfield Moors?

Mark Avery too has joined Packham and is also encouraging his readers to take up the issue, he also (quite rightly in my opinion) reminds readers on a regular basis about the fact that Hen Harriers, Red Kites and other birds of prey are being shot and poisoned in this country still.  2013 was the first year since 1960 that Hen Harrier had failed to rear a chick in this country!  Astonishing given the amount of funds spent on HLS on privately owned upland grouse moors?

MEP update

I wrote to the six Yorkshire and Humber MEPs via ‘write to them’ website on 25 April.  So far I have received email replies from Rebecca Taylor, Timothy Kirkhope and Edward McMillan-Scott and a letter from Linda McAvan.  Nothing, as yet, from Andrew Brons or Godfrey Bloom.  All are fairly similar but I suppose to some extent that is inevitable and they seem to mirror those received by other MEPs across the country as reported by readers on Mark Avery’s website.  What I do find somewhat disappointing is that when they were replied to, with specific questions, typical of many a politician, the reply evaded the actual point I raised or directly asked!

If you are interested in reading the series so far received then we have set up a new page on the website blog “CAMPAIGN: Malta Massacre on Migration” and they can be found there.  Any new correspondence received relating to the Malta saga will also be placed there.

If you’ve been motivated to contact MEPs then feed back the responses to Packham, Avery or through us at athe Forum.  Critical mass as elections loom for MEPs in May and a for those 650 still in the Westminster village.  Let’s send them all a message that the natural environment and conservation really do matter.

In the interim, please TWEET (!) your MPs if you are able to ….

 

South Yorkshire Natural History Day & Hen Harriers

February 19, 2014

South Yorkshire Natural History Day

This coming Saturday will see the Sorby NHS facilitate the fifth in this series.  There is a packed programme of talks and plenty of time for networking and catch up with old friends – hopefully we will see some of you there?

Saturday 22 February 2014, 10am to 6pm

at Treeton Miners Welfare Club

on Arundel Street in Treeton (S60 5PW or SK430876)

Find out why we should bother about badgers, the state of scientific collecting in Yorkshire and floods and wildlife.  Just three of the eleven talks scheduled.

To book contact bats@sorby.org.uk or secretary@sorby.org.uk

 

& …. THANKS

To thank all blog readers who helped get John S Armitage’s epetition Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers to the required 10,000 signatures which will require that Defra must write a response to  it.  OK, we can guess at the content of the response but it’s all grist to the environmental conservation campaigns catalogue of continuing failure?  There are still a few days left, so anyone able to utilise social media to advance the petition please twitter away ….


BIRDING SITE GUIDE - Birding Site Guide

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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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