Posts Tagged ‘Iolo Williams’

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.

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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!

 

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.

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Celebs & call to arms …. Birdfair 2015

August 23, 2015

Today is the final day of the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water and if Mark Avery’s blog is anything to go by Henry is having a great time meeting up with and getting lots of hugs from conservation ‘celebs’.  This year was the 27th and was significantly different to the first back in 1989.  The weather has thus far been kind, Friday saw a few spots but n’owt to deter folk and the marquees were within easy distance of each other, but over far larger acreage and a far cry from the very first BF which Bill Oddie described as a boy scout camp in his reminiscing on page 8 and 9 of this year’s programme.

This year Iolo Williams made his debut appearance, alongside a cast of other ‘celebrities’ from the environmental conservation sector.  His presentation, as expected was an excellent call to arms similar in some respects to his introduction at the State of Nature Report launch in 2013.  His charasmatic Welsh charm was wonderfully refreshing to hear and his honesty despite his frustration with statutory failure to address the loss and ongoing decline of habitats and species was evident, yet there was also a ‘can do will do’ proactive passion still there.  Red Kite is the Welsh national bird, but he admitted when asked by a member of the audience that his favourite was the Hen Harrier and one of his favourite memories was that of finding his first nest of the species.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

Iolo Williams, a seriously inspirational speaker, a passionate voice for nature.

The next ‘celeb’ up was Simon King, he is clearly passionate about educating the next generation and to this end has recently established a new charity, the Simon King Wildlife Project which is using a 10 acre meadow to restore wildlife and in so doing create inspiration for young people through education and engagement.  It has to be said that he did a wondeful job persuading people to experience the true aroma that is otter spraint.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the 'educational engagement experience' offered.

The audience were encouraged to sniff Otter spraints as part of the ‘educational engagement experience’ offered.

Another speaker who has created a haven for wildlife and alongside a fantastic education facility at Aigas in the Highlands, Sir John Lister-Kaye also spoke of statutory procrastination and the need for nature in all our lives.

The irrespresible Bill Oddie 'Unplucked'

The irrespresible Bill Oddie ‘Unplucked’

The wonderfully provocative Mark Avery offered and advocated an ‘Inglorious’ challenge to the ‘grouse-industry’ much to the delight of the audience in another packed marquee and risked writers cramp by signing copies of his book Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands. 

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Tucked away in a corner of a marquee was a ‘Lush’ species created specifically to raise the profile of the issue around illegal persection and loss in our uplands of the spectacular Hen Harrier.  It was great to be able to secure a HH bath bomb and to thank Mark Constantine in person for Lush’s support of the Hen Harrier campaign.

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It was great too that the guys from Birders Against Wildlife Crime had a presence.  Charlie, Phil & Lawrie have worked hard to raise the profile of the Hen Harrier issue and in collaboration with Mark Avery and Chris Packham have run a seriously successful Eyes in the Field Conference in March 2015 in Buxton, two fantastic Hen Harrier Days in the Peak District and an evening of talks ahead of this year’s HH Day.

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It is great that as well as the expected ornithological related stands and the astonishing array of travel offers, the latest optics to test out that other natural history disciplines were represented.  The British Arachnological Society had a presence and Dr Helen Smith was present with some of her fabulous study species Dolomedes plantarius or fen raft spiders. They really are a fabulous beast, well they are in the author’s opinion and it was a delight to be able to see some first hand.  “On the margins: The fen raft spiders of Redgrave and Lopham Fen” is superbly illustrated by Sheila Tilmouth and is an account of Smith’s studies and work on the species.  There is a dedicated FRS website Dolomedes.org.uk

Atropos, the journal for all butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts was present and subscribers were able to collect the latest edition of the journal ‘hot off the press’.

One pleasant surprise was the service received from the guys at the Leica stand.  Now my trusty 8×42 Trinovid’s are admittedly in their early 20’s but they are still in very good condition and optically as one would expect provide Leica excellent views but they were in need of a new rainguard so I enquired if they had any to purchase.  Half an hour or so later I came away with a new rainguard and they’d stripped the eyepieces down and performed a very professional clean of some two decades or so of accumulated ‘dust’.  All part of the Leica lifetime guarantee, now that is what I call service!  Thank you Leica team.

So all in all an excellent event and here’s hoping they reach their target for this year for ‘Protecting migratory birds in the Eastern Mediterranean’.

 

‘Moor’ action needed, particularly by politicians of all persuasions?

June 22, 2014

Reading the Regional broadsheet recently and an article by Ben Barnett (Agricultural Correspondent) “Woodlands still wait for action to secure future” reminded the reader that despite the Government convening a panel to assess the future of the publicly-owned woods there has been no progress since the sell off / give away was abandoned.  The panel’s report, puiblished two years ago, called for the public forest estate to remain in public ownership but one might be forgiven for wondering what part the epetitions and lobbying of Ministers and MPs played in that conclusion?

The recent Queen’s speech did not include measures on forests, prompting members of the panel led by its chairman the Rt Rev James Jones to write an open letter.  The Guardian heads the story Forestry panel attacks UK government.   The Independent Panel on Forestry Final Report was published in 2012.

It is laudable that the IPF urges the Government and all political parties to make manifesto committment to legislate as soon as possible after the General Election to ensure that the future of the public forests are assured. Their report said that the forests cost the taxpayer about £20m a year, around 90p per household in England!  Apparently, that same estate provides an estimated £400m in benefits to people, nature and the economy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other ‘estates’ provided that kind of value for public money …. some of the upland moors in receipt of HLS funding yet failing to safeguard Hen Harriers and other raptors perhaps?  See Avery’s commentary on Simon Barnes’s comments in the Times and just in case readers are still minded to provarication about “Ban driven grouse shooting” then read his message to “wishy-washy liberals”.   His epetition on the Government site currently stands at around 4,773 and his ambition is to achieve 5,000 by the ‘inglorious 12th’ (August) so anyone able and minded to twitter, please sing loudly ….

Someone reputed to know a bit about forestry, Roderick Leslie has written a book “Forest Vision” and if Mark Avery’s review is anything to go by it promises to be an interesting read?  Avery writes that “This is a book about the politics of forestry by someone who knows them better than just about anyone else in the UK.”  Sadly, whilst politics ought not to have a place in nature conservation it most certainly appears to infest and worse still it appears to be from top right down to even regional level?

Since his departure from the RSPB Avery might be regarded as having become more outspoken in defence of the natural world, perhaps Roderick Leslie is joining the ranks and who could forget Iolo Williams passionate appeal when he was part of the launch of the “State of Nature” report in May last year?  It’s worth a periodic revisit to hear him remind us all why we must keep trying …. for the sake of the next generation, who if we fail will not have the experiences we enjoyed as children.

 

For how much longer will our grandchildren be able to find gems like this Fly Orchid in the countryside?

For how much longer will our grandchildren be able to find gems like this Fly Orchid in the countryside?

 

It would be even better if political parties were to show an interest in the natural environment, its future and particularly its protection?  In one lifetime we have seen “A Muzzled Watch-dog” become a “toothless terrier” and more recently perhaps it is morphing to a “lapdog”?  We have seen suggestions that it is acceptable to replace an ancient tree with its saproxylic invertebrate assemblage and epiphytic bryophytes etc. with a 100 new saplings! No doubt that contract would probably be awarded to a hard pressed NGO trying to keep their staff in work, so effectively preventing opposition to yet more loss of species rich habitat?  Perhaps it’s time that we all started to contact our MPs and prospective MPs and ask what their party plans for the natural environment?

Thanks to Phil Lee for the stunning image of a Yorkshire Ophrys insectifera.

 

 

‘Moor’ about badgers ….

September 1, 2013

Sorry to keep ‘badgering’ you about negative issues, let’s face it we hear so many positive ones that I really should learn to set aside (ooops, no pun intended) a few bits of bad news?  Can you forgive another batch of BADGER related ramblings?

Here’s the delightful face of those wonderful black and white beasts, the quintessential mammal of the English countryside :

 

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Here’s the other side of the coin, the cruelty illegally inflicted by those who see badgers as vermin and a threat to their business:

Hours of suffering as a result of an illegal snare badly set.

Hours of suffering as a result of an illegal snare badly set.

 

Bad enough the image above but, there’s now ‘legalised’ murder going on as I write this post, the cull sanctioned by Government is underway and being conducted in Wales.

Badgergate is well worth a read, there are some interesting facts to consider as well as suggestions as to how you can help, who and where to write to and possible pointers as to what you might include.  I appreciate that there are some who hold views that ‘mass protest’ outwith an imminent election is not effective, but to claim that this is a trial and there is no intention to test the shot badgers for bTB!  How do they claim any credibility for that lack of science?  Badgergate is to be applauded, their strapline of “Bovine TB: facts, fantasy & politics” sums up quite eruditely the situation in my view.

Whilst you’d like to be able to trust Government, I struggle to understand what they have based this decision on.  The Krebs report analyses data from the UK 1973 – 2007, so why do they look abroad for support?  Why have successive governments failed to implement a vaccination programme in areas of high risk?  Why have the NFU and their counterparts not supported this, why have they not funded independent science?

If any of you watched the recent BBC2 series “The Burrowers: Animals Underground” you would have gained a fascinating insight into the research by Chris Cheesman, someone who had over 35 years studied badgers and still as a result of this programme learnt new facts about the species.  His view is well worth the few minutes you need to read it here.  In fact I’d say if you’re only able to read one of the links here in today’s post then this one by Dr Cheesman has to be it!

Another well made selection of points can be found on Steve Backshall’s Facebook page, whilst I don’t do ‘social media’ I do recognise that it can be effective communication.  In case you are not familiar with the gentleman he’s the television presenter well known for programmes such as ‘Live and Deadly’.

A totally random thought but I just wonder how the 635 MPs would react if all their constuituents regularly twittered, tweeted or facebooked them about the badger cull?  Even if just say 10% did then surely it would create a reaction?  In fact, I reckon if just 1% did then that would have them a tad worried I suspect …. Likewise the various PR companies employed by government departments, or the NGO hierarchies?  Reality kicks back in ….  and along with it I am reminded of the apathy and lethargy demonstrated by the public over hen harriers etc.  However, Brian May’s petition creeps up and it is after all on a Government epetition website!  Just in case you need a reminder it can be accessed here.    291,126 as I ramble – come on let’s help it to 300,000!  Voices for nature where are you all?

What do other people think about this mass murder I wonder, Iolo Williams surely he has something to say about the subject?  Excellent, he has and so do quite a few other ‘celebs’ Chris Packham, Simon King, David Attenborough et. al.  Chris Packham also warns of potential consequences of direct action (his skit, see earlier link, at the Welsh tourism board or variant was noted though on the savethebadger.com website).

Is there a solution that all parties can sign up to?  Sadly, I doubt it.  There are vociferous advocates on both sides of the argument, that’s democracy but I do so love ‘Ralph’s’ definition on Mark Avery’s blog, it just sums up the politics to a tee!  Logic requires that science must surely have a key role in any analysis and eventual decision?  That science must similarly be conducted and evaluated independently?  Then if there is dissent and the public purse is to fund any action, then reasoned logic and dare I offer democracy requires that the public have a say?

Oh dear, if that were the case then STOP & RETHINK  Open Access on National Nature Reserves too might be a ‘moor’ open and transparent discussion?

Images courtesy of the South Yorkshire Badger Group.   

 

Galling

August 11, 2013

Last Monday was a rather changeable day in terms of weather.  Undeterred I arrived at Crowle Moors and parked up but then decidied that it might be wise to wear a waterproof jacket at least – by the end of the session I debated the wisdom of the action.  Despite the drizzle, butterflies appeared in moderate numbers particularly Gatekeepers or Hedge Browns if you prefer, but just to avoid any doubt Pyronia tithonus.

With the cooler weather there were not as many dragon and damsels active and the bees too were slow to appear.  There was no sign of activity at the entrance of the colony beneath heather roots alongside one of the tracks.

An interesting find were a few poor rain sodden Tansy plants, I’d noticed these in bud a week earlier and nothing unusual in that but as can be seen in the image below there are three growths protruding from the flower heads.  They are caused by the gall midge Rhopalomyia taneceticola (Dipter: Cecidomyiidae).

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As you marvel at the many intriguing and often complex relationships which all contribute to the interactions which deliver functioning ecosystems, you do wonder what of the future?  I sense that there may be a groundswell of discontent in terms of the deal that is not done in terms of the natural environment, the ongoing failure of those in Government to safeguard a healthy natural environment for our grandchildren.  The apathy at the top trickles or perhaps it floods down through the ranks of the statutory agencies and authorities charged with protecting habitats and species.

We’ve all heard of the outcome of the State of Nature, Mark Avery often blogs controvertial topics, which provoke interesting feedback.  The ongoing saga of Wuthering Moors is well worth keeping up with.  Catfield Fen another site under threat is reported on.   The Guardian newspaper published another of their offerings yesterday, Britain’s changing countryside: where next for the conservation movementSome as expected comments, but if nothing else it proves that people were sufficiently motivated to respond after reading it but whether they went that extra mile thereafter remains to be seen?

It would take a brave government to deliver on a quality natural environment which is safguarded for the future as the most important aspect of our [man’s] existence, rather than simply treating everything natural as a ‘resource’, which in the words of Iolo Williams is there to be used and abused.  Should the state take the lead and enforce regulatory safeguards?  Is it my recent reading material but there does appear to be a number of recent articles asking where the next generation of naturalists are but equally as important where are the next generation of environmental champions able to deliver tangible sustainability?

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I’m going for a walk to count the butterflies in my garden and hopefully the kingfisher will signal its presence too as it dashes along the drain ….

Is “gardening” for wildlife an alternative to nature conservation?

August 4, 2013

I wonder, is gardening for wildlife a better option that trying to conserve habitats and species?  Is the challenge to stem the decline too much and should we simply build biodiversity instead, on land that the developers and agri-industrialists don’t want (for now)?

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We’ve heard much about the State of Nature published following collaboration by some 25 organisations.  Some pretty horrendous statistics were revealed.  In all probability it seems that they are only the tip of the iceberg?

The report catalogues the continuing failure of Government and NGOs to even stem the decline of our wildlife.  It looked at some 3,148 species (but a minute fraction of the nation’s wildlife species, ones that data is held on such that meaningful analysis can be had), 60% of these have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.  One in ten RDB species are at risk of extinction, if that’s true then Thorne and Hatfield are in for some hefty losses.  Conversely I’m sure there are some who would step up and offer to introduce some iconic alternatives which would be better suited to climate change or a country park regime and badge it as a community outreach project.

So, given that speakers at the conference admitted that in 2010 they had missed the targets of halting biodiversity decline, what will they now do?  Some wondered where they had gone wrong, clearly they’d not really been listening to the likes of Iolo Williams.  They’d been drifting along chasing funds for projects, delivering projects designed for building biodiversity – hand outs from developers mitigation.  Why has the challenge been dummed down, why did Natural England back off from taking the Walshaw case through as a compalint from Europe, why did the RSPB have to pick up the gauntlet?

Natural England happily sign off authorisations for badger culls, but they will not enforce reparation of damage to SSSIs.  Similarly the Rural Payments Agency refuse to investigate reports of damage insisting it is Natural England’s role to enforce.  It’s political ping pong – inactivity which might be likened to Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt, or the ongoing decline of the UKs wildlife or SSSIs failing to reach favourable condition status.

Amongst the various responses of the ‘conservation agencies’ was the announcement of a(nother) meeting (sorry Iolo) – then the production in autumn of a challenge document and finally action will follow .  I’ve heard it all before and whilst I’m absolutely certain that those speaking mean well, perhaps if I may be forgiven for considering myself an unsung hero, but here in South Yorkshire I’m not prepared to hold my breath.  The 25 NGOs plan to repeat the event and reconvene in three years time, to talk maybe not about species recovery but what they’ve been doing about it – like Iolo I really hope they actually do DO something about the continuing decline which I see no sign of abating.

The Ghost Orchid Declaration produced in 2009 by Plantlife is an earlier call to arms, but it too like so many other variants from the spectacular array of special interest or focus groups pleads that agri-environment schemes are better targetted.

Apathy, avarice, competition between agri-industrialists and conservation play a significant part in the ongoing failure.  The Common Agricultural Policy and its subsidies to the fat cats of agri-industry (not farmers) who tell us they are the guardians of the countryside so should receive public money to deliver nature conservation.  Natural England appear to subscribe to that view because they continue to dole out extra support by way of HLS for otherwise unproductive corners of otherwise efficient businesses.  Defra programmes designed to encourage land owners to be green create improvement schemes for example where land owners are advised on how best to receive additional funds for short term involvement to create ‘corridors’ or pocket handkerchief ponds.  It might be suggested that the nations’ back gardens deliver better value for money but taxpayers are not recompensed, instead they appear to be expected to continue funding those who have played a significant role in the depletion of species.

Preventing a wasteful “double payment” for the same environmental activity from agri-environment schemes would at least be a start.  Monitoring for tangible outcomes through truly independent analysis might also begin to offer credibility.

As someone who used to be a member of approaching a score of organisations do I think they represent value for money?  If we read the future as suggested by Anna Bawden in the Guardian recently then its pretty bleak.  Mark Avery in his excellent blog is currently analysing NGO performance and there are some interesting comments made by his readers.

So, what of the future, what will be left for the next generation?  While you give thought to what you think should be done, I’ll offer a little grassroots activism news …. for those readers interested in invertebrates the Forum are shortly to present the findings of an invertebrate survey on a piece of peripheral lagg fen.  Thus far some 8,000 specimens of coleoptera alone have been deterined and amongst them some RDBs, some species are relocated classics as recorded by the old Victorian naturalists who made occasional visits to Thorne Moors (Hatfield Moors was less accessible).

 

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So, I hear you ask what does that prove (aside from quality habitat still exists at Thorne), well I offer that in the main the determination to get this project off the ground and then implemented was through the tenacity and committment of a handful of people – thank you to my colleagues and associates you know who you are.

It follows then (perhaps) that if we can deliver worthwhile projects then just think of the capacity of the NGOs and their statutory allies.  Better still bring on ‘moor’ local action?

Remember the words of Edmund Burke who said The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing and considered that Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Images: Martin Hammond & Helen Kirk.

Skylarks underfoot as ‘gates are opened’?

July 12, 2013

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The delightful image above sent by Bryan Wainwright shows a fledgling Skylark.  Sharp eyed Bryan in his own words “shood the bird to safety” as it froze and remained motionless in the hope of danger passing it by by.  Nearby I watched as a Redshank adopted distraction tactics to try to ensure the safety of its offspring.  These strategies offer an insight into the risks posed to young birds if Natural England proceed with their proposal and open the gates on their 87 National Nature Reserves across the country to Open Access.

 

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The observations reminded me of an incident a couple of years back when management work (in the bird breeding season) was being undertaken to facilitate ‘disabled access’ on Hatfield Moors.  A pair of woodlark, a Schedule 1 (WCA 1981) species were on territory but as judge and jury of impact of their work and a limited window of availability of men with machines Natural England decided to displace the birds and disrupt their breeding.

There are many papers offering good case studies where increased access and dog walkers have had negative impact upon ground nesting birds particularly.

Recreational use of forests and disturbance of wildlife is a useful literature review detailing case studies undertaken in forests since 1990.  Two species subject to studies, nightjar and woodlark are key species on Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI and two species likely to be impacted upon by increased recreational use being encouraged by Natural England.

What is the impact of public access on the breeding success of ground nesting and cliffnesting birds? Is a Systematic Review and another resource worthy of a read. It synthesises the findings of a number of studies of disturbance to nightjar (albeit on southern heathlands) and it does not offer much hope for us here when the gates are opened.

A Review of Disturbance Distances in Selected Bird Species is a Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned report undertaken in 2007 and it too makes depressing reading in terms of likely significant effect on the productivity of breeding nightjar the SPA interest of Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

Already there has been one dog attack and a member of the public bitten recently.   The victim then subsequently reported the incident to the police.  That bite was at a level of a childs face but it was dismissed as a one off and no further action taken.

A case might be made, certainly here on Thorne and Hatfield Moors that there already exists de facto open access.  What’s wrong with that?  Why mend something which isn’t broken, why spend diminishing budgets on access maintenance rather than ensuring that the sites achieve ‘favourable condition status’ as ‘natural jewels in the public crown’, as best examples of National NATURE Reserves, and European Natura 2000 sites?  They are not countryparks or themeparks they are National NATURE Reserves.

Does this matter after all nature is a resource, The State of Nature, something that the ‘Welsh bard’ Iolo Williams made an empassioned plea to us all to do something about before it is too late for our grandchildren to inherit.   See also the early warning offered here.  In a single lifetime the wilderness that was Thorne Moors is now surrounded on all points of the compass with industrial clutter which can be seen and heard if you stand on the viewing platform in the middle of the moor.  No longer can a visitor easily hear the drumming of the snipe or the churring of the enigmatic nightjar they are all too frequently drowned out by cheap holiday flights overhead or wind blown noise pollution from the neighbouring industry or road systems.

In principle the proposal seems not an unreasonable one but there has, in the view of the Executive been a lack of open and transparent public involvement.  The consultation, if the exercise could be described that, has been conducted outwith the public gaze and with organisations whose focus appears other than nature conservation.  There has not been, to our knowledge been any open meeting to which the public have been invited.

Thorne July 2013 099

Must what is left of England’s largest lowland raised mire be ‘moor’ eroded and lost to local people for the benefit of short term gesture politics?  What would the late Wm Bunting have made of this?  He would certainly have challenged the notion that NE as judge and jury could not avoid legislative compliance.  Bunting would certainly challenged the fact that NE be allowed to assess the project which they themselves are primary proposers.  One might be forgiven for drawing the analogy with MPs designing their own expense system or failed bankers expectation that the public purse will fund bail outs?

A Senior Director of NE has offered to attend a meeting but that was a couple of weeks ago and we are still awaiting a response in terms of date ahead of any definitive announcement in respect of dedication.

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated.  If you’d like to know more then please contact us via execsec@thmcf.org

Iolo for PM?

July 3, 2013
Species rich haymeadows - a thing of the past, a declining habitat?

Species rich haymeadows – a thing of the past, a declining habitat?

 

Rarely do we hear such eloquent music plead for the environment as has recently been sung by the ‘Welsh bard’ Iolo Williams and posted on u-Tube following his appearance at the launch of the State of Nature launch.

I don’t know who uploaded the film but a big thank you!  It has had an incredible number of viewers and comments and I’d certainly recommend watching or just listening to the clarity of purpose resonating in his voice, music to campaigners ears.  A call to arms.

Iolo rightly points out that the failure thus far is a disgrace.  One could be forgiven for wondering what ever happened to the much heralded 2010 “Making Space for Nature” Report?   Where are all the promised improvements?

Conversely, in an open and refreshingly honest way  The State of Nature Report certainly appears to evidence ever diminishing space that is left for nature, it is a catalogue of decline of habitats and species.  He’d get my vote to to organise a ‘cull’ of inefficiencies and surplus fat cats more bothered about their pensions than the legacy for our grandchildren.  His merciless lambasting of the politicians and the inactivity of organisations who have failed to stem the tide is sheer music.  He certainly didn’t mince his words with his interpretation of the new name given to the organisation which is pedalled as being the agency which will be looking after the countryside in Wales.  Honesty – absolutely wonderful, delightfully refreshing!

The self confessed unashamedly proud Welshman laments the loss of haymeadows and moors and being of that same era I too can recount similar losses here in the Humberhead Levels and across the wider Yorkshire.  There have been campaigners fight to conserve our precious countryside, the likes of the late Wm Bunting and the late Stephen Warburton but they are sadly no longer amongst our number and the natural regeneration is in decline.  Real campaigning conservationists are also a rare species now, these days it seems that too many are happy to take mitigation crumbs and ‘build biodiversity’ instead of conserving it.

Haymeadows with their luxuriant hedgerows – yes I’ve seen them disappear and what precious few are left here in South Yorkshire and the Humberhead Levels we’ve had to fight for, the image above is evidence of a small success.

Then take the ‘battle for the bogs’ or lowland raised mires to give them their correct name at Thorne and Hatfield Moors are another example of beleagured habitats abandoned by those charged with statutory responsibilities for their conservation.  Instead it’s been down to local communities to challenge, and like Iolo I wonder where the next generation are and what they will be left with consequential of the continual erosion and degradation of our natural environment.  Thank you Iolo for the timely clarion call reminding us of so many things that we should be doing ….

Well said cariad bach as my Grandfather used to say, and thank you too from a Yorkshire lass!


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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.

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