Posts Tagged ‘mark avery’

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?

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.

Inglorious front cover

* 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.

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?

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will you be going to Henry’s picnic rally?

June 19, 2016

butt%20henry

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

 

 

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 ….

butt%20henry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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 ….

butt%20henry

Help Henry – sign up to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Who started the drainage?

February 24, 2016

Common Lizard Crowle Moor 24.2.16

Adders on Thorne and Hatfield Moors on 10 February, now Common Lizard has been ‘turned over’ on Crowle Moors.  Image: Phil Lee.

Advance notification of some events for your diaries?

Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum’s Annual Meeting

Friday 1 April 2015

Indoor presentations on recent research work followed by a visit to Thorne Moors in the afternoon.

“Bog birds and bugs” by Lucy Ryan (York University) a masters student working on monitoring of the nightjar populations at Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI further to the implementation of the LIFE+ Project* managements works.

Dr Paul Buckland “Who started the drainage?  Iron Age & Roman Landscapes in the Humberhead Levels”.

Anyone interested in attending the above presentations, which are open to the public should contact the execsec@thmcf.org

*Please note that the Forum is not aware of any monitoring work ongoing or planned which will look at the impact of the implementation of the Thorne Moors Water Level Management Plan by Doncaster East IDB and its management service providers JBA Consulting

WILDLIFE TRAINING WORKSHOP

20 May 2016  An introduction to  Auchenorrhyncha identification.

We are delighted to welcome back Jim Flanagan who will be the tutor for the second of our ‘bugs / hoppers’ identification workshops.  Places are limited and are rapidly being filled.  The first part will be an introduction to the Auchenorrhyncha  (leafhoppers, planthoppers, froghoppers, treehoppers & cicadas), the second part will involve a field trip and then a microscope session.  More details are available from execsec@thmcf.org

RAPTOR CONFERENCE

9 & 10 September 2016  Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands: Conservation, Land Management & Issues promises to be an excellent couple of days of presentations and a site visit.

This event is being organised by BaLHRI / BRG UKEconet and will be held at Sheffield Showroom & Workstation and further details are available via www.ukeconet.org and as a pdf

Raptors First Call November 2016 flier

The booking form can also be downloaded here and includes ‘early bird’ booking discounts.

Raptors booking form 9-10 Sept 2016 (ebd)

‘moor’ about?

February 19, 2016

The sun was shining, the skies were blue and the wilderness beckoned again, so Thursday saw another visit to a very wet landscape.  Dressing like an ‘onion’ with three pairs of socks easily kept the cold at bay.

A pair of delightful dumpy Stonechats were the first good birds of the day, colourful gems on a winter’s day.160218 Stonechat hrk 309

Feeding at the edge of the track and returning to a perch before repeating the exercise again an indication perhaps that there was plenty of suitable food for these seasonal specials.  Their ‘tchack’ call, reminiscent of stones being hit together, was heard frequently as the two birds worked their patch for food.  Stonechats are omnivorous and will search out seed and invertebrates both of which appear plentiful at the moment and is no doubt contributing much needed fuel for these delightful chats, with up to eight birds being logged on Thorne Moors recently.

The Marsh Harriers, two males quartered the moor flushing wildfowl and pheasant in their quest for smaller quarry.  A stunning Short-eared Owl appearing as the light waned, working the western periphery for small mammals able to escape the wet and relocate on the drier balks.

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Big skies, space to breath but just about every point of the compass is seeing the ring of steel tighten and destroy the atmospheric vista?  Conversely these metal monsters were ‘sold’ as a tourist attraction to which people would flock to see such iconic structures …. not forgetting the marketing spin of wind energy being free ?

P1050311

There is much discussion about an early season with the Blackthorn in flower already.  The first adders have been seen on both Hatfield and Thorne Moors, 10 February so ten days earlier than last year!  How long before we hear the first Chiffchaff and see the first Sand Martin, two of the early migrants?

Will the ‘silver ghosts’ who have graced our local lowland moors this winter return to their upland breeding moors and be able to successfully fledge young birds into the declining English population?  Whilst the politicians postulate the pros and cons of the UK remaining in the European Union, will 2016 see an outcome to the RSPBs complaint to the European Commission about the damage on Walshaw Moor?  The case is not just about Hen Harriers, but about management of upland moors and we might also remember that they are now extremely topical for their role in flood alleviation?

In the interim, let’s carry on enjoying the magic that the Hen Harrier brings on a cold winters day when, if we put in the hours scanning the far horizon and the extensive reed beds we can be rewarded with a glimpse of a charismatic bird who can for the winter months at least enjoy a safe haven here with us.  Get out there, experience the magic before the species is just a memory and another obituary in a natural history paper.  It was as recent as 2013 that the headlines reported imminent extinction as an English breeding bird, its status is still extremely tenuous.

The defra sponsored Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population received mixed reviews and it was Mark Avery who summed it up as the ‘[In]action plan’.

 

 

 

Defra’s [In]action Plan for Hen Harrier recovery?

January 23, 2016

I was hoping to write a few words about Defra’s Action Plan when it was published recently, but I decided to comply with one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I spent the day on Thorne Moors instead.  The excursion lessened the variety of emotions the documents elicited, for a while ….

It was cold but who cares, the skies were clear and bright and the light just right for watching those magical ‘silver ghosts’ as they quarter the moor in search of a meal.  Also present was a female peregrine and Short-eared Owl, along with the usual supporting assemblage.

But it is the grey male with its white rump and black ink-dipped wing tips that generate emotions like wonder but also sadness as well as a degree of anger ….

To understand the ‘disquiet’ and disappointment about the “Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population” then you need to read it.  An erudite analysis of the document has been written by Dr Mark Avery via his blog Standing up for nature 

It is interesting too to read the comments made via that blog about the RSPB membership of the Upland Stakeholder Group, that is to say as part of the stakeholder group who have published this [In]action plan.  The RSPB’s response to the Action Plan can be found via Martin Harper’s blog.

Hen Harriers breed on upland moors, many managed for grouse.  Leeds University through its EMBER project found issues of water quality etc. This winter has seen astonishing levels of flooding in areas which are downstream of these [mis]managed moorlands.  An epetition to ban driven grouse shooting achieved 33,615 signatures, the RSPB and the WTs collectively failed to get behind this petition and similarly the RSPB have yet to encourage its membership to sign the Ban toxic lead ammunition petition, why?

But, with flooding topical then we should encourage people in power, Ministers, MPs and others that upland moor management needs to be reviewed and where necessary undertaken for the public good not private profit?  Is it right that large estates cause damage and receive public funds as part of land subsidies?  Perhaps the issue of flooding will keep the management of upland moors and public subsidies in the public gaze?  Ministers were quick to be seen out in devastated areas dishing out sympathies and promises, but time will tell if their flood of promises manifest any tangible benefit to the public who suffered from the consequences of failure to take a holistic approach to flood management?

According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian  This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised.

 

 

 

Ban driven grouse shooting?

January 13, 2016
Red Grouse TM

Image: Tim Melling

Ban driven grouse shooting?

Readers may recall intermittent updates on the situation around illegal persecution of raptors in the uplands where driven grouse shooting occurred?

Readers may also recall that Dr Mark Avery set up an epetition Ban driven grouse shooting on the Parliamentary epetition website?  100,000 signatures are needed to secure a discussion in Parliament.  The deadline for these is Thursday 21 January 2016.

Anyone who has read Avery’s book Inglorious Conflict in the Uplands can be left in no doubt as to the issues involved and the impact they have on water quality, the impact on the peat as a consequence of the management practice of burning as well as a whole host of other issues.  The EMBER Report by Leeds University  presents a robust evidence based case for change.  See also the issue of lead shot in game.  Ban toxic lead ammunition is another ‘related’ epetition and there is discussion around this issue via Standing up for nature and other websites.

Whilst the Humberhead Levels may not have breeding Hen Harriers we do get them as winter visitors and they are a part of our avifauna that we should value and be able to enjoy?  Yet, if you look on the map facility on the epetition you can see constituency statistics.  Come on, if you’ve not already signed then please do think seriously about doing so.  If you have, then persuade your friends and network?  Spread the word via social media.  This is one situation where ‘tweeting’ on ‘twiter’ really will help the birds.

6694350331_79fdccefcb Tim M HH

Image: Tim Melling

Interestingly Avery’s blog Standing up for nature was voted Blog of the Year by Birdwatch magazine, Chris Packham Conservation Hero of the Year and the Guano Award for Environmental Harm went to the Rt Hon. Liz Truss!

Ban driven grouse shooting?

Conservation courts controversy?

December 5, 2015

REMINDER

151205 IVRLC hrk 971

Readers who have not heard the inspirational or infuriating (depends on your perspective) conservationist Mark Avery speak are encouraged to head for Nottinghamshire next Friday, 11 December 2015. 

Doors of the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre open at 6.30pm with the talk starting at 7.30pmQ&A session and book signing follow.

The lecture 10 New Year’s resolutions for the wildlife enthusiast who wants to make a difference.  How many of us have already responded to his appeals?  But if you need persuasion beyond the written word or blog post then brave the elements and meet the man ….

Avery rallies and unites?  Whilst others continue controversial ‘conservation’?

 

ADVANCE NOTICE

Birders Against Wildlife Crime Annual Conference 2016

Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 March 2016

http://bawcconference.org/index.html

#BAWC2016

The Brunel Institute, Great Western Dockyard, Bristol, BS1 6TY

One Day Ticket – £50 or Two Day Ticket – £75

The 2015 conference was fantastic in terms of motivational and inspirational speakers, so two days planned for 2016 is surely an indication that the momentum continues apace?  The 2016 venue has greater capacity so even better chance that the information and exposure of illegal raptor persecution (amongst various wildlife crimes) is spread exponentially ….  

‘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.

 

Politics & Packham: Poisoned, shot, trapped Hen Harrier RIP?

September 16, 2015

Environmental conservation has a bit of competition at the moment in terms of newsworthiness, but then that’s probably always been the case to some degree?

Politics has suddenly become lively and isn’t it interesting to see the antics of the Parliamentary playground?  The humanitarian crisis continues to unfold and that of course suffers from media hype, political commentory, filibustering rather than a collective address across the piece be it at local, national or worldwide level?

Nature, quietly going about its business, so essential to all humanity is in the back seat again?  Possibly even demoted to the trailer behind?

There have been a few entertaining bits on the worldwideweb recently?  Andy Richardson / the Countryside Alliance petition calling upon the BBC to “Sack Chris Packham” is limping along with 2,629 supporters.    Packham’s team have thus far fielded a spectacular 76,130 on the “BBC Don’t Sack Chris Packham” counter petition.   Packham’s video thanking people for their support also encourages people to join the various charities he called upon / criticised for being too meek, it also importantly asks that they consider signing the Ban driven grouse shooting epetition, it may be coincidental but the numbers have risen at the rate of around 1,500 a day and it currently stands at around 18,823.  The petition has until 21 January 2016 to run, if it reaches the ‘magic’ figure of 100,000 signatories then it “will be considered for debate in Parliament”. 

In an article in yesterday’s Independent, the BBC make it clear that Packham would not face dismissal for expressing his views.  Excellent news, freedom of speech survives a little longer?  a new nature blog provides interesting background information on the Countryside Alliance and its associates.  It also analyses recent activity by government amidst the excitement and confusion of current affairs.

See also the Hen Harrier Day 2015 video, Packham at his best and promoting peaceful, proactive and democratic campaigns.  He even welcomes those who would attack him at all levels whilst failing to provide any credible science to underpin the view of ‘tradition & country lore’.  There is just one blip, ok possibly two needed for sensitive ears but they received hearty rounds of applause.

Packham’s committment to the campaign is assisted by his generous provision of an assortment of T-Shirt designs which he allows supporters to use, his website explains ….

You can download th[e] design for free for your own personal use. Please be aware that it is the copyright of Chris Packham and strictly not for resale. Action will be taken against any infringement of copyright.

Poisoned, shot, trapped – Hen Harrier RIP

This Hen Harrier t-shirt design has been created by Chris Packham and is free to download so that you can take it to your chosen printers and have made up in the colour and size of your choice.

Packham, sporting the above design (along with Avery) reminded the Goyt Valley audience in the open air arena that the management of the uplands were not best served by driven grouse shooting interests.  Cleaning water for human consumption is more expensive because of heather burning, there is also a risk of increased flooding, see the EMBER Report to better understand the effects of prescribed vegetation burning on blanket peatland hydrology, chemistry and physical properties, and on the hydrology, water quality and biota of rivers in upland peat-dominated catchments. It is the first time that a systematic and comprehensive assessment of burned and unburned catchments has been carried out.

Inglorious is the ideal Ban driven grouse shooting handbook, in its pages are all the details of everything you need to know when contacting your MP, defra, food chain suppliers and restaurants etc. to make a case for it to be outlawed.  It offers excellent references as well as further reading matter.  As Packham said recently “I’m a fully paid up member of this newfangled thing we’ve got.  It’s called science and it’s about truth”.

Reflections, accountability & action?

September 5, 2015

Wednesday’s Guardian sees Chris Packham slaming “shameful silence of Britains conservation charities” and particularly asking serious questions about the disappointing performance of the large and affluent NGOs on the issue of illegal persecution of raptors, most especially Hen Harriers.  There is also much discussion about this ‘deafening silence’ in terms of organisational support on the popular blog site Standing up for Nature.

The Hawk and Owl Trust are insistent that to Ban driven grouse shooting would be counter productive, but fail to mention the amount of public money large shooting estates receive and how heather burning or predator management provides (or not) public benefit.  Inglorious on the other hand provides an excellent resume of the issue.

The September issue of BBC Wildlife magazine also sees Packham saying that “It’s shameful that some conservation charities won’t stand up for foxes, badgers and hen harriers”. 

PENTAX Image

Perhaps their senior staff and maybe trustees will be wincing at his words?  Hopefully some of their members will, prompted by Packham ask questions about the failure of the affluent almost quasi quangoes to challenge and to champion the cause for wildlife conservation?  The National Trust too does not escape comment, partricularly in respect of the upland moors it owns and manages.  Peak Malpractice was an expose of raptor persecution back in 2007 but what is perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the situation has worsened, hence the Ban driven grouse shooting epetion as well as a range of other actions designed to raise the profile of illegal persecution and wildlife crime.  Readers will recall that Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) was a ‘community’ reaction to failure by various organisations who conservationists might reasonably have expected to champion such cause.

Greenblobpride

One might comment that it is hardly surprising therefore that despite austere times, new conservation charities are still being created?  Simon King, the President of the Wildlife Trusts, has set up one such venture with education at its heart, the Simon King Wildlife Project.  One might wonder why after all, with a link to a network of 47 charities across the country he has done this?  It seems reasonable to assume that the county trusts ought to be able to engage, educate, enthuse and empower local actions?  The RSPB too has local member groups but their primary purpose appears to be fund raising with ocassional coach trips, nothing wrong with such aims but where do people turn when they want to protect their local woodland or heathland from threat of development?  The march of metal monsters creating rings of steel and the recent government push for fracking are other issues which have mobilised local action.

There are perhaps good reasons for the affluent NGOs to sit on the fence, but after a while the splinters must start to sting from uncomfortable squirming?  Accountability to members or to tax payers in the case of Public Bodies appears not to be a popular element of the government promoted ‘open and transparent’ or conduct in public life agenda?

How does the community, collectively challenge actions it might perceive to be at variance with the public interest?  How many of the large membership organisations offer infrastructure support for grassroots conservation?  FOE and CPRE are a couple which spring to mind, TCV offers help for groups involved in practical conservation but there appears a gap in the market?  Voluntary Action and CVS groups can help small local groups but they are more geared up to working with health or social care groups, luncheon clubs and the likes.  If local action groups as described above were ‘fundable’ then the chances are that it would be offered, but would government want to empower local action?  Local action opposing fracking has exposed the reality of the promise of local decisions on local issues when central government has over-ruled local planning authorities to approve developments and promote fracking, how do local communities challenge multi-million corporations when they have such support?

There are tools to help, there is an amazing choice of epetition options that community campaigners can use.  The government website option petition.parliament.uk is certainly worth considering, if it achieves 10,000 signatures then the department or government agency it involves is required to provide a response.  If it reaches 100,000 signatures then the issue it raises is discussed in Parliament.  2015 saw the time that epetitions are allowed to run on the site reduced from 12 to six months.  Mark Avery elected to use this option to Ban driven grouse shooting.  There are 38 degrees, Avaaz , SumofUs , Change.org and many other web options available.  They are easy to use, the effectiveness in combination with social media has been demonstrably efficient and such examples would be the government u-turn when the ConDems tried to sell off the public forest estate.  Elsewhere on this blog and on others there has been examples offered where the disposal of public forest has been achieved through other options, but that is another issue and should not distract from the value of collective and collaborative critical mass challenging for the public interest?

GOV.UK also provides information on how to make a Freedom of Information request, but another excellent tool available is the Freedom of Information website “whatdotheyknow“.  Public Bodies are required to provide responses to requests as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.  The Information Commissioners Office is also an option where requests have been declined for what might be perceived as no valid or justified reason.  FoI or EIR requests can be addressed directly to the Public Body, agency or authority through a dedicated office(r) or via “whatdotheyknow“.  This option is one by which other campaigners can benefit through open access.  It is a useful resource as researchers can gain connsiderable intelligence on topics or on particular organisations in receipt of public funds.

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Defra & badgers …. can costs like these be justified?

September 2, 2015

FOI REQUEST REVEALS TRUE COST OF BADGER CULLS IS EVEN HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT AT £6,775 PER BADGER

DEFRA has finally been forced to reveal the true cost of their disastrous badger cull policy in a Freedom of Information request brought by the Badger Trust. The final bill for the taxpayer (including policing costs) is just under £16.8 million, which works out at £6,775 per badger killed.

The DEFRA figures show:

2012 badger cull postponement costs – £2,500,000

2013 badger cull cost – £9,818,000

2014 badger cull cost – £4,459,000

Total costs – £16,777,000

The Badger Trust has pursued the government relentlessly over the actual costs of the badger cull policy but DEFRA fought hard not to reveal them. So in November 2014, the Trust went public with its own estimate of £6,100 per badger for the first two years of the culls, a figure derided as ‘inaccurate and alarmist’ by pro-cull politicians and the farming lobby, who also accused the Trust of inflating the costs to ‘fuel public opposition’ to the policy.

Reacting to the latest figures released by DEFRA, Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust said, “Despite the best efforts of the government and the farming lobby to discredit us, our cost estimates were, if anything, too low.

“Not only is the badger cull a disastrous failure on scientific and animal welfare grounds, it is also becoming an unacceptable burden on the taxpayer. When the policy was developed in 2011 the government claimed it would be a farmer led initiative, paid for by farmers. In reality it’s the taxpayer who is footing the bill and these costs will continue to rise rapidly as the policy is extended into Dorset, and possibly other counties in the future.

“If, as the former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson stated in 2013, the badger cull is rolled out to over 40 areas of England the costs to the tax payer could easily exceed half a billion pounds.”

Badger Trust Chairman Peter Martin added, “It’s time the government stopped pandering to the irrational sentiments of the farming lobby by playing the badger blame game. We live in a world of science and facts, and DEFRA’s own data show that even in TB hotspot areas 85% of badgers will not even have the disease and 98% are no risk whatsoever to cattle. Killing badgers that don’t have TB cannot possibly help the situation for farmers or for cows. This indiscriminate slaughter is not only irrational but hugely wasteful of public money at a time when key services are being axed, including 40% cuts at DEFRA.

“The Welsh Government’s approach has been far more successful by focusing on improved testing and movement controls in cattle. New incidents of bTB in Wales are down 28% with a 45% cut in the number of cattle being slaughtered. This leaves 94% of the Welsh herd now free of bTB, without culling any badgers.

“The public has a right to be outraged not only by the appalling waste of badgers’ lives but also the disgraceful squandering of tens of millions of pounds on a policy that will have no measureable impact on reducing bovine TB. If famers are worried about badgers then vaccinating them is not just more effective and humane, it’s also ten times cheaper than culling.”

Thanks to the Badger Trust for sharing these eye watering figures with us.

See also a new nature blog

Miles King has also written an excellent post “Badger Cull Circus comes to Dorset”.

Given the above astonishing figures, then perhaps some more questions need to be asked about the funding for this continuum?  The agri-industry receives substantive ‘welfare’ payments simply for land ownership, these CAP payments are we understood supposed to support wildlife friendly management …. continuation of an unscientifc practice is hardly likely to gain public support for British farmers?  The approach adopted by Defra and or government Ministers appears akin to that for Hen Harriers?

DEFRA

…. seem to be taking quite a bit of criticism lately, Mark Avery has contacted them again to complain about the way in which a FoI was handled.  He has also sought an update on the Walshaw complaint to Europe after the RSPB had to take up the case after Natural England dropped it., see Wuthering Moors 49 & 51.

Perhaps we should revisit an issue we had with two Defra agencies, then again maybe they have enough on their plate already?

‘Moor’ Inglorious & RBA poll on ‘brood management’.

August 27, 2015

Never mind ‘gripping yarns’, Inglorious is compelling reading and whilst I am not able to read it as quickly as some seem to have done according to Avery’s recent blog post it is perhaps because it is also motivational and prompts action as one reads the various chapters.

This is the kind of volume that is helpful to people who want to help but need encouragement and probably more importantly direction as well as a ready reference of easily digested facts and figures.  In combination with a talk by, or a discussion with the author then you have not only the inspiration, but motivation and a significant resource at your finger tips to be part of a collaborative ‘community’ campaign.

Inglorious front cover

This kind of community action is interesting because to a large extent it might be said to have arisen from inactivity or rather a robust challenge by the ‘conventional suspects’ to achieve or deliver a positive conservation success story?  Quick wins seem the preference these days and challenges are not for the faint hearted as they require dedication, tenacity, an effective and committed network as well as funding to fight the deep pockets of self interest?  It seems that those self proclaimed champions of conservation are constrained through funding related relationships, so should they act as a catalyst and or support infrastructure for this kind of community campaign?

It is against a similar kind of background that the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum was created.  In our case it was through the peat issue, or rather the destruction of peatlands particularly those here at Thorne & Hatfield Moors.  The founding membership saw benefit in collaborative endeavours through an independent organisation able to act in a timely manner and with principle without recourse to copious committees and tedious policies and protocols.  The ability to think and act through an extensive and experienced network  as well as commissioning and publishing robust science brought credibility and a catalogue of campaign involvements and successes.

So back to the current conservation campaign, or at least one very high profile one which is the plight of the Hen Harrier and other persecuted raptors which appear to interfere with the ‘sporting interests’ of a relatively small number of people.  Avery offers an estimate in the region of around 15,000.

At the moment it seems that the Hawk & Owl Trust are promoting ‘brood management’ as a mechanism to try to find compromise and a way forward for Hen Harrier conservation in the uplands particularly.  Rare Bird Alert are running a poll which is seeking peoples views on the option, there is also the opportunity to add comments on the proposal.

HOT founded in 1969, markets itself as being dedicated to conserrving owls and birds of prey in the wild.  Interestingly their website also explains that they ‘create and manage nesting’ …. they appear to manage just three reserves in Norfolk, North York Moors and Somerset.  ‘The HOT say stop this illegal killing’.  It all seemed laudable but then their high profile President resigned ….

The epetition Ban driven grouse shooting is steadily but surely increasing numbers daily, potential signatories are informed that “Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers”.   Can we help get it to the 100k by the end of the year, therein ensuring a discussion in Westminster about the issue?  It’s well past the first milestone of 10k and the reply from Defra is well overdue ….

A more in depth analysis, forensically researched and referenced with robust science is available …. in the form of ‘Inglorious’. Avery’s uncompromising style pulls no punches which is precisely what is needed as the patient endeavour to achieve compromise has, it must be said, failed miserably?   

 

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Inglorious & keep on the campaigning ….

August 25, 2015

Fresh from the Birdfair I’ve been wading (no pun intended) through “Inglorious” and whilst previously considerably annoyed from the accounts and information provided via such sites as Standing up for nature that has now morphed into ‘considered’ anger.

It was cheating I suppose, but curiosity as to what Avery would advocate we all do is summed up in eight short paragraphs in the book and a resume here (for those of you yet to read Inglorious):

  • Attend a Hen Harrier Day event
  • Write to your MP
  • Write to supermarkets and restuarants
  • Write to your water company
  • Write to newspapers
  • Use social media
  • Support BAWC, the RSPB and other wildlife NGOs
  • Finally he encourages readers to keep an eye on his blog and Twitter account @markavery  He also recommends people read his book.

We’d certainly encourage readers to do all the above and another easy one to consider would be writing to Ministers as well as MPs, if there is a critical mass of community campaigning then Westminster is more likely to take note and listen?

Another …. if readers have not already done so is to sign Avery’s epetition Ban driven grouse shooting.

It’s no longer simply an issue of challenging a minority sport, but the impact that that sport has on many other things including the quality and cost of our drinking water.  See post of 1 July 2015 in which a number of reports are referenced, including that of Leeds University’s EMBER findings.

Ban driven grouse shooting

Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious – conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

Of the epetition, which now stands at over 14,000 signatures, is that whilst it is increasing at a reasonable rate that it is not to the magic 100,000 (the number needed to ensure a ‘discussion’ is held in Parliament) and government in their wisdom have reduced the time permitted to secure the number of ‘required’ signatories to six months (previously 12 months).  So please, working on the assumption that many of you have already signed it, please promote it ‘moor’ so that we might all write to Defra and their Ministers welcoming the forthcoming debate ….

Avery very generously suggests support of the larger NGOs such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, but where are the 1 million members?  Just 10% of the RSPB membership would be enough, the WTs claim a combined membership of around 800,000 and ok there will be overlap but come on NGO hierarchy never mind the whispered personal views get the corporate message behind conservation of the uplands, please?

 

BAWC_Slider_Wildlife_Crime_Henry_v3

See more images of Henry as he searches for a ‘mate’.

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. 

150821 BF Mark Avery 2 hrk 662

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.

150821 BW items hrk 692

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.

150821 BF BAWC hrk 2 660

 

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’.

 

Campaign updates ….

August 14, 2015

 

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Un bee-lievable?

Damian Carrington of the Guardian recently reported that pesticide companies took part in a key meeting about the banning of chemicals which have been linked to bee deaths.  Documents previously suppressed have shown that the chemical companies and the NFU have sought to have the EU ban on the use of Neonics in the UK lifted.  FOE have written a judicial review pre-action letter to the environment secretary Liz Truss who is the prospective defendant.  What is even more astonishing, or maybe not is the fact that these companies Bayer, BASF and Syngenta are suing the European Commission to overturn a ban on the pesticides that are killing millions of bees around the world.

If readers have concerned about bees and other pollinators being harmed and the actions of the big pesticide companies then they might consider the epetition calling upon the industry giants to drop their lawsuit?

When the UK government suppress documents then is there any wonder people ask the question “is this an example of open and transparent government that we were promised”?  Is this cause to trust government when multi-national companies are deemed to have a right at the table?

Fracking update

Another worrying example of reneged promises is that of allowing local councils to make local decisions, Lancashire Council who rejected a fracking application appears to have been overuled by government, is that another example of the local democracy we were promised?  Fracking continues to remain a contentious issue, readers may recall the chart we used to show corporate and government links to the industry?  If any reader can provide any updates to these details from November 2014 then please contact execsec@thmcf.org

Forthcoming events

Treat yourself to a day out at a fantastic open air venue and hear some inspirational speakers guaranteed to motivate and inspire.  Mixing with like minded is a good antedote for momentary lapse in focus or determination to champion the case for environmental conservation and protection for the species and habitats we share the planet with.  A week today the 27th Birdfair at Rutland Water opens.  It runs from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 August and the programme is to say the least pretty impressive.   Mark Avery, Nick Baker, Simon King, Bill Oddie, Chris Packham, Iolo Williams are just a few of the ‘names’ attending.  For more details visit the Birdfair website.

and finally for now …. help Henry and his kind and promote the signing of the epetition

Ban driven grouse shooting

Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious – conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

 

Today it stands @ 13,404 and gaining momentum by the day

2015 HH Day logo

 

 

 

 

Inglorious 12th

August 12, 2015

Hen Harrier Day in the Goyt Valley, the Buxton weekend as well as the series of HHD gatherings are best read via Mark Avery’s Standing up for nature blog.

2015 HH Day logo

Today marks the beginning of the grouse season, once upon a time billed as the ‘glorious 12th’ but the ‘moor’ one delves into the practices associated with the ‘sport’ the ‘moor’ one sees it as a historical land use and no longer fit for public purpose.  Today also sees Avery’s epetition racing towards 13,000 signatures and in all likelihood passing the milestone by midnight.  If you’ve not already signed it, then read his book Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands to see a reasoned case for banning driven grouse shooting, and in so doing better protecting the peat to act as a carbon sink, water purification service amongst a whole series of extremely important ecosystem services.  Even the Independent appear to question the economic argument to provide sport for around two thirds of an ‘Old Trafford crowd’.  If you’ve already signed it then present the case to your friends, family and network?

Chris Packham in the latest edition of BBC Wildlife, rightly offers comment on the poor performance of politicians in terms of the environment and conservation.  Since 1970 he reports the loss of some 44 million birds from our countryside (The State of the UK’s Birds 2012), then he reflects on the ‘mysterious disappearance’ this spring of five of the last breeding hen harriers in England. The piece is Packham at his best, passionate and erudite and he asks “What tragedy will wake us all from lethargy and shake us into action?” 

Over the next few years we may well see the continued ‘disposal’ of public assets to private profiteers, it wasn’t that long ago that the sell off of the forest estate was abandoned but if you follow that topic then one might be forgiven for wondering if it were not being undertaken via other avenues?  Natural England were looking at disposal of the series of National Nature Reserves (NNRs).  Will we see continued erosion of protection as planning becomes less regulated?  Building in floodplains?  With the abandoning of the requirement to register contaminated land might there be an increase in building on post industrial brownfield sites?

We were reminded recently, of our failure to take better account of the sheer power of nature in the form of increased flood events when Jeremy Purseglove, Dr Paul Buckland and Prof. Ian Rotherham graphically illustrated catastrophic failure to heed history and prepare for increased incidences consequential of changes in land management and other practices.

Published in 2008 & since when increased incidences have occured, some in our region catastrophic.

Published in 2008 & since when increased incidences have occured, some in our region catastrophic.

Perhaps when the misery is wrought people will realise the politicians, civil servants and Public Bodies have agendas other than the public benefit?

What can be done about the disregard of the natural environment, fundamental to all life?  What are the statutory agencies and authorities doing to ensure that the law is adhered to?  What are the large membership organisations doing?  What can we do as individuals do?

With champions leading the way then the critical mass of collaborative endeavour can effect change, if we can continue to build a momentum because tomorrow is too late to hope that we can catch a shuttle to another habitable planet ….

Hen Harrier Day 2015

August 7, 2015

Tomorrow evening there is an event in Buxton ahead of the second annual Hen Harrier Day.  Some 275 people will gather at the Palace Hotel in Buxton to hear a series of talks, and to meet Henry …. for more details see here.

2015 HH Day logo

Then on Sunday, when the weather threatens a repeat of the previous year, masses will gather in the Goyt Valley at Goytsclough Quarry in Derbyshire as well as other sites across the UK to show solidarity against the ongoing illegal persecution of one of the UKs favourite birds, the magnificent Hen Harrier.  Remember it came 9th in Britain’s National Bird poll organised by David Lindo the Urban Birder.  Ahead of the Puffin!

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Mark Avery’s epetition on the GOV.UK website has already passed the required 10,000 signatures to make it eligible to receive a response from Defra!  In fact it’s heading rapidly to the next 1000, the question is can we get it to the magic 100,000 level to secure a discussion in Parliament?  Interestingly the Government have reduced the time period they allow epetitions to run for, six months instead of twelve – wonder why that is?  Come on, can the critical mass of collaborative conservation get the Westminster village to discuss illegal persecution of one of the nation’s favourite birds?  If you’re not already one of the first 10k, then please think about signing the epetition.

If you need to understand the issues and have a case laid out then read “Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands”.  

Alternative opinions are available, for example that expressed by a writer in the Daily Telegraph.   It is interesting to note that many conservationists have now submitted complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).  Freedom of the press ought to be something we are keen to support, but what when they fail to establish facts instead preferring to repeat unsubstantaited PR and spin?

Congratulations to all who have worked so hard to deliver HHD 2015, here’s to continued momentum ….

Have you seen Henry?

 

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter? Image: Tim Melling

How many will we see in the Humberhead Levels this winter?
Image: Tim Melling

‘Moor’ meetings & other conservation campaign updates

July 22, 2015

A reminder that the Hen Harrier Day 2015 is Sunday 9 August

2015 HH Day logo

the various venues are detailed here but the ‘local’ event is to be held in the PEAK DISTRICT with the location confirmed as Goytsclough Quarry

The Goyt Valley, Derbyshire OS Grid Reference SK 011 733

There’s also an event the evening before HHD in Buxton at the Palace Hotel, more information and how to book can be found via Standing up for nature website.

 IT’S BACK …. the long awaited return of the Government epetition website, so those readers who are supportive of the stance taken by proactive conservation campaigners in ‘challenging’ the established incalcitrant stance exhibited by Government are invited to consider adding their names to it again. 3,272 already, read some of the history behind ‘Ban driven grouse shooting’ creation and the renewed epetition campaign progress here.

[Ban Driven] Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.

RSPB , 7 March 2014 ‘…burning drainage and other forms of intensive land management in England’s iconic peat-covered hills are threatening to create a series of environmental catastrophes’

Inglorious conflict in the uplands (a book on why we should ban driven grouse shooting)  See also Standing up for nature where the reasoned rationale is presented.

Dr Dick Potts, scientist, 1998 ‘…a full recovery of Hen Harrier breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers’

Chris Packham addressing Hen Harrier Day rally, August 2014 ‘We will win!’

It has a deadline of 21 January 2016, so clearly the new offer is a reduced one in line with the proposed 40% cuts across Government Departments.

It’s already raced to the first 1000, can collective connservationists and campaigners get it to that ‘target’ 100k by the reduced deadline?

At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition (what are the odds on a recycle of their previous reply)

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in ParliamentThe Government website ‘boasts’ …. Parliament hasn’t debated any petitions yet but we note that another epetion has been started which calls for a Parliamentary recall if 100k signatures are reached it’s what we pay for …. now there’s a challenge?  Which other sector gets a 10% payrise and an immediate recess?
It’s interesting that the Government still use the same old software which fails to identify accurately people’s MPs. But hey, do Government or civil servants do accuracy?  Perhaps I should start writing to their offering maybe then the error will be addressed, then again …. there’s bigger fish to fry or harrier haters to harry?

Remember also that we have “The Flood Untamed” with Jeremy Purseglove, Dr Paul Buckland and Prof. Ian D Rotherham at Crowle Community Hall (DN17 4LL) on Friday 31 July. 

2015 TtF front cover

To book a place please contact execsec@thmcf.org

‘Moor’ lepidoptera skipping about.

June 22, 2015

Despite the changeable weather over the last week or so, good numbers of the iconic Large Heath continue to be seen on Thorne Moors and a few have also been seen on Hatfield Moors by Robbie Millar a student from Plymouth University who is undertaking a study of the species after the re-introduction onto Hatfield Moors around 2005.  More on that in a future post.

Other species skipping about include

Ochlodes sylvanus: Large Skipper. Image: Martin Warne.

Ochlodes sylvanus: Large Skipper.
Image: Martin Warne.

Both species are perhaps best described as ‘restless’ and both adopt a similar posture when basking in the sun.  The Large Skipper (above) is easily identified as it is the only species which has mottled rather than clear golden wings.  The first males emerge mid May and the butterfly can still be around in August and occasionally lingering till September.  Cock’s-foot is its favoured food plant whilst on wet acid soil it will use Purple Moor-grass.

The mis-named ‘Small’ Skipper because four other species of British Skippers are smaller than this species are considered more secretive than the Large Skipper.  Their preferred food plant being Yorkshire-fog where they lay their eggs in a grass sheath.  Generally Small Skipper is found in taller lusher grassland than Essex Skipper and more open places than Large Skipper.  A flight period extending from June until the end of August.  Frowhawk suggests that the life expectancy of the imago is around twenty days for both species.

Thymelicus sylvestris: Small Skipper. Image: Martin Warne.

Thymelicus sylvestris: Small Skipper.
Image: Martin Warne.

Readers visiting Thorne or Hatfield Moors are asked to keep an eye on the ‘Small Skippers’ and look out for the Essex Skipper, which is very similar but check out the tips of the antennae: are they black or brown?  Black and a short sex brand running parallel with the forewing edge as opposed to being at an angle then you have the Essex, drop us a note or better still send an image to execsec@thmcf.org   

The Brimstone larva hang on well to the Alder Buckthorn leaves that they are busily munching their way through.  The small population subject of the ongoing study are observed at various times of the day, predominantly feeding from the upper surface of the leaf but can occasionally be located on the under surfaces.  Some are still quite small, around 7mm or so whilst others approaching twice that length.

Gonepteryx rhamni: Brimstone. Image: Helen Kirk

Gonepteryx rhamni: Brimstone.
Image: Helen Kirk

Other snippets

Natural England seem to be attracting the attention of a well known conservation campaigner lately.  It seems that nature’s erstwhile guardians are dithering over designations (again) …. this time the West Pennine Moors.  OK Avery is focused on addressing the ‘Hen Harrier’ issue and his ability to retain the plight on the public horizon is to be applauded, but there are wider ramifications for this ‘neglect’.  We sense the saga has a way to run yet and will watch with interest.

Of Hen Harriers, have you logged Sunday 9 August in your diaries?  See Hen Harrier Day for more details.

Hen Harrier Day 2015

June 7, 2015

CONFIRMATION THAT A HEN HARRIER DAY EVENT

WILL BE HELD

ON SUNDAY 9TH AUGUST 2015

IN THE PEAK DISTRICT

2015 HH Day logo

Negotiations are ongoing for the venue, but it will be within easy travelling distance of Buxton, Derbyshire.

Also, there will be an evening event to celebrate the Hen Harrier on Saturday 8th August 2015 in Buxton. A host of celebrities will be involved including, we hope, Chris Packham, Jeremy Deller (Turner Prize winner), Mark Cocker (author), and Mark Avery. Last but by no means least, Henry the Hen Harrier will appear live (unlike many others) on stage. Details to follow, watch this space and save the date. Tickets to go on sale soon.

Other events on Hen Harrier Day will be held across the country. If blog readers are organising one and would like details to appear here, please e-mail us at info@henharrierday.org

Make sure you bookmark this site and return to it regularly, as we will shortly be posting full details of the Peak District Event, Saturday Evening Celebration and the other Hen Harrier Day related activities.

Our friends will also have news and announcements. Links to their sites, blogs and Twitter streams are below.

Finally, we still need help to keep @HenryHenHarrier flying, publicise the plight of the Hen Harrier and advance BAWC’s 3Rs campaign. Please click on the “Donations” button, to see what’s on offer in exchange for your support.

2015 HH Day logo

The BAWC 2015 Conference in March was a sell out and an excellent event which saw the creation of a network which will work to address all wildlife crime including the illegal persecution of raptors, especially the Hen Harrier.  For a more detailed analysis of losses to this magnificent icon see Standing up for Nature.  Raptors Alive, Raptor Persecution Scotland and Raptor Politics websites all provide lurid detail of the persecution suffered by these fabulous birds.  Even BBC Springwatch reported on the illegal persecution, much discussion was had following this recent episode and even if it was not as strong as many would like it did raise the issue to viewers who may not have been aware of the issue and that can only be good.  Investigative journalism was suggested, Panorama was mentioned so perhaps readers might consider writing to the BBC promoting such an investigation?  One of the key messages coming from the recent BAWC Eyes in the Field Conference 2015 was the need to have wildlife crime as a reportable and recorded crime.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit struggles to address the increase in case work. Wildlife crime is a relatively low priority for most police forces, this may well be be because wildlife crime is not a reportable crime and so resources are focused elsewhere.  Killing of protected species is illegal and should be reported and recorded.  Perhaps that is something readers might like to consider encouraging their MPs to look into?  Perhaps a letter to Defra Ministers?

Don’t forget that this coming week, Wednesday we learn the result of the Vote for the National Bird, David Lindo aka ‘The Urban Birder’ will appear on Wednesday’s Springwatch to reveal the winner.

Will it be the Hen Harrier?  Expert commentators on these matters suggest that the general public will choose a well known, popular easily recognised species like the Robin or Blue Tit.  Ok, nothing wrong with the species but the ambition behind the drive to get the HH into the ‘top ten’ and higher was that by raising its profile and its fate that it would benefit from the media coverage.  Makes sense?  All will be revealed on Wednesday ….

 

Conservation campaigning: epetitions to consider?

June 3, 2015

In the aftermath of the recent General Election there appears to be a number of epetitions doing the rounds.   The promised free vote to repeal the ban on hunting with hounds galloped to the fore.  Interestingly Lord Gardiner, formerly of the Countryside Alliance, will represent Defra in the House of Lords.  As a former chair of a fox hunt Lord Gardiner might perhaps be keen to promote the repeal?  Mark Avery seems to think so as does Miles King .  The Prime Minister who has ridden to hounds in Oxfordshire and believes in the freedom to hunt has ensured that he has like minded in the Lords?  Interestingly the link to the article written for the Countryside Alliance magazine reports “page not found”.  We note that the CA consider that they are the “voice of the countryside”, is that the people, the wildlife or the entity?  We would be interested to understand how they validate such a claim, something akin perhaps to suggesting that a government represents a nation when in reality most (UK) parties manage to secure power on around 25% to perhaps 30% of votes?

There are two set up, one through 38 degrees the other through change.org either or both …. the message is the same and already the Change.org is already past 350,000, 38 degrees in excess of 100,000.  One might beforgiven for wondering why the Government have not yet re-instated the GOV.UK epetition option?  Avery has pledged to launch a second ‘Ban grouse driven shooting’ epetition because of the continuing persecution of birds of prey most notably Hen Harriers.  The Change.org epeitions mentioned, had it been on the GOV.UK epetition website option would have already passed the ‘magic figure’ which would require a response from Defra and a discussion in Parliament.  How would HM Government define ‘soon’?  It will soon be a month since the General Election, maybe they are anticipating a few environmentally orientated epetitions being set up, perhaps a few relating to the NHS as well?  It might be that electoral reform could feature?  ‘Soon’ could be construed as subjective and when applied to politics then even indeterminate?  Not exactly known, established or defined perhaps?

beeguy_m

Neonictonids are back on the agenda again with the agri-industry seeking to have the moretorium lifted.  38 degrees report that Our bees are in danger again. Toxic chemical companies are trying to get their banned pesticides back on UK fields. On the 20 May an application was submitted to the government asking them to lift the ban on bee-killing chemicals for some crops planted this autumn.  If you are still concerned about the threat to bees and then you might like to consider signing the epetition here?  Already 231,960 people have contacted Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs through this option in the hope that the government will listen.

Keep the ban on bee-killing pesticides is the most recent 38 degree campaign and it allows you to write to all three Defra Ministers:

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rory Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs MP George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment MP Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The campaign offers a form of words you can submit, but it also allows free text to be entered thereby making the message more personal. Imagine the impact on their inboxes …. ?

Greenblobpride

Natural England & the future of SSSIs?

April 3, 2015

Mark Avery recently raised the issue of Natural England’s performance on SSSI notifications, and quite rightly so in our opinion.  Avery cites the West Pennines  as a case study: the site was surveyed by the Nature Conservancy Council back in 1991 but its successor body, English Nature, passed on the file to Natural England in 2007 and more surveys have been completed since 2012.  Local naturalists, many of whom helped collect the data, were hopeful that the site would be notified by December last year, but it wasn’t. It’s so easy to forget things at the tops of hills in the north of England.

Sadly a familiar scenario, locally we have Thorne and Hatfield MoorsThorne was first notified in 1970 under the 1949 Act and in 1986 under the 1981 Act.  Hatfield was first notified in 1954 under the 1949 Act and in 1982 under the 1981 Act.  The last revisions for the two sites was 1986 and 1988 respectively.  At each twist and turn it has been input from local naturalists and campaigners which has delivered statutory ‘protection’.  Throughout the whole of the periods detailed above the sites were subject of planning consents and were mined mercilessly for their peat.  Even when the planning consents were bought out in 2002 for some £17.3m + £1.32m and extraction on the majority of the Scotts (UK) Ltd holdings (gifted to the public in 1992, lease back agreement from English Nature in 1994) ceased around 2004 there has been no review resulting in any revision.

Avery’s example covers statutory inertia of around 24 years, here at Thorne and Hatfield ours can be traced back to 1989 so the lethargy here in South Yorkshire / East Riding / North Lincolnshire is some 26 years!  The Executive have written to Senior Managers in Natural England, the reply sadly fails to answer the questions asked.  One might be forgiven for wondering if the civil servants have been on the same training courses as politicians, that is to say how to avoid answering a question or how to use selective diversionary phrases?  The support staff are certainly familiar with the cut and paste technique and then incorporating with the ‘local NE staff contribution’ to give the appearance of a bespoke reply.

With far more eloquence Avery ‘challenges’ both the Executive Board (senior staff) and the ‘real’ (appointed through civil service appointment system) Board of Natural England to explain what they are about.  The Executive Board are using a bunch of unknown criteria in secret discussions in order to choose which qualifying sites should be allowed to progress to their deserved protection whilst the Board it might appear do not realise that SSSI notification is being ‘filtered’ and notification is being delayed and ‘prioritised’?

It would be interesting to consider why there appears to be a ‘DNR’ (do not resuscitate) instruction on the SSSI file?  Is it because the risk assessment lists too many issues that the lawyers / legal advice to the Executive have recommended the ‘procrastination’ tactics rehearsed in the letter Avery quotes?  Incidentally the same paragraphs are contained in the Forum’s response.  Is the issue one of the expense in consultations with landowners, is there fear of protracted legal wrangling (as happened here when European designations were being progressed), is it that NE no longer have the staff competencies, perhaps they have lost the files (that was what was claimed back in 1989 here)?

In 1997 “A muzzled watchdog” appeared and painted a bleak state of affairs around the delivery of nature conservation by English Nature.  That same parliamentary session a House of Commons sub-committee looked into the workings of English Nature.   In due course, despite dissatifaction reported of English Nature’s performance the NGOs rallied and secured an additional £6m for their budget so they could deliver their core outcomes.  Here were are again, some 17 years later and how the public body has metamorphosised, the most recent re-brand being Natural England?

It is interesting to read the comments on Avery’s well read post and recent critique of Natural England.  It’s not the first but it is a quite damming one, the case study used like ours here is one of either inertia or deliberate obfuscation or perhaps even both.  Irrespective it seems that the conservation campaign, like that for ‘Henry’ is calling for change.  Well respected figures from the conservation movement are beginning to speak out and openly criticise Natural England and their concerns are shared by many grassroots activists.  They have been described as ‘not fit for purpose’ at a recent conference and blog comments posted on Standing up for nature and others illustrate further examples of the ever evolving “toothless terrier”.   Even Tim Sands in his book The Wildlife in Trust reminds us that back in 1997 WWF reported in “A muzzled watchdog” that 45% of our SSSIs were still deteriorating “behind the smooth and professional facade of the restructured English Nature” and that there were “serious questions about the willingness of the new agency to stand up for nature in difficult and controvertial cases”.  What, if anything, has changed in the intervening 18 years?  NGOs are still having to pick up where statute stepped back from, a good contender for a recent cause celebre might perhaps be Wuthering Moors?  

Miles King’s ‘a new nature blog’ likewise raises concern about the government agency.  King’s research and  comment about the new Chairman of NE is certainly worthy of a read, likewise the post which informs us of the new Chief Executive of NE.

What in an ideal world would we like to see in an organisation charged with protection of the natural environment?  How would it be structured, what would an effective proactive organisation look like?  What governance would best ensure independence?  Where would the NNRs and forests and other public land be in the mix?  All these issues should be on the political agenda, but thus far deafening silence in the main from the major parties?

150321 BAWC EitF Speakers hrk 873

If readers have similar case studies with supportive documentation then drop us a line via execsec@thmcf.org with a brief synopsis of the case.

 

Have you voted for BRITAIN’s NATIONAL BIRD yet?  Polling stops on May 6th!  Usual suspects and a few outsiders ….

With any election there is always a candidate that is billed as having an outside chance.  This beautiful raptor is a hot political potato as it is the most persecuted in the UK.  Shamefully, there is just one pair remaining in England – if Britain wants to back an underdog then the Hen Harrier is the one. 

Again, Avery explains well the logic and the benefit to nature conservation here. 

Reflections on day(s) out …. road casualties & the taxing issue of grouse?

March 23, 2015

Spring is here, certainly as far as some of the wildlife is concerned.  Primroses are in flower in sheltered riverside woodland, Wild Arum leaves are well advanced and I even managed to find Lesser Celandine in flower, but the most unexpected observation of the day was a pair of Mandarin duck.

150323 Mandarin  hrk 887

If I’d been in a local park, perhaps then not totally unexpected, but along the River Wharfe?

150323 R Wharfe B2G hrk 897

Other indicators of Spring were Grey Wagtails nest site prospecting, Dippers dashing up and down stream and Goosanders are paired.  The anticipated Kingfisher posed obligingly, albeit distantly after the usual fly past low over the water.

150323 Kingfisher hrk 889

Plenty of Oystercatchers also prospecting the rivers and a party of 16 on the banks of the Strid.  The evocative bubbling song of the Curlew is just a joy to hear and four Red Kites en route home was a wonderful sight too.  One of the birds was perched a top a large tree in someone’s roadside garden, now that some garden tick!   Sadly though the roads are littered with avian casualties …. pheasants!  That set me thinking about Saturday’s BAWC Conference again and an interesting point made by one of the speakers about Pheasants and taxation.

A bit of research and one could not help but wonder why the current state of confusion is allowed to persist. For example the definition of pheasant rearing, sounds simple enough?  Defra regard it as a ‘sporting activity’ or business. On the other hand HMRC regard it as an agricultural operation.

Customs has determined that pheasants are ‘commonly used as food for human consumption’ (VAT notice 701/37/94) and so pheasant rearing operations enjoy a zero VAT burden: they can reclaim any VAT that they pay on their outgoings and do not have to charge VAT when selling bulk consignments of their seven week old birds to shoot operators.

But while Customs & Excise considers the pheasant producers to be agricultural enterprises – thus freeing them from the standard VAT rate of 17.5% – the agriculture ministry (DEFRA) more often than not defines them as ‘primarily sporting’ businesses. This means that they are exempt from the basic welfare laws that apply to all other farmed animals. These include the 1968 Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. Nor do the relevant Welfare Codes apply.

As if that is not confusing enough the Valuation Agency Office, responsible for compiling business ratings sides with DEFRA rather than Customs & Excise in determining that pheasant producers are in the sporting rather than agricultural business.

This turns out to be bad news for the producers. For while farmers are exempt from paying business rates, virtually all other businesses – sporting included – are not.

Another important reason why pheasant producers have not been listed for business rates is that the industry has promoted the Customs & Excise line that rearing pheasants is an agricultural activity and therefore non-rateable.

DEFRA, the agriculture ministry, has contributed to the confusion over whether the pheasant industry is about food or sport. As we have seen, it exempts pheasant rearing from the farm welfare laws because such businesses are ‘primarily sporting’. Yet it recently awarded the industry a financial grant of £150,000 to help market ‘game’ on the grounds that pheasant meat is ‘a quality agricultural product’ (16 March 2002 letter from Elliot Morley to Animal Aid). It is worth noting here that neither game rearing nor shooting are included in the definition of agriculture in the Town and Country Planning Acts.

One might be forgiven for wondering if all this could be reviewed and revised that there would be clarity and potentially more revenue into Government coffers?

The ongoing persecution of raptors and notably the plight of our magnificent ‘skydancer’ is causing scrutiny of wider business interests than might otherwise have been the case had the shooting industry sorted itself out?  We accept that to gain concensus amongst any group of people can be nigh on impossible but the incalcitrance evident in some quarters can only fuel determination for accountability across the piece?

Pheasants like grouse and other game are shot, they are often marketted as healthy and organic yet they can have been fed medicated grit and shot with lead pellets. A report by the Food Standards Agency explained anyone who frequently eats game shot with lead should cut back on their consumption but pregnant women and small children are particularly vulnerable.

According to the FSA, eating lead can harm the developing brain and has been linked to lower IQ in children while adults can suffer from kidney and heart problems.

Mark Avery has recently had reason to enter into correspondence about the health benefits of game, notably and perhaps not surprisingly grouse.  It would seem that his forthcoming “Inglorious” might make interesting and maybe even uncomfortable reading in due course?

Dare we contemplate researching the financing of moorland managed for grouse …. ?

140818 Middlemoor hrk 433

 

 

 

Eyes in the field …. BAWC @ Buxton

March 21, 2015

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

150321 BAWC EitF Speakers hrk 873

Conference speakers take a break to enjoy the Derbyshire air.

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

150321 CP & Henry hrk 878

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hen-Harrier-Day-lg

Watch this space for details of 2015 Hen Harrier Day.

Recognise: Record: Report

First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win. 

(Mahatma Gandhi)

Partially eclipsed …. eyes to the sky and in the field?

March 20, 2015

A very bright morning early on but as the hour approached it became decidely dull and overcast with grey clouds.  These drifted across the sky allowing intermittent glimpses of the much heralded solar eclipse as the moon came between us and the distant sun.

150320 PEclipse Thorne hrk 865 - Copy

The image above, something akin to a black hole or tunnel just manages to capture the lead up to the eclipse and light burst.  If your imagination were to be allowed free reign, then perhaps it might resemble an eye?  It’s one of those events that perhaps reminds us of our place and insignificance in the grand scheme of things?  Of eyes ….

Tomorrow is the Eyes in the Field Wildlife Crime Conference in Buxton, speakers include Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Dominic Dyer amongst others.  Tickets sold out very quickly but that’s no surprise is it?  Birders Against Wildlife Crime are to be congratulated in organising this conference and keeping the fate of ‘skydancer’ in the public’s eye and maintaining it as a high profile campaign.

Greenblobpride

The natural environment, wildlife and nature conservation sadly appear to be very low on the political agenda at the moment.   One might suspect it will feature highly throughout tomorrows event and that is to be applauded.

Defra …. King asks 14 weeks to a cull? Hedging and lanes, do they matter?

February 16, 2015

Countryside …. natural asset for quiet enjoyment, a playground or a resource for profit?

Once upon a time, seemingly in the midst of a previous era the village of Fishlake in the Doncaster district, was a quintessential rural idyll set amidst a canvas of pastoral tranquility.   As such it was a rare haven amidst the urban and industrialised areas of the Doncaster district.  It had much in common with its smaller neighbbouring hamlets at Braithwaite and Sykehouse.  The fields around Fishlake were in the main small and enclosed by wonderful species rich hedgerows with mature trees which offered nest holes for owls and other smaller tree nesting species.   This lowland landscape, part of the River Don flood plain was part of a working wetland and the farming practice that associated with pastoral farming.  It has in one lifetime changed dramatically, albeit acknowledging that ‘dramatic’ is a subjective choice of adjective?

A desirable place to live and one becoming increasingly popular, no surprise given the ease of which commuters can access motorway networks.   But it is one which sadly appears to be suffering neglect and abuse at the same time?  Sad to relate in other recent posts that there appears to be less than good hedgerow management practiced, now we learn of local people unnable to enjoy walks along countrylanes they have used all their lives because of what appears to be a ‘change of use’ which has, as yet remained unchallenged despite the fact that the lane is in fact designated as a “Restricted byway”.  Rural residents have little by way of services provided or leisure opportunities so it would seem only reasonable that they be allowed to continue to enjoy healthy and safe walks?  That wildlife have sanctuary or havens, what use of that?

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In this particular case part of the issue appears to be the access points.  As with many of these delighful lanes they can all join up via a number of routes and these access options do not all have signs or notices posted to provide visitors with their status so perhaps by virtue there is an assumption of vehicular access rights?

This issue has been raised with the local authority at the beginning of February, a response is awaited.

Campaign corner & updates ….

Of public assets, can readers remember the furore over the proposed sale of the forestry estate?  It would seem that there is a view emerging that there is renewed activity around that ambition ….

An epetition has been launched which is calling for the end of Forest Privatisation by the back door.  The case is not local but it is another such example of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that our natural environment is being inflicted with?  There was a great fanfare in 2010 with the publication of the ‘Lawton Report’ or to give it its full title Making Space for Nature …. the subsequent silence is almost deafening?  Then we had the State of Nature Report and that appeared to be a rallying cry to arms, but …. where is the ‘conservation’ party now when we need an alternative to the meagre if any offerings of the ‘mainstream’ political parties?  Master blogger Mark Avery offers an interesting series of posts which offer readers insight into the Fineshade case.  One might wonder if the series will become as long running as that of the ‘Wuthering Moors’ case?

Of other campaigning blog posts, Miles King asks of us ‘We need to talk about Defra’   His insightful analysis offers good background to the complexities of the current predicament the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.  It is interesting to read also the amount of cuts that are scheduled for Defra, so why do their agencies not secure the support of campaigning conservationists, of naturalists and grassroots communities?  Why do they not work with grassroots activists to secure local support?  The mainstream NGOs who have been the recipients of their table crumbs (project funding) may well see more commercial opportunities should they be culled in 14 weeks?

King concludes that …. none of these things will happen while politicians continue to see nature as a side-issue. Only a change in the way society views nature will lead to a shift in the position of politicians and how they view nature. This is what we all need to work on.  Read the full text of his post We need to talk about Defra.

Greenblobpride

So, we all need to play a part and not let the apathy or attrition stand in our way?  Critical mass and collective collaborative campaigning is needed …. here’s to an inspirational networking session on 21 March, a legacy event subsequent to the momentum generated from Hen Harrier Day 2014.

Hen-Harrier-Day-lg

 There are events planned for 2015 to continue to raise the profile of illegal persecution of birds of prey, notably the magnificent ‘Skydancer’.  See some after thoughts on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website posted shortly after the events.  Mark Avery too provided afterthoughts and further comments.

 

Is the planning system in a pickle?

January 31, 2015

As many readers may already be aware, a serious development threat to an SSSI has emerged in Dorset with national implications. In short, a developer has obtained planning permission for more than 100,000 solar panels on Rampisham Down near Dorchester. This is possibly the largest (76ha) remaining piece of lowland acid grassland in the country. The habitat will almost certainly be irrevocably damaged by the shading if the development goes ahead. The decision by the local council is all the more perverse because it went against the advice of their own planning officer, Natural EnglandDorset Wildlife Trust and several others. There is an alternative site across the road which we all support and hence flies in the face of the National Planning Policy Framework guidelines.  For more details on the actual planning application view documents through the Dorset Planning Portal.  

As with Lodge Hill in Kent, we (conservation campaigners & supporters) cannot allow nationally important SSSIs to be destroyed. We recognise and acknowledge the need for and support renewables in principle, but in the right place.

For readers not familiar with the cases, excellent synopses and updates can be found on Miles King excellent blog “a new nature blog”   King provides an excellent analysis of both Rampisham Down and Lodge Hill cases.  Mark Avery too along with Mike McCarthy.

SSSIs are supposed to be the best examples of their habitat kind, so what does this say about the planning system?  Might we be forgiven for suggesting that it appears to be in something of a pickle?

Dorset Wildlife Trust are asking for your support, as soon as possible given the short stay of execution (5th February), by asking your staff and members to go to the TWT campaign web page and send Eric Pickles a strong message that he needs to call in this decision. DWT believe that it would be really powerful if we could show the strength of concern about this and the precedent it could establish.

Thus far the DWT epetition has 5,347 – add your voice to theirs here?

The link to the e-action is http://wtru.st/SaveRDown .

Better still, write to the Secretary of State or phone his office and ask him to call the decision in, likewise contact Natural England and outline why they should defend SSSIs?  Contact details as follows:

No postal address or telephone number available for Mr Pickles via his constituency website, just an email form.  His Parliamentary, including Departmental contact details are available via www.parliament.uk where interestingly, no constituency office address is detailed.  It appears he can be tweeted …. @erickpickles otherwise email picklese@parliament.uk or try contact@communities.gsi.gov.uk  Imagine if those 5,347 and a few ‘moor’ emailed both addresses?  Do let us know if you get a response.

Natural England Head Office can be contacted via the GOV.UK website here.

Natural England, Foundry House, 3 Millsands, Riverside Exchange, Sheffield, S3 8NH, Telephone 0300 060 6000

Calls to this number will be answered by an external switchboard service. They will connect callers to Natural England staff who can deal with your enquiry. Please tell them the name of the person in Head Office you wish to speak to (where known).

Again, please do let us know how you get on.

DWT and indeed others are also talking with Natural England and will be writing directly to the Secretary of State asking him to ‘call in’ the planning decision.

If you remember Eric Pickles was the Minister who was going to give local communities more say in their neighbourhoods, particularly where planning and developments were concerned.  How many decisions have been overturned because they were outwith Government Policy irrespective of community wishes?

Rampisham Down is yet another example of development precedent over SSSIs?  Conservation is often left fighting a rear guard action through a failure by the collective conservation community to advocate for better protection, for a truly independent guardian of the natural environment.  Until there is a critical mass prepared to collaborate we will see continued erosion of special places and natural landscapes?

Greenblobpride

‘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.   

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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.

Campaigning, what’s the alternative?

December 10, 2014

The Rally for Nature went to Westminster on Tuesday, at the end of the shooting season for Red Grouse, and it was by all accounts a successful event and reported by Mark Avery in his Standing up for Nature blog.

Martin Harper, Conservation Director RSPB also comments on the state of SSSIs  analysing Defra’s 72 page Biodiversity 2020: a strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services Indicators summary December 2014 which makes pretty depressing reading.  Effectively it echoes the 2013 State of Nature Report.  The Govt. answer – to cite the £7.5m worth of Nature Improvement AreasMonitoring of the outcomes are provided by Natural England, but generic rather than specific in the nature of any detail.

Avery also celebrates the creation of an infographic which challenges an earlier one by the Moorland Association and BASC which extolled the virtues of the ‘inglorious 12th’, the latter has we understand been referred to the Advertising Standards Agency.

FRACKING: For, against or still an agnostic?

Despite the chilly wind there was a reasonable turn out last night to the Haxey Memorial Hall, where the local premier showing of “The Dash for Gas” was ‘enjoyed’ by around sixty people gathered to learn about the benefits of fracking.  The film itself, in my humble opinion presented a reasonable and balanced case.  It was just a shame that previous attempts to get industry advocates to allay local fears has repeatedly failed as many there were keen to hear both sides of the scientific case that provided assurances of safety, no impact upon water supply or to human health or that of the natural environment.

The following planning applications have already been passed for exploratory drilling.  Depending upon outcomes a fracking application may follow.

Planning permissions to site a rig for an appraisal bore hole with associated works and equipment COMPOSITE ENERGY

Cottage Farm, Crowle, DN17 4BH

Land to the north of the A161, Eastoft Road, Crowle, DN17 4LR

Pasture Lane, Amcotts, DN17 4AW

Temple Gardens, Land to north of, Off King Edward Street, Belton

Haldenby Hall, Track adjacent to, access road to Haldenby Hall, Luddington, DN17 4QU

Access Road to North Moor from White House, Land to the southeast of Pilfrey Bridge, Althorpe, Keadby, DN17 4DH

Land North West of, North Street, West Butterwick

Planning permission for the construction of a temporary wellsite for drilling of an exploratory bore hole with associated structures and works EGDON RESOURCES

Lodge Farm, Clapp Gate, Broughton and Appleby, DN15 0DB

Help us keep the local community network updated:

Check out areas under investigation for exploration (or exploitation?) near you, do drop us a line with your findings and updates

Check out any Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) near you …. locate Recent Licences through a Department of Energy & Climate Change Energy Portal.

LOCAL GROUPS

Frack Free Lincs

H.E.Y. Frack Off is another local community group active in Hull & East Yorkshire

Frack Free South Yorkshire  

Frack Free Gainsborough

 

 

 

Greenblobpride

‘Moor’ politics & petty politics, so let’s keep on ‘badgering’?

October 27, 2014

It’s interesting to observe the tactics of the various ‘political parties’ ….

There appears to be a new breed of political animals assembling with agendas which seem to assist the traditional two party system masquerading as democracy?  Government are manouvering to prevent lobbying by charities.  It appears to be accepted practice that corporations can, but that charity activity in such matters should be curttailed?  There seems to be a view offered that ‘green blobs’ should stick to planting a hundred saplings in an ancient tree’s stead ….

Sadly, the majority of the population have little say in how their taxes are spent but we can, if we so wish, donate to charities or organisations who might champion or defend the countryside we love and cherish against rampant capitalism?

Martyn Howat, former Director of Natural England, said: “While parts of the RSPB do much good, overall it has become the great vampire squid of the charity world, hoovering up conservation funds on the premise that it’s going into creating homes for birds. It’s creating homes for office workers instead.”

That is an absolutely astonishing claim from a natural bureaucrat who we met but never received any useful response to our enquiries and concerns about the effectiveness of his team of staff (office workers and the majority nowhere to be found on Friday’s).  Howat visited Hatfield Moors when NE held another party to celebrate the extension of the National Nature Reserve in 2005.  Since retiring on a comfortable civil service pension it appears his true colours and sympathies are emerging?

 

Elliot Morley MP, Sir Martin Dougherty (Chair of NE) and Martyn Howat with Dr Henry Chapman at the site of the Neolithic Trackway on Hatfield Moors, October 2005.

Elliot Morley MP, Sir Martin Dougherty (Chair of NE) and Martyn Howat with Dr Henry Chapman at the site of the Neolithic Trackway on Hatfield Moors, October 2005.

 

A new website has been set up “You Forgot the Birds” which challenges the RSPBs spending priorities.  There are reports that there are groups who are turning their attention to the Wildlife Trusts too.  Whilst all charities are accountable, quite rightly for transparency in their conduct, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could also easily access Government Department spending priorities, detailed actual spend and source and governance structure of the think tanks who make claims of public benefit?

We had considered posting a link to the yftb website but for some reason the group (?) wishes to hide behind a website where the only option to contact them is via a pseudonym email address.  Vote for Bambi (the alternative vote for Bob) has thus far received a massive 41 votes, good on ‘beefy’ et.al.?  Most legitimate organisations offer various contact options, but then c’est la politics?

The Field magazine asks its readers …. If you would like to join this germinating group of conservation charity monitors then drop them (yftb) an email.  It might be that such embryonic groups are as a consequence of recent media coverage around bager culls, illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and other raptors on upland grouse moors subsidised from the public purse  through agri-welfare payments to wealthy industrialists?  To us that is a sign of  ‘green blob’ success?

To our mind’s Howat’s comments might well act as a good recruitment mechanism for the RSPB?  There are also signs of a more recent emergence and assembling of people disillusioned with mainstream capitalist politics, people want more and given they fund the extravagances of the Westminster village and invited clique then there could well be a day of reckoning ‘germinating’?

Miles King’s excellent blog on the emergence of yftb is worth a read, he illustrates the gullability (?) of Sir Ian Botham but I remember him when he presented our school colours …. Miles has done some background research on this germ(inating) group.   King may not be as well read or have as many followers as Mark Avery but in my opinion he is every bit as astute in his observations and comments.

Of Dr Avery’s popular blog, his most recent Guest blog is well worth a read and has received a record number of ‘likes’, it’s a good green read and offers food for thought and may germinate on fallow fields?  A reminder, just in case …. have readers considered signing Avery’s epetition “Ban driven grouse shooting”? 

 

Greenblobpride

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?

 

Appeal for volunteers to ‘badger’ & other campaign updates ….

September 10, 2014

The Badger Trust have circulated this appeal, whilst we recognise that we are not on their doorstep there may be those amongst you who have a wider network and are prepared to circulate this appeal.

Badger Patrollers need additional volunteers

We [the Badger Trust] are sending this message on behalf of those campaigning peacefully in the West Somerset and West Gloucestershire cull areas – now that the shooting of badgers has started for the second year, they desperately need additional volunteers to supplement their existing resources. Whatever time you can give will be appreciated and your presence may help to prevent the death of a completely healthy badger. Even one evening can make a difference so please contact them.

The key message from the Somerset and Gloucestershire Badger Patrols is:

We are a peaceful presence in the countryside. Law abiding and non-confrontational, we:

• Walk along roads and public footpaths within the cull area
• Never intimidate land owners
• Inform the police of our intentions and whereabouts
• Respect the countryside code
• Make new friends with likeminded people

Get in touch:

E: somersetbadgerpatrol@talktalk.net
M: 0789 960 4217
F: Facebook.com/Somerset-Badger-Patrol

E: info@Glosagainstbadgershooting.org
Website: http://www.glosagainstbadgershooting.org

Thank you for reading this and please help if you possibly can.

Kind regards,
Pat Hayden,Vice Chairman.

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

 

OTHER UPDATES …. You just really couldn’t make this one up?

Regular readers may also recall the Malta Massacre on Migration campaign headed by Chris Packham?  Well Mark Avery has posted an update on the situation and it is just astonishing …. the new EU Environment Commissioner is from Malta …. Karmenu Vellu.  An interesting point mentioned in his Wikipedia entry is that Between 1998 and 2000 he studied at Sheffield Hallam University where he was awarded a Master of Science degree in Tourism.

Malta

& please …. KEEP BADGERING AWAY

There is also a new epetition readers might like to consider signing on the Direct Gov. website Hold an independent enquiry into allegations of serious safety issues and illegal use of firearms in the badger cull in 2013.

“I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician, who said, ‘Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot.  And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers”.  A statement reported in the Veterinary record made by Professor John Bourne (Chairman of the Independent Scientific Group) in 2008 to the annual conference of the Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work aptly summarises the situation.   So …. “Can the Carrot”?


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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.

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