Posts Tagged ‘Walshaw Moor’

‘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.

P1050310

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’.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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?

The Infrastructure Bill: Public land still up for ‘sale’ to private developers?

November 9, 2014

Readers might recall a recent post about the next attempt to sell off the Public Forest Estate (PFE), fortunately some community campaigning has managed to persuade enough of the public to support a challenge to the aspects of the Infrastructure Bill speeding through the Westminster corridors at the moment.  It was the ambition of group like Hands Off Our Forests (HOOF) Save our Woods (SoW) and 38 degrees is to see the PFE  excluded from the available land resources available for mass market housing.  The amendment proposed has now been withdrawn and it seems that Lord Ahmad, DCLG, said he will “seek to bring an amendment back to the House at Third Reading that will seek to exempt the public forest estate from transfer to the Homes and Communities Agency”.  Do we trust politicians anymore to safeguard the public resources, let alone the natural environment, this is after all the second attempt that we can recall whereby this ConDem Government has sought to dispose of the PFE.

However as Miles King, in his excellent blog reveals, even if that is achieved (and it has yet to be) King rightly points out that still leaves a lot of publically owned land held ‘in trust’ by Public Bodies and Government Departments.  The Ministry of Defence is one such land portfolio which springs to mind.  Much of the Defence Estate, despite training exercises, is a haven for and a home to some of our rarest wildlife.

Likewise King reminds us that the Biodiversity Duty contained in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 has been watered down to be effectively meaningless.  How has the collective critical mass of the conservation movement allowed that to happen?  Austerity and focus on delivering mitigation projects for Defra and its business allies?  Where are the conservation cause celebres?  Walshaw was a case which was initiated by Natural England, but when they stepped back after challenge by the Walshaw Estate they subsequently negotiated a deal which saw the Estate receive eye watering amounts to effectively continue ‘management’ regardless.  The RSPB stepped up to the mark and the complaint is languishing in the European Commission files somewhere, but at least the baton was taken up.   Calling the Shots 2014 provides a useful background to the issues which are increasingly featuring in the media.

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

Ancient oaks: under threat again?

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.”
John Burroughs (1837-1921), American Naturalist

 

Hen Harriers & campaigning?

February 15, 2014

My birding year has not really had many highlights in terms of sightings of note, but today’s garden tick was a very welcome one.  A stunning male Hen Harrier was observed quartering the northern fields on the periphery of Hatfield Moors SSSI, and all easily witnessed from my garden!  What ‘moor’ could you ask on a cold February day?  There is just something magical in their flight, in the majesty of their graceful movement.  BUT …. I wondered will the superb male I was priviledged to see in winter manage to survive and sucessfully breed in the coming season?   The Hen Harrier failed to breed sucessfully in England last year.  The BBC announced that the Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction, Mark Avery’s blog frequently posts updates on the topic of Hen Harrier persecution, the most recent data available from JNCC is unfortunately out of date, but nevertheless catalogues a worrying trend.  Mark Avery’s blog is also a good source of background information about the now ‘infamous’  Walshaw Moor case which was initially taken up by Natural England.  Fast forward, it is now with the RSPB who took up the case after NE decided to drop the case.

Can I encourage readers of the blog who have not already done so to consider signing John Armitage’s epetition Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers at the time of writing it has reached 9,302 and needs to achieve 10,000 signatures for the issue to be debated in Parliament.  OK we know what happens to topics that those in power do not like, but if nothing else let’s add it to the catalogue of Government failures to protect our environment.

Of community campaigning, congratulations to the consortium of collaborators who mounted a campaign to persuade Derby Council to safeguard one of their Local Nature Reserves ‘The Sanctuary’.  Unfortunately the Councillors approved the application, however the campaigners believe that they have grounds to challenge the decision and are considering a Judicial Review.  For more background see Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s post here.  It is worth viewing the drone’s eye view of the site, I wonder what brownfield invertebrates lurk amidst the wonderfully neglected grassland and scrub?  As an LNR it even qualifies to feature on Natural England’s website, see here.  Unsurprisingly, given the dangerous precedent in terms of planning law Mark Avery has taken an interest and I suspect that in no small part that assisted in the number of objections submitted to Derby Council.  So, in addition to a potential legal challenge the consortium have also created an online petition which is aimed at the Lottery, see hereSimon Barne’s writes in today’s Times.

A plea also to anyone able to post on facebook or twitter, that the Forum’s petition about Open Access on NNRs could do with a push here.

We need to take back common ground and ensure those in power listen to the community, common sense should prevail but sadly that is swamped by developers greed and a planning system which appears no longer fit for purpose.  If you need a half reasonable justification for that accusation then look no further at a Government which encourages developers to build 20% of new houses in flood plains without ensuring that they are appropriately designed and built IF they are actually really needed in such low lying areas.

In the meanwhile I shall go and dream of another ‘skydancer’ on my horizon tomorrow …. magic moments like that remind me why we must keep on campaigning.


BIRDING SITE GUIDE - Birding Site Guide

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

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

Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

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

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?