Posts Tagged ‘woodlark’

National NATURE Reserves set to become the new ‘country parks’?

November 16, 2013

Recently we have had a few more signatures on our 38 degree petition STOP & RETHINK National Nature Reserves as Open Access areas.

Why I wonder?  I’d hope that it’s consequential of common sense prevailing as well as a mixture of astonishment and disbelief or perhaps even anger and naive expectation that a Government agency would act in an open and transparent manner by demonstrating best practice as well as legislative compliance.  Sadly, neither expectation has been in evidence, in fact quite the reverse.

Have any of you out there heard about Nature Conservation Assessments?  Setting aside the lack of science or any evidence, nor involvement with a wider expertise beyond internal staff, they appear to be a new approach to assessing ‘Likely Significant Effect’ on the interest features of a Natura 2000 site.  At the risk of being accused of scepticism they seem instead to be a way to side step Habitats Directive legislative compliance (Article 6(3)).  We are told that these documents exist for all the 83 NNRs proposed for Dedication as Open Access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. 

See JNCC website on the Habitats Directive.  The guidance is extensive on plans and projects which might impact on Natura 2000 sites.  See particularly Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites.  Methodological guidance on the provisions of Article 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.  Perhaps from an NE perspective, it is easier to re-write the rules and who could blame them?

So, what might that mean for the sensitive habitats and species out there?  What might it mean for the public who visit for the quite enjoyment of the tranquil landscape or to experience the magic of wilderness and wildlife?

Car Park 115aDSC_0003

Car park requirement, litter bins (mmh, they are either full to overflowing or not used at all in my experience), lots of colourful expensive ‘interpretation’ boards (target practice for air gun or rifle enthusiasts) and not forgetting toilets ….  I do so wish they’d sort the variation for dogs as it’s been unpleasant to witness people in wheelchairs suffering the aftermath and deposits of thoughtless pets, or rather the failure of their owners to act responsibly.

The funding for all these?  We are informed that it will come from ‘core’, so despite the fact that budgets are being cut there is the ‘suggestion’ that additional expenditure can be accommodated?  Not possible, so then what is dropped or neglected?  Given that Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI for example, have yet to achieve ‘favourable condition status’ (FCS) so if funds are diverted from nature conservation management then how will that situation be addressed?  Thereafter if they fail to achieve FCS are they de-notified and disposed of?

Alarmist, not at all …. how many of you remember the 1997 endeavour by English Nature to denotify large areas of Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI when the peat extractors Fison’s funded the hydrological reports upon which the EN case was based?  Interestingly there is no corporate sponsor of the ‘science’ this time, perhaps that’s why there is none?  Perhaps the local authorities who might benefit as they impose more restrictions on dogs in public places are keen to see NNRs become ‘alternative country parks’?

There is the issue of health and safety, Thorne Moors SSSI particularly have very deep and dangerous drains and canals.  Parts of Crowle Moors SSSI too are equally as inviting but just as dangerous.  Worse though are the uncontrolled dogs.  Already there have been two attacks on Hatfield Moors and one was sufficiently serious to be reported to the police.

Dog walker

Please note that the walker and the dog pictured above, are not as far as we are aware the guilty parties of the attack mentioned above.

A Senior Director has tried to suggest that there will be little difference in reality, so why on earth spend funds on the exercise?

As the sites are rewetted through the implementation of the Water Level Management Plan required to assist achieving FSC, the Special Protection Area (SPA) interest feature the enigmatic and crepuscular nightjar will be squeezed to the drier areas.

Nightjar (PP)

What of the woodlark, a Schedule 1 breeding bird?  They too have already been disturbed and displaced by NE access projects in previous seasons.  But, as ‘judge and jury’ NE refused to ‘hear’ the complaint.  These are also the areas which are favoured for picnics and needed for car parks and cafes, toilets etc.

The Forum do not oppose open access in principle, but this plan / project promoted by Natural England has been a communication failure from start to the present time.  The Senior Director was insistent that the Forum have been consulted, rather the reality was that we had been notified and in my South Yorkshire dictionary there is a substantive difference in meaning between the two words!  There has been no ‘science’ to support the proposal this time, but if you examine the proportion of access vs science based staff in NE that is perhaps not surprising and there is negligible commissioned science by the Government agency here in the Humberhead Levels.

So, thank you to those of you who have signed the 38 degree petition, if you are new to the Forum’s blog and haven’t signed the petition then please consider doing so.  Better still, write to your MP, or the Minister (Owen Paterson) or the Chairman of the Board of NE about the issue.  If you would like to know more then please contact us via execsec@thmcf.org

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Skylarks underfoot as ‘gates are opened’?

July 12, 2013

Sky Lark 007

 

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

 

Thorne July 2013 254

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thorne July 2013 099

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

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

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


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

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

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