Round up

Things I’ve noticed (and thank you to those who have helped me notice some of them):

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Henry wonders which way to go…

Tuesday 28 April Copy

Henry thought that Snilesworth sounded like a nice place – ‘Very Yorkshire!’ he said – so I told him a bit about its unfortunate history back a long time ago – see hereMr Mark Osborne seems to have managed the site since 2000 and delivered a record grouse shooting day for the North York Moors in 2007.  Mr Osborne has been unluckily associated with a few places where raptors have breathed their last.  Henry was missing the open moorland; I think he just wanted to chase a few Meadow Pipits about really. And so we headed towards Snilesworth.

Vote for Hen Harrier as our national bird.

#HaveYouSeenHenry

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Songbird Survival Twitter account goes bonkers

Songbird Survival got involved in a discussion with @HenryHenHarrier and myself (@markavery) at the weekend, but their Twitter account seemed to go a bit bonkers. In response to every question about Songbird Survival’s views, they tweeted about Spoonbills at Holkham. Their top trump appeared to be a review of Holkham Hall on tripadvisor. Ooh err!

This fails to answer the perfectly reasonable question ‘Which studies of predator/prey relationships does Songbird Survival regard as having ‘serious doubts’ about their ‘quality and findings’? It’s a question that the boss of SS, Keith Cowieson, fails to answer on this blog. This may be because SS itself funded a study of the impacts of predators on songbirds which found little evidence of any impacts. An inconvenient truth, or if not a truth then certainly a substantial piece of science which had the input of the GWCT too.

It is widely thought that Spoonbills are largely immune from Sparrowhawk attacks.

The former Viscount Coke of Holkham Hall, now eighth Earl of Leicester after the death of his father last week, is a trustee of Songbird Survival.

Songbird Survival has distributed thousands of leaflets saying that previous science on predator/prey relationships of songbirds and raptors etc is a bit unreliable – but won’t say which studies they mean. SS seems amazingly eager to slag off previous science and amazingly reticent to explain what they are on about. Come on Keith Cowieson – what are you on about exactly?

 

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Henry goes to Yorkshire

Henry visits the North York Moors

Henry visits the North York Moors

A large bit of heather moorland in the north of England? Must be lots of ringtails up here thought Henry! I told him that it might be a bit of a struggle to find any girlfriends up here but he was adamant.

North Yorkshire (includes North York Moors National Park & Yorkshire Dales NP) is the worst county in England for recorded incidents of bird of prey persecution.

Between 2004-2013 there were 70 confirmed raptor persecution incidents (2014 data not yet published).

These 70 incidents included:

  • At least 26 confirmed incidents involving the illegal use of pesticides – these include the illegal poisoning of 14 Red Kites, six Buzzards, one Goshawk, one Peregrine plus the finding of a number of poisoned baits; several domestic pets were also poisoned.
  • The confirmed shooting of 25 birds of prey – consisting of 10 buzzards, three red kites, three kestrels, two goshawks, two peregrines plus singles of hen harrier, sparrowhawk, short-eared owl and eagle owl.
  • The illegal trapping of seven birds of prey plus another 11 illegally set traps for raptors.

In connection with these incidents six individuals, all gamekeepers, were prosecuted.

Hen Harrier last bred successfully in North Yorkshire in 2007, despite huge areas of suitable habitat.

A Natural England study between 2002 and 2008 showed that of 11 Hen Harrier breeding attempts recorded in North Yorkshire, only five sites reared any young and most of the sites that failed were believed to be due to human persecution.

So, I think Henry will be struggling to find a girlfriend here. But let’s see how he gets on.

Vote for Hen Harrier as our national bird.

#HaveYouSeenHenry

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Plaid Cymru manifesto

WelshDragonPlaid Cymru seems to be the party of Welsh farmers rather than the party of Wales – or Welsh taxpayers. It favours a continuation of the CAP that keeps 80% of Welsh farmers in business with direct payments. That’s pretty blatant. Plaid supports a regressive form of income support funded by the rest of Wales (and the UK and the EU) so that hill farms, from the best to the worst, are maintained. Quite why disadvantaged ex-miners should be sending their money to hill farmers sitting on capital riches (relatively speaking) is not explained here.

There are three paragraphs devoted to protecting the natural environment – keep Wales GM-free and do something about non-native species.

Plaid is against fracking – even to the extent of saying that Welsh water should not be used to frack in England.

There is support here for renewable energy with a preference for tidal (a barrage half way across the Severn?) and hydro. There is a firm nod towards tidal lagoons (which could well be a good thing).

In a separate ‘farming manifesto’ Plaid spells out its support for using RDP funding for improving skills of farmers and agricultural infrastructure, removing red tape and improving broadband but nothing on water pollution, carbon storage, flood management or wildlife, maybe because those are not things that farmers are expected to provide in return for the cheques from the ex-miners.

Well, I can’t vote for them anyway.

 

Other political party manifestos are available:

Conservatives

Lib Dems

Green

UKIP

Labour

The SNP

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SNP election manifesto

SaltireI think I understand why the SNP manifesto ignores the environment almost completely – it’s because wildlife, forestry, agriculture, planning, fisheries etc are all devolved matters.  The Scottish parliament already has a very high level of power over these things.  However, in a manifesto which says that the SNP ‘will use our influence at Westminster to help deliver positive change for the benefit of ordinary people, not just in Scotland, but across the UK‘ then this ordinary person finds the manifesto sadly empty on a subject about which I care deeply.

It also suggests very strongly that the SNP MPs who come to Westminster, as they may in large numbers, may play a part in making my life better  (by ‘locking out’ the Conservative Party and opposing exit from the EU), but their main aim seems to be to carry bags of British gold back to Scotland.

It’s a shame, because I like quite a lot of what the SNP offers – except it doesn’t offer it to me, it only offers it to Scotland.  A party with which I feel quite a lot of empathy doesn’t give a monkey’s about me even though it is turning up in the parliament that governs my life. Hmm.

The SNP will support a ban on fracking and call for carbon targets across the UK that are as ambitious as those already agreed in Scotland. But that’s it.

Well I can’t vote for the SNP anyway!

 

Other political party manifestos are available:

Conservatives

Lib Dems

Green

UKIP

Labour

Plaid Cymru

 

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UKIP election manifesto

Solid_purpleUKIP believes that our ‘history is the envy of the world’ (a rather dubious statement in itself) and maybe that’s why the election manifesto doesn’t point to a very clear future, at least as far as the environment is concerned.

The first place, that I noticed, that ‘environment’ crops up is in the section on ‘housing and the environment’ which is mostly about protecting green belt and prime agricultural land. It contains an attack on the coalition government’s National Planning Policy Framework for not delivering local decision-making and for allowing too unfettered development. There are some interesting proposals for allowing local referendums to block large-scale housing developments.

The Climate Change Act gets a drubbing in the Energy section for putting up energy costs but since there is no evidence here, and little elsewhere, that UKIP recognises that climate change is a problem then it’s easy for UKIP to pretend that costs are the only element of the game. A UKIP government will rejuvenate our coal industry and drop all subsidies for wind and solar power.

The UKIP farming policy is written by a farmer who wants subsidies shifted towards small farmers and away from the big boys. Once we have left the EU then farm subsidies will only be paid on land that meets 2013 ELS requirements – an interesting idea that would link all payments to environmental delivery which would be good. Unfortunately, not good enough as ELS was, on average, far too weak and easy to attain (and covered much of the country anyway). But it would be a good start, and a serious shift in policy in the right direction.  UKIP would not give subsidy to land that is not agriculturally productive such as golf courses, racetracks and, I guess, nature reserves, which doesn’t seem a bad idea to me, even though it would be terribly inconvenient for our land-owning NGOs. Subsidy would also not be paid on land close to wind turbines or solar panels – just in case you had any doubt on UKIP’s views on them.  This does look like living in the past.

There is nothing about wildlife here at all.

When we leave the EU, we’ll fish better. There is a chance that this could be a part of a non-EU future. However, there are two consecutive sentences in the manifesto, ‘Fishing grounds have been so over-fished that some are at the point of collapse. Our fishing fleet is half its former size.’ and UKIP plans to reverse the decline in our fishing industry. One wonders how they plan to avoid further overfishing…  But dolphin-unfriendly pair trawler fishing for bass will be banned.

An anti-climate change, anti-EU party will find it difficult to appeal to most environmentalists.  Despite there being some interesting ideas in here, and some well-aimed attacks on the record of the coalition government, this is not, deeply not, a green manifesto.

The UKIP manifesto is well worth a read. Read it and then please vote for any political party other than them.  UKIP is a head-in-the-sand party that wants to live in bucolic Britain where the great British pub has been saved and we can drink ourselves silly in splendid isolation as little Britons isolated from the rest of the world, enjoying our history whilst the planet fries.

Actually, I would like a few of you to vote UKIP please. I’d like to see Nigel Farage in parliament just for the amusement value.

 

Other political party manifestos are available:

Conservatives

Lib Dems

Green

Labour

The SNP

Plaid Cymru

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Liberal Democrat manifesto

By John_brigden_and_nick_clegg.jpg: Tyh8 uipd derivative work: Maximus0970 (John_brigden_and_nick_clegg.jpg) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: John Brigden [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, the Liberal Democrat manifesto did not have a section on the environment because these matters were scattered through the whole manifesto – very trendy and imaginative and rather hopeless! This time around it’s easier to see what they are on about, which is good, because there is much in here to like although the record of the two Lib Dem ministers in Defra (you can’t remember either of their names, can you?) was so invisible that it makes me wonder what is the point in voting for the make-weight party if they are going to be light-weight in ‘power’. On the other hand, Chris Huhne was a fine Climate Secretary and Ed Davey a good one too.

For readers of this blog looking for headline points to persuade them to give the LibDems their votes then I guess the ‘Five Green Laws’ are the most eye-catching. The Lib Dems will give us, if they are the party of government (1000/1 !):

  • A Nature Act
  • A Zero Waste Britain Act
  • A Green Transport Act
  • A Zero Carbon Act
  • A Green Buildings Act

There are some very good things in here, but we aren’t going to see Nick Clegg as Prime Minister. So the question is, if there are enough Lib Dem MPs to be a force in the next parliament, and I’m sure there will be, then what good will they do?  And the answer to that depends on which of the main parties they pal up with. And then it depends how hard and well the Lib Dems can use their influence to do good for the environment.

These Lib Dem environment policies are better than those of either Labour or the Conservatives, in my opinion, but whereas in the past there was pretty much certainty that we wouldn’t have a Lib Dem government, now, although there is pretty much certainty that we will have a Lib Dem say in how the UK is run we still have considerable uncertainty over which, if any, of these policies will get any sort of profile in the next government of Britain.

The LibDems haven’t told us what they will die in a ditch for… Maybe there isn’t anything…

 

Other political party manifestos are available:

Conservatives

Green

UKIP

Labour

The SNP

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Royal Baby name – could it be Henry?

Fri 17 April CopyAs a staunch Royalist (pictured here at the very gates of Sandringham) Henry is agog over the royal baby.

Betting suggests that we should expect a girl (must be some inside information) but if it were a boy then wouldn’t Henry be a good name? You can get 33/1 with Betfair.

And have you noticed that the Duchess is to give birth in the Lindo wing? Perhaps the Urban Birder has inside information?

Vote for Hen Harrier as our national bird.

#HaveYouSeenHenry

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Sunday book review – Few and Far Between by Charlie Elder

9781472905185This book is about the author’s travels to see 25 of Britain’s ‘rarest’ and ‘most threatened’ animals; five birds, five mammals, five ‘herptiles’, five fish and five ‘everything elses’ in one year.

It’s a good read and we readers are taken to some interesting places, some which I would definitely like to go to in person, and the descriptions of nature are personal and engaging.  It’s well written.

The author made me smile often and laugh a few times too with his humour. I wanted him to see the species for which he was searching and to enjoy his times with them. And, clearly, he did.

I am probably one of relatively few people who, when they hear ‘Widewater Lagoon’, cannot but think in response ‘Ivell’s Sea Anemone’ but I did not know who Ivell is and I was pleased to discover the link to a member of staff at the Oxford Zoology Department in its story.  There is lots of good stuff in here and it is an enjoyable read.

And yet I can’t help but feel that it isn’t quite satisfying enough. The choice of the 25 species is pretty much random – yes they are all British rarities but that’s about it. So I did ask myself ‘why these, exactly?’ and I got no particular answer from the author. Clearly the selection was slanted towards the furry and feathery end of things and invertebrates get rather low billing, but I enjoyed their appearances immensely – especially the Wartbiter Cricket and Great Raft Spider.

Although this is, in a leisurely way, a ‘road trip’ it isn’t written in chronological order and nor does it have much sense of the author gradually working through his list of species to add to the ‘tension’ of the narrative. But then the book doesn’t have tension,  it is profoundly relaxing and a very pleasant reading experience.

If the setting off point,  why the 25 species and why exactly these 25 species, is all left a bit hazy then the ending is limp; the book just ends.  There is no conclusion, no bringing together of what it all should mean to the reader nor what it meant to the author. I feel this is a shame.  I felt a little let down at the end – ‘Oh, is that it?’.

But once you get past the slightly unconvincing start and until you get to the abrupt ending, then you will be carried along on a very pleasurable journey through some of the nicest places of Britain and meeting some of the species that you almost certainly have not yourself seen.  The author, a journalist, writes well and I kept turning pages. I learned things and was reminded of others.

Few and Far Between: in search of Britain’s rarest animals by Charlie Elder is published by Bloomsbury.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery will also be published by Bloomsbury at the end of July.

 

 

 

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