Peaceful protest against Hen Harrier persecution

Photo: Kositoes via wikimedia commons

Photo: Kositoes via wikimedia commons

There will be a peaceful protest against Hen Harrier persecution somewhere in the north of England on or around (probably before) the ‘Glorious’ 12th August this year.

Let me know if you would be interested in taking part and wish to be kept informed by emailing

The number of people expressing an interest is now well into three figures and emails keep coming in.

It’s time for those who are disgusted by the scale of illegal persecution of this bird to raise their voices.  Remember there should be around 300 pairs of Hen Harrier in the north of England and last year there were two.  That is something to be angry about – or ashamed  – depending on who you are.

Hen Harriers are reported to be holding territory on National trust land in Derbyshire in a general area where they have attempted nesting before. We urge the National Trust to do everything it can to protect these birds from persecution.



Oscar Dewhurst – Red Fox

RMSGC 30-10-12_0005-Red-Fox

Oscar writes: This was taken one afternoon during late October 2012. I love the light on its fur, and its expression. I spent most of the winter photographing the foxes here. Oscar’s website – and follow him on Twitter @oscardewhurst.

Nikon D300s, Nikon 200-400mm f4 VR
A ‘real countryman’ writes: what a wonderful image, Oscar. I love foxes – but you just have to kill them you know.
There is no species as clever and admirable as a fox.  I never tire of seeing them – but I hope to see the cross-hairs against their heads.  Bang!
In the absence of hunting I always said that foxes would decline in numbers – and they have! Hunting killed off the old and sick – it was good for foxes.  They are now suffering immeasurably from the lack of hunting.
In the absence of hunting, I always said that foxes would increase in numbers – and they have!  Without gamekeepers and huntsmen giving up their time to kill foxes there can be no balance of nature.  Only when we get involved and manage everything can nature flourish. There are so many examples I won’t bother to mention them here.
There is no wild animal I love more than cunning old Renard – I’ve killed hundreds of them.  They are such wonderful beasts.
We are losing so many of our traditions, it’s so difficult to get any good badger-baiting these days, we need to maintain some of them and I think that fox-hunting is one.  We’ve been killing foxes for their own benefit for centuries so it can’t be wrong can it?  I live in the countryside and I understand these things.
Nice shot Oscar!




Sunday book review – Top Gun of the Sky by Martin Bradley


This is a beautifully illustrated book. It is illustrated and written by Martin Bradley who works at the Exxon Mobil Fawley Refinery in Hampshire (where Peregrines nest).

The illustrations are bold and just a little bit different – have a look and you will see what I mean (and see above).

The book is aimed at children, of, I would guess, late primary school age.  But I loved it.

It’s a lovely book with strikingly attractive drawings and an engaging story.

Some of the profits go to the Hawk Conservancy Trust.

Facebook page (click here).

Top Gun of the Sky by Martin Bradley is published by Ceratopia Books and is fantastic value at £4.99 + £1.60 P&P.  All books can be signed by the author and can be bought direct from him by contacting



The week in birding by Jonnie Fisk (@jonniefisk)





Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill (@cartoonralph)



Mark writes:  I’ve never seen a wild boar in the UK  – my sightings have all been in France and Spain.

I was once told, in France, and in French but I think i got the right end of the stick, that the modern equivalent of pig-sticking (hunting boars with lances on horseback) involved riding next to fleeing boars and shooting them in the top of the head with a pistol.  Does anyone know whether that happens? I was also told you can tell the less adept boar hunters by their limps – they have shot themselves in the foot.

Here is a source of information on UK Wild Boar.

An Observer article and a BBC article.





















Happy Easter!


I  had a look at the Pasque Flowers at Barnack last week – they were wonderful but should be much more numerous now.

Happy Easter!








Nonsense (2)

Yesterday’s blog was about the media coverage of the GWCT’s farmland bird survey.

I was struck by the quotes, in The Times, of Jim Egan saying that the survey had been set up ‘partly to counter claims by green groups that farmers were doing little to protect birds‘.

Ben Webster’s piece also said that Jim Egan ‘…added that some wildlife groups had over-emphasised the decline in farmland birds.’ and quoted him uttering these words “A lot of environmental NGOs fund-raise on bad news. They say, ‘Look what farmers have done, isn’t it bad?’ That puts people off.”

NGOs rarely criticise each other in public so I was surprised to see this.  And I was guessing that it was aimed at the RSPB – but that’s just a guess.  I thought there was just a chance that there had been some misreporting so I asked GWCT about it on Twitter.

I asked: Was Jim Egan misquoted by @ or do you stand by your remarks?

GWCT replied: Think Jim was trying to highlight benefit of being positive rather than negative when discussing issues

You’ll note that doesn’t answer the question.

So I also asked:

Which NGOs does @ think have exaggerated farmland bird declines then please?

…but that got no answer at all.


Jim Egan tweeted me as follows: How often have comments from you been misconstrued? Hear Farming Today for our view

Well, the answer to that is ‘hardly ever’ because journalists are quite careful about this type of thing.

So I asked: Was your direct quote in @ inaccurate then? Or not?

…but that got no answer either.


So GWCT, through Jim Egan, apparently feels comfortable about being quoted making derogatory remarks about unidentified green groups but doesn’t believe they have to back up these claims.   Is that acceptable behaviour?


There are three things that GWCT could do and retain, in my opinion, their dignity:

1.  Stand by the views that were quoted: If GWCT really does think that wildlife groups have over-emphasised farmland bird declines then surely they should say so. Perhaps they should name those groups? Maybe they should point us to where that over-emphasis occurred so that we can all be shocked by it (because it has passed me by).

2. Deny having said it:  GWCT could claim that they were misquoted, which appears to be what they are doing in private.  See the comment by Richard Winspear on yesterday’s blog (Richard works for the RSPB) where it seems that Jim Egan told Richard Winspear that he hadn’t said the words quoted by The Times.  Funny then that he won’t repeat that denial in public.

3. Apologise for having said it and say it was a mistake.

…but GWCT has chosen a fourth option. They haven’t said they said it, and they haven’t said they didn’t say it; they haven’t said they believe it and they haven’t said they don’t believe it; they haven’t backed it up and they haven’t repudiated it.

They probably hope that it will all just go away – it might not.

















The ‘lawn’ has been cut for the first time since the autumn.

You can see that this end of the garden is a bit rough and ready.  I think I might have preferred it uncut!

I’ve left a strip of unmown grass on one side to participate in the Plantlife ‘Say No to Mow‘ ‘campaign’.  It’ll be interesting, or depressing (we’ll see), to see what plants come up in this unmown patch between now and August.

My mower seems to be a bit of a wimp – it kept overheating and needing a rest.  Still, this meant that I could have a sit in the garden and look for wildlife.  Overhead, Red Kite, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk passed by.  Nearer to hand, Holly Blues, Brimstones and Orange Tips flew past.  Four House Martins flew past, my first of 2014, and I expected them to come back now and again during the afternoon but they didn’t.

The best thing though, was a brief sighting of a ‘Flying Nose’ a bombyliid fly, or Bee Fly.  Aren’t they amazing?

By Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons



I did, kind of, tell you so…

In The Times, once a dull but reliable newspaper, a few days ago there was a headline thus ‘Farmers praised as Skylarks soar again’ (click here but you need a subscription).

The piece by Ben Webster was a write-up of the GWCT ‘survey’ of farmland birds by farmers in February.  Some farmers (37%) saw some Skylarks apparently.

Quite how a one-off survey by a self-selecting bunch of farmers shows that Skylarks are soaring is a complete mystery to me.  But let’s not blame either the GWCT or Ben Webster for that as it is customary to blame the sub-editors for loopy and misleading headlines.

The GWCT are more measured in what they say about the survey on their own website.

However, Jim Egan is quoted by the Times as saying ‘…that some wildlife groups had over-emphasised the decline in farmland birds. “A lot of environmental NGOs fund-raise on bad news. They say, ‘Look what farmers have done, isn’t it bad?’ That puts people off.” ‘

I’d love to see the reference for that!



Striptease at Stanwick


Early mist

Early mist

I’ve never been to a striptease show (doesn’t really appeal) but there were two at Stanwick Lakes this morning.

When I got into my car at 0730 the windscreen was frozen up – an unusual experience over the last several months.  As I drove the few miles to the lakes I could see that the valley was filled with mist and, as I parked, it was clear that visibility was not clear.

The conditions weren’t ideal for birding – I could hear Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, Black-headed Gulls and Wrens but not see any of them.  I decided on a quite radical course of action – I would change my normal route.  Now I wouldn’t want you to think that I, a self-proclaimed radical, would be a bit set in my ways but I do tend to follow the same route (OK – let’s be honest – exactly the same route) on every visit to Stanwick Lakes.  This is partly because I persuade myself that it maximises the comparability of my bird sightings but is also because I am the type of person who is quite happy to keep eating the same thing off the menu once I have found my favourite.

Only a thick mist could budge me from my routine, and my thinking was that the mist would have cleared when I got to the ‘best’ part of the walk which is usually near the beginning but today would be near the end.

As I walked, I was shrouded in mist and almost all of the first 30 species I recorded were heard rather than seen, but the mist was clearing and I felt as though I had made the right decision.  I sat and waited looking over an island where gulls and terns nest and the waited for the mist to clear.  It was then that I started thinking about stripteases and the veils being lifted from Stanwick Lakes to reveal…well… Stanwick Lakes!

The slow reveal didn’t really add to the excitement of the morning but it did turn into a glorious, sunny spring day.  The Sedge Warblers are now around in some numbers to add their staccato songs to the viscous maple syrup tones of the Willow Warblers, the melodies of the Blackcaps and the once exhilarating but now, a few weeks later, a bit irritating, Chiffchaff songs.  There were the cries of Common Terns, Black-headed gulls and Oystercatchers too.

I was hoping for a Whitethroat or a House Martin or an Orange Tip butterfly to mark the onward passage of Spring, but encountered none of them.  But next time I return to Stanwick maybe she, for she is surely a ‘she’, will reveal all?

And the other striptease? The weatherman had predicted that it would be a day when one would want many layers first thing and to remove them as the day went on. He was right. I was bundled up in fleece and jacket, and didn’t feel over-warm, at the beginning of my walk but was carrying the jacket and was eager to shed the fleece by the time I returned.  I wouldn’t go any further than that though.  I am a creature of habit.

PS – my garden produced a House Martin (in fact a group of four) on my return and a male Orange Tip butterfly too.  The world keeps turning and Spring advances.

Clear and sunny

Clear and sunny