Oscar Dewhurst – Squirrel Monkey


Oscar Dewhurst: One day while I was walking back to the research station in Peru I came across a troop of Squirrel Monkeys leaping through the trees above the trail. Luckily they were fairly low down and this one paused before carrying on.
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR lens

Kidderminster’s problems

IMG_4629 - CopyKidderminster Harriers’ problems, languishing in mid table obscurity in the Conference Premier League are easy to diagnose. It’s not the squad, it’s not the tactics, it’s the mascot!

Today is the Harriers’ last home game of the season, against top-of-the-table Barnet. Kidderminster will be playing for pride, and to send the home fans away with a memory of better things to come next season, but Barnet will be playing to ensure that they finish the season with automatic promotion rather than having to risk the play-offs.

Henry wishes the Harriers every success but would like to point out where they are going wrong.


<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" about="http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/02/68/15/2681534_c7f14030.jpg"><span property="dct:title">Aggborough Stadium - Harry the Harrier (official mascot), Hoo Road, Kidderminster</span> (<a rel="cc:attributionURL" property="cc:attributionName" href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/20846">P L Chadwick</a>) / <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></div>

Photo: P L Chadwick CC BY-SA 2.0

The official mascot of the Harriers is ‘Harry the Harrier’. Harry caught our Henry’s eye because Harry is a ringtail.  Yes that’s right – Kidderminster have a girl harrier as a mascot and they are calling her ‘Harry’. That’s just asking for trouble isn’t it?

Henry’s been looking for a girl for ages and his travels have taken him to Derbyshire, Norfolk, Wiltshire and beyond with no luck so far, so he was quite taken with seeing ‘Harry’ and is quite sure, with her beautiful plumage, that she must be a ‘Harriet’ really.

Harry can’t be a young male as he has been around for a number of years and hasn’t moulted into the proper grey plumage of an adult male Hen Harrier.

Henry would love to meet ‘Harry’ some time, and if ‘he’ really is a Harriet then maybe they could go skydancing together.

Henry says ‘Good luck to the Harriers today and in your last game away to Eastleigh.  Have a look at the identification guide below to realise that your ‘Harry’ is a ‘Harriet’ – but she does look kinda cute to me.  I expect you have all voted for the Hen Harrier to be our national bird, but if not, then please do. Up the Harriers!‘.


By Richard Crossley (The Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Richard Crossley (The Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill


This cartoon appeared here once before but it seems entirely topical, still.



Giving talks

woottonI give quite a few talks during the course of a year. I think I’ve given about 25 in the last year  – so that’s about one a fortnight.  I like talking to people for a variety of reasons: I like people, I get a kick out of talking to more-or-less like-minded people, I like spreading the word on issues I feel passionately about, I make a little bit of money out of it.

I put making money at the end of that list because the rate of return on giving talks is pretty low.  Let’s just take a reasonably typical event. I might charge £100 fee and calculate the mileage costs at c45p/mile (as do HMRC), so I might end up charging a group £200 for giving a talk. And I might try and flog you a few of my books too.

So a county bird club might pay me £200 for an appearance which might be a one hour talk. £200/hour would by a decent rate of pay, and sometimes I think that is what people think I am making, but let’s just work this through.

If the travel costs really are about £100 then the mileage is about 220 mile round trip. That means that it is probably 2.5 hours each way, or 5 hours on the road, to be at a village hall at around 7pm for a 730pm start and then leaving at 10pm for that 2.5hour drive home. So for me, that’s an eight-hour commitment which ends some time between midnight and 1am.  All for £100 (because the travel costs are travel costs, not profit. So, that’s £12.50/hour rather than £200/hour.

I do hope to sell a few books, but even on a good day I might sell 10 books at, depending on the book, say £13/book. So that’s another £130 – but I had to buy those books so it ends up at a profit to me of c£30.  And at some of the events where I speak, then any book sales go to a book store or the venue (and in an average of nine months time I will get my royalty percentage via my publisher) so that delays and reduces the huge profits involved!

I’m not complaining, because I love giving talks, but you might see why I put ‘making a little bit of money out of it’ at the end of the list.

In the last year I have met some lovely people because I have given lots of talks.  Some have fed me, some have taken me birdwatching, some have put me up overnight, some have laughed at my jokes, some have made me laugh, some have made me think differently, some have made me feel that we are part of a movement, some have told me things I didn’t know, some have brought me down to earth, some have just been really, really nice.

So I love giving talks, and if you’d like me to give a talk to you then do please get in touch.

But here is an entirely fictional account of the worst nightmare for an evening speaking. There are some aspects of this fictional account that the organisers of the event can’t do anything about, but there are others that they definitely could.

I set off from home at four o’clock in order to leave plenty of time to get to the venue. At this time of year it is already dark and today it is tipping down with rain.  Driving through the spray of lorries, with headlights on, on the dual carriageway and motorway is not ideal but it is unavoidable (there are no trains to the venue, and even if there are, there are none to get me home tonight). The traffic is heavy, and I’m glad that I set off quite early.

I was getting close to the venue but I didn’t have time for a proper meal, and anyway, searching a strange town or village for a quick, cheap, delicious meal isn’t that easy to do.  I’m glad I bought that packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate when I filled up with fuel.

I’d been told that I couldn’t miss the venue but in the rain, at night, I found that I could. The lack of any sign saying what it was, and the difficulty of reading road names when driving on your own in the dark didn’t help.

There were some people already at the venue and they were very friendly, although the Treasurer admitted that he had forgotten to bring his cheque book so the fee would follow later.

I was told that my talk would start at 745pm but when I arrived I was told that it would be more likely to be at 755pm because somebody needed to make an announcement. And I had to stop for a break at 830pm because we always have tea at 830pm.  I actually got to start my talk just past 8pm because the announcements and the guy introducing me went on a bit – but I still had to stop at 830pm for tea so a bit of rapid, on your feet, revising of the talk was necessary.

I was glad that I wasn’t using powerpoint or slides because they couldn’t get the equipment to work and that was part of the reason for the delay.

There were only 25 people present although I’d been promised around 50 – maybe it was me?

The guy who introduced me got several details about me wrong, seemed very unenthusiastic about the whole thing and then started telling people everything he knew about the subject on which I was speaking. He ruined the introduction to the talk by doing this.

In the break, nobody bought any of my books and nobody seemed at all interested in me.

On the drive home, that vibration in the offside front wheel started again and i think I might have got caught by a speed camera.







Henry the Hen Harrier at the gates of Sandringham

Fri 17 April Copy

Phew!! It’s a relief to see you back again. You were just fooling around eh?

I see you are a royalist, Henry. Good for you!

Looking for anyone in particular? No, I haven’t see anyone called Harry either.


Remember to vote for the Hen Harrier in the national bird vote.


Just before I took this photograph I had a nice chat with a couple of policemen. They pulled up and asked what Henry and I were doing. I checked that we were allowed to park here – we were. And I checked that I was allowed to take a photograph of Henry here – I was.

These two policemen clearly weren’t birders as they asked what Henry was – isn’t it really obvious? Duh!

I expect the two policemen are now quite addicted to this blog as they took details of my name, address and website. They also asked whether it was my car, but I told them that it was Henry’s, as Henry was doing all the driving that day.

I told the policemen that Henry was on a tour of famous landmarks and was at Stonehenge the week before – as he was of course.

Where do you think Henry might be seen over the next few months? He had a few more places to visit in Norfolk and has plans to visit the north of England soon. And Henry feels the call of London too – he’s never been to a big city.



It costs you nothing


Using GiveAsYouLive as you go about your normal business can raise money for your favourite charity. I’ve raised £50 so far – for Butterfly Conservation – and all I do is book train tickets and hotels online (which I have to do anyway) and make a few (very few) extra clicks to make sure that Butterfly Conservation benefits. You can choose your own charity and it won’t cost you or the planet a thing. Your spending may be very different from mine but I bet you can find a way to benefit your chosen charity without changing your spending behaviour at all. Give it a go and click here.

Photo: Tim Melling

Photo: Tim Melling


Oh no! One of our harriers is down!

Thurs 16 April Copy

Henry! I did tell you to be careful!

Will Henry be back tomorrow?


I suspect Henry may be back tomorrow and he was just larking around – he’s such a wag isn’t he? Where might he turn up next?



High Peak – a marginal which should have Hen Harriers

Photo: Guy Shorrock

The ‘Sodden 570′ gather in the High Peak constituency last August on Hen Harrier Day. Photo: Guy Shorrock

High Peak is a marginal which has been the seat of Conservative Andrew Bingham (see here for some information about his voting record) since he won it from Labour in 2010.

Mr Bingham asked a question about the publication of the Hen Harrier non-joint non-plan back in November 2014:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when she plans to publish the Uplands Stakeholder Forum hen harrier sub-group draft joint action plan.

Back a month or so, Lord Ashcroft was calling Labour as just a smidgeon in front of the Conservatives in this seat.

If you were one of the ‘Sodden 570′ then you have been in this constituency – as has Henry on his travels.

If I lived in Buxton, Glossop, Chapel-en-le-Frith, New Mills or Bamford then I’d be asking all the candidates what they thought of the lack of Hen Harriers in the Peak District and the role of grouse shooting in the local economy. At the moment we know that the Conservative/Liberal coalition government looked pretty cosy with grouse shooting, that the Labour Party will ‘review’ shooting and that the Green Party opposes all field sports including grouse shooting. but what do the local candidates have to say? If you ask them and get any answers I’d love to hear about them. It’s a marginal seat – might the Labour candidate come out against driven grouse shooting if pressed?


Weds 25th March

Henry visits the High Peak constituency #HaveYouSeenHenry?




Home thoughts from Mark Avery abroad


Oh, to be in England
Now that April ‘s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!


Robert Browning, of course.


But I am abroad for a few days and so you may find that comments take ages (maybe days!) to be moderated – depending on how access to t’internet pans out.

The Chaffinch has been singing on many a bough for weeks, and so I won’t miss them too much, but I will miss how Spring is uncoiling at my local patch of Stanwick Lakes. I am pretty sure it will have gone ‘Twang!’ by the time I am home. And I will be missing keeping an eye on the Blackbirds nesting in the garden and the Blue Tits that might be nesting too.


Henry visits Dersingham Bog NNR

Weds 15 April  Copy

Dersingham Bog eh?  You be careful!

Have you read Fighting for Birds pp196-202?