Say No thanks! to destruction of wildlife sites on Gwent Levels – TODAY please.

From RSPB:

From RSPB:

Whether you call the Gwent Levels a Futurescape or a Living Landscape, or just a really nice place which is rich in wildlife, you might rather see it protected than wrecked by a motorway (see here and here). I know I would.

So why not say so? I already have. The RSPB has made it easy for you to respond – click here and it will take you less than three minutes (I timed it). But you must do it today because today is the deadline for responses.





Professor Carl Jones Wins 2016 Indianapolis Prize

RED_0356_cropProf Carl Jones has won the prestigious, and valuable, Indianapolis Prize for 2016.  I’m a fan of his – so I am very pleased.

The Indianapolis Prize has two primary functions,” said Michael I. Crowther, President & CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, which administers the award. “First, it rewards and honors animal conservationists who are actually achieving notable successes. Secondly, it provides them with a more effective platform from which they can tell the stories of their work to a wide range of audiences … especially the public.

Spanning almost 40 years of work in Mauritius, Jones has brought back at least nine species from the brink of extinction — including the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, echo parakeet, Rodrigues warbler and Rodrigues fody, and has worked to restore the populations of many more species. Through programs that implement hands-on animal husbandry techniques developed in contemporary zoological institutions, Jones has delivered results that are truly awe-inspiring: of the 63 bird, mammal and amphibian species worldwide that have been down-listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as a result of conservation initiatives, he has led the recovery efforts for six of them.

I know of no other conservationist who has directly saved so many species from extinction,” said Dr. Simon N. Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, who nominated Jones for the award.

Winning the 2016 Indianapolis Prize is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my career,” said Jones. “It’s a great accolade not just for me, but for Gerry Durrell and the people who have made this work possible over the years. I’m particularly proud of this award because it validates the conservation of animals — like Telfair’s skinks and pink pigeons — that are not megavertebrates, but provide critically important ecosystem services nonetheless.

As the 2016 Indianapolis Prize Winner, Jones, Chief Scientist of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scientific Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award and the Lilly Medal.


Silent spring?


The Messenger is a film about songbirds – and the problems they face.

It seems as though the US critics love it to bits…


“Stunning” — Hollywood Reporter

“Provocative and beautiful” — Village Voice

“Powerful” — A New York Times Critics’ Pick 


…and you, and I, can see what we think at various places across the UK including in London on Saturday (that might well be Nottingham tomorrow – but I like Knottingham a lot!) as part of the Green Film Festival.

UK share card

The details of the Barbican showing are here – and I’ll be part of a short discussion of the film afterwards.

If you’ve already seen the film then tell us all whether it is worth the trip…!







Thank you (again) Scotland


It’s interesting (well, I think it is) to see where the signatures are coming from this time around. Remember, we have just passed (in six weeks) the previous total of 33,655 signatures (achieved in 26 weeks).

Let’s take a closer look at Scotland (more analysis to follow).

You only have to look at the map above to realise that the signatures are tending to come from rural areas rather than Edinburgh or Glasgow (though see below) and that they are coming particularly from areas which have a lot of driven grouse shooting.  We know that it tends to be rural constituencies close to grouse shooting areas that give our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting the strongest support – and that is shown very clearly in Scotland.

The total signatures (out of 33,655) contributed by Scotland last time around was around 2900, whereas this time around it is already around 3500 (out of 33, 750 when I downloaded the data).

Here is how the signatures are spread across the 59 Scottish Westminster parliamentary constituencies, with constituencies that have already passed their previous totals in blue and ordered by current total (the last number in each row):

  1. Ross, Skye and Lochaber 110, 165
  2. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey 126, 145
  3. Argyll and Bute 101, 121
  4. Dumfries and Galloway 79, 108
  5. West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 74, 106
  6. Edinburgh North and Leith 100, 100
  7. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 89, 99
  8. Edinburgh South 72, 96
  9. East Lothian 71, 95
  10. Ochil and South Perthshire 75, 93
  11. Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 67, 91
  12. Stirling 71, 88
  13. Perth and North Perthshire 77, 85
  14. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 45, 83
  15. Moray 63, 81
  16. Edinburgh East 71, 77
  17. Orkney and Shetland 79, 72
  18. North Ayrshire and Arran 52, 64
  19. Angus 53, 64
  20. Edinburgh South West 43, 63
  21. Midlothian 34, 61
  22. Aberdeen South 55, 61
  23. Banff and Buchan 32, 59
  24. North East Fife 62, 59
  25. Gordon 52, 57
  26. Linlithgow and East Falkirk 36, 58
  27. Glasgow Central 47, 56
  28. Edinburgh West 48, 55
  29. Glasgow North 50, 54
  30. Glasgow South 45, 53
  31. East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow 30, 53
  32. Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock 41, 53
  33. Livingston 35, 53
  34. Aberdeen North 34, 51
  35. Falkirk 52, 51
  36. Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East 35, 50
  37. Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 54, 48
  38. Dundee West 34, 47
  39. Dunfermline and West Fife 47, 43
  40. East Dunbartonshire 39, 43
  41. Dundee East 36, 42
  42. Lanark and Hamilton East 30, 39
  43. Paisley and Renfrewshire South 34, 35
  44. Central Ayrshire 31, 33
  45. Glasgow North West 39, 33
  46. Inverclyde 18, 32
  47. Na h-Eileanan an Iar 20, 32
  48. West Dunbartonshire 22, 31
  49. Kilmarnock and Loudoun 37, 30
  50. Rutherglen and Hamilton West 34, 28
  51. Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshil 14, 28
  52. Glenrothes 26, 27
  53. Paisley and Renfrewshire North 17, 27
  54. Glasgow East 14, 24
  55. Airdrie and Shotts 18, 24
  56. East Renfrewshire 34, 23
  57. Glasgow North East 24, 22
  58. Glasgow South West 14, 22
  59. Motherwell and Wishaw 18, 16

There are some fantastic figures in there – not just the ones at the top of the list which are doing ‘best’ but also those, let’s just single out Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (I had to look up where it was to be honest – it’s in North Lanarkshire), which have greatly increased their previous showing in such a short time.

I’m sure that many of you could speculate and guess at what is going on here – and why some places are doing even better than others – feel free to comment here.

Please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.





Looking forward to visiting Sheffield on Thursday evening


I’m looking forward to speaking about driven grouse shooting and all that stuff – sign here please – on Thursday evening in the Carpenter Room of Sheffield Central Library. Kick-off is 7pm – admission is free but you should book please.

Sheffield, of course, sits just to the east of the Peak District National Park, where men sit in the heather guarding their model Hen Harriers, and locals hope for better things, such as the National Trust putting an end to grouse shooting on their (our) land in this national park.  We might touch on those issues on Thursday evening.

Highlighted in the map above is the Sheffield Hallam constituency of Nick Clegg (remember him?) which joined the ‘100 Club’ a while ago.

The Sheffield constituencies are as follows:


Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield MP – 106 signatures

Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg MP – 105 signatures

Sheffield, Heeley, Louise Haigh MP – 62 signatures

Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough, no current MP – 35 signatures

Sheffield, South East, Clive Betts MP – 35 signatures


I’d love to see you on Thursday evening but if you can’t make it then why not sign here anyway?


First BBS visit

A large field of wheat

A large field of wheat

I was up early, although not that early for me, yesterday to visit one of my two Breeding Bird Survey squares. This is the 12th year I have covered this particular 1km square on the border of Cambs and Northants – it almost feels like mine after all this time.

The weather was cold, and it looked as though it might rain, but despite the nip in the air the visit went off fine. As I walked to the place where surveying starts, I noticed that the ground vegetation was very short – presumably because of the cold month of weather we have had (are still having!).  Sometimes I am walking through knee-high grass at this stage, but not today.

It’s rather boring farmland with green lanes through it. But it’s also fascinating – simply because I am beginning to know it so well. The ‘star bird’ of this occasion was a Yellow Wagtail – which was also more or less the last bird I recorded. The numbers of Yellow Wags are declining nationally and have fallen over the years on this site too, and so every year I wonder whether I will see any. So far, every year I have; and that is now true of this year after Visit 1 (Visit 2 will be in early June). This bird was on a part of the route which has never before provided a Yellow Wag.

There were good numbers of Whitethroats and Yellowhammers, and record numbers (don’t get too excited – that is four) of Lesser Whitethroats too.  And the second-ever Mistle Thrush. But no Reed Buntings – maybe next time.

As I sat at my computer to enter the data online, I learned later, a Common Crane was flying over my local patch of Stanwick Lakes. Hmm, the things I do for the BTO (and RSPB and JNCC).



Make toxic lead ammunition a thing of the past










This is your last chance to sign Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban the use of toxic lead ammunition. A few more signatures would push this past the 17,000 signatures – a pretty good achievement.

A reminder:

  • this e-petition is supported by the RSPB
  • this e-petition is supported by WWT
  • read the summary of the report of the Lead Ammunition Group
  • read the Oxford Symposium on Lead
  • around 70,000 wildfowl are estimated to die each year from lead poisoning
  • safe alternatives to lead ammunition are available
  • the government committed to phasing out lead ammunition about 18 months ago but has done nothing since




Did you notice?

BanGS3Did you notice that we have passed the previous best total for signatures on an e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting? Last time around it took six months, that must be 26 weeks, to reach 33,655 signatures – and I thought that was pretty amazing really – but this time around we passed that total in six weeks.

So 20 weeks to go. I’d now be disappointed if we didn’t sail past 50,000 signatures, and a bit disappointed if we didn’t get to 66,666 signatures. But we’ll see.

There is just the possibility that we might reach 100,000 signatures this time around. If so, I guess we’d need to get to 66,666 around 20 July and then have a manic two months to try to add another 33,334 by 20 September.

Who’s up for getting to 100,000?

If you are, and I certainly am (let’s give it our best shot!), here are some hints:

  • please ask your friends and colleagues to sign – if everyone who has signed got one more person to sign next week then we’d double our numbers straight away.
  • if you use social media then please grow your network over the next few weeks and months for a big push in August and September – the more followers you have in the UK, the more you can help to spread the word.
  • if you know of a someone who edits/writes a newsletter (electronic or paper) who you think might be interested in an article on why we should end driven grouse shooting, then please put them in touch with me and I will do my best to give them some free copy to use.

And thank you for all your support and help up to now – this is our e-petition not just mine, nor mine, Bill Oddie’s, Chris Packham’s and LACS’s (even though they all support it).  It’s yours and mine – it’s ours.

And did you notice that Stroud has just joined the 100 Club?

And did you notice that Calder Valley is on 199?

And did you notice that we are very close to 34,000?

(I bet Jim Clarke did!).

Sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.






April was a record-breaking month on this blog


Last month broke all records for unique users (over 38,000 – previous best over 26,000 (January 2016)) and page views (around 115,000 – previous best over 103,000 (August 2015)).

Thank you to all the readers who made this the case – whether they were delighted or irritated by the blog’s contents – and all the guest bloggers, commenters, photographers, artists (especially cartoonist Ralph Underhill) and others who have contributed over the years.


Bank Holiday Monday book review – Summer’s Guests by Theunis Piersma


I’ve lived with House Martins in the streets where I live, and sometimes next door, but never on my home, for more than half my life. Their return, ahead of the screaming Swifts, is looked for and appreciated when it happens. And they are there, chirrupping in flight, all summer long and sometimes daring to stay into the nippy days of early autumn long after the Swifts have gone.  They tug summer after them and when it leaves it tugs them away with it.

Theunis Piersma, in the Netherlands, also lives with House Martins but he has put more effort into attracting them and they nest in numbers on his house in Gaast in Friesland.

This is a delightful book – there ought to be more like it. It reminded me more of David Lack’s Life of the Robin than of his Swifts in a Tower, despite the obvious similarities between House Martins and Swifts, because the book is so peppered with observations of the bird that were made by chance as the author went about his daily work. And this, too, is a book written by a leading ornithologist and ecologist whose observations of the birds around him are informed by a love of birds but also an understanding of what makes them tick.

As you sit in your garden on a summer evening, with House Martins above your head, you may have wondered where they spent the winter, what they eat, what their love life is like, how long they live and what are the main dangers they face. You will quite possibly have wondered where they nested before we provided them with houses.  Piersma answers all these questions, and many more from reviewing the scientific literature and through his own observations and research. He also explains why white feathers, rather than dark ones, are used to line the nests (fascinating!) and touches on a host of other interesting areas that you will love.

Here are some chapter titles which give a flavour of the relaxed writing style but also the areas covered:  Revisiting Gilbert White; James Bond; Hobbies – an aerial threat?; Insect-eating Orcas; To the Congo too?.

This is a book to buy now and read as you take part in the BTO House Martin Survey, and then to take out and read again every April for the rest of your life so that you can appreciate the author’s skill and remind yourself of the bird that is about to return to grace the skies of your city, town or village.

The attractive cover is by Carry Akroyd, the attractive chapter vignettes by Jos Zvarts and the delightful Foreword by Ian Newton.

Summer Guests: a House Martin love story by Theunis Piersma is published by the BTO (and a very fine job they have made of it).


Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.

Behind the Binoculars: interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers by Mark Avery and Keith Betton is published by Pelagic – here’s a review.

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.