Off to the Game Fair

This afternoon at 2pm I am the token leftie on a panel at the CLA Game Fair – it’s very nice of them to invite me.  In theory, we are discussing whether landowners are friends or foes of wildlife. I suspect we might get on to grouse shooting at some stage.

I wish Henry were going to be with me…

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Henry visits the CLA

Thurs 30 July(a) Copy

Belgrave Square has rarely, if ever, seen a six-foot Hen Harrier before, but last week we visited the London HQ of the Country Land and Business Association.

Henry said that it all looked very posh – much posher than the Scottish Land and Estates little office block. Henry gave his plumage a special preen to make sure he looked extra-smart for this visit. I told him he was the smartest-looking Hen Harrier ever to grace Belgrave Square and that seemed to make him happy – though he is rather expressionless.

When Philip Merricks leapt, for he is very agile, out of a taxi Henry looked astonished, and then slightly nervous – although you would have to know him very well to detect these slight changes of demeanour on his rather impassive owl-like facial disc.

We didn’t have a long chat about brood-meddling or whether the Hawk and Owl Trust were going to support Hen Harrier Day this year (although they have now joined the thunderclap – good for them!) – there was only time for the briefest of photos. Many thanks to Philip for being a good sport!

I’ll be seeing Philip again tomorrow at a ‘debate’ at the CLA Game Fair, also starring Owen Paterson and Ian Coghill. I wish Henry were coming with me. Maybe he will…

Thurs 30 July(b) Copy


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Today Inglorious is published


Big day for me – just a normal day for everyone else.

There was a very nice review of Inglorious in The Independent by friend of mine, and friend of nature, Michael McCarthy (click here). ‘The logic is impeccable

There was a less favourable account of Inglorious in The Times by no friend of mine, but friend of grouse shooting, Magnus Linklater (click here – but most of it is behind a paywall).  Although, I do wonder whether Linklater actually read the book – his objections to the case against driven grouse shooting seem to take little account of what the book actually says.

Maybe you should take a look and make up your own mind – that’s fine by me.




Henry just had to stop

Weds 29 July  Copy

Henry and I were passing through the Oxfordshire countryside, somewhere between Banbury and Chipping Norton, at least I think it was Oxfordshire, maybe it was Northants. As I say, we were just passing through, when Henry said that he needed to consult Inglorious about a few things.

So he did.

For everyone else,  Inglorious – conflict in the uplands is  officially published tomorrow.



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At the Birdwatch offices

Birdwatch August 2015 coverI popped into the offices of Birdwatch in north London last week – I’d never been there before.

I’ve been writing a monthly column, The Political Birder, for Birdwatch more or less since I left the RSPB over four years ago. This is not an activity that will allow me to retire with a full cellar of high quality Rioja on which to fall back, but it is a great pleasure and, I feel, quite a privilege to be able to sound off in the UK’s leading birding magazine.

Although Dominic Mitchell is the founder and editor of the magazine, I am particularly fond of Rebecca Armstrong (to whom I send my copy (almost always on time) for editing) and Heather O’Connor (who sends me money for them) – I’m not sure which of them I like the most, really!

The office is near the main line into Kings Cross and I will have passed it many scores of times when heading in to London to meet ministers or civil servants in a previous life without knowing that I was doing so.


Must be this way

I knew I was on the right track when I saw this sign – Birdwatch would have to be at the centre of the Wood Green Cultural Quarter surely?





The home of Birdwatch – but no chocolates

The offices are high up in a building known as the Chocolate Factory although I’m told that it used to be a sweet factory making Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and is just round the corner from Guillemot Place.  A nice lady at Reception asked me where I’d parked my car and I said ‘About 60 miles away yesterday’ which puzzled her before she occupied an ear to ear smile which made my day. Maybe she assumed I must have a car because I was in a suit and tie – Dominic told me that only estate agents and those heading to the Magistrates’ Court wore such things in these parts.

I drank coffee and chatted to Dominic, Rebecca, Heather and Josh (ie distracted them from more important things). Ian and David, the rest of the permanent Chocolate Factory team, weren’t in today. I learned that the office had a window list of 90 species including Honey Buzzard and Great White Egret – pretty impressive!

I also learned that when I send my copy to Rebecca she edits it (but was sweet enough to say she hardly has to do anything to it) and then lays it out for the page in the magazine. Rebecca finds the images too (which are always appropriate and good).

Domnic Mitchell with August Birdwatch

Dominic Mitchell with August Birdwatch

I was there last Thursday, 23 July, when August Birdwatch went on sale in newsagents across the country. Checking my records, I wrote that column and sent it to Rebecca on 21 June. Because this edition has extracts from Inglorious in it, I was liaising with Dominic up until Friday 10 July when the magazine was sent to the printer in Lincolnshire. So from my point of view, this month’s Birdwatch was written in mid-late June, appears in late July and says August on the cover.

The actual pages are printed in 16-page blocks which are then cut and assembled together. Dominic told me that back in 1992 Birdwatch was 48 pages every two months and now it is 96 pages every month.

I may go and have a look at the printers’ operation one day. I think that would be fun.






Henry visits the Countryside Alliance

Tues 28 July  Copy

The Countryside Alliance is full of real country people – like Sir Barnie White-Spunner (who ran for cover from the Lead Ammunition Group).

They didn’t seem to be in when we visited last week with the red London buses , black taxi cabs, and commuters in a traffic jam on the Kennington Road.  Maybe they’d all fled Vauxhall for the countryside?

The Countryside Alliance feature in Inglorious on pages 98, 124, 134-5, 136, 147, 148, 169, 184, 192, 213 and 230.



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I haven’t mentioned Purple Emperors in this blog this year – because I haven’t been out looking for them. A combination of lots of work, lots of rain, lots of time with Henry and lots of MoT work being done on the car has meant that nipping out to see this glorious butterfly has been tricky.

But in between the rain of Friday and the rain of Sunday I set off in the sun of Saturday thinking that I was probably too late – and I was right.  Butterflies are great for reminding us to carpe diem – if you don’t then you’ll miss them.  This year, Black Hairstreaks and Purple Emperors have slipped by without me seeing them, and, as usual, Dukes of Burgundy remain off my British list of butterflies. Maybe next year – as I always say.

But there were butterflies to be seen – several White Admirals, some top-of-the-oak-trees Purple Hairstreaks (so we did have purple in our lives on this little trip) and a variety of commoner creatures, with some cracking Commas being the stars.

In the grassland there were Large Skippers and much smaller skippers, which on close examination suggested themselves to be Essex rather than Common Skippers,  but I almost always walk away wondering whether I had seen the colour of the underside of the antennae well enough to be sure.

August is the month for Adonis Blues, Silver-spotted Skippers and Brown Hairstreaks but I usually get to September without them distracting me as there is Hen Harrier Day and the Bird Fair to act as major distractions. But we’ll see – carpe diem (it the sun shines)


Henry goes to London – Defra

Mon 27 July(a) Copy-1

Henry has been keen to go to London for a long time – but we only flew down there a week ago. What a great day it was – so many photo opportunities – only some of which we can share with you this week.  And so many friendly conversations with taxi drivers, tourists and members of the public.  This certainly helped to spread the word.

Here is Henry outside Defra.  They seem to have barricaded the place in advance of his arrival. Perhaps Liz Truss was afraid that Henry might ask her why @DefraGovUK has not signed up to the Hen Harrier Day thunderclap? Or why their delivery body, the hapless Natural England, has not notified the West Pennine Moors as an SSSI?  Or why Natural England has not publicised the results of its Hen Harrier tracking study? Or how Defra is getting on with the Walshaw Moor burning complaint to the EU? Or why Defra is not moving to limit over-burning of the uplands when such practices are criticised by the Committee on Climate Change in a recent report? Or why she has not ruled out brood-meddling as a daft idea? And when she will publish the report of the Lead Ammunition Group? And when she intends to announce the programme of measures that will phase out toxic lead ammunition from use in England?

And those are just some sample questions relevant to wildlife crime and protection of the uplands.

Maybe I can see why the barricades were up…

Although I was sorry not to be able to show Henry the Defra building in all its glory.

I half expected to see a sign saying ‘Closing down sale – everyone must go’.

Mon 27 July(b) Copy


Defra feature in Inglorious on pages 112-13, 119-20, 135-7, 142, 144-46, 149-57, 169, 170, 175, 176-7, 188, 213, 217, 221-23, 230-32 and  234.



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It’s not really about money is it?

By historicair 22:10, 30 May 2007 (UTC) (Own work (Lyubomir Ivanov)) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By historicair 22:10, 30 May 2007 (UTC) (Own work (Lyubomir Ivanov)) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The deadline for responses to the consultation about the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands is 31 July – Friday.

Please respond as every response will count – as there won’t be very many.

Something along these lines would be useful, I believe:





Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Strategy for 2016-2020.  I am a UK taxpayer and I would like my money to be spent on conserving the important biodiversity in this far-flung UK Overseas Territory.

Your draft clearly acknowledges the global importance of these islands and of the seas around them for biodiversity. I welcome that and would congratulate you on your investment in the eradication of rats and reindeer on South Georgia, on the marine protection that already occurs in this Territory’s waters, and for your recent declaration of the extension of the Convention on Biological Diversity to SGSSI.

The introduction to the strategy could be strengthened by acknowledging that the Territory contains two of the 11 priority areas identified by CCAMLR as regions in which further work to identify marine areas for protection should be focussed.

Environmental management.
The Government has an opportunity in the South Sandwich sector further to improve the protection of biodiversity in this Territory at minimal cost, to contribute very constructively to CCAMLR’s protected area programme, and to attract considerable positive international recognition of the UK’s custodianship of this region. Specifically by giving full protection to the entire marine area out to the edge of the EEZ, in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ, the UK could create a fully-protected marine reserve of c530,000km2. This would complement the marine reserve already established to the south of the South Orkney Islands. The scientific justification for this is similar to the justification put forward by the UK to secure the South Orkney marine reserve (see below) and the two reserves together could form part of a future chain of undisturbed reference sites stretching down to the Antarctic peninsula.

Given the interest of stakeholders, as well as the interest of the political parties in this suggestion (see 2015 manifestos and election statements), and the importance of establishing a more extensive marine protected area network in the CCAMLR region, I would ask that there should be a commitment in the strategy that the review of the MPA envisaged for 2018, will look specifically at the feasibility of establishing a fully-protected marine reserve in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ to complement the South Orkney marine reserve, and that this commitment should be written in as a key objective.

The key objective which says “Sustainable use and management of the marine environment is continued and constantly reviewed in the light of new data”, should be removed from this section and placed, if needed at all, under the sustainable use section (the third Strategic objective). The reason for this is that use, sustainable or otherwise, is not necessary to achieve the second strategic objective (to “conserve the near-pristine nature of the Territory’s environment, preserving and, where practical, restoring the native biodiversity and habitats.”). Indeed inevitably it is likely to damage this objective, a fact that you acknowledge in your third strategic objective when it talks about “minimising the impact” (of fisheries).

Fisheries management
I welcome the investment GSGSSI already makes in enforcement using the Pharos and that also that you intend to investigate remote sensing as an additional enforcement tool. I’m sure that GSGSSI is aware of the efforts of FCO which is already engaged in finding solutions which are applicable to all territories, and we assume that GSGSSI intends to join in with these efforts, since that certainly seems the most cost-effective way to make progress on this important issue.

The Royal Navy and RAF when they overfly or send ships, such as HMS Protector, into the Territory, should explicitly be tasked to contribute to enforcement. Protecting resources (of the UKOTs) from illegal exploitation of our marine area (including fisheries) is one of the UK’s marine security objectives (The UK National Strategy for Maritime Security – May 2014). Including this commitment in the strategy would demonstrate joined up and cost-effective government.

Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish fisheries in the South Sandwich Islands
It is interesting to note that the total catch from the South Sandwich islands is only 35 tonnes. This represents only 1.6% of the South Georgia catch of 2200 tonnes. Figures show that the toothfish fishery contributes around 75% of the total fishery income. From this it is clear that fishing for toothfish in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ contributes only a tiny amount to overall fisheries’ revenue and that, taking account of the extra fuel needed to travel to those islands, must be financially marginal at best.
An additional reason often used to justify this fishing is that it is alleged that having two boats in the area acts as an aid to enforcement. Given the limited time the boats are present and their limited horizon, beyond which other boats would be invisible to them, again this is a very small contribution to enforcement, which would be far surpassed by remote surveillance.

Though the ecological footprint of this fishery might be small, it is still a footprint and, given the very small contribution to revenue and enforcement, it is an entirely unnecessary footprint. Given this, the first objective (“to continue managing the fishery in a precautionary manner to ensure long-term sustainability”) should be deleted and replaced by a commitment in the 2018 review to investigate the feasibility of establishing a large scale fully protected marine reserve in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ to complement the South Orkney marine reserve.

Antarctic krill fishery in the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Maritime Zone
The paper notes that there has been very little krill fishing effort in the South Sandwich Islands area in recent years and this means that all krill in that area will have been available to seabirds, whales etc. It also means that revenue to GSGSSI from krill fishing for this area must also have been insignificant.

Outreach and publications
The opportunity to develop a large scale fully protected area in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ, which is likely to be either the largest (today) or one of the largest fully protected marine areas in the CCAMLR area (depending on future decisions) would bring world attention to the UK’s good custody of this Territory. For the cost of less than 1% of its revenue, the GSGSSI/UK could derive considerable international approval and positive publicity by contributing such a large valuable marine area to CCAMLR’s marine protected area programme. This international approval would be infinitely more valuable than the insignificant revenue forgone.
Virtually all GSGSSI’s revenue comes from the South Georgia part of the EEZ and that the contribution from the South Sandwich marine area is less than 1% of GSGSSI’s income. The contribution two fishing boats (whose movements may well be known to illegal poachers), whose time in the area is brief, and whose field of view is limited, also makes their contribution to enforcement insignificant.
Alternatively there is the prospect of declaring a large scale fully protected marine reserve in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ.

In proposing the South Orkney Marine Reserve the UK Government said (extracts from SC-CCAMLR-XXVIII/14) ”Any measures which reduce or minimise the direct impacts of human activities on species or habitats will contribute towards the objective of increasing the resilience of those features to the effects of climate change. Although it is unlikely that the effects of climate change can be mitigated altogether, the removal of other pressures will provide the best chance of recovery from climate-related impacts. For example, predators may have a better chance of withstanding a year of low food availability if they are able to forage in an area where prey is not being additionally depleted by a commercial fishery.”

“Implementation of the type of marine spatial protection and management proposed in this paper would be a significant achievement for CCAMLR in contributing to its objective of conservation and rational use of marine biodiversity. By establishing areas where pelagic, benthic and deep water species are given additional protection, CCAMLR has the opportunity to strengthen its precautionary approach in developing a representative network of areas for scientific reference, increased resilience of species to climate change, maintenance of critical ecosystem processes, and conservation of marine biodiversity. The area currently proposed in this paper (South Orkney) would have minimal impact on existing fisheries.”

These arguments are equally applicable to the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ and make a powerful statement in the UK Government’s own words as to why a fully protected marine reserve covering the South Sandwich Islands’ sector of the SGSSI EEZ should be considered as an option for this area.
For all the reasons above a commitment to look specifically at the feasibility of establishing a fully protected marine reserve in the South Sandwich sector of the EEZ to complement the South Orkney marine reserve should be written in to the strategy as part of the review of the MPA envisaged for 2018.


Emailed to




Oscar Dewhurst – Chaffinch


Oscar writes: this Chaffinch was singing from the top of the gorse bushes in the car park at Minsmere. I was able to find a spot to photograph it from with a tree behind it, giving a nice clean green background.

Nikon D800, Nikon 600mm f/4 AF-S II, Nikon 1.4x TC
Mark writes: it’s not April but this image did bring to mind
O, 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!