Take to the streets


Will you join the climate march in London on Sunday?

I will.

See you there!


Shoot a few, poison a few more

800px-7.5_CartridgesBack to another Tim Bonner quote from his blog in the Huffington Post.

I said that I would remind you of what he wrote:

Bonner, presumably on the basis of shooting some ducks, regards the estimates of dying waterfowl from lead poisoning in the UK each year as ‘nothing more than speculation‘. Remember that quote too. But, again, I’ll remind you of it. But while waiting for that just imagine how the shooting industry can be happy to poison between 10,000 and 100,000 waterfowl a year in the UK. What sort of collateral damage is that? Tens of thousands of poisoned birds?

The Oxford Lead Symposium publication today, and the event itself had Bonner deigned to attend, contains a paper by Dr Debbie Pain (WWT), Dr Ruth Cromie (WWT) and Prof Rhys Green (RSPB) on estimates of numbers of waterfowl dying in the UK each year from lead poisoning. They estimate that about 73,000 waterfowl die of lead poisoning through ingested lead in the UK each winter (and so summer losses are additional).

The way they come up with the estimates is a bit complex; quite the opposite of ‘nothing more than speculation’ as Bonner put it. Observed lead ingestion levels by wildfowl are taken and used with known mortality rates for Mallards, measured population levels of waterfowl and various correction rates (one of which I think, if unused, would have reduced the final figure and the other, I think, would have increased it).

To put this in context, about a million ducks are shot in the UK each year. For every 14 shot for sport, another is poisoned unnecessarily.

So, I’d ask again, what sort of sport is it that poisons tens of thousands of its quarry species each winter just because it is  too mean to switch, as have other countries completely, to using non-toxic ammunition?

So, Rory Stewart and Defra – get on with it!  For heaven’s sake what’s the delay about? This is a simple health issue, wildlife and human health, with a very simple solution.

Please sign the Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban lead ammunition.


Norwegian blues over lead

800px-7.5_CartridgesYou may remember that I said I’d come back to Tim Bonner’s thoughts, in a Huffington Post blog, on Norwegian lead levels in meat.


This is what I wrote:

Much is made of the partial reversal of the ban of lead ammunition in Norway. Bonner says that lead is still banned for use in wetlands and for clay shooting in Norway – as it is – that’s for most users. This reversal was achieved by ‘Norwegian Bonners’ – the hunting lobby. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was sensible – in fact my rule of thumb is that anything the Countryside Alliance says needs checking carefully. Might it not be that Norwegian Bonners pressurised the Norwegian government into making a bad decision? We’ll come back to that fairly soon and to Bonner’s suggestion that ‘What matters is risk management. The idea of a risk assessment is not to eliminate the risk but to reduce it to an acceptable level‘.  Remember that quote! Actually you don’t have to – I’ll remind you of it.

OK – this is me reminding you of it.

In the Oxford Lead Symposium , published today, four members of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Helle K. Knutsen, Anne-Lise Brantsæter, Jan Alexander & Helle M. Meltzer) write about the levels of lead in moose meat, and the levels of lead in people who eat moose meat in Norway.

VKM [the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety] concluded that the blood lead concentrations measured in participants in the Norwegian population studies were in the range of, and partly exceeding, the reference values for increased risk of high blood pressure and increased prevalence of chronic kidney disease in adults, and for neurodevelopmental effects in children. The additional lead exposure from cervid meat in frequent (monthly or more often) consumers of such meat is therefore of concern. For these reasons, continued efforts are needed to reduce lead exposure in the population.‘.

Lead levels in the human population of Norway worry Norwegian health experts. Those people eating deer meat at least monthly had blood lead levels 31% higher than those who ate less deer meat and many of the monthly deer meat eaters had blood lead levels well above the thresholds for increased prevalence of chronic kidney disease.

When shooters say that no-one dies of lead poisoning then they know, or should know, that that is like saying no-one dies of alcohol poisoning in a car so we shouldn’t ban drink driving. It doesn’t work like that, and they know it or should know it. Increased lead levels are an unnecessary health risk imposed on unknowing parts of society by shooters who won’t pay a little more for their sport. That’s not very sporting of them is it?

So, Rory Stewart and Defra – get on with it!  For heaven’s sake what’s the delay about? This is a simple health issue, wildlife and human health, with a very simple solution.

Please sign the Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban lead ammunition.


Oxford Lead Symposium published

800px-7.5_CartridgesAlmost a year ago, a group of scientists met in Oxford to review the evidence for lead impacts on people and wildlife.  The shooting organisations were invited  and almost to a man, showed their lack of interest in the science of this subject, and boycotted the event. Is it possible they spent the day looking for some sand in which to bury their heads?

It’s a very meaty report and should attract some media attention today.

Here are some quotes:

The Lord Krebs Kt, MA, DPhil, FRS, FMedSci, Hon DSc: ‘Lead ammunition may be traditional but
it is doubtful whether future generations would perpetuate a tradition of knowingly adding lead to food or exposing wildlife to poisoning.‘.

Professor Chris Perrins, LVO, FRS: ‘Then, as now, the stakeholders involved appeared to have some sort of blind-spot when it came to seeing lead as a poison.’ andNowadays, no one can be oblivious to the issues of lead because of the damage to human health, particularly children’s health due to impacts on their developing brains. Eating food with lead purposefully shot into it, of course, now seems like a bad idea.‘.

Professor Ian Newton OBE, FRS, FRSE: ‘My own view is that a legislative ban is needed on the use of lead in all ammunition used for hunting. At one stroke this would alleviate the problems created for people (especially the hunters themselves), for wildlife and for domestic livestock by this unnecessary but highly toxic material.’.


So, Rory Stewart and Defra – get on with it!  For heaven’s sake what’s the delay about? This is a simple health issue, wildlife and human health, with a very simple solution.

Please sign the Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban lead ammunition – which is entirely in line with what these three eminent scientists are saying.


And I’ll come back to this report in more detail during the day.


Ask your MP to do something

Weds 5 Aug CopyBy chance, the three main MPs in the Peak District are from three different political parties: Andrew Bingham, High Peak, Con; Nick Clegg, Sheffield Hallam, Lib Dem; and Angela Smith, Penistone and Stockbridge, Lab.

If one of these is your MP then why not write and tell them how upset you are about the lack of raptors in the Peak District National Park and your dissatisfaction with progress on protecting wildlife from wildlife crime in a National Park. Ask them to contact the other two MPs and to form a united front, and seek a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park, the Director General of the National Trust and the Chair of Natural England to ask what they are going to do about wildlife crime in this area.

If you are a resident in this area then you should lead the charge (please).

The rest of us can write to the National Trust and ask them to stop driven grouse shooting on their land in National Parks.

And write to our own MPs about the subject generally.

And signing this e-petition will send a signal that more must be done to remove the ills of driven grouse shooting from our hills.



The Sandford Principle

Weds 5 Aug CopyI am very fond of the people who comment on this blog – most of them anyway. There is so much knowledge, and humour, and different perspectives that I learn a lot.  Sometimes you just make me smile and sometimes you provide nuggets of information.

Yesterday, Richard Wilson, a frequent and valued commenter here, pointed us all to the Sandford Principle.

Sandford Principle
“Where irreconcilable conflicts exist between conservation and public enjoyment, then conservation interest should take priority”

So why do we have grouse shooting in National Parks? Why do we have grouse shooting, at all, in any National Parks? See this example and substitute the words Hen Harrier for Osprey and Red Grouse for fish and …?

If there is a conflict between protecting the environment and people enjoying the environment, that can’t be resolved by management, then protecting the environment is more important.’

The thing is, that driven grouse shooting is certainly not public enjoyment – it’s enjoyment by a very small number of private individuals which deprives many other people and much wildlife of their enjoyment of our National Parks.

The Peak District National Park needs to act on grouse shooting within its boundaries – with a new Chief Executive there, there must be more opportunity for change.  I don’t know exactly what its options are, for the National Park is only a relatively small landowner, but it can no longer sit idly by, setting up talking shops, while too much of the natural beauty it was set up to preserve and enhance is criminally killed within its boundaries. Raptor persecution is not a secret, it’s not a hypothesis, it’s a reality within the Peak District National Park. And it is shameful.

Signing this e-petition will send a signal that more public bodies should act to remove the ills of driven grouse shooting from our hills.




Just go back and read the comments…

john_lawton…on this Guest Blog by Prof Sir John Lawton about the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s plans for a visitor centre at Spurn Point.

What a lot of comments – and most of them are against the idea.

But most of the Likes/Dislikes are ‘Likes’ for the blog.

I wonder how many of the ‘Likes’ are from YWT staff? But there don’t seem many supporters of the plans who want to put their heads above the parapet. Whereas, there have been many comments from locals who dislike the plans.

Interesting, and it demonstrates the fact that people are highly motivated to get involved with local issues – or at least things they perceive as local threats. We could call this as Nimbyism, Not-in-my-Backyardism, but that would just be sticking a label on it. Local activism is a potent force.

I’m very happy to host this debate here.


Peak trough

The Peak District National Park is failing badly in being a refuge for protected birds of prey. Our National Parks are wildlife crime hotspots because we allow game shooting to dominate the ecology of so many of them.

After five years of ‘co-operation’, when ‘everyone’ was working collaboratively to increase bird of prey numbers, the consortium of the Peak District National Park, the Moorland Association, the RSPB, National Trust and Natural England admitted failure to meet targets.

At a time when Peregrine numbers are rising nationally, particularly in the lowlands, numbers fell in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park (from five pairs to three pairs) and nesting success did not approach the target figure in a single year of the project. This is normal for National Parks with large areas of driven grouse shooting (Peregrines – moor is fewer, 11 November 2011, Inaction speaks louder than words, 12 October 2015).

Rhodri Thomas of the Peak District National Park described the results as ‘concerning and disappointing’. I describe them as ‘entirely predictable and totally unacceptable’. How much more blatant does wildlife crime have to be than the assault on protected wildlife being routinely carried out in this and many other English National Parks?

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorlands Association, said: “We are renewing our action plan and redoubling our efforts to ensure that this brings improved results.  The partnership has also agreed that this work needs to be extended to cover other species, notably goshawk and hen harrier, and to include the South West Peak.” Oh no! If the Moorland Association redoubles its efforts then we might find these declines accelerate!

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “Birds like peregrine and goshawk are charismatic species. It is thrilling to see them swoop at speed over moorland, it makes your heart glad to see them soaring high over the Edges – seeing these birds creates fantastic memories for people.

“We will be using the new rigour and energy recently brought to the project to seek to restore breeding success of our iconic bird of prey species in the National Park. We will be seeking a greater level of commitment from partners in the Initiative to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey.

The response of the consortium is to keep pretending that everyone is on the same side and that chatting about things will bring an end to crime. It won’t.

Quite why our money, via the Peak District National Park and Natural England, is going to continue to go into a talking shop which has failed to produce any progress at all is beyond me.  The Peak District National Park is still a wildlife crime hotspot, just as it was in the early years of this century as documented in the Peak Malpractice reports (here and here).

Defra, Natural England and the Peak District National Park have failed to make any difference at all to the success of birds of prey in this area – they are failing, badly, to work for the public good in this National Park.  There has been far too much chatting and not enough action. We will now face several more years when the National Park authorities will hide behind this continuing failed project instead of calling a spade a spade and condemning the moorland practices that exclude birds of prey from a National Park – yes, a National Park set up to protect and enhance natural beauty not to be a safe haven for wildlife crime.

It was, perhaps, his frequent exposure of the dire state of affairs in the Peak District National Park which led to Simon Barnes losing his job at The Times (The curious case of Simon Barnes’s departure from The Times, 25 June 2014Simon Barnes again, 26 June 2014) and it would be surprising if this story gets much prominence there these days.

Read too, Tim Birch’s guest blog published here for a proper sense of outrage at what happens in the Peak District.

The sooner The National Trust ends grouse shooting on its large estate in the Peak District, on and around which much of the raptor persecution appears to occur, the better (National Trust – looking good, 20 September 2013).

If grouse shooting ended in the Peak District then bird of prey numbers would thrive and more people would be thrilled and take home fantastic memories of these charismatic species. Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and you might notice that the High Peak constituency already has one of the highest numbers of signatures. Not surprising is it?



Not mere


I was at Martin Mere over the weekend – and very nice it was too.

I saw flocks, gaggles, herds, wisps, springs, flings, paddles, plumps, omnisciences (yes, really!), deserts, a small exaltation, doadings, skeins and flights – but what is the collective noun for lots of your birding friends? Because it was a great place to meet folk.

As soon as I arrived I met the Wilde family, at least the three of them not watching Everton stick four goals on Aston Villa, in the car park. As we strolled to the entrance a Goldeneye flew over and skeins of Pinkfeet were flying over – chatting to each other. I said to Findlay that I was sure I heard one of them say to another ‘Why isn’t the WWT asking its members to sign Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to get rid of toxic lead ammunition that poisons tens of thousands of waterfowl each year?’.

Then there were friends from BAWC with their smart display and stand, folk from the RSPB, attendees at various Hen Harrier events, birders, a Sunday influx of raptor workers from the North of England Raptor Forum conference, Iolo Williams, Charlie Elder, the Wildsounds crew and many others.

My talk was packed – with the already-converted for the most part I think – but packed is good!

Talking to Tom Clare he mentioned that there were a couple of Goldeneye around, and I said we’d seen one on arrival – apparently that’s quite a good record for Martin Mere! You never know do you.

The Saturday evening ended with a small but impressive murmuration of Starlings and a distant Barn Owl – but I hadn’t had much time for birding. As I walked to the car the Pinkfeet were still asking each other why WWT hasn’t asked its members to sign Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban toxic ammunition which is a danger to raptors and other scavengers.

The car park was busier still on Sunday morning – it might be the Iolo-factor.  But the Pinkfeet overhead were asking why WWT hasn’t yet asked its members to sign the e-petition to ban toxic lead ammunition that is a human health problem for some groups, particularly children.

There were more raptor workers around on Sunday but I managed to do a little more birding – there was a very splendid cream-crowned Marsh Harrier floating around in the sunshine. Even Henry was there – he’s such a tart for celebrities!

The WWT has just opened a new hide, the Discovery Hide, at Martin Mere but to even things up some vandals had a go at two of the existing ones – idiots!

I enjoyed Graham Jones’s talk about Hen Harriers and the plug he gave to BAWC and Hen Harrier Day (he even mentioned Inglorious) and the large crowd listening also enjoyed it.

As I walked out to the car the Pinkfeet were still wondering, wondering, wondering, wondering when WWT would ask its members to support Rob Sheldon’s e-petition that promotes what WWT have been asking for for years – a ban on toxic lead ammunition. But no-one knows, no-one knows.


A good-looking male with Iolo Williams

A good-looking male with Iolo Williams



Big Story on Friday evening

I’m looking forward to attending the Big Story event on Friday at the Natural History Museum.

It’s a live, staged adaptation of the Natural Histories radio series and of the book reviewed here a while ago.

With Rory Bremner, Tamsin Greig, and a host of stuffed animals (?) involved, it’s bound to be a good evening???? And I haven’t been to the NHM for a while – it’s a fabulous building in its own right, of course.

And maybe I’ll fit in a look at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition too.