Champions of the Flyway

Today is the Champions of the Flyway bird race based in Eilat, Israel. Last year I was a member of the Birdwatch-Birdguides Roadrunners team which was a real privilege for me (see blogs Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7).

This year the team comprises Mike Alibone, Mark Pearson and Dawn Balmer and as I donated some money to them yesterday their fundraising total passed £4000. A good total, but all further donations will help Turkish conservationists protect migratory birds from illegal killing and so if you have a spare few quid this would be a good place for it to go.

Looking through the teams there are some great birders taking part from across the world. Good luck to them all.


Daffs in The Guardian

Roadside Daffodils have made it into the Guardian this week in Patrick Barkham’s Notebook.

I was slightly nervous in raising the subject of my feelings for feral daffodils at all last week, but I’m glad I did. It was good to get it off my chest and even better to find a fair measure of support for my ambivalence about planted daffs in the countryside.

I’m not claiming that planted, feral, roadside daffodils are causing any particular conservation harm to other species, although I don’t really buy the argument that their presence saves the verges from being scalped (because these verges will be scalped after the daffs are gone if not forgotten later this spring). No it’s more an aesthetic thing for me – although quite a complicated one.

I really am not keen on the cultivated daffodils with lots of white or orange in their flowers.  It’s a personal choice, but I like my daffodils to be yellow. Preferably a not-too-gaudy, subtle, pale-medium yellow.  People can grow what they want in their gardens of course, and we all do (I have some great weeds in mine), but I’m really not sure why someone feels comfortable about imposing their daffodil taste on the rest of us in the wider countryside.

Genet [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, CC BY-SA 3.0 de ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

I suppose that if we had a referendum on ‘gaudy roadside daffodils – remain or leave?’ then I might find myself on the losing side – as seems rather common in my voting life – but being a wishy-washy liberal I would probably grit my teeth and put up with it.  Of course, it’s getting the wording right that is the difficult thing with referenda – one wouldn’t want to have a close-run vote for ‘roadside daffs remain’ and then all fall out over which sort of daffodil we were thinking of. Wouldn’t that be awful?

Still, maybe Andrea Leadsom could lead the ‘public debate’ over the acceptable faces of roadside feral daffodils and everything would be alright in the end.

But presumably at the moment, if it is OK for someone to impose their daffodil preference on me and everyone else by planting their chosen daffodils in my, our, shared countryside, then I guess it’s equally OK for me to go around digging them up to express my preference and impose that on everyone too? I must put a garden fork in the car boot. Or maybe Monsanto would sponsor me with gallons of one of their environmentally friendly products.

‘Daff Wars’ here we come?




North of the border

The National Trust for Scotland is a separate entity from the National Trust (England, Wales and NI) and therefore doesn’t impinge on my consciousness very much. But I was interested to see that it has been carrying out quite a dramatic down-size (see here, here, here). And even more interested to see that it’s Chief Executive states that a merger with Historic Environment Scotland is ‘almost inevitable’ because the two organisations occupy ‘the same space’.

The charitable object of the NTS is:

To promote the permanent preservation, for the benefit of the Nation, of Land and Buildings in Scotland (the expression “Land” being held throughout these presents to include Lochs and Rivers) of natural beauty or historic interest; and as regards such Land, to preserve (so far as practicable) its natural aspect and features and animal and plant life.’

The charitable object of the HES is:

(1) Historic Environment Scotland has the general function of investigating, caring for and promoting Scotland?s historic environment. (2) In exercising its general function, Historic Environment Scotland has the following particular functions? (a) identifying and recording the historic environment, (b) understanding and interpreting the historic environment, (c) learning about, and educating others about, the historic environment, (d) protecting and managing the historic environment, (e) conserving and enhancing the historic environment. (3) Historic Environment Scotland also has the function of managing its collections as a national resource for reference, study and research. (4) In exercising that function, Historic Environment Scotland has the following particular functions? (a) preserving, conserving and developing its collections, (b) making the collections accessible to the public and to persons wishing to carry out study and research, (c) exhibiting and interpreting objects in the collections.

There is certainly overlap – it’s just that NTS says it does nature conservation and HES doesn’t. Maybe the CEO of NTS doesn’t think that matters much.



and I couldn’t help searching the NTS site for Hen Harrier…




Another Red Kite down in the Dales

Photo: Thomas Kraft via Wikimedia commons

POLICE are appealing for information after a Red Kite was found dead with gunshot wounds near Greenhow, Nidderdale on the afternoon of Saturday, March 11.  That’s just along the road from where Henry had a picnic last year.

PC David Mackay, a Wildlife Crime Officer of North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce, said: ‘It has taken many years to re-introduce red kites after their near-extinction from the UK, and these magnificent birds can now regularly be seen in the skies over North Yorkshire.‘ which is true, but they can also regularly be found illegally killed in this area of North Yorkshire. Depending on exactly where the Red Kite was found it was either in the Yorkshire Dales National Park or the Nidderdale AONB.  There are large areas of grouse moor to the North, South, East and West of Greenhow, I notice.

PC Mackay went on ‘I would ask anyone who has any information that could assist the investigation to get in touch with me.’

 The police are being supported in the investigation by Yorkshire Red Kites.
Anyone with information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for PC 1452 David Mackay, or email You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170047155 when passing information.

Dinosaur vocalisations in Jurassic Park

By Jakub Hałun – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Guy Smith, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union, said last week that farmers were at risk of being treated as “park keepers”, with Britain forced to increase its reliance on imported food. ‘If the only support mechanism that we get is for environmental delivery, we then become state paid park keepers,” he said. “My concern is where does that leave food?‘.

I quite often hear the ‘park-keeper’ phrase from farmers but it’s entirely inappropriate for the following reasons:



  • if British farmers were park keepers they’d be sacked – the State of Nature report showed that ‘the index of change in the abundance and occupancy of farmland species has fallen by 0.56% per year; a statistically significant drop of 20% in total, over the long term. Over our short-term period, the index declined by 0.69% per year; a statistically significant fall of 8% in total.’
  • farmers are supposed to get their income from selling stuff we want – not from the state – but if we decide post-Brexit to continue with income support for land owners then those payments should be for public goods, like carbon storage, flood alleviation, unpolluted water and wildlife rather than for being farmers.
  • if we want farmers to be park keepers (and this isn’t something that anyone other than farmers ever says) then the farming industry should be asking us for the details of what we want for our money and working out how to deliver it.  What other industry tells its customers what they are allowed to have and then demands it is paid for doing what it wants to do?

Let’s hope that Guy and his fellow dinosaurs find it difficult to pick up a pen or tap on a keyboard with those claws at the end of their short arms, otherwise we might their words embedded in the long-awaited Defra Farming Strategy.

The post-Brexit future of farming will be a big test of TM the PM, Andrea Leadsom and Defra. Hands up who is feeling confident that they will come up with the goods!  What – no-one?