Who do they follow? Liz Truss

Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

Liz Truss is the Secretary of State at Defra and the MP for Southwest Norfolk.  Her Twitter handle is @trussliz. She has 21,500 Twitter followers (including me) and follows 940 Twitter accounts (not including me).

Ms Truss’s Twitter account gives little evidence that she is interested in the environment at all. She follows no national wildlife or environmental organisations as far as I can see – except for Natural England (and it looks as though she has only just discovered them!) and the Environment Agency (and they work for her!). She does follow quite a few of her Defra staff (eg her chief vet (@ChiefVetUK) and chief scientist (@DefraChiefScien)) and agencies such as the Food Standards Agency (@foodgov) and the Rural Payments (on a good day) Agency (@Ruralpay).

She does follow Andy Clements (@_AndyClements the boss of the BTO but not the BTO (@_BTO) itself, despite it being based in her constituency) and she follows the eastern region of RSPB too (@RSPBintheEast).

On the other hand, Ms Truss does follow the Countryside Alliance account – as is normal, it seems, for Defra ministers so that they can keep in touch with their stakeholders!

If anything there is slightly more evidence that Ms Truss was interested in her old job in Education than her current one in Defra from her Twitter follows.





Who do they follow? Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Defra and the MP for Penrith and the Borders.  His Twitter handle is @RoryStewartUK. He has 24,500 Twitter followers (including me) and follows 590 Twitter accounts (not including me).

It’s sometimes amusing to stroll through someone’s Twitter follows.  They are usually a varied bunch and may give you an insight into the follower’s thoughts – but who knows?! As befits any junior minister, Mr Stewart wisely follows David Cameron (@David_Cameron), Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) and George Osborne (@George_Osborne), as well as his boss Liz Truss (@trussliz).  He also follows one agency closely associated with his own department, the Environment Agency (@EnvAgency), but not Natural England (@NaturalEngland) or the Forestry Commission (@ForestryCommEng – although he does follow a local FC staff member).

There are a lot of political journalists, lots of fellow Tory MPs (and a few from other sides of the debate) just as one might expect from an MP and there are lots of follows of accounts based in his constituency as one would expect from any MP (eg Cumbria County Council (@CumbriaCC), the ApplebyCreamery (@ApplebyCreamery), the Eden Brewery (@Edenbreweryltd), Penrith AFC (@penrithfc) and the Bampton cinema (I’d ditch them minister – they’ve gone very quiet)).

Mr Stewart’s ‘follows’ also include Ronan Keating (@ronanofficial), Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI), Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret), Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais), Mark Steel (@mrmarksteel) and Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow).  I follow two of them too – which two would you guess?

There is a distinct lack of Twitter interest from the minister in the natural environment. He follows his local wildlife trusts (@cumbriawildlife) but not @wildlifetrusts, @nationaltrust, @natures_voice or any other national wildlife NGO that I could spot.  James Cooper of the Woodland Trust gets a follow (@JVCooper100) but otherwise conservationists are thin on the ground. Mr Stewart makes up for this by following three Countryside Alliance Twitter accounts (@CAupdates, @CAAwards, @CACampaigns), the Farmers Guardian (@FarmersGuardian), Farmers Weekly (@Farmersweekly), NFU (@NFUtweets) and CLA (@clatweets).

Having a look at who somebody follows on Twitter is a bit like looking at their bookshelves – you can’t tell that much from it, but you can tell something. My bookshelves have a few mistaken purchases, some books I meant to read but never have, some gifts from others (some very welcome and others less so) and a whole lot of books I love, need, or used to love or need. You’ll get an idea of who I am from my books and from my Twitter follows. If you’d like to look at my Twitter follows – feel free!


Environmentalists for Europe E4E

website-logo4-1This looks good: a new website and group called Environmentalists for Europe.

The website is rather slow – perhaps it is being inundated with people joining?

Follow on Twitter at @Env4Eur

Like on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EnvironmentalistsForEurope/

It’s good to see cross-party support from the likes of Lord Deben, Baroness Young, Caroline Lucas MP, Richard Benyon MP, Baroness Parminter and Stanley Johnson.

This looks like a good initiative.

Most environmentalists I know are pro-EU – not unquestioningly, but strongly. The referendum will be a good opportunity for all of us to examine those knee-jerk reactions and find out how well based they really are. It’s an important decision – let’s get it right.


Do you tweet (revisited, revisited)

I can’t beleive that it’s almost 18 months since I updated this list of Twitter accounts from some of our favourite wildlife organisations (and BASC and GWCT). But, apparently it is.

My Twitter following passed 25,000 a little while ago so I thought that rather than preen myself on the size of my achievement I’d look at it in context – very wise, the whole world is growing their Twitter accounts.

The table below shows the number of followers in thousands (NT 503,000 followers) and the % change since September 2014.  In that time the BTO (@_BTO) has moved up a place in the list, and so has Buglife (@buzz_dont_tweet), but essentially there is little change.

A caveat: you can’t judge a man, or an organisation, by the size of their Twitter following, but in a world of social media growth, and in a field where communication is quite important, these things are of passing interest.

One more caveat: lots of followers doesn’t mean that anyone likes or even reads your tweets. I follow several of these accounts without paying them much attention most of the time.

Another caveat: other social media outlets are available, eg Facebook, tumblr etc

Yet another caveat: many of these organisations have multiple Twitter accounts (so do I; @fightingforbirds and @Inglorious_Book).

Last caveat: probably no single person on Earth knows what this list of organisations are aiming to do with all their Twitter accounts, so it’s very difficult to know which is succeeding most.

@national trust                         503 +90%
@natures_voice                        207 +73%
@wwf_uk                                   177 +113%
@woodlandtrust                       106 +65%
@wildlifetrusts                            80 +100%
@_BTO                                         50 +61%
@Birdlife_news                          46 +44%
@savebutterflies                         37 +54%
@_BCT_                                       31 +48%
@buzz_dont_tweet                    28 +55%
@WWTworldwide                      26 +37%
@markavery                                 25 +56%
@mcsuk                                         20 +33%
@loveplants                                  19 +46%
@worldlandtrust                          17 +42%
@BASCnews                                  13 +44%
@gameandwildlife                         9 +125%


One day I really will get around to giving a view on these so-called social media accounts because there are, I think, some interesting ways in which they are used. Some are not very social, for a start!


Spreading the word

Photo: Gordon Yates

Photo: Gordon Yates

I’ll be talking to what I am told is a sell-out crowd of around 100 people in Glossop on Tuesday evening. My message will be that we should ban driven grouse shooting.

In the last couple of weeks I have spoken to a crowd of Cambridge undergraduates (c50 folk), my local RSPB group (c100 people), a group of Exeter University students in Falmouth (c150 crowd), the Friends of Rainham Marshes (c50 people) and the Nottingham RSPB group (c50 people).

Everywhere I go, I meet some people who are already fired up about grouse shooting, and often its impact on bird of prey populations, but I also meet people for whom the story is a new one; at least some of those people come thinking that they might be about to have a dull evening but the group is part of their normal schedule and some of them go away fired up on the issue. Many people ask why they haven’t been told about this issue before and some ask me why the RSPB has been completely silent on this issue.

It’s left to me to defend the RSPB, which I do because I am used to doing it, and it reminds me of when I was Conservation Director of the RSPB when I was often told that we (as it was then) had been silent on an issue when we had been talking about it loads and loads (it seemed to us and to me). That’s one of the things about communication – it’s better to measure its success by who has heard you than by how often you sent out the message.  That’s one of the reasons why an e-petition is a useful part of our campaign; provided support for it grows, it shows us, and it shows them (choose whichever ‘them’ you like) that more and more people are getting the message.

I often tell people that hardly anybody knows about Hen Harriers. I use the entirely fictional suggestions that 1% of people love Hen Harriers (and some of them are usually in the audience in front of me) and about 1% of the public loathe Hen Harriers (they sometimes turn up to my talks too) but that most people are unaware. The more we spread the word about Hen Harriers, Peregrines, greenhouse gas emissions, damaged peat bogs, increased flood risk etc the more people will recruit to the view that driven grouse shooting should be banned and the more difficult it is for politicians to sit idly by issuing Hen Harrier non-plans and doing nothing to make upland management for the many rather than for the few.

If five or six people leave my talk at Glossop fired up and with their minds changed it will have been a good evening. Maybe a few will buy Inglorious and become even more sure that things must change. they may lend the book to their friends who might  become energised too.  Watch this space for another e-petition that will show us all how much the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting is growing.



Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill



Dear Mr Pursglove

Happy New Year!

This is quite a long communication, so I have structured it into three sections: things I’d like you to know as my MP (and my contribution to your Listening to Corby and east Northants campaign), things I’d like to ask you (not the government – you) as my MP, and things I would be grateful if you could ask government on my behalf:


Did you know?:

  1. You and I are never going to agree on the EU – I feel disappointed to have an MP who is prominent in the ‘out’ campaign
  2. You and I are probably never going to agree on climate change – I feel disappointed to have an MP who is prominent in the campaign against wind energy
  3. The e-petition under my name to ban driven grouse shooting closed in late January having amassed 33,650+ signatures. This is another thing on which we are probably never going to agree.
  4. The UK agreed in 2014, along with lots of other nations, to phase out the use of lead ammunition in three years.


A few questions for you:

  1. What is your view on banning toxic lead ammunition in this country as it has been in other countries and many US states? I’m trying hard here, to find something on which we might agree.
  2. Did you notice that there was much discussion over the Christmas break on the role of intensive grouse moor management on floods in northern England (as covered in my book Inglorious which I loaned you (and which I somehow doubt you read from cover to cover))? In particular, did you notice that the Calder Valley was severely flooded and this is blamed by some on the intensification of grouse moor management on nearby grouse moors, including Walshaw Moor (as covered in some detail in the book I loaned you)?  Check out this article by George Monbiot http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/deluge-farmers-flood-grouse-moor-drain-land
  3. Did you do the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this year? If so, which species did you see? Would you like to come round to my house and count birds and talk politics with me next year?  Your excellent Labour predecessor, Andy Sawford, took up this offer a few years ago.
  4. What precisely is your beef against windfarms? I quite like them. Do you deny the reality of man-made climate change? Or do you doubt the usefulness of wind energy in dealing with it? If so, what is your chosen way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  5. How would you see the future shape of payments to farmers if we were to leave the EU? More money or less money? More money for environmental improvement or less money for environmental improvement?


Please can you find out for me…:

  1. From Defra, why has Liz Truss, the Secretary of State, not published the report of the Lead Ammunition Group which she received in early June 2015.  The delay in publishing the report is unacceptable.
  2. From Defra, when will Liz Truss respond to the report of the Lead Ammunition Group on which she has been sitting for over eight months?
  3. From Defra, did a minister sign off the government response to my e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting? If so, which minister?

Yours sincerely





There is what now seems a rather poignant review of Martin Garner’s Birding Frontiers Challenge Series: Winter in the February British Birds. Martin passed away, after a long illness, last week.  Here are some last thoughts from Martin. And a link to the Birding Frontiers website.

The same BB has an obituary of Norman Moore written by Ian Newton.

Make the most of your time.


‘More birds of prey illegally killed in the Peak District National Park’

The headline says it all: ‘Reward offered as more birds of prey are illegally killed in the Peak District National Park’. Amongst many press releases issued yesterday by Derbyshire Police, between a couple dealing with illegal off-roading in the Dales and romance fraud, Derbyshire Police and RSPB offered £1000 for information on yet more birds of prey being killed in the Peak District National Park. This time it’s an Osprey and a Buzzard which were found dead near Glossop in September.

The Osprey is obviously a bit more interesting than the Buzzard, being a rare visitor just passing through on migration. This Osprey was given a warm Peak District National Park welcome by having both of its legs broken in a spring trap, it is thought.  The Buzzard was shot. This Osprey, passing through the Peak District on its way to Africa for the winter, was killed in a national park set up to conserve and enhance natural beauty.  Not doing too well there, are we?

The Peak District has a terrible record for illegal raptor killing and even when it sets up a collaborative project amongst all stakeholders it fails.  People have even written reports about how bad things are here, and that was years ago – see here and here.  But now the deaths of birds of prey just count as ‘More birds of prey illegally killed in the Peak District National Park’.

As you enter the Peak District National Park you are entering a wildlife crime scene – a hotspot for bird of prey persecution, not a haven for our threatened wildlife.  If we were setting up National Parks today would we grant NP status to a wildlife crime hotspot?  An area notorious for its wildlife crime?

I’ll be driving past where these two birds were found dead next week on my way to talk to the High Peak group of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust – my message to them will be that we should ban driven grouse shooting and that if we needed anywhere to start then it should be in our national parks. What place does this unsustainable sport have in conserving and enhancing natural beauty? I’d love to see you there but if you haven’t got a ticket already then I’m afraid I won’t – it sold out weeks ago, showing that people care about what is happening at least.



HHs in BB – time for the Royals to speak out.

Photo: Gordon Yates

Photo: Gordon Yates

There is an excellent paper in British Birds – there often is. But the February BB has ‘The past, current and potential status of breeding Hen Harriers in North-east Scotland’ by Graham Rebecca, Brian Cosnette, Jim Craib, Alistair Duncan, Brian Etheridge, Ian Frnacis, Jon Hardey, Alastair Pout and Logan Steele.

It’s a very good local or regional account of how illegal persecution of Hen Harriers on grouse moors plays out – it brings the horror of it all right down to earth in Deeside, Donside and the neighbouring areas.

The whole article is well worth a read, and I don’t want to detract from your enjoyment of it – in fact, I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to read it, but here are a few highlights or lowlights:

  • in the study area there regularly used to be over 20 pairs of Hen Harrier (probables plus confirmed)
  • now there are rarely double figures and rather rarely more than five.
  • in the absence of illegal persecution the study area could support over 100 pairs of Hen Harrier so things have never been great, but they are at rock-bottom (perhaps) now.
  • SNH failed to designate the Ladder Hills as an SPA under the Birds Directive despite thinking it over for several years. Lack of enthusiasm from landowners might have been a factor in their dithering.
  • it is suggested that buffer zones around Hen Harrier nests could be employed to protect the birds from disturbance – I guess including lethal disturbance.
  • it is mentioned that ‘there are now sustained calls for [grouse shooting] to be regulated or even banned’ – where’s that e-petition when you need it?

If you live in Aberdeenshire or East Moray and you go up into the hills, the landscape you see is given over to the selfish hobby of shooting Red Grouse for profit and/or fun and the message of this paper is that this deprives you of around 100 pairs of Hen Harriers – a bird with complete legal protection since 1954. Much of this crime must be happening inside the Cairngorms National Park and across a wide variety of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and some Special Areas of Conservation too.

This is surely the time for those landowners who deplore wildlife crime to speak out.  Are there any prominent landowners in this area whose views might influence the others in a dramatic way and might send out a strong signal to end wildlife crime?

Hang on! Yes there are.  The Royal Estate of Balmoral is in this study area and we know that Prince Charles, Prince William and even Prince Harry are very keen on ending wildlife crime abroad. They often give their support to campaigns against foreign wildlife crime – well, now is the time to speak out about wildlife crime on their very doorsteps.

It’s all very well saying that Princess Charlotte’s generation will be the last one to see elephants and rhinos in Africa but there must be Charlotte’s living in Deeside who never see Hen Harriers because of wildlife crime on the Royal doorstep. And good for Prince Harry to hug an elephant but we’ve never seen him hug a Hen Harrier have we?

It’s supposed to be ‘think global and act local’ not ‘turn a blind eye locally, and go out and talk wildlife crime abroad’.

There is no doubt that the grouse moors of North-east Scotland lack Hen Harriers because of wildlife crime. And there is no doubt that that wildlife crime emanates from the grouse shooting community.  It is time, past time actually, for our Royal Family to speak out on this issue which is on their very doorstep.  It cuts no ice to be against wildlife crime abroad and yet remain silent about it at home.

And yes, let’s say it, the fear is that the Royal Family is a part of the community that is responsible for wildlife crime – not that they, of course, allow it on their own land, but that they are so fully embedded in the grouse shooting community that they find it far easier to talk about foreigners killing elephants in South Africa than fellow landowners killing Hen Harriers just down the road.

Inglorious (p254-55) includes an entirely fanciful account of a speech made about raptor persecution by a Royal Prince – we should hear that speech now.

A good starting point would be a statement on how many Hen Harriers nest at Balmoral, and how many more the landowners would like there to be.


See also Raptor Persecution Scotland blog.