10,000 signatures in 65 days

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Which one were you?

You have made this the 20th most signed e-petition, concerning Defra, in just 65 days.  Thank you very much.

Now Defra has to write a response to this e-petition.

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.  Become part of the movement for change.

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Wuthering Moors 46

welcomingI see that Walshaw Moor Estate has made a planning application to build a livestock building and a stone access track.

How sensitive of them at this time.  There are quite a few local objections and I gather that NE are a bit worried about this too.  To be fair, as best I can make out, this proposal stops at the SPA and SAC boundary – though it’s a little difficult for me to tell with the mapping tools available to me.  That does not, of course, mean that there is no impact to the SAC or SPA and any developer would have to satisfy the authorities of no impact before such an application should be given permission.

The public can object to this proposal up until 10 August.

But it does remind me that everything has gone quiet on the RSPB complaint to Europe over burning of blanket bog. How is it going I wonder? Has our government got a robust defence for its position on consenting burning regimes at Walshaw Moor and many other moors across the north of England?

What’s happening? I think we should be told.

What’s happening with our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting? Today it has passed 9,700, 9,800 and 9,900 signatures. What’s the next milestone – ah yes 10,000?  And at 10,000 Defra need to write their response telling us all to go boil our heads.

Are you sure you’ll need that new road, Mr Bannister?

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And now from AA to RSPB

Thunderclap-requestNo, not those nice people who fix your car by the side of the road, not those nice people who help you give up the booze, but those people, who sent me thousands of postcards disapproving, in no uncertain terms, of the RSPB’s position on culling Ruddy Ducks many years ago – Animal Aid.

Animal Aid have published a report, updating a previous one, on the ills of grouse shooting – called Calling the Shots 2014.

Animal Aid’s two campaign aims are to remove public subsidies for grouse moor management and to licence grouse shooting estates. They’ve gone a bit soft since the old days!

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddBut isn’t it interesting how suddenly things are changing, and a swell of opinion is building. It’s as though lots of people have been too scared to talk about grouse shooting and its ills for ages and now they all feel a little bit empowered to do so.

So we have:

And the response from the grouse shooting community is…?

No realisation that they have to change. No admission of error. No public sign of contrition. Just silence…

…silence…

…silence…

…silence…the sound of intransigence.

…silence…the sound of arrogance.

And…

…silence…the sound of the world leaving them behind.

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Down your lane…

bothsides

I was driving down a country lane not far from home, a couple of months ago, when I noticed that the hedge on one side of the road was rather sparse; and then I noticed it was completely lifeless.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

And it wasn’t just a few metres, it went on and on and on for, I reckon, over a mile.

I stopped and took a photo on the good side of the road…

good side

…that looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

And then I took a photo on the other side of the road…

badside

…and that looks pretty awful doesn’t it?

It is almost as though one side of the road was sprayed out, for a length of, as I say, and as I recall, over a mile. Incredible?

I did stop and mouthed at the man in the distant tractor in the top image ‘What happened there?’ but he shrugged and looked away, and I got the impression he wasn’t keen to talk.

Now, this is not a road I know well, but I talked to a few locals who said that they hadn’t noticed anything until this spring when one side of the road just never greened up.  The local belief is that a contractor drove down the road with his spray still running after spraying an autumn wheat field with herbicide last autumn. Farmers I have spoken to think this would be very difficult to do by accident with modern day machinery.  Nobody blames the farmer who actually owns most of this hedge and people say he is puzzled and upset too.

It’s a bit of a mystery. Anyone got any ideas?

Just in case you are wondering, locals tell me that the ‘bad’ side of the road now was, if anything, even better than the ‘good’ side of the road in previous years. I can’t  corroborate that but I have checked this very spot on Google Maps, at street view (amazing what you can find on the web ain’t it?), and in June 2009 I can attest that the two sides of the road look equally luxuriant and species-rich.  What a shame?

I wonder how long this long stretch of hedge will take to recover?  Any ideas on that please?

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Fair to Nature farming award

Every year we are reminded in various ways about the fact that there are some really fantastic farmers – out there. And it’s so much easier to believe that now that  we don’t hear the NFU spouting anti-environment nonsense every few days.

This year there is a new farming award on the block – the Conservation Grade Fair to Nature farming award.

The short-listed farmers all look like great guys (and they are all guys) and any of them would make a deserving winner, of course.

Have a look at the list and make your own mind up. I chose Graham Birch.  His sounds like a wonderful farm and if I lived anywhere near it I’d certainly visit on Open Farm Sunday, in the hope of seeing some of his orchids, even though it would be a bit early for the best of his butterflies, I guess.

Make your own mind up and vote here – the more votes, the more we are showing that we support those good guys in the farming industry.

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St Martha’s day

In Northampton Waterstones earlier today

In Northampton Waterstones earlier today

St Martha is the patron saint of cooks – and this is her day.

Page 148 of A Message from Martha will give you details of stewing, baking, frying and broiling of  Passenger Pigeons  – but first, catch your Passenger Pigeon, which might be a tad difficult today.

Yesterday I saw the proofs of my article for September BBC Wildlife magazine on Passenger Pigeons and today I’ve been in touch with BirdLife International about artwork to accompany an article for their magazine World Birdwatch.

Also today I went into the BBC Northampton studio to record some words for a radio programme on Passenger Pigeons that is planned to broadcast later this year.

And Waterstones in Northampton have a copy of A Message from Martha on their shelves – at least they did at 1115 today.

I’ve been humming the tune from the Corner Laughers all day today – it’s very catchy I think.

It all seems quite appropriate for St Martha’s Day – although because I am on the 5:2 diet I‘m not eating much today – can’t have everything!  Patron Saint of cooks indeed!

 

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Guest Blog – Pop songs and pigeons by Karla Kane of The Corner Laughers

apwphotos-cornerlaughers-1

Left to right: Charlie Crabtree, Karla Kane, Khoi Huynh, KC Bowman. Photo: APW Photography

The Passenger Pigeon went extinct in 1914, the same year the Great War began. To commemorate the centenary of those two events, my band, The Corner Laughers, has released an ode to the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, in the style of a First World War-era song (but with synthesizers, for no good reason, really).

 

kkmidsomm1Bassist Khoi Huynh, who wrote “Martha,” has been an avid birder since childhood, when he formed his own group and corresponding publication, the intriguingly titled “Save-the-Birds-Club Bird Club Book of Birds.”

I was voted “most likely to hug a tree” in high school and earned my master’s degree with a dissertation on the California Condor, a bird which came very close to extinction in the 1980s but has since made a comeback of sorts. The California Condor is the topic of another song. We’ve been lucky enough to witness a few condors being released into the wild. We’ve also made the long trip to an annual vulture festival several times and for five years were volunteers with a local wildlife-rescue clinic.

I’d Rather Count Cormorants With You” was inspired by guitarist KC Bowman declaring he’d rather go birding with us than watch the Super Bowl (we prefer the superb owl). Incidentally, KC, all-American boy that he is, named the Bald Eagle as his favorite bird (drummer Charlie Crabtree is partial to penguins).

Birds appear in the artwork of many of our records, illustrated by fellow bird-enthusiast Anna Saccheri. “Poppy Seeds” sports our official state bird, the California Quail, while “Ultraviolet Garden” has a hummingbird. “Tomb of Leopards” has our rock-dove logo and the motto “Be kind to pigeons.” And “Transamerica Pyramid” boasts San Francisco’s famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.

We love touring in the UK and when we aren’t on stage you can find us traipsing through parks, searching for birds, foxes, and hedgehogs.
Midsommar”, the A-side to “Martha,” was partially inspired by one such trip to England. It’ll be part of our next full-length record, too.

We’re midway through recording that album and haven’t yet decided which creature to feature in the artwork this time around. Any suggestions?

 

Corner Laughers Midsommar Band Photo

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Hen Harrier Day update

Hen-Harrier-Day-300pxNot a great deal of news this week.

We are ‘good to go’ for the event at Fairholmes Visitor Centre at 10am on 10 August.  This event is FULL – the car park is likely to be full to overflowing and there is no chance of extra capacity.  If you can come by bus, or train and then bus, then that would be a great help (click here for details).

If you are registered for the event then you should have received an email from me yesterday. And dogs on leads are allowed.

I have ordered a megaphone for the event which should arrive tomorrow. I deliberately chose the type where your face is not obscured by it so that you can all see Chris Packham’s face when he says a few words.  Tomorrow I will be looking for a field in which to practice my megaphone diplomacy.

I have ordered my T-shirt to be printed for the day (click here for details) and, rather spookily, the people I spoke to said that a lady had come in asking for the same Hen Harrier Day design to be printed only today. Provided they do a good job for me I will give the company a plug in a later blog!

Do sign up to the Hen Harrier Day ‘thunderclap’ if you use Twitter, Facebook and/or tumblr.  It is very close to having a social reach of 1,000,000 people – you could be the person who pushes it over the landmark total.

Only one more Monday update after this until the event itself.

 

 

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Bee-eaters on IoW

beepr

Pair of nesting Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight

The National Trust has announced that there is a pair of Bee-eaters (the only bird with three consecutive ‘e’s in its name? Probably not, though I can’t think of another) nesting on the Isle of Wight.

As someone who spent six summers studying bee-eaters in the Camargue, I must say I am delighted.  The birds have been seen carrying food down their nesting tunnel so this indicates that the young have hatched – or at least the first of them as they are asynchronous hatchers – one egg a day will hatch on average (I told you I studied them!).

What the team on 24-hour round the clock watch can expect to see is that the parent birds, pretty equally, will bring small prey – guess what! – mostly bees – to the chicks at first and then will be bringing more and more larger prey with dragonflies making up a large proportion of them (depending, of course, on what’s about).

In France, we always knew when the rice harvest had begun because the Bee-eaters started bringing Great Green Bush-crickets (or Great Green Googly insects as we called them) Tettigonia viridissima to the nestlings then.

beeWhat does this Bee-eater, one of the pair concerned, have in its beak do you think? Is it a very large fly? Someone will tell me, I’m sure.

This bird looks like the male – lots of orange on the wing – the females have more green but there is quite a lot of overlap (I told you, I used to study them).

Bee-eaters have nested successfully in the UK only twice before – this isn’t yet the third one. Those successful nests were in Sussex in 1955, and in Co Durham (rather surprisingly) in 2002.

There was an unsuccessful nesting attempt in Herefordshire, predated by foxes, in 2005.

Have you seen a Bee-eater? If so, I bet you said ‘They are smaller than I expected’ when you did see them – didn’t you?

As a Bee-eater lover I used to smile every time the afternoon play on BBC Radio 4 played idyllic rural bird noises in the background, as one often heard the pruit-pruit of a Bee-eater – this summer it’s true!

 

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Letter to my MP – please ask Ed to join the Hen Harrier thunderclap

To Andy Sawford MP

 

Dear Andy

photoI haven’t written to your for a while.  I thought you deserved a bit of a rest from me and I know you weren’t too pleased that I voted Green in the euro-elections so I’ve been keeping my head down.

However, as I’ve always said, you can rely on my vote in the next general election as you are an excellent constituency MP and this is a marginal seat.

You signed up, unasked, to the ‘thunderclap’ on Hen Harriers that will go out to the world on 10 August – and for that I’m grateful.  I wonder how many other MPs have followed suit? I’d love to know – maybe you are the only one.  Thank you again.

Thunderclap-requestAs you know, the thunderclap merely states that ‘We’re missing our Hen Harriers’ drawing attention to the fact that this fully protected species is sadly depleted because of illegal persecution by the grouse shooting industry.  No-one, surely, supports wildlife crime.

And therefore, I’m asking you in this letter to spend a little time asking your Labour colleagues to sign up to the thunderclap too. Maybe the Labour Press team, after promising us all an owl by accident (or actually through hacking of their twitter account) could now send a message of support to the oppressed and downtrodden (sometime literally) Hen Harrier.  If this isn’t a bird that Labour should support then what is?

photoI’m still a fan of Ed Miliband but if he feels he needs something to bolster his image then there is nothing much that would go down better with birders across the UK, in marginal seats as well as safe ones, than a message of support to Hen Harriers.

There is no need to reply to this email but now the cat is out of the bag I hope Ed beats David Cameron and, what’s his name?, oh yes, Nick Clegg, to sign up to the Hen Harrier thunderclap.

best wishes

 

Mark

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