Summer readers’ survey

Here’s a short survey – 14 questions (and the last two are about your age and gender) about how you feel about some currently controversial issues.

I aim to reveal the results some time in the middle of next week, so please don’t delay if you fancy answering some questions. All responses are anonymous – I won’t know who you are.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.


Brian May supports e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting


The driven grouse shooting industry may find itself caught in a landslide with no escape from reality when Dr Brian May supports our cause.

Join the thunderclap and sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.




It’s not a picnic for Hen Harriers this year


Next week, on Saturday 25 June, whether we have voted Brexit or Remain, there will be a Hen Harrier rally to mark this year’s virtual absence of nesting Hen Harriers from the English uplands.

Full details will appear here and elsewhere next Wednesday but we have now been told by the organisers that it will be in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  Watch this space.

Picnic Banner-1


Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill





What did Shania sing?

By David Swales (Originally uploaded to Flickr as Hello Shania) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By David Swales (Originally uploaded to Flickr as Hello Shania) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The RSPB really is in a pickle over its line on bird of prey persecution.

Having welcomed the Hen Harrier inaction plan, welcomed the pathetic statement by the Moorland Association and disappointed many (except the Chief Exec of Songbird Survival) with its line on the Hen Harrier breeding season update, more and more people are voicing their concerns. Whilst the RSPB is used to being robust about criticisms from the ‘other side’ it is now facing an ever-increasing amount of disquiet from many long-standing members. It’s not a disaster, it’s not an earthquake, but it is unusual and it should be making RSPB Council think again.

I mentioned last week the criticisms of the RSPB line from the North of England Raptor Forum and from Birders Against Wildlife Crime and now comments on the BAWC blog are uniformly backing up the unease about whether the RSPB is being tough enough on the matter of illegal persecution of birds of prey on grouse moors.  Here are some quotes:

John Wilde ‘I feel that the RSPB is letting down Hen Harriers (and other wildlife) on shooting estates, it needs to change – they know my feelings. I think a little more public visibility in this area is a great idea, Picnics and Hen Harrier Days are good. Organisations such as M&S need a bit of discouragement from selling Red Grouse. Hats off to the National Trust – let’s hope they keep it up.’
Mark McManus ‘I totally agree with you. I’ve been an RSPB member and volunteer for 10 years and cannot believe how they don’t take the fight to these people presumably fearing all sorts of bad things, loss of membership or upsetting a certain element of the membership…. It’s simply the right thing to do and fundamental to the existence of the charity.
Alex Milne ‘Your feelings are rather similar to mine. It is no longer possible I feel for RSPB members accept what we are reading in the blog from Martin Harper.  Surely there are council members or those in the executive who feel as you do.
Rosie Whitfield  ‘Fully support BAWC and also share your disappointment in the lacklustre statements made.
Tom Mckinnon  ‘I find the whole subject perplexing, we know what is causing the demise of the Hen Harrier in this country but seem willing to sit back and complain without actually doing anything. Have a ban on all hunting and shooting in areas where Harriers are likely to nest, and monitor them 24 hours a day.‘.

And the ex-RSPB Regional Director, John Armitage has shown his frustration with his, and my, former employer by writing in his blog first ‘Yesterday was an absolute low spot in the ever downward spiral in the litany of weak responses and explanations being put forward against what is nothing short of a national disgrace.  The posting by Martin Harper ( Director of Conservation, RSPB )  yesterday on the current situation in England with regard to Hen Harriers bordered on the apologetic, lacked substance, still smacked of the “we know best, but will reveal details in due course ” approach , but above all lacked any sign of real commitment to securing change.  I was disappointed, viscerally and uncomfortably !and then, after praising the National Trust for their actions,  ‘the fact that widely read Blogs ( Raptor Persecution UK, Mark Avery, North England Raptor Forum ) are all raising concerns and calling for better defined action is surely a clarion call the RSPB needs to pay heed to. If such is ignored I fear the RSPB will be side lined and lose not only support from individuals, but recognition as the body who, hitherto, has been seen as that being primarily responsible for change.  Sadly it certainly doesn’t appear to be earning its keep at present‘.

The RSPB Council, is putting its staff and the Society in an uncomfortable position by not taking a long look at this matter.  Already it is clear that the RSPB welcoming the Defra Hen Harrier inaction plan does not mean that RSPB members, and certainly those closest to the subject, feel any warmth to it whatsoever. Next time there is a Hen Harrier group can the RSPB really claim a seat at the table?  Probably not without winning back these members and supporters.

The RSPB is in danger of positioning itself, completely unnecessarily, as part of the problem rather than the main organisation likely to deliver a solution.  When our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting gets to, say, 60,000 signatures without RSPB support it will be obvious that with RSPB support the whole subject of driven grouse shooting would be debated in the Westminster parliament.  Surely that is what the RSPB wants? Isn’t it?

You have to dance with the one who brought you RSPB.  Shania Twain would tell you that.




Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons

Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons

I have it on good authority (though not absolutely cast-iron I would admit) that Defra minister(s) have asked, through the Defra Press Office, that the Natural England Press Office don’t bother to include any links to this blog in media summaries they send to Defra, as ministers won’t read them.

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart

That’s not remarkable – but it is very encouraging. And it’s very depressing at the same time. Can you imagine say, Rory Stewart, sticking his fingers in his ears and going ‘La-la-la-la-la!’ so as not to hear anything that he can’t quite cope with?

But this next bit is remarkable. I am told that the same instruction applies to RSPB news items too. The RSPB is seen to be almost as irritating and subversive as this blog by Defra ministers – or so it seems. That is remarkable from where I’m standing.

And it will come as a blow to the RSPB who treasure their ‘traction’ with Defra ministers.

Rory Stewart, perhaps to be consistent with the above, still does not follow the RSPB on Twitter, nor the Wildlife Trusts, nor Natural England, nor other conservation organisations, but he continues to follow Countryside Alliance accounts.  I admire the minister for not hiding the fact that he has his fingers in his ears as far as the natural world is concerned.

For an alternative perspective, just take a look at the Shadow Secretary for the Environment, Kerry McCarthy’s (@KerryMP) Twitter follows. It actually looks as though she is interested in nature (and I know she is!).






43kThat’s another thousand in the bag and we still aren’t half way in time yet. And it comes only two days after 42,000 was reached. That was a successful over!  Thanks everyone!

Take a look at the map which you will see is still dominated by rural constituencies, many of them in grouse moor areas:


It’s a while since I gave you the list of the ‘100 Club’ which now stands at 10% of all UK parliamentary constituencies (and we still aren’t half way through our time yet!).  In fact I last tabulated them on 3 June when they numbered only 55.

This list is even more dominated by rural Conservative constituencies and they will soon be joined by a lot more including (and he will, I’m sure, be thrilled) that of Owen Paterson (93 signatures).

  1. Calder Valley 263 signatures – Craig Whittaker MP, CON
  2. Ross, Skye, Lochaber 206 signatures – Ian Blackford MP, SNP
  3. High Peak 182 signatures – Andrew Bingham MP, CON
  4. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey 175 signatures –  Drew Hendry MP, SNP
  5. Skipton and Ripon 164 signatures – Julian Smith MP, CON
  6. North Norfolk 163 signatures – Norman Lamb MP, LIB
  7. Isle of Wight 161 signatures – Andrew Turner MP, CON
  8. Brighton Pavilion 160 signatures – Caroline Lucas MP, GREEN
  9. Bristol West 159 signatures – Thangan Debonnaire MP, LAB
  10. Derbyshire Dales 154 signatures – Patrick McLoughlin MP, CON
  11. Argyll and Bute 154 signatures – Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP
  12. Sheffield Central 152 signatures –  Paul Blomfield MP, LAB
  13. Westmorland and Lonsdale 141 signatures – Tim Farron MP, LIB
  14. Penrith and The Border 141 signatures – Rory Stewart MP, CON
  15. Central Devon 137 signatures – Mel Stride MP, CON
  16. Torridge and West Devon 136 signatures – Geoffrey Cox MP, CON
  17. South Norfolk 134 signatures – Richard Bacon MP, CON
  18. Dumfries and Galloway 134 signatures – Richard Arkless MP, SNP
  19. Bridgwater and West Somerset 133 signatures – Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, CON
  20. Sheffield Hallam 132 signatures – Nick Clegg MP, LIB
  21. Totnes 131 signatures – Sarah Wollaston MP, CON
  22. Norwich South 128 signatures – Clive Lewis MP, LAB
  23. Suffolk Coastal 134 signatures – Theresa Coffey MP, CON
  24. Scarborough and Whitby 131 signatures – Robert Goodwill MP, CON
  25. West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 128 signatures – Stuart Blair Donaldson MP, SNP
  26. York Central 132 signatures –  Rachael Maskell MP, LAB
  27. Thirsk and Malton 131 signatures – Kevin Hollinrake MP, CON
  28. Wells 127 signatures – James Heappey MP, CON
  29. Cambridge 126 signatures – Daniel Zeichnar MP, LAB
  30. South Cambridgeshire 124 signatures – Heidi Allen MP, CON
  31. Edinburgh North and Leith 124 signatures – Deidre Brock MP, SNP
  32. Ochil and South Perthshire 122 signatures – Tasmina Ahmad-Sheikh MP, SNP
  33. West Dorset 119 signatures – Oliver Letwin MP, CON
  34. Arundel and South Downs 118 signatures – Nick Herbert MP, CON
  35. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 116 signatures – David Mundell MP, CON
  36. Richmond (Yorks) 116 signatures – Rishi Sunak MP, CON
  37. St. Ives 115 signatures – Derek Thomas MP, CON
  38. North Somerset 115 signatures – Liam Fox MP, CON
  39. Stirling 114 signatures – Steven Paterson MP, SNP
  40. Perth and North Perthshire 114 signatures – Pete Wishart MP, SNP
  41. Waveney 113 signatures – Peter Aldous MP, CON
  42. Exeter 113 signatures – Ben Bradshaw MP, LAB
  43. North Wiltshire 113 signatures – James Gray MP, CON
  44. Stroud 112 signatures – Neil Carmichael MP, CON
  45. South West Surrey 112 signatures – Jeremy Hunt MP, CON
  46. Mid Norfolk 112 signatures – George Freeman MP, CON
  47. Lewes 112 signatures – Maria Caulfield MP, CON
  48. Edinburgh South 111 signatures – Ian Murray MP, LAB
  49. East Lothian 111 signatures – George Kerevan MP, SNP
  50. Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 111 signatures – Callum Kerr MP, SNP
  51. Lancaster and Fleetwood 110 signatures – Cat Smith MP, LAB
  52. East Devon 109 signatures – Hugo Swire MP, CON
  53. Ceredigion 108 signatures – Mark Williams MP, LIB
  54. Edinburgh East 108 signatures – Tommy Shepherd MP, SNH
  55. North East Bedfordshire 108 signatures – Alistair Burt MP, CON
  56. Brighton Kemptown 107 signatures – Simon Kirby MP, CON
  57. Bath 105 signatures – Ben Howlett MP, CON
  58. Taunton Deane 105 signatures – Rebecca Pow MP, CON
  59. Tiverton and Honiton 104 signatures – Neil Parish MP, CON
  60. South East Cambridgeshire 104 signatures – Lucy Frazer MP, CON
  61. Richmond Park 104 signatures – Zac Goldsmith MP, CON
  62. South Dorset 102 signatures – Richard Drax MP, CON
  63. Forest of Dean 101 signatures – Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, CON
  64. Berwick-upon-Tweed 100 signatures – Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, CON
  65. The Cotswolds 100 signatures – Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, CON

If the whole of the UK acted like Conservative-held seats then it would be a stroll to get to 100,000 signatures by 20 September – as it is, it’s tough but possible. And we are going to give it our very best shot (as it were!).

Ask a friend to sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting – and if you can’t find a friend that you haven’t asked, then ask an enemy (you never know, do you!). Thank you for all your support.


Congratulations to Sir Ian Booo!tham Ian Booo!tham has been awarded the inaugural ‘Outstanding guns’ award by Fieldsports Magazine.

This award ‘gives recognition to individuals in the world of game shooting who truly deserve it, for all the right reasons‘ apparently.

The award has been invented because ‘the game shooting community must do all that it possibly can to ensure that the right image and messages about our beloved sport are conveyed‘ and that’s why they have chosen, of all people, Sir Ian Botham to be the role model for game shooting.

Sir Ian has been used as a spokesperson by You Forgot the Birds – a group funded by the British grouse industry which includes Crispin Odey and which has attacked the RSPB several times over the last few years (see here, here, here, here).  This is, presumably, the type of behaviour that Fieldsports and the game shooting industry wish to promote and recognise. Another own goal by the shooting industry which is increasingly in disarray over its PR in the face of increasing scrutiny and criticism. So, they have chosen the spokesperson for the most vitriolic anti-RSPB group they could choose. Smart move guys!

We will watch with interest to see whether GWCTadpoles, BASC, Countryside Alliance and Moorland Association pour further honours on Sir Ian’s head and we notice that Ian Coghill (chair of GWCTadpoles) was speaking at the event along with Nigel Adams MP (Selby and Ainstey, 78 signatures)

The RSPB didn’t say ‘We welcome this much-deserved award to our great collaborator Sir Ian. We have enjoyed working closely with Sir Ian and his mates in YFTB over a range of important issues. There’s nothing like close collaboration to move things along.’.

Shania Twain said ‘Dance with the one who brought you’.


This blog says, there is only one thing that will get the grouse shooting industry to mend its ways and that is a strong signal that their end is nigh – sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and add your name to 43,000 others.


Will football results affect the EU referendum?


A man called Bale Photo: Jon Candy from Cardiff, Wales, via Wikimedia Commons


I’ll be watching ‘the’ football match this afternoon and wondering whether the result might affect the EU referendum. And if it does – how?

If Wales beats England today, and I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, how will that affect English voters in the EU referendum? And Welsh ones, and Scots and those in Northern Ireland?  There is speculation that big successes or failures can influence how people feel and how they vote (see here) in general elections but an EU referendum is a different kettle of fish.

There is some evidence that being in the EU is good news for your footballing prospects: of the 54 teams which attempted to qualify, only 6 out of 22 non-EU nations qualified whereas 18 out of 32 EU nations did.  [For nerds only: it is 32 not 28 because, obviously, England, Wales, Scotland, NI and Gibraltar are all EU members and were in the qualifiers. And Faeroe Islands, San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein are not EU members].

And at the time of writing, EU countries are scoring just over one goal per game whereas non-EU countries are scoring a little over half a goal a game. Forget the economics, we’d be better in for our football’s sake (and of course, by ‘we’ I mean England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (even though Scotland is a bit irrelevant here).

If England are out of Euro 2016 by bedtime on Monday, how will that affect the UK electorate on Thursday? Will Gove admit that we can’t stand alone, recant and opt for huddling together with our betters in the EU? Or will Farage slag off those unfair and dastardly Europeans with their red-tape and bureaucracy of yellow cards and off-side rules and use it persuade us all to turn our backs on ‘them’. Will a rampant Welsh nation have sobered up to remember to vote on Thursday if they go through? How will NI take their exit (almost certainly in good spirit I’d guess!)? How will the Scots react to any or all of this happening without them, again?

When the EU superstate takes over and there is eventually one EU team picked from the footballers of teams from Astana to Reykjavik and from Helsinki to Gibraltar how many years will pass before a UK player makes the team?  And will that team always lose to South America?


A man called Rooney. By BikeMike (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

A man called Rooney. By BikeMike (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Just for interest:

Betfair favourites for Euro 2016:

France 3.8/1 (poor value IMHO)

Germany 4/1

Spain 4.8/1

England  9/1  (very poor value IMHO)


Betfair odds on EU referendum:

Brexit 6/4

Remain 4/6





Lack of vowels shock, warning by wildlife gunners

tadpoleThe GWCT (Gunning wildlife, conserving tadpoles) thrash around in  a complete dither these days.

They don’t know whether they are coming or going – quite literally.  Having said that they would be pleased to field someone for the Bird Fair debate on whether driven grouse shooting should be banned they have now come back to me to say that they cannot find a single person from their membership or supporters who will face a friendly Bird Fair audience and argue for their ‘sport’. Where are you Beefy Botham? Ian Coghill? Teresa Dent? Duke of Westminster? Earl Peel? Charles Moore? Nicholas Soames? Paul Dacre? Magnus Linklater? Philip Astor?  You can’t all be blasting away at Red Grouse that day surely? Andrew Gilruth is on holiday – fair enough, but he does seem to be the only person ever prepared to try to defend the grouse shooting industry.

But Gunning Wildlife, Conserving Tadpoles is very worried about vowels because ‘some managers’ are ‘reporting’ a ‘significant decline’ in vowels this year. This is clearly a bit of a defensive move which is trying to frame the Hen Harrier crash in England as being due to lack of vowels in the hills. Hn Harrirs are wll known to b partial to th odd vowel – thy ar particularly kn on ‘e’s. No ‘e’s and Hn Harrir numbrs plummt is what I suppos GWCT ar trying to tll us.

GWCT said ‘W dn’t knw what w re dng rlly. W cn’t fc th wrld wth rgmnts s pr s th ns w pblsh n r blg. Why sn’t nyn lstnng t s nymr? Whr hv ll the vowls gn?’

The RSPB said ‘We welcome this statement from the GWCT – it makes as much sense as any of their others.