Good luck Green Man Festival!

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Good luck at the Green Man Festival – we’ll be thinking of you at the Bird Fair.

Glanusk Estate.

Please sign our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

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Back home after the Bird Fair

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A simple domestic scene in the Avery household after a Saturday at the Bird Fair – celebrating with M&S Cava in 100,000 signature mugs (we’re no mugs!)!

Sign here to add to the celebrations – ban driven grouse shooting.

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Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhilll (@CartoonRalph)

bermudaSigning our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting will not help if you believe Reasons 2 and 3, but it will pretty much end the problem if you believe Reason 1.

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Just a quick note on the Bird Fair

I’ve been at the Bird Fair all day – I’ve just got home and opened a bottle or two of wine which friends are drinking downstairs.

BirdfairWhat a great day!

Just a quick note of thanks to Simon Lester for coming to the debate on grouse shooting.  All credit to him for coming when not a single staff member or member of either the Moorland Association or the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust was prepared to put their case in front of a packed marquee of 500+ people. The audience deserved better from the shooting community than avoidance (no disrespect to Simon who was great but not able to speak for the moor owners and the people who sat with Defra and came up with a nonsensical Hen Harrier Plan which is now in shreds).

And all credit to Natalie Bennett for coming to the Bird Fair – the most senior UK politician I have ever seen there while doing their day job (all credit to birder Sir John Randall – former MP – who was present today as well) – and who spoke with knowledge and passion.  To hear Natalie and Simon was worth the effort for many people of coming to the event. But it was shameful that the leaders of the ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting weren’t prepared to turn up and show their faces.  It#salmost as though they have something to hide.

The Bird Fair, having screwed its courage to the sticking point and had this event – ought to have many more in future. Next year why can’t we see politicians addressing the subject of agricultural payments from the taxpayer to farmers in the new Brexit world? Or maybe we should hear about what different parties would do for the marine environment?  This afternoon the main event marquee was packed – I got the impression that the event was welcomed but was probably a bit tame for some. Having dared and won, the Bird Fair should dare a little more each year…

I’ll write a more considered view of the Bird Fair after it’s over, but probably I’ll write some snippets tomorrow and Sunday evening too.

For now, I aim to join my guests downstairs before they drink all my wine…

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Ups and downs of signatures

I emailed the House of Commons petitions Committee at 4am this morning (yes that’s right) with some concerns over the frequency with which our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting is yoyoing up and down at the moment as bot attacks add signatures and then these are removed later in the day (often quickly).

Just to be clear – I do not see any more of the working s of the e-petition than any of you do so I know no more about it than you.

You’ll notice that the response below sounds calm and reassuring. there are no doubts at all about our current total being way over 100,000 signature and the claim that the whole process is robust – so it must be.

I might enquire further – but not for a while as I have another two days of Bird Fair to enjoy!

Dr Avery,

Thank you very much for your message. I will answer as best I can!

The short answer is that I can’t give you a full explanation of the process by which attacks are spotted – I’m a parliamentary procedure expert rather than an IT one. The technical side of the site is looked after for us by the Government Digital Service. They are, understandably, fairly reticent about sharing too much about their security techniques – because to do so might well undermine their effectiveness. You might try them through the Cabinet Office though:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/cabinet-office

I can say that there are both automated and manual checks that GDS do on signature patterns, which identify suspicious patterns and block or remove fraudulent signatures. This monitoring is happening more or less constantly. To answer your understandable concern about over-correction, I can assure you that signatures are only removed when we are sure that they are not genuine.

As some more practical reassurance, I can tell you that when we had a similar problem with the EU referendum petition, we were contacted by many people who were concerned that their signatures might have been wrongly removed. In every case, we checked the system for them and found that the signature had not been removed.

Best wishes,

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Tough for Tufty on grouse moors in Scotland

Tufty_Fluffytail_badgeThose who were being taught how to cross the road safely in the 1960s will remember the starring role of Tufty in the Green Cross Code. Back then it was still possible to use a Red Squirrel in a national advertising campaign without most people creasing their brows and asking ‘What’s that? It’s red’.

I was sent this image of a dead Red Squirrel on condition that its source remains anonymous – but the image comes from a Scottish grouse moor (I  have no reason to doubt that,  and several reasons to believe it).

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There is so much collateral damage to wildlife on grouse moors  – all those Red Foxes, Stoats, Carrion Crows, Hooded Crows etc killed legally and deliberately and then species like Red Squirrel, Dipper and Ring Ousel caught in traps whose aim is to kill the species regarded as vermin on the grouse moors.

This lot should be thrown out of the Tufty Club and you can help that happen by signing this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

 

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10 Things to do on Day 1 of the Bird Fair

  1. Remember your entrance ticket – if you purchased in advance!
  2. Rain is forecast – you may need to bring a coat and wellies
  3. You will need some money for buying books, beer and butties
  4. Come to the Q&A on driven grouse shooting at the Events Marquee at 16:30 and ask a difficult question of someone else on the panel
  5. If you would like to sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting then you should be able to do so on the BAWC stand, the LACS stand and the Rare Bird Alert stand (and maybe elsewhere too)
  6. If you would like to take away leaflets to promote the e-petition then they will be available from the BAWC stand – while stocks last.
  7. BAWC’s Charlie Moores and Badger Trust’s Dominic Dyer are on stage in the Events Marquee at 1pm with thewonderful Mike Dilger
  8. You should say ‘Hi!’ and ‘Well done!’ to Chris Packham wherever you see him today.
  9. Although Chris Packham isn’t so keen on hugs, a Hen Harrier called Henry likes a quick friendly cuddle, so say hello to him if the weather doesn’t ground him for too much of the day.
  10. Come and say hello to me – I’m quite friendly too, and am available for cuddles

Birdfair

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I’d like to thank Duncan Thomas…

The days of 13-15 May 2014 were very important in the genesis of our campaign to ban driven grouse shooting – you may recall that the first of three e-petitions was launched just two weeks later and that started the whole thing rolling.

I wrote about those days in short summary in this blog (see Upland balance 19 May 2014, Unprofitable farming 23 May 2014, National Trust – High Peak 22 May 2014) and again in Inglorious (see pp 184-192) but I can add a few words and some thoughts now that we have come to the end of the beginning of the campaign.

I was speaking at an upland conference at Newton Rigg college – the subject of the conference was ‘balance’. There was a strong turnout at that conference from the shooting organisations – Richard Ali was there (whatever has happened to him?) and, when asked, he said that BASC wanted to see hundreds of Hen Harriers in the uplands. We have still to see their cunning plan for achieving that – it was just nonsense of course. The sort of thing one has to say in public, even if it makes one’s organisation look foolish to those who know rather more about the subject. There were other BASC staff there too, some I liked and others too.  The chair of the Moorland Association, Robert Benson, was there and so was the Moorland Association’s Director, Amanda Anderson.

Things didn’t start that well – when I arrived all the other speakers were housed in a local hotel but someone had forgotten to book me in.  This seemed to be the type of welcome I was to expect.  That was sorted out and I spent the night in an excellent local B&B.

There were lots of people I knew at the conference and I had quite a jolly time, but the shooting brigade were noticeably cool and basically cold-shouldered me through the two days. Interesting.

I was asked to speak about raptors and my talk was near the end of the conference. I spoke a little more broadly, talking about what we had heard about agricultural funding in the uplands and how, yes, that was a question of balance but those deciding the balance of payments should be those paying (we taxpayers) not those receiving our money (the landowners). When it came to raptors I honestly cannot remember exactly what I said but it would have mentioned Hen Harriers, used the phrase ‘wildlife crime’ (while looking at senior members of the shooting community – you could have heard a pin drop) and made the point that the law is the law and everyone has to stick to it.

In the questions Amanda talked about the need for balance which seemed to mean that we couldn’t have any more Hen Harriers unless moorland owners let us and they wanted concessions on brood-meddling etc before they would let any Hen Harriers in – those weren’t the words she used then, but that was what I took from them.

And then in came Duncan Thomas with his ‘I used to be a police Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer you know’ speech. Duncan put forward the view, although he claimed that it was an absolute fact, that disturbance from birdwatchers was the major factor in losses of Hen Harriers and it wasn’t much to do with illegal persecution.  We’ve heard this line often since and it’s utter nonsense. Note how it was given as the reason for failure of Hen Harrier nests in Geltsdale and Bowland last year when male Hen Harriers disappeared from active nests, and note how the nesting success of those nests is still being trotted out (without mentioning the disappearing males) by the likes of the not-so-talented Viscount Ridley.

I was congratulated by others for standing up to the shooting brigade as the conference ended (though often in hushed voices as the people didn’t want to be heard aligning themselves with my view in the presence of powerful upland land owners) and I got emails from attendees at the conference for a few days later.

As I drove away from Newton Rigg it was a glorious spring day. I drove through the Trough of Bowland and pondered the conference.  Earlier I had spoken to my former RSPB colleague, Pat Thompson, about the fact that I was thinking of launching an e-petition on the subject of grouse shooting to follow John Armitage’s and Chrissie Harper’s ground-breaking petitions.  I remember I had some complicated plan swirling around in my head and as I sketched it out to Pat I was thinking to myself ‘This is too complicated’.

On that drive through Lancashire, and over Pendle Hill, and on to Hebden Bridge my mind was clearing. Faced with the continuing spin, intransigence and denial of the shooting industry, we needed something clear and challenging – not a tweak but a call for a step change.

That night I spent in Hebden Bridge – in the Crown Hotel which had been flooded in 2012, and I spoke to the hotel owner (it’s in Inglorious) about being flooded and the economic and personal pain it caused.  We needed to end driven grouse shooting for the sake of people and wildlife. And the people who could most easily bring about change, the shooters themselves, were not the least bit interested in change. Their intransigence needed taking on.

And so, Amanda, Robert, Richard (wherever you are) and Duncan, and others have a share of the credit too, ‘Thank you!’. You helped stop me dithering. It would have happened anyway, but you certainly helped.

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Hen Harrier missing over…guess what?…a grouse moor

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The RSPB announced today that a young male Hen Harrier, fitted with a satellite transmitter as part of the Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, has gone missing on a grouse moor in the Monadhliath Mountains, south-east of Inverness.

The bird, named Elwood, was the only chick to fledge from a nest in Banffshire, which was being monitored under the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland ‘Heads-up for Harriers’ scheme.

Tues 23 June 2015 CopyThe transmitter’s data, being monitored by RSPB staff, indicated that Elwood fledged in the first week of July, but stayed close to the nest site in the hills above the River Spey until 20 July, when he began to travel more widely. By the 27 July, Elwood had moved 20 miles to the south west, and had settled in the hills around Tomatin.

Elwood remained in this area, with the transmitter providing detailed information about his daily travels until suddenly, transmissions ceased abruptly on 3 August. His last recorded position was on an area of managed moorland a few miles from the Slochd summit on the A9.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, said: ‘This latest disappearance of a satellite-tagged bird is deeply concerning, and joins the long list of protected birds of prey that have been confirmed to have been illegally killed or disappeared suddenly in this area. The transmitters being fitted to these birds are exceedingly reliable, and illegal persecution is therefore the most likely explanation of the disappearance of these birds of prey. The absence of typical breeding raptor species from areas of suitable habitat, or at traditional nesting sites, in large parts of the Monadhliaths is further supporting evidence of a major problem with wildlife crime in this general area.

This case is all the more depressing as the nest from which Elwood successfully fledged was monitored as part of a partnership project between PAW Scotland and the local landowner. It proves, yet again, that despite there being a good number of enlightened estates who are happy to host and protect nesting birds of prey – as soon as they move away from these areas they are being illegally killed.

The denials and obfuscation from representatives of the land management sector, and their consistent failure to acknowledge and address this problem, is one of the main reasons why our bird of prey populations are struggling in the central and eastern Highlands. We repeat our call to the Scottish Government to introduce a robust system of licensing of game bird hunting, where the right to shoot is dependent on legal and sustainable management of the land, in line with approaches adopted in most other European countries.‘.

 

One disappearing satellite-tagged protected raptor disappearing suddenly over a grouse moor is suspicious – the more that disappear, the more suspicion turns into certainty.  Add in those we know for certain were killed deliberately, and it adds up to a damning indictment of the way that driven grouse shooting is carried out in the UK. Driven grouse shooting depends on big bags of birds, a high kill rate, and cannot afford to let raptors survive, even though they are protected by law, and have been all your lifetime unless you are a bit older than I am.

Generations of birds of prey have been subjected to systematic, routine and ruthless illegal persecution because people want to shoot Red Grouse for fun.

The RSPB wants grouse shooting to be better regulated – I’d like to sweep it away altogether through a ban. If you agree with me, and I think most Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles would, then please sign here to add to the strength of our voice as we head to a debate on the future of grouse shooting in the Westminster parliament.

We’ll see what that comedy double act of McAdam and Baynes have to say this time – it sounds as though the RSPB expects more denial and obfuscation from shooters.

 

 

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Writing to your MP – Firm Briefing 1

By Adrian Pingstone (talk · contribs) (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adrian Pingstone (talk · contribs) (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Here are some words you could use to write to your MP about a hoped-for debate on driven grouse shooting.

This link will help you find your MP and their email address or postal address, provided you know their name or the name of the constituency in which you live.  You should only write to your own MP. Many MPs have their own websites with online forms that ask you for your details – they are quite easy to use.  If you simply email your MP then you should include your name and address to confirm that you are a constituent of theirs.

You should get an acknowledgement of your email pretty quickly – it may simply be an automated response at this stage – that’s fine.

I would be very grateful if you would let me know that you have contacted your MP by emailing me at mark@markavery.info with your name, the name of your MP, the name of your constituency. When you get a substantial reply from your MP I would be grateful if you would let me know. If you use the template below then I would be grateful if you would let me know whether your MP says he/she will try to attend any debate, whether she/he intends to speak, and any indication of the line they might take.

The more emails that are sent the better. Please don’t assume that someone else will do it so you don’t have to – they may be thinking the same.  Please do let me know that you have done this – I will be keen to help you with any ensuing correspondence on this subject – you aren’t alone in this.  If you have never emailed or written to your MP before – don’t be afraid, they are all too human.

 

Dear [name of your MP]

I am a constituent of yours and I signed the e-petition on the parliament website entitled Ban Driven Grouse Shooting https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003. That e-petition has passed 100,000 signatures and therefore is expected to receive a debate in Westminster Hall some time later than 9 October.  In our constituency of [name of constituency] XXX people have supported this petition. [You can look up the number by using this link http://petitionmap.unboxedconsulting.com/?petition=125003].

I hope that when the date of the debate is determined you will be able to attend the debate – would it be your intention to do so?

I hope that when the debate occurs you might feel able to represent my views in that debate. I want to see driven grouse shooting banned/stronger regulation of driven grouse shooting/changes in the way our hills are managed [select one of these or use your own words]. Do you think you would be able to speak on that subject?

I would be grateful for your response and the opportunity to brief you on the subject if you are planning to attend the debate.

 

Yours sincerely

Your name

and address if you haven’t already given it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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