Spring – time for the British to kill some raptors

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_KiteAs well as those dozen dead Red Kites and four Buzzards in Ross-shire there has been a poisoned Peregrine found in southern Scotland and a Buzzard trapped in the Peak District.

What is it with some land managers in this country?

It’s spring, time to kill off some wildlife.

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_KiteAt least these examples have come to light and been brought to the public’s attention. How many more cases are unnoticed and unreported?

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_KiteFrom the Scottish Land & Estates website:

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: ““We wholeheartedly encourage our own members to respond to the police call for information and it is important the police are given every support. We are actively facilitating that.

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite“We do not yet know the exact circumstances of these incidents and should not speculate while the investigation continues. However, as the police have now confirmed that there is evidence of illegal poisoning in the deaths of these birds of prey, we condemn  this illegal activity unreservedly.  Wildlife crime of any kind will not be tolerated by the responsible majority of landowners.

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite“As a member of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates will continue to do whatever it can to help the police and the Scottish Government, working in partnership with relevant agencies and organisations, to eradicate all incidents of wildlife crime.  ”

Alex Matheson, from the Brahan Estate, which operates the Tollie Red Kites watching centre in partnership with RSPB, said: “I would like to express in the strongest possible terms our total condemnation of any form of illegal poisoning. I am an 800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kiteactive member of Scottish Land & Estates who are working hard to stamp this 800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kitesort of thing out and show that wildlife crime is just not acceptable. Brahan Estate have actively supported the reintroduction of Red Kites in this area from the beginning and we will continue to do so. Over the last five or six years we have been working in partnership with the RSPB and the volunteers and we are extremely proud of the Tollie centre and the enjoyment it gives to members of the public. An incident like this, right on our doorstep, is hugely disappointing.”

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_KiteFrom the Scottish Gamekeepers Association website:

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The discovery of so many birds in one area is unprecedented and alarming.  Police Scotland deserve as much help as possible as they try to deal with the situation  so we continue to encourage people to help them if they know anything.  The indiscriminate use of poison is unacceptable and condemned by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.”

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_KiteThe Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (new) blog – click here.



Malmesbury revisited


The last time I was in Malmesbury there was a Fieldfare looking over the building site; this time there was a Chiffchaff.  Whether the Chiffchaff’s song was celebrating the activity on the site of what will be a new Waitrose store is difficult to know, but there was certainly a lot going on with around 40 workpeople (almost all men) driving large trucks, digging, carrying and hammering.

As winter has moved into spring the outlines of the new Waitrose store are springing up but I was visiting, with others, to check on progress with the wildlife aspects of the site.  To be fair, it’s a bit difficult to tell by looking at what is on the ground at the moment – it’s a building site still!  But we looked at where the grassland and scrub will go, and heard that plans are still firmly in place.  We saw where there would be wild flower plantings on the gabion wall (and heard that a local school had been contacted to play a part in this) and we looked at designs for a Swift tower and stood where it is intended to be.

I heard that Swift Conservation had given advice and that the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust had been contacted too, as well as there being liaison with the Malmesbury River Valleys Trust.

2I love learning things and was interested to hear about a weakness in the planning system. Have you heard of BREEAM – the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method? It appears to be the industry standard and planning authorities use it to judge aspects of a development’s environmental credentials.  So the planners may look more kindly on an application that states it will get a BREEAM ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ certificate.  The snag in the system, I am told, is that many developments never follow through and get the certificate – and the planners don’t ever (hardly ever) check.  How daft is that?

Now, if you do check the buildings that have final BREEAM certificates in the retail sector, because I have, you will find that Waitrose look pretty good because there are only three (out of 403) retail buildings, issued with final BREEAM certificates, that get the top grading of ‘outstanding’ and all three are Waitrose stores (in Stratford (London), Bracknell and Cowes).  If anyone, for example Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Asda, has a different take on this then please let me know, but Waitrose look pretty good to me.

As far as the wildlife enhancements on this Malmesbury site are concerned then we are still at the ‘great plans and good intentions’ stage of things.  It seems to me that the builders (Simons) and Waitrose are heading in the right direction – but it is delivery that is important (as with BREEAM) and so I’ll be keeping you in touch with what actually happens here over the next few months.



FoI request to Defra

Dear Defra


Did a Minister see and approve the Defra response to John Armitage’s e-petition on the licensing of grouse moors?

If so, which Minister?




Why isn’t this even bigger news?

800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_Kite800px-Flickr_-_don_macauley_-_Red_KiteThe poisoning of 12 Red Kites and four buzzards in Ross-shire is shocking.

See here, here, here, here and here.

How long do we have to put up with this type of carnage?


Red Kites by Don Macauley via wikimedia commons

Buzzard by Andreas Trepte via wikimedia commons


Arctic Tern by Oscar Dewhurst

Scotland July 2013 - Arctic-Tern

Oscar writes:  This was taken on the Isle of May last Summer. I’d never seen or photographed these birds before, so spent most of the day with them.

Nikon D300s, Nikon 200-400mm f4 VR.
Mark writes:  Quite by chance, I saw an Arctic Tern yesterday evening at Stanwick Lakes.  Although it’s often a bit of an identification challenge to distinguish between Arctic (which are somewhat unusual visitors) and Common Terns (which are summer-long breeding visitors) at inland sites there are lots of ways of telling them apart.  Any tern heading at full pelt, like an arrow, along the Nene Valley is more likely to be an Arctic than a Common (and the same applies to flocks of birds).
But a close view on the breeding grounds, like this image, shows what a wonderful bird is the Arctic Tern – nothing like as gorgeous as a Roseate, but far superior to a Common!
If you walk into a breeding colony of terns then the two species are easy to distinguish – both mob you, shout at you, and dive at you, and both rap you painfully on the head, but it is the Arctics that draw blood.




Sunday book review – The Art of Conservation by Gillmor, Davies and Appleton


This is an attractive book which tells some of the story of the 25 years of Bird Fairs at Rutland Water.  The story is told through the artwork of the posters of the different fairs.

The first Bird Fair was in 1989 and raised £3000 for the ICBP ‘Stop the Massacre campaign (let us note in passing that the massacre has not yet stopped in Mediterranean countries (nor, yet, in the uplands of Britain)).

Money raised by the Bird Fair peaked in 2008 at £265,000 and then fell each year until it reached £200,000 in 2012 before jumping to last year’s record-breaking £270,000.  This represents an impressive fund-raising effort for international nature conservation.

Robert Gillmor’s posters bring back many memories and are a pleasure to revisit.  Do you remember posters of Corncrakes, Guerney’s Pitta, Wallace’s Standardwing and Red-breasted Goose?

The posters disclose several changes: some of the logos have altered, some of the personalities mentioned are no longer with us (Chris Mead, Eric Simms), the internet address first appeared on the 2003 poster, it cost £5 to get in in 1991, the list of sponsors has changed and grown, ICBP turned into Birdlife International between the 1992 and 1993 Bird Fairs and the first event was in early October and then changed to early September before settling down to the 2nd half of August.  What hasn’t changed is that the Bird Fair is a great opportunity to meet fellow wildlife enthusiasts. See you there in August?

The Art of Conservation: 25 years of Birdfair posters, by Robert Gillmor, Martin Davies and Tim Appleton is published by Red Hare Publishing Ltd but seems a bit tricky to track down on the web.





The week in birding by Jonnie Fisk



Mark writes:

The reward for information about the deaths of 12 Red Kites and four Buzzards in Ross-shire keeps increasing; £5k from the RSPB, £5k from an anonymous donor and over £1k from the public so far.  To contribute, visit this Just Giving page.

Do Wood Ducks cross the Atlantic sometimes? And did the Blue-winged Teal I missed on my local patch of Stanwick Lakes this week do the same?

I saw my first Swallow on 2014 in Snowdonia on Thursday – not where i would necessarily have expected it to happen.





Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill


Mark writes:  Ralph’s cartoon reminds me of a speech by Robert Kennedy as follows:

University of Kansas, March 18, 1968

Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.’




That makes a lot of sense

By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The pilot badger cull was inhumane and  ineffective.

The NFU says that farmers are ‘bitterly disappointed’ that it won’t be rolled out further.


Guest Blog – Where is the UK’s Youth Nature Conservation Movement? by Danny Heptinstall

the_pictureDanny Heptinstall is a 24 year old birder, naturalist and aspiring conservationist currently researching red kites at the University of Aberdeen. Here he presents a shortened version of an article that asks “Where is the UK’s Youth Conservation Movement, and what can be done to find it?”

I’m a young conservationist, and I get annoyed every time I read a clichéd piece bemoaning the lack of young people in conservation. These pieces always seem to complain that conservation is becoming a sea of grey hair, yet they rarely provide any meaningful solutions to this problem. I couldn’t agree more that there is a problem. But, I get frustrated because I see so many steps that could be taken to solve it, yet never seem to be taken.

So with this guest blog I’m going to suggest what I think needs to be done to kick-start the creation of a UK youth conservation movement. These suggestions might be right, or they might be wrong, but I think we need to move the debate forward from simply complaining about the issue, to discussing how we are going to solve it.

But before a solution can be found, we first have to identify what the problem is. Simple, I hear you say, there’s fewer young people interested in natural history and conservation. You go to an evening lecture or a volunteer work day and it’ll be mostly older people attending. But is this really evidence of a problem?

Seemingly contradictory, there are currently thousands of students enrolled on conservation courses all over the UK. And most conservation vacancies are inundated with graduates looking for their first job. So, maybe there isn’t a problem after all?

Well I would agree conservation courses are full of young people who, once graduated, are applying for conservation jobs. But I’d argue most of these young people aren’t part of the UK conservation movement. Maybe a controversial statement, but how often do you see young people visiting nature reserves on their own initiative, running local conservation projects, or discussing the future of conservation? Given the number of young people enrolled on these courses, I reckon not as often as you might expect.

And to me, this is one of the biggest tragedies of modern UK nature conservation; we have literally thousands of young people who are making a very clear demonstration of their aspiration to become a conservationist. Yet, as far as I can see, no UK conservation organisation is making any strategic attempt to engage them.

And I think the reason for this, is that many UK conservationists simply do not understand the motivations of these young people.

Older conservationists generally spent much of their youth as a naturalist. But nowadays few young people spend time outside appreciating nature. However, many young people watch nature documentaries, have an environmentalist ethic, or enjoy outdoor activities. And I think it is these backgrounds that explain why so many young people find a career in conservation appealing, despite not having been a naturalist while at school.

However, this means many young people enrol on conservation courses having had almost no previous interaction with nature or the UK nature conservation movement. You may think universities will cover such topics but, in reality, they put very little emphasis on natural history or UK conservation.

Which is why I believe the UK conservation movement needs to do more to support aspiring young conservationists. If you consider that there isn’t even something as simple as a website that explains to young people how to get involved in conservation, is it really so surprising so few are part of the UK conservation movement?

To start this process of re-thinking how we engage young people, I suggest the following:

  • Initiate a National Youth Nature Conservation Forum – With the aim of creating a self-supporting community of 18-25 year olds who share an interest in nature and its conservation.
  • Organise an Annual National Youth Conservation Camp – This would allow young conservationists to interact with both their peer group and existing conservation professionals.
  • Provide a Website for Aspiring Young Conservationists – To provide information about UK conservation, as well as current volunteering opportunities.
  • Facilitate Mentoring by Existing Naturalists and Conservationists – A website that would link aspiring conservationists to expert naturalists who are willing to informally teach them about the conservation and identification of their taxa of interest.
  • Provide Free Issues of Conservation Magazines - to departments that teach conservation courses.
  • Undertake University Visits – Conservation NGO’s should employ staff to introduce UK nature conservation to conservation students and mobilise these students.
  • Restructure the UK Conservation Education System – Worthy of an article itself, I believe the disparate and varying quality of conservation education is a major barrier to the development of UK conservation.

Encouraging young people to get involved in conservation will undoubtedly be a challenge. But doesn’t it make sense to start by properly engaging the thousands of young people who have already signalled they want to contribute to conservation? Rather than solely focusing our limited resources on trying to persuade a largely uninterested youth that nature is worth fighting for.

This is a condensed version of a longer piece, if Danny’s got you thinking he would love you to read the full version here http://naturewarblings.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/where-is-the-uks-youth-conservation-movement/

Danny would happily discuss the above with any interested organisations or persons. More information about him can be found here http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannyheptinstall he aims to blog here http://naturewarblings.wordpress.com  and he can be contacted at  djheptinstall@googlemail.com