The APPG on Shooting (and Conservation)

At the second time of asking the Public Enquiry Point for the APPG for Shooting (and Conservation) came up with a list of its members. Thank you.

It would be wrong necessarily to expect that every person on this list is an active, keen and accomplished shooter of wildlife,  but some certainly are.

The members of the group are colour-coded below as follows: Northern Ireland MPs of all parties, Conservative, Labour, LibDem and SNP. And I have annotated the list with the number of signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting that have come from these MPs’ constituencies. If all constituencies had provided 154 signatures then we would have reached 100,000 signatures and I have indicated those MPs whose constituencies have already passed 154 signatures by showing them in bold.

 

For an All-Party Group it is quite a blue, Conservative-dominated list.

Mr Nigel Adams MP 224 signatures
Mr Peter Aldous MP 250 signatures
Mr David Anderson MP 220 signatures
Ms Victoria Atkins MP 235 signatures
Mr Richard Bacon MP 313 signatures
Mr Steve Baker MP 169 signatures
Mr Guto Bebb MP 199 signatures
Sir Henry Bellingham MP 244 signatures
Mr Richard Benyon MP 195 signatures
Sir Paul Beresford MP 200 signatures
Mr Clive Betts MP 125 signatures
Mr Andrew Bingham MP  554 signatures
Sir Peter Bottomley MP 227 signatures
Ms Karen Bradley MP 211 signatures
Mr Graham Brady MP 149 signatures
Mr Julian Brazier TD MP 284 signatures
Mr Andrew Bridgen MP 147 signatures
Mr Conor Burns MP 183 signatures
Mr Alun Cairns MP 177 signatures
Mr Christopher Chope OBE MP 211 signatures
Mr James Cleverly MP 205 signatures
Mr Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP 287 signatures
Dr Therese Coffey MP 364 signatures
Mr Christopher Davies MP 241 signatures
Mr David Davies MP 171 signatures
Mr Jonathan Djanogly MP 235 signatures
The Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP 76 signatures
Mr Richard Drax MP 245 signatures
Mr Clive Efford MP 125 signatures
Mr Tom Elliot MP 43 signatures
Mr Michael Ellis MP 127 signatures
Mr Tobias Ellwood MP 224 signatures
Mr Nigel Evans MP 479 signatures
Mr Tim Farron MP 424 signatures
Mr Robert Flello MP 106 signatures
Mr George Freeman MP 280 signatures
Mr Mark Garnier MP 219 signatures
The Rt Hon Sir Edward Garnier QC MP 204 signatures
Ms Nusrat Ghani MP 273 signatures
The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP 194 signatures
Mr John Glen MP 257 signatures
Mr Robert Goodwill MP 339 signatures
Mr Richard Graham MP 178 signatures
Mr James Gray MP 305 signatures
Mr Robert Halfon MP 128 signatures
Mr Simon Hart MP 177 signatures
Sir Oliver Heald MP 226 signatures
Mr James Heappey MP 343 signatures
Mr Christopher Heaton-Harris MP 191 signatures
Mr Peter Heaton-Jones MP 233 signatures
The Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP 322 signatures
Mr George Hollingbery MP 216 signatures
Mr Adam Holloway MP 135 signatures
Sir Gerald Howarth MP 137 signatures
Mr Bernard Jenkin MP 243 signatures
Ms Andrea Jenkyns MP 166 signatures
Mr Marcus Jones MP 114 signatures
Mr Calum Kerr MP 285 signatures
Mr Danny Kinahan MP 89 signatures
Sir Edward Leigh MP 190 signatures
Mr Brandon Lewis MP 162 signatures
The Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP 240 signatures
Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger MP 320 signatures
The Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP 187 signatures
Mr Jack Lopresti MP 159 signatures
Mr Craig Mackinlay MP 222 signatures
Mr Kit Malthouse MP 246 signatures
Mr Jason McCartney MP 307 signatures
Mr Karl McCartney MP 217 signatures
Mr David Morris MP 240 signatures
Ms Caroline Nokes MP 214 signatures
Mr Guy Opperman MP 264 signatures
Mr Neil Parish MP 286 signatures
The Rt Hon Mike Penning MP 164 signatures
Mr Christopher Pincher MP 137 signatures
Dr Daniel Poulter MP 242 signatures
Mr Stephen Pound MP 85 signatures
Mr Laurence Robertson MP 188 signatures
Mr Andrew Rosindell MP 120 signatures
Mr Andrew Selous MP 170 signatures
Mr Jim Shannon MP 70 signatures
Mr Alec Shelbrooke MP 221 signatures
The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP 215 signatures
Mr Mark Spencer MP 179 signatures
Mr Iain Stewart MP 165 signatures
Mr Graham Stringer MP 85 signatures
Mr Graham Stuart MP 223 signatures
The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP 277 signatures
Mr Mark Tami MP 131 signatures
Mr Ben Wallace MP 224 signatures
Ms Helen Whately MP 184 signatures
Mrs Heather Wheeler MP 178 signatures

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121,000+ and just over a week to go

With a whole week and whatever remains of today, Tuesday, to go before our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting closes, here is how the constituencies with over 300 signatures stand:

  • Calder Valley 859
  • High Peak  554
  • Bristol West  510
  • Ross, Skye and Lochaber  505
  • Ribble Valley 479
  • Derbyshire Dales 473
  • Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey  468
  • Brighton, Pavilion 468
  • Skipton and Ripon 449
  • Sheffield Central  447
  • Westmorland and Lonsdale  424
  • Sheffield Hallam 423
  • Edinburgh North and Leith 419
  • Argyll and Bute  402
  • Lancaster and Fleetwood  402
  • Stroud 397
  • Isle of Wight  393
  • Thirsk and Malton  381
  • North Norfolk 377
  • Cambridge 365
  • Suffolk Coastal 364
  • Torridge and West Devon 360
  • York Central 357
  • Norwich South 356
  • Central Devon 355
  • Totnes 349
  • Wells 343
  • Scarborough and Whitby 339
  • South Cambs 338
  • Somerton and Frome 340
  • Edinburgh East 344
  • St Ives 337
  • Exeter 332
  • Dumfries and Galloway 326
  • Hove 331
  • Penrith and The Border 330
  • Brighton Kemptown 326
  • West Dorset 332
  • Arundel and South Downs 322
  • Bridgwater and West Somerset 320
  • Richmond (Yorks) 320
  • South Norfolk 313
  • Ceredigion 306
  • Ochil and South Perthshire 306
  • North Wiltshire 305
  • West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 303
  • Lewes 301
  • Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 301

Flood-struck Calder Valley still leads the list, sitting as it does below Walshaw Moor.

Ribble Valley moves up to number 5 – a tremendous achievement. Might it get to 500 signatures?

Thank you to all who have signed our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

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Calling the Calder Valley constituency!

Dear Calder Valley constituents

By Rodney Burton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9276701

By Rodney Burton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9276701

I’d like to thank you for your support for my e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Your constituency has provided the largest number of signatures supporting my e-petition – over 850 signatures with just over a week to go.

I guess that the reason that support has been so strong from places such as Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge, Rastrick and Brighouse is that these areas are all susceptible to flooding and that moorlands on the hills above such towns are the source of much of the flood water. This includes areas such as Walshaw Moor which has been under a spotlight ever since Natural England started legal proceedings against it back in 2011/12.

I know that many of you believe that the intensive management of the moors above your towns has increased the frequency and intensity of floods in recent years, and that those floods have caused misery in your community because of their effects on businesses and homes.  My view, based on the studies from Leeds University and others, is that you are right to look to the hills for the source of your problems.

A ban on driven grouse shooting would remove such intensive and damaging management from the uplands of Britain and would lessen flood risk for many homes and home insurance costs for many people (for we all bare some of these costs – though some communities much more than others).

welcomingI’ve visited Walshaw Moor and stayed in the Crown Inn in Hebden Bridge on two occasions, I interviewed the former landlady, Lesley Wood about the impacts of the 2012 floods on her business for my book Inglorious – conflict in the uplands, and I’ve spoken on these matters in the Trades Hall at Hebden Bridge.  I really hope that the government will respond to your plight and my e-petition provides an opportunity for them to do so.

I wonder whether your MP, Craig Whittaker, will speak in the debate and what he will say if he does. Surely, he ought to be putting your case for relief from the danger of flooding and for action to be taken to manage our hills much better for the benefit of the many and not just for the few who pursue the hobby of driven grouse shooting.

And I wonder what the Defra minister who will wind up the debate will say – will she (for it is likely to be Therese Coffey) acknowledge your position and offer any hope of a solution?

Thank you again for your support for my e-petition.  I wonder how close to 1000 signatures you will get by the time when the petition closes at midnight on 20 September?

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Chris Packham interviews Paul Irving

Chris Packham interviews Paul Irving – an experienced raptor worker in the north of England.

To add your name to the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting please sign here.

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Quick thoughts from the Sheffield conference

I spent Thursday evening, Friday  and Saturday morning with a disparate bunch of supporters and opponents to banning driven grouse shooting at the Sheffield conference on raptors, peatlands and the uplands.  It was valuable in all sorts of ways, not least in meeting some blog readers and supporters whom I rarely see (for some of them it was actually the first face to face contact) and meeting some old colleagues and meeting new people and having a civilised discussion with some people who think differently from me.

Here are a few quotes and comments:

Angela Smith MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge (264 signatures), talking about solving the issue of wildlife crime:

Chances of success with the voluntary approach look bleak’

‘Banning driven grouse shooting is a legislative option’

‘…licensing [of shooting estates] is an option too’

‘Politicians will not be able to stand aside and let species like the Hen Harrier go extinct in England’

‘The challenge is clear – for the voluntary approach to work a precursor is that illegal activity has to stop’.

‘Last chance saloon’

‘Killing has to stop’

Those are all notes I took at the time and I hope they are accurate quotes but I don’t have shorthand and I don’t have a transcript of Angela’s actual words – but they certainly give an accurate impression of what she said.

Philip Merricks, Chair of Hawk and Owl Trust:

Here’s another occasion where I wish I had a full transcript – mainly because it was a bit difficult to follow at the time. Philip certainly said that illegal raptor persecution is ‘appalling’ and he was keen on brood meddling. He was kind enough to quote from my book Behind the Binoculars and the interview with Ian Newton – I recommend everyone rushes out to buy the book now to read the full interview and what Ian said about the Langholm study, gamekeepers and predation generally.

When asked whether all Hawk and Owl Trust members were supportive of brood meddling it was unclear what Philip thought, but he seemed confident that the other trustees were fully behind him so that’s nice.

Adam Smith, GWCT Scotland:

I enjoyed his talk which I thought was quite good (Andrew Gilruth was a silent member of the audience for once) but I don’t seem to have taken many notes. That probably means that I agreed with quite a lot of it and didn’t strongly disagree with much of it. Although Adam was out there selectively quoting another of my books, this time it was Fighting for Birds, where I recommend that you read the chapter on the Raptor Haters.

But Adam  did throw a few mild criticisms the way of the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework, suggesting that there were inaccuracies in it (aren’t there always in everything?), and so it was interesting to hear from Alan Fielding a little later in the conference.

Alan Fielding (an author of the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework):

Alan is a stimulating speaker. He suggested that we don’t know much about Hen Harrier movement and natal philopatry (we certainly would like to know more – is that not always the case too?) although I think he overdid it. But he showed some interesting Hen Harrier nesting areas on Mull and Kintyre and elsewhere which do not conform to the ‘Hen Harriers need grouse moors’ model – but then, facts from the real world do not conform to that model.

Alan also made the good point that although places like Mull have no foxes they do have lots of potential avian and mammalian predators of Hen Harriers, their eggs and chicks, such as eagles (of two species), other raptors, corvids, mink, otters etc and yet the  birds are at high densities and doing well. It’s an interesting point.

In answer to a question from an academic lauded by Songbird Survival who was in the audience Alan said that the reanalysis of the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework data which has been ‘about to be published’ for well over two years would, if it ever were published, reduce the predictions of Hen Harrier numbers a bit.  Did he say that the predicted potential English population would come down from 330 to 280 – or did I get that from someone else at the conference? And he went on to say that the calculations were incredibly conservative so the actual possible numbers were probably much higher. We have always known this because you only have to take the Langholm densities to see how many Hen Harriers we are missing in England.  So that seems to put Adam Smith’s worries to bed – sleep easy Adam!

Rhodri Thomas from the Peak District National Park:

Rhodri said that the Peak District Bird of Prey initiative, set up after the publication of Peak Malpractice, had failed to meet any of its targets for the ‘easy’ raptor species of SE Owl, Peregrine and Merlin and that it now had no targets at all and wouldn’t be setting any for the species such as Hen Harrier and Goshawk. It seemed to me that there was a lot of talk at this conference about consensus and agreement to move things forward but that the years spent nationally and in initiatives such as the Peak District one have shown that talking can replace action and lead to time being wasted. The voluntary approach is worth trying – but it has been tried and where are the volunteers? Go back up this post and read Angela Smith’s words again.

Rhodri was kind enough to correct something I said in my talk referring to the number of Peregrines in the Peak District compared to within the M25 – although I wasn’t very far out actually!  I was misinformed, so I will now stick to saying that there are more Peregrine Falcons nesting in central London than in the moorlands of the PDNP – that’s shocking enough. And while I’m at it, I also got the economic claims for the value of grouse moor management slightly wrong too – as often, I was far too generous to driven grouse shooting in what I said.

John Miles:

John Miles is a sometimes rather crotchety commenter on this blog and he sometimes makes the point that he made in this conference from the floor – that the uplands of Britain, including northern England, can provide homes for two main grouse species, Black and Red, and that the management of the uplands for one disadvantages the other.  Every time he says it I think he is right and resolve to call grouse moors Red Grouse moors but I rarely do – maybe we all should.

Tim Baynes, Scottish Lands and Estates:

Tim said that the idea of banning driven grouse shooting was ‘bonkers’, which was nice of him. He also said that vicarious liability was ‘a clever bit of legislation’ although ‘not a magic bullet but has had an impact’ which it would be good for SNP MPs to say in the forthcoming Westminster Hall debate, and challenge the Westminster government to introduce as a small step in the right direction.

Sonja Ludwig, GWCT:

Sonja gave a clear talk about diversionary feeding of Hen Harriers at Langholm. I thought it was very good and leaves us with the conundrum that diversionary feeding worked in terms of harriers taking the food on offer and greatly reducing their predation on grouse, but didn’t lead to the expected increases in end of summer grouse numbers. It seems that either something else gobbled up the grouse or the Langholm habitat is a bit rubbish still – I wonder which answer GWCT will plump for?

The talk did remind me though, and maybe it was because Tim Baynes had bemoaned the lack of practitioners at the conference (he almost hadn’t bothered to come apparently), that years ago the Langholm keepers and others had been sure that diversionary feeding wouldn’t work because the gulls and corvids and owls and mammals would take all the food and run amok. Seems not practitioners, seems not.

Stephen Murphy, Natural England:

Stephen reminded us that Natural England had been studying Hen Harriers for well over a decade. That’s a long time isn’t it?

72% of tagged harriers stop transmitting within 12 months (I think that includes radio-tags and satellite tags) which, since they aren’t marine turtles, suggests a high rate of mortality. It suggests that Hen Harriers are being killed of at a very high rate. No doubt Natural England has analysed this possibility in more detail comparing ‘failure rates’ of tagged Hen Harriers with those of other raptors or the same species in other places.  They have surely done that.

Adrian Jowitt, Natural England:

Adrian had the most difficult job in the world – to try to make the Defra Hen Harrier Inaction Plan sound sensible.  No-one could do that but it isn’t his fault that he failed.

When I started writing this blog I meant to keep it short – I’ve failed. It will now look odd if I don’t say something about all the talks, so here are four very quick comments and an only slightly longer one. But also, first, may I say thank you to the organisers for doing a great job.  A conference is a lot of work – and the speakers and attendees have the easy and enjoyable end of things. So thank you to all involved (and as a speaker or attendee one is never quite sure who are all the people involved).

Pat Thompson, RSPB:

Excellent review – and such a lovely guy.

Barry O’Donaghue, Eire National Parks & Wildlife Service:

Lovely guy – interesting comments on communication.

Ian Rotherham, Sheffield Hallam University:

A lot of valuable perspectives – including about access.

Alan Charles, former Derbyshre Police and Crime Commissioner:

We need more like him – strong on wildlife crime being a crime.

…and last but not least…

Steve Redpath, Aberdeen University:

Steve said he wasn’t going to give his usual talk but it seemed pretty much the usual one to me.  I gave a version of my usual talk too – you have to really. Steve’s usual conflict resolution talk is about resolving conflicts between people who want different things. The British usually do this in their politics and their home-life by compromise – others fight over things with their fists or knives.  The whole business of driven grouse shooting is not really a conflict between two groups it is about the unfairness of a pointless and damaging hobby for the few imposing costs on the many and all for a hobby which depends on crime to persist in its current form. You can see why the conflict resolution process hasn’t resolved the conflict, it’s because resolving the conflict is impossible. What we have to do is not resolve the conflict, but solve the problem. And everyone agrees how appalling wildlife crime is – wildlife crime is the problem. The voluntary approach hasn’t come close to resolving the conflict because there haven’t been any volunteers. And it hasn’t solved the problem, criminal behaviour, because driven grouse shooting would be impossible in all or most of the current grouse moors if the killing of birds of prey were to stop.

This is the time to go back to the top of this blog post and read, again, what Angela Smith said. ‘Last chance saloon‘,  ‘The killing has to stop‘, ‘The challenge is clear – for the voluntary approach to work a precursor is that illegal activity has to stop’.

We could all have gone home after Angela’s speech.

 

 

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Thank you for your entries

Thank you for your entries to this blog’s writing competition.

Entries closed at midnight last night and the last entry got in under the wire with 10 minutes to go.

You submitted 47 entries (from 43 people).  These were in four categories of ‘wildlife and the arts’ (8 entries), ‘wildlife and politics’ (19 entries), ‘international’ (4 entries) and ‘invertebrates’ (13 entries) and there is at least one entry in the under-18 category.  There are two more entries which, thus far, I am finding it difficult to allocate to any category but I’ll give them a proper read in due course.

I have only glanced at some of the entries so far, but there is already ample evidence of a high standard of writing. What a talented bunch of people you are.

Of the 47 entries, 26 have female authors and, obviously, 21 are male-authored.

I am in touch with my fellow judges, Michael McCarthy (author and former environment editor of the former Independent newspaper) and Sarah Vernon-Hunt my editor at Thames and Hudson about how we will make our decisions about the winners.  But there will be winners, five of them, and they will be announced over the next few weeks.  Each winner will receive a signed copy of my latest book, Remarkable Birds and their blog will be published here.

To look for news of winners, visit this blog at 3pm on Sunday afternoons over the next few weeks. There may be an update, or even the announcement of the first winner next weekend, but I cannot promise that.  I’m conscious of the fact that my fellow judges are doing me a favour and are busy people.

 

PS if you have submitted an entry then you should by now have had an acknowledgement by email – you may have had more than one acknowledgement.  If you have not had an acknowledgement then first,  please, check your spam box and then only if you have not had the acknowledgement email sent this morning please get in touch at mark@markavery.info .  I wouldn’t want anyone to feel un-thanked and I certainly wouldn’t want any entries to go unnoticed.

Remarkable Birds

 

 

 

 

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Sunday book review – Autumn by Melissa Harrison (ed)

51N6aHhe9ZLI’ve reviewed Spring and Summer here, and liked them, so it won’t be a surprise that I enjoyed Autumn too.

The book follows the same model as the earlier two seasons – an anthology of writings from famous writers mixed in with offerings from current writers.  It’s still a good model and worked as well as ever in this season.

Nobody really likes autumn – do they? It’s the worst of all seasons – not as warm and sunny as summer and not as cold and sunny as winter and not a season of promise like spring. Autumn is only redeemed by those odd days that remind one of what is slipping away or those that promise a proper winter to come. All that dankness and the utter shock of when the days are suddenly dented as the clocks go back! Yuk!

Whereas spring is heralded by Chiffchaff song, Snowdrops and Brimstones, autumn sees the slow seeping away of most visible forms of nature as wildlife dies, migrates, pupates or hibernates.

Even the birds, the most obvious form of life, apart from those large dead-looking things known as trees, mostly just slowly fade away and are replaced by a few foreign thrushes and lots of ducks and geese.  You don’t hear people talking (much) about the arrival of the Redwings like they do about the Swifts, or that of the Wigeon like they do of the Cuckoo, do you?  For some birders, the great compensation is that the storms crossing the Atlantic that may cause havoc for travellers and businesses may deposit a few Yankee rarities on western facing coasts and islands – an  American warbler or Least Sandpiper can cheer up the gloomiest of autumns.

Autumn’s saving grace is that all that productivity of spring and summer is now laid out for us to exploit. We can go fox-hunting (at least, we could), wildfowling, shooting Pheasants, picking mushrooms (but not in the New Forest and look out for the toadstools!), apples, sloes and blackberries. Oh yes, and we can play conkers.  And there are a few days when, sometimes, the autumn colours are nearly as good as a the fall colors in a poor year in New England – but even then you have to be lucky. Get your timing wrong and the wind has stripped the trees of all their colourful leaves which rarely look as good on the floor as they do on the trees.

So autumn presents a challenge to the nature writer. How does this book cope? Pretty well really.

There is not that much about mists (and I’d have liked rather more on mellow fruitfulness) and very little about the fun of going out with your gun to kill some birds. It’s surely not that long ago when such an anthology would have had a lot of accounts of your real countryman stepping out to kill wild creatures.  I would have liked some more of that, if only for old times’ sake and because there is some fine writing on the subject.

Instead we have a collection of tales, some of which are not really particularly autumnal, that will delight the naturalist and provide consolation in these unsatisfying months. Daphne Pleace’s stags, Jon Dunn’s missing chickens, Julian Jones in the kitchen and John Lewis-Stempell’s walk in woods stood out for me amongst the modern works and I liked the passages by the Woodhope Naturalists’ Field Club (1887), Clare Leighton (1933) and of course John Clare and Dylan Thomas too, from the older selections.

There’s not quite enough poetry in these anthologies for me but Matt Merritt’s Evidence (Long-eared Owls) is a gem.

 

Autumn: an anthology for the changing seasons, edited by Melissa Harrison, is published by The Wildlife Trusts.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.  Updated paperback edition now out.

Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson.

 

 

 

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Driven grouse shooting – your money.

Your taxes help to pay for driven grouse shooting

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

 

 

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Tim Melling – Kittlitz’s Murrelet

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Tim writes: Kittlitz’s Murrelet is one of the least-known auk species on the planet being only found off Alaska and Eastern Siberia and is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.  This means there is an extremely high risk this species will become extinct in the wild.  Numbers are declining at a startling rate throughout their limited range but they are difficult to census because of their odd nesting habits.  They nest individually (not in colonies) at low density on tundra, often near glaciers about 20km from the sea.  Their cryptic plumage looks more like a grouse than a seabird.  Very few nests have been found and nobody knows what happens to the chicks as no chick has ever been seen at sea with an adult.  It has been suggested that chicks might float to the sea along rivers.  I saw a few dozen birds along the coast of eastern Siberia but they were all distant and skittish.  Then one day we were out in Zodiacs watching Grey Whales when I spotted two some distance away.  I managed to persuade everyone that close views of Kittlitz’s Murrelet was far rarer than Grey Whales, and the Murrelets could fly off at any minute, but the whales were likely to remain.  So we went for a closer look and managed to take a number of close photographs.  The Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service asked if they could use my photographs in a project to find out if locals in remote areas had seen this bird.

 

Taken with a Nikon D7000 and an 80-400mm Nikkor lens on 400mm 1/2000 f8 ISO 800

 

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Cartoon by Ralph Underhill

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