Henry ponders Langholm 2

Thurs 16 July  Copy

Henry is here rather wistfully eyeing up the ringtail babes on this helpful sign about the second Langholm Project – Langholm 2.

Langholm 2 has been going for ages and is looking at how with better management, restoration of heather cover and techniques like diversionary feeding, Hen Harriers and driven grouse shooting might co-exist together. It’s a project that may be overtaken by events as the lack of Hen Harriers in the English uplands has worsened since the project started and then t5here were those five ‘disappearing’ male Hen Harriers this spring.  Last year, the loss of Hope and Skye and the ‘we must have brood meddling even though there are hardly any broods to meddle with in England’ approach of the G(W)CT and others, will not make the great British public very sympathetic to the ‘needs’ of the shooting community.

And anyway, we are now all looking at the greenhouse gas emissions, polluted watercourses, eroded peat, damaged blanket bogs and increased flood risk and thinking that there is a bit more to this issue that the criminal killing of birds of prey.  And so whether or not Langholm 2 can produce as many grouse as some shooting estates wish to see is looking less and less important in the big scheme of things. The British grouse industry has played for time on criminality and now they are caught by another threat – ecosystem disservices.  It looks, in retrospect, like a bad choice by the men in tweed.

However, in another remarkable misjudgement, the G(W)CT has already written off Langholm as not going to meet its aim of producing enough Red Grouse for them to be shot out of the air by paying customers. Despite the fact that there are as many Red Grouse as there were in the last year when there was a driven grouse shoot at Langholm, and the numbers are going up, G(W)CT, last Christmas, announced the project as failing on this aim. There’s no pleasing some people, is there?  The RSPB seems more optimistic on the prospects of there being grouse to be shot at Langholm than do G(W)CT – life is very strange.

 

 

 

 

 

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Join the Hen Harrier Day thunderclap – update 2

hh-day-2015-website-2-copy

Whether you can or can’t attend Hen Harrier Eve, and whether you can or can’t attend Hen Harrier Day, you can, if you use social media, add your name to a message that will go around the world at 10am on Hen Harrier Day saying:

We’re missing our Hen Harriers – and we want them back!

Nothing controversial there.

This thunderclap is zinging along! It has now easily passed the 500 people threshold so it will be broadcast on 9 August to a ‘social reach’ which currently stands at over 1.4 million.  Last year, by Hen Harrier Day, the social reach was well over 2 million people. Let’s see how high we can get it – please sign up here!

Since this message is completely uncontroversial I would expect support from the following organisations and individuals, and would be grateful if they could confirm it:

 

@nationaltrust 341k followers (very good to see NT supporting Big Butterfly Count thunderclap – now please join this one)

@irinagreenvoice 225k followers – already signed

@UKLabour 241k followers

@themoceanvibe 206k followers – already signed

@conservatives 174k followers

@natures_voice 164k followers – already signed

@TheGreenParty 151k followers

@chrisgpackham 131k followers – already signed

@LibDems 105k followers

@defragovuk 82k followers

@NaturalEngland 75k followers

@wildlifetrusts 65k followers (Durham WT and Yorkshire WT have signed, I noticed))

@_BTO 43k followers

@MMNNActionUK 39k followers – already signed

@Animal_Watch 38k followers – already signed

@yorkshire_dales 35k followers

@RareBirdAlertUK 24k followers  – already signed

@markavery 21k followers – already signed

@trussliz 19k followers

@peakdistrict 19k followers

@caupdates 17k followers

@Hawkandowluk 16k followers

@Birdwatchextra 12k followers – already signed

@RSPBScotland 12k followers

@BASCnews  12k followers

@SNH_tweets 9k followers

@gameandwildlife  7k followers-  already signed

@raptorpersscot 4k followers – already signed

@birdersagainst 3k – already signed – it’s their thunderclap – please make it yours too!

 

I’ll keep you updated on progress with this list, but I may miss sign-up by the organisations with a smaller social reach and so an email would be appreciated.

And it is possible to join the thunderclap through Facebook and tumblr too.

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Guest blogs

Guest blogs – get in touch if you’d like to write one. I can’t promise I’ll say yes until I see it – but that seems fair.

These are the Guest blogs published here so far this year:

The Good Intentions Paving Company by Tim Bidie (aka Monro) 14 January

Shared Planet by Mary Colwell-Hector 15 January

Response to Tim Bidie by Hugh Webster 15 January

The potential extinction of a not so horrid spider by Vanessa Amaral-Rogers 16 January

Where green objectives clash by Peter Marren 26 January

SWAFH by Rodney Hale 28 January

Snail trail by James Harding-Morris 6 February

Food security by Roderick Leslie 2 March

The case against the EU by Richard Wayre 11 March

In favour of the EU by Richard Wilson 19 March

Today should be Derek Ratcliffe’s National Peregrine Day by Stuart Housden 21 April

A story of nature and human wellbeing by Andy Atkins 5 May

‘So Ben, about this list’ by Ben Hoare 18 May

Minds and happiness flourish with outdoor learning by Emma Websdale 24 June

 

My thanks to all the above – who would like to be next?

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Henry looks disturbed

Weds 15 July  Copy

We’re still at Langholm – there’s Sir John’s monument in the far distance on the hill.

Does Henry look disturbed?  Well maybe a little.

We had spent ages sitting in the car looking over Langholm Moor in the pleasant sunshine of early June (for that is when we were there) waiting for the crowds to disperse. The crowds? you say?

Yes, the crowds!

For when we got to Langholm, on our way to Geltsdale (remember Geltsdale?), the road was full of cars (a couple of them) and lots of people. We also noticed that there were some people – great gangs of people (four of them actually) – on the hillside.  These people seemed to be having a look at a Hen Harrier nest, given that the ringtail (Henry got quite excited at this stage) was dive-bombing them.

The observers, who I guess were a bunch of scientists, headed back up the hill and the ringtail settled down on the nest again.  You wouldn’t want to do it too often, but that nest was perfectly OK.

BASC and followers on have been banging on about disturbance by birders as a factor in Hen Harrier nest failure. Could be, that’s one reason why the bird is on Schedule 1 and you need a licence to disturb them at the nest. I guess this bunch of people had a licence. They might even be employed by the G(W)CT. Disturbance isn’t what is causing nest failure in Hen Harriers – and the G(W)CT should come out and say so.

Or maybe just read what Ian Newton says about the impact of gamekepers on populations of birds of prey in Behind the Binoculars

 

 

 

 

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Another great review of Inglorious

IMG_3366It would, perhaps, be a bit surprising if the guys at Raptor Persecution Scotland weren’t keen on Inglorious – but stranger things have happened. And so I was relieved that they seemed to love it!

Inglorious is not a book about raptors – it’s a book about the ills of driven grouse shooting. But there is quite a bit about raptors and raptor persecution in the book. However, the end to driven grouse shooting will be brought about by a variety of methods and for a variety of reasons. Unsustainable land use will be as important as wildlife crime in bringing an end to driven grouse shooting.

I won’t publish a blog each time Inglorious gets a good review – and certainly not when it gets a bad one – but what with this review and the one by Rare Bird Alert, Inglorious has got off to a good start with audiences that matter to me.

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Talking Naturally with Charlie Moores

logo-talking-naturallyThe Talking Naturally podcasts are a fortnightly good listen.  I’ve subscribed to them on my phone.

In the latest podcast I am interviewed about Hen Harrier Day, Inglorious, how much I am loved by the shooting industry and the beer for honours question.

It’s the type of thing you’ll like if you like this sort of thing.

Listen here.

 

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Join the Hen Harrier Day thunderclap – update 1

hh-day-2015-website-2-copy

Whether you can or can’t attend Hen Harrier Eve, and whether you can or can’t attend Hen Harrier Day, you can, if you use social media, add your name to a message that will go around the world at 10am on Hen Harrier Day saying:

We’re missing our Hen Harriers – and we want them back!

Nothing controversial there.

Since yesterday, another 150+ people have signed up and they have a ‘social reach’ of over 730,000 people.  Last year, by Hen Harrier Day, the social reach was well over 2 million people. Let’s see how high we can get it – please sign up here!

Since this message is completely uncontroversial I would expect support from the following organisations and individuals would be grateful if they could confirm it:

@nationaltrust 341k followers

@UKLabour 241k followers

@conservatives 174k followers

@natures_voice 164k followers – already signed

@TheGreenParty 151k followers

@chrisgpackham 131k followers – already signed

@LibDems 105k followers

@defragovuk 82k followers

@NaturalEngland 75k followers

@wildlifetrusts 65k followers (plus lots of individual trusts)

@_BTO 43k followers

@MMNNActionUK 39k followers – already signed

@Animal_Watch 38k followers – already signed

@RareBirdAlertUK 24k followers  – already signed

@markavery 21k followers – already signed

@trussliz 19k followers

@caupdates 17k followers

@Hawkandowluk 16k followers

@Birdwatchextra 12k followers – already signed

@RSPBScotland 12k followers

@BASCnews  12k followers

@SNH_tweets 9k followers

@gameandwildlife  7k followers-  already signed

@raptorpersscot 4k followers – already signed

@birdersagainst 3k – already signed – it’s their thunderclap – please make it yours too!

I’ll keep you updated on progress with this list, but I may miss sign-up by the organisations with a smaller social reach and so an email would be appreciated.

And it is possible to join the thunderclap through Facebook and tumblr too.

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FoI Natural England

NATURALENGLAND2Dear Natural England

A few things for your attention please.

1. Yesterday I submitted an FoI request to you asking for all the records of, and documents related to, NE Board discussions on SSSI, SPA and SAC designation programmes, ‘gate zero’ and changes in strategy and approach.  I look forward to seeing them soon or contacting the Information Commission to secure them.

2. I emailed you (boardservices@naturalengland.org.uk) on Friday asking whether today’s board meeting is open to the public, what is on the agenda and where the meeting would be held.  I received no reply. What is the point of directing the public to contact you if you then ignore their questions? Please feel free to ignore this question whilst you get on with answering the one above. Just saying!

3.  Please join the Hen Harrier Day thunderclap with your Twitter account @NaturalEngland.  Its text ‘We’re missing our Hen Harriers – and we want them back!’ is entirely uncontentious and in line with government policy.

4. When do you plan to publish the full results of your Hen Harrier radio- and satellite-tracking study?

5. Just a reminder – you are due to respond to a previous FoI/EIR request by Tuesday. You aren’t going to wait until Tuesday and then say you need more time are you?  In fact, why not send it over now please?

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What a year?

Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons

Dear Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

You’ve been in the job for a year (although you had time off in the election campaign I know).

What have you achieved for the natural environment? I can’t, honestly, think of a thing. Can you?

How confident are you that the UK will meet the Aichi biodiversity targets? Personally, I think the UK will fall far short but you’ll probably be doing another job by then, won’t you?

Could you do one thing for me please? I know it’s a big ask, but, could you personally and Defra corporately, add your Twitter accounts to this thunderclap which asks for a recovery in Hen Harrier numbers. That is what you and Defra want isn’t it? Sometimes it’s so difficult to tell…

IMG_4629 - Copy#HaveYouSeenHenry – he’ll be round your way some time before Hen Harrier Day.

Have a lovely anniversary.

 

 

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Henry – have a day old chick

Tues 14 July Copy

You see?  I said Henry was with me at Langholm. There’s Sir John’s monument again atop the hill.

In the foreground there is not only a six foot Hen Harrier (isn’t he lovely? don’t you just want to give him a cuddle?) but also a couple of bits of wood nailed together in the shape of a T.  That’s a place to put out food for Hen Harriers so that they don’t eat ‘too many’ Red Grouse – that’s Red Grouse that people want to shoot for fun a few weeks later.

Diversionary feeding was tried, very successfully at Langholm after the end of the Langholm 1 (we’ll get to Langholm 2 on Thursday).  Diversionary feeding reduced the number of Red Grouse chicks brought to Hen Harrier nests by up to 80%. That’s pretty impressive isn’t it (or pretty blooming obvious depending on which way you want to look at it!).  What this showed was that Hen Harriers, like Henry, would choose the easy life and take food provided for them if it was on offer – and it was.  So this might look like a solution to the harrier/grouse shooting conflict but it wan’t quite that simple.

Grouse numbers at the end of the season weren’t really any higher. How puzzling.

The Hen Harriers might have been playing silly buffers and eating the grouse just for fun but not bringing them back to the nest or else there was something else killing off Red Grouse chicks in a big way. If the latter, this might let Hen Harriers off the hook a bit.

Diversionary feeding looked promising but the shooting community have never seemed keen on it. First, because the Langholm diversionary feeding trials were promising but not conclusive. Second, because, I think, the grouse industry were worried about where all those well-fed Hen Harrier fledglings might end up – they’d be back the next year causing more trouble. And third because the prospect of telling their gamekeepers to stop being beastly to Hen Harriers and cosset them through the breeding season, feeding them near the nest each day, wasn’t something that many moorland owners fancied doing.

So we don’t see many moorlands tolerating more Hen Harriers because they know that they can limit their impacts through diversionary feeding. Do we see any?

In the interview I did with Prof Ian Newton FRS in the soon-to-be-published Behind the Binoculars we talked about Langholm and about diversionary feeding. Ian said ‘Feeding Hen Harrier broods seems to work – it reduces the numbers of young Red Grouse that harriers kill, but I can’t imagine that method being taken up on a national scale by gamekeepers.‘ (p141). Nor can I, Ian, nor can I.

 

 

 

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