Oscar Dewhurst – Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager

Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager

Oscar writes: Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager: This was taken in the cloud forest of Peru, at Wayqecha Biological Research Station. Mixed species flocks would regularly pass very close by my room, so I spent a couple of hours standing just outside waiting. This Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager perched out in the open for me.
Nikon D300s, Nikon 600mm f4 AFS-II
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Hen Harrier Day – one week away

Hen-Harrier-Day-300pxHen Harrier Day is a week away!

Hundreds of people will be gathering in three places across the north of England a week today to express their support for the threatened Hen Harrier.

If you can’t make it to any of those events – and the Peak District one is full to capacity – then you can still add your voice:

  • get a T-shirt printed and wear it with pride – wear it to work on the ‘Inglorious 12th’ too if you can.
  • add a Hen Harrier ‘Twibbon’ to your Twitter and/or Facebook profiles
  • sign up to a social media thunderclap alongside the RSPB, the Green Party of England and Wales, Chris Packham, the Wildlife Trusts, the League Against Cruel Sports, myself, Michaela Strachan and many many others
  • take a selfie of yourself and tweet it to @birdersagainst
  • tell someone else about all this stuff – and get their support too, please
  • and then tell someone else, again, about all this please
  • and I know you have more than two friends so please tell someone else

That’s only 7 things to do – and, rather amazingly – there are 7 days to go. How convenient! Make a list and tick them off day by day.

Thank you to everyone for your support.

 

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Sunday book review – the Dragonfly Diaries by Ruary Mackenzie Dodds

This is the story of the establishment of Europe’s first dragonfly centre – written by the man who set it up.  But it’s more than that because it is a story of a love of dragonflies, and a story of dragonfly lovers too.  I liked it a lot.

The dragonfly centre in question was established not far from where I live, at Ashton, near Oundle, and near the Chequered Skipper pub where I sometimes meet friends, and near the home of the late Miriam Rothschild who plays quite a role in this story too.

Miriam Rothschild was an eminent entomologist, author, eccentric and the Aunt of Ruary Mackenzie Dodds’s wife. She, and her galaxy of friends, acquaintances and relatives appear through the pages of this book – they flit through them like dragonflies dashing around with the sun on their wings.

In real life, Miriam Rothschild did not flit – I remember being invited to summer garden parties at her house at Ashton where she would hold court in a summer dress and a pair of white wellington boots. I always found her rather scary. Mackenzie Dodds describes his first meeting with her – and the wellington boots too.

Other big names in the dragonfly world flit by too. Norman Moore, Philip Corbet and Steve Brooks flash past.

Setting up a dragonfly sanctuary and a dragonfly museum and a dragonfly centre, and then moving the latter across country to start again, is the story told here, with Mackenzie Dodds’s passion for dragonflies linking it all together.  That passion started in an unusual way, and as an adult rather than in early life, but it was certainly a passion that gripped him.

The story is told in diary form, starting in 1980 and brings us up to the present. As is often the case, the early years are the most fun.

You don’t have to live locally to Ashton to like this book (although it increased my enjoyment of it), you don’t have to have met any of the characters who flit through its pages (although you will certainly recognise some of them from the TV), and you certainly don’t have to be mad keen on dragonflies to enjoy it (for, in a way, they play a rather small part in the book).  The book would work as an engaging account of one man’s enthusiasm, which happens in this case to be dragonflies (yes, and damselflies, of course) but could really be anything, and his trials and tribulations (with people, machinery and bureaucracy) and delights (with people and nature) as he follows his passion. His writing reminded me of Eric Newby’s style.

The Dragonfly Diaries by Ruary Mackenzie Dodds is  is published by Saraband.

 

Mark Avery’s new book, A Message from Martha, published by Bloomsbury got a very good review in the Daily Mail (of all places) this week, and is ‘currently’ in Amazon’s top 5000 selling books.

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What they say 12:

BAWC-220-x-220pxThe latest in the series of BAWC podcasts ahead of Hen Harrier Day (it’s difficult to keep up!) is a fascinating interview with Andrew Gilruth of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. You should listen to it here.

I don’t know Andrew Gilruth, as far as I recall we’ve never met, but I was very impressed by his performance. It was very slick and it was a long interview on a difficult subject. If I were his boss I’d be pleased with how he had performed.

I do know Charlie Moores, a bit, and I was impressed by his questioning too – it’s not an easy job and I thought Charlies did it with his characteristic politeness and a few pointed questions.

Good though I thought Andrew Gilruth’s performance was, I found it unconvincing. You see what you think.

He deserves some plaudits for being fairly clear that the cause of the lack of Hen Harriers on grouse moors across the UK is indeed criminal activity by gamekeepers.  It’s not often that we hear this, and it’s not often that clear.  Well done, Andrew!  In other words, driven grouse shooting is currently based on illegal activity as many of us have been saying for quite a while.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s response to driven grouse shooting  (the pastime and business of many of their members) being based on illegal activity is to say that we have to tackle the crime and the motive for the crime.  This sounds quite clever but isn’t very clever in this particular case. Tackling the crime, catching the criminals, is very difficult given where these crimes happen (on remote hillsides at any time of the day) and that’s one of the reasons why so much wildlife crime occurs in the uplands – the criminals know they won’t get caught.

Tackling the motive for the crime is a bit tricky too because it is based on the biological reality that Hen Harriers, given the chance, will eat Red Grouse before grouse shooters get the chance to shoot them.  We can’t tackle the biology very easily.

The motive for killing Hen Harriers is, thus, entirely rational (though illegal) and is designed to maintain the profitability of driven grouse shooting as a business and a ‘sport’.  So how do we deal with the motive? We can’t change the biology and the proponents of driven grouse shooting have shown no sign of wanting to give an inch.  This is one reason, not the only one, why we should quite simply ban driven grouse shooting.  It’s a sport or a business that depends on illegal behaviour and its proponents want to keep making money and/or enjoying themselves by shooting grouse and they don’t want Hen Harriers (Golden Eagles or Peregrine Falcons) mucking it up. That’s why the whole thing is intractable, that’s why licensing of grouse moors is unlikely to work and that’s why we should ban it.

This clearly wouldn’t suit the GWCT and their grouse-shooting members, so they have come up with a ‘plan’ referred to in the interview. The ‘plan’ is sometimes called the ‘joint plan’ but it is only agreed by those who are the proponents of grouse shooting. It’s not a plan that is agreed by the RSPB which is a member of the group trying to come up with a plan, and it’s not a plan that has been published by Defra which convened the group. You can see why Defra hasn’t published it – it isn’t a joint plan, and it isn’t an agreed plan. It’s the preferred way forward from those representing the industry that is responsible for large amounts of wildlife crime in the hills.

What is this plan? Well, we don’t really know, because it hasn’t been published! But it seems to involve Brood Management for Hen Harriers – removing them from grouse moors, not by shooting them, but by taking them somewhere else, being nice to them, and letting them go. It’s all a bit complicated and involved really isn’t it? Just for a minor sport or pastime?  But GWCT are very keen on it.

Andrew was a bit naughty, not very naughty but just a little naughty I thought, in referring to this as having worked in France and Spain as if there were some very similar intractable conflict there where it had proved to be the silver bullet. In those cases it is used not to manipulate broods so that the land owner isn’t inconvenienced, but to rescue broods that might otherwise be accidentally killed by legal agricultural operations – harvesting your crop!

Charlie asked a telling question, which was poorly answered, and is one that I have asked here without answer, and that is – how many Hen Harriers will be allowed to survive through this mechanism? Given that there could be, looking at the available habitat, around 340 pairs of Hen Harrier nesting in the uplands of England, and this year there were just three, how many would we get from this scheme? The GWCT answer was that they can’t tell us but let’s get on with it anyway. Ha Ha!

I suspect that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation ask the same question too. I wonder what answer they are given by GWCT.  Not only is this not a ‘joint plan’, it’s not even a ‘plan’. It’s a distraction.

Let’s not be distracted.

And it’s not just about Hen Harriers of course.

PS Notice how Andrew mentions the conflict between Hen Harriers and Red Grouse – there isn’t one, they live together across northern latitudes – the conflict is between a protected part of our wildlife heritage and grouse shooting as an industry.

PPS Notice how lame is the answer about diversionary feeding – even when Hen Harriers’ impacts are reduced by 86% grouse numbers don’t increase. That is a bit odd but, as Charlie says, it does rather let Hen Harriers off the hook.  This result is a bit puzzling.

PPPS Notice how many mentions Andrew gives the RSPB. They must be the very best of mates really mustn’t they? You’d almost believe that GWCT held the RSPB in the utmost respect, until you read the comments by GWCT’s Chair, Ian Coghill, on this blog (no doubt in an entirely personal capacity) where he rarely fails to criticise the RSPB in one way or another.

 

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And so The Times says farewell to Simon Barnes

Today sees the last of Simon Barnes’s pieces in The Times – a subject about which readers of this blog have expressed their opinions forcefully (see here and here).

Simon writes two wildlife pieces today (and there is some sport going on in Glasgow apparently) – one about the wonders of Sea Eagles on Mull and the other about two stories with which he has been closely associated in Derbyshire (as has, in its own small way, this blog) – the Sanctuary Local Nature Reserve and the absence of raptors in the Peak District National Park.  It’s almost as though he wanted to make a point that he would write about raptors until the very end…

He mentions Hen Harrier Day, the M&S turnaround, e-petitions and why wildlife crime is a crime against us all and ‘vandalism on an industrial scale’.

I was very pleased to see that Simon will receive the Charles Rothschild and Miriam Rothschild Medal later this year from the Wildlife Trusts to recognise the way he has “tirelessly championed the natural environment and raised the profile of wildlife issues across the UK and beyond”. It will be only the third time the medal has been awarded since its inception in 2008.

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Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill

planets2

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That hedge again

Thank you to all who commented on the state of a local hedge after my blog on Wednesday evening. Opinions seemed to be divided between insect damage, spray drift and some nasty chemical ending up in the ditch at the foot of the hedge.

I went back to the site yesterday evening to have another look and to take some more photographs.

Let me first stress that the affected length of hedgerow is 1.1 miles long – I did say it was a long stretch but this time I measured it.  It therefore covers the boundary to several fields.

There is some vegetation growing back from the hedge – but not the hedge itself (and it’s difficult to tell (for me anyway) whether it was mostly blackthorn or hawthorn) – and some of the regrowth has leaves that look odd (Photos 3 & 4).

There is a ditch along much of the foot of the hedgerow (but not quite all of it) but the lowest point topographically is about one third along the stretch which means that there is no way that some pollutant could travel downhill for 2/3 of a mile (I imagine) and then uphill for 1/3 of a mile (or the other way around).

As one drives down the road, 99% of the ‘damage’ is on the same side of the road (and perhaps the other 1% is caused independently anyway).  The damage is always worse on the roadside side of the hedge compared with the field-side side of the hedge (see photos 1 & 2 as a pair, and photos 5 & 6 as another pair). Sometimes the field-side is almost as badly ‘damaged’ (Photos 1 & 2) and sometimes it looks completely undamaged (Photos 5 & 6).  This creates the very strong impression that whatever caused the ‘damage’ came from the road rather than the field.

Here are some photos:

Photo 1: on the LHS of the road the hedge looks almost completely fine, on the RHS it is very sparse, stick-like and with no growth of the hedge itself.

Photo 1: on the LHS of the road the hedge looks almost completely fine, on the RHS it is very sparse, stick-like and with no growth of the hedge itself.

Photo 2: the is the other side of the hedge on the RHS of the road, from photo 1. It's damaged, but not as badly as the roadside hedge (believe me - although it's not that clear in the photo!).

Photo 2: the is the other side of the hedge on the RHS of the road, from photo 1. It’s damaged, but not as badly as the roadside hedge (believe me – although it’s not that clear in the photo!).

rose

Photo 4: more odd-looking leaves?

Photo 4: more odd-looking leaves?

Photo 5: this shows some killed off umbellifer in the foreground where there is no hedge and then, again, that the field side of hedge looks fine.

Photo 5: this shows some killed off umbellifer in the foreground where there is no hedge and then, again, that the field side of hedge looks fine.

Photo 6: the same hedge as in Photo 5 but the roadside side of it isd mostly just bare twigs. the growth from the far, field, side of the hedge is spreading over the top of the hedge and in places now shrouds the stick-like bare roadside hedge.

Photo 6: the same hedge as in Photo 5 but the roadside side of it is mostly just bare twigs. The growth from the far, field, side of the hedge is spreading over the top of the hedge and in places now shrouds the stick-like bare roadside hedge.

 

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10,000 signatures in 65 days

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Which one were you?

You have made this the 20th most signed e-petition, concerning Defra, in just 65 days.  Thank you very much.

Now Defra has to write a response to this e-petition.

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.  Become part of the movement for change.

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Wuthering Moors 46

welcomingI see that Walshaw Moor Estate has made a planning application to build a livestock building and a stone access track.

How sensitive of them at this time.  There are quite a few local objections and I gather that NE are a bit worried about this too.  To be fair, as best I can make out, this proposal stops at the SPA and SAC boundary – though it’s a little difficult for me to tell with the mapping tools available to me.  That does not, of course, mean that there is no impact to the SAC or SPA and any developer would have to satisfy the authorities of no impact before such an application should be given permission.

The public can object to this proposal up until 10 August.

But it does remind me that everything has gone quiet on the RSPB complaint to Europe over burning of blanket bog. How is it going I wonder? Has our government got a robust defence for its position on consenting burning regimes at Walshaw Moor and many other moors across the north of England?

What’s happening? I think we should be told.

What’s happening with our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting? Today it has passed 9,700, 9,800 and 9,900 signatures. What’s the next milestone – ah yes 10,000?  And at 10,000 Defra need to write their response telling us all to go boil our heads.

Are you sure you’ll need that new road, Mr Bannister?

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And now from AA to RSPB

Thunderclap-requestNo, not those nice people who fix your car by the side of the road, not those nice people who help you give up the booze, but those people, who sent me thousands of postcards disapproving, in no uncertain terms, of the RSPB’s position on culling Ruddy Ducks many years ago – Animal Aid.

Animal Aid have published a report, updating a previous one, on the ills of grouse shooting – called Calling the Shots 2014.

Animal Aid’s two campaign aims are to remove public subsidies for grouse moor management and to licence grouse shooting estates. They’ve gone a bit soft since the old days!

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddBut isn’t it interesting how suddenly things are changing, and a swell of opinion is building. It’s as though lots of people have been too scared to talk about grouse shooting and its ills for ages and now they all feel a little bit empowered to do so.

So we have:

And the response from the grouse shooting community is…?

No realisation that they have to change. No admission of error. No public sign of contrition. Just silence…

…silence…

…silence…

…silence…the sound of intransigence.

…silence…the sound of arrogance.

And…

…silence…the sound of the world leaving them behind.

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