Harriers in The Field

The November issue of The Field, that’s the one with a man in tweed with a gun and a couple of dogs (doesn’t necessarily narrow it down that much?) has some excellent articles in it.  You can get some tips on brushing up your ability to bring down high pheasants and then how to cook them, and if your blood pressure hasn’t been raised by the lead shot or the article on releasing rehabililitated foxes in the countryside then have a look at my article on pages 80-83.

Across pages 80 and 81 is a very large image of a very beautiful hen harrier and inside the article I tell of the conversation I had with Colin McClean on the Glen Tanar Estate back in late August.  That estate seems to be doing a lot of good things.

Maybe £4.20 for a copy of The Field is beyond your pocket but for that price you also get, on average, an image of one and a half guns per page,  Zara Phillips advertising… (you’ll have to buy it to see), lots of wellies and dogs and some adverts from Bidwells for the type of upland forestry (if you have a spare £4.5m+) that will have helped reduce ground-nesting bird numbers in the Scottish Borders.

I think my article is the only one to mention the fish and chip shop in Jedburgh – maybe I can start a trend…?  Or maybe not.


A grain of truth

The dry spring weather in England (while I was driving through the rain in the USA) prompted fears about the grain harvest which, it is good to record here, have proved to be largely unfounded.  As in any year there have been winners and losers across the country but the UK wheat yield is estimated to be just 4% below the 5-year average. And oilseed yields have been very good.

And the price that you get for your grain today is over two and a half times what you would have got in January 2000 – the International Grains Council’s daily grains and oilseed index stands at 274 (January 2000 was a baseline of 100).

And here is a link to an interesting blog about grain markets.

Predicting grain yields and prices seem to be at least as challenging as predicting bird numbers – although the overall trends for yields and prices is up and the overall trend for farmland birds is down.


Blogging for Nature review in Birds magazine

The latest RSPB BIRDS magazine, the one with two long-tailed tits on the cover, has a review of my book Blogging for Nature.

If you aren’t an RSPB member (why not?) then I can tell you that the review tells you to go out and buy 20 copies now for all your relatives’ Christmas presents and describes it as the best book ever.

But if you are an RSPB member then you can find out what it really says on p98 of BIRDS magazine and discover another way to get a copy aside from clicking on this link and buying the book from lulu.com.

Alongside the Blogging for Nature review are a bunch of other book reviews of some very nice books – mine is the cheapest thoough!


Raptor haters (?) nominated for Fields Medal

In their most recent outburst of anti-raptor letters the Daily Telegraph publishes a mathematical breakthrough deserving recognition.

A letter states ‘ There are an estimated 80,000 sparrowhawks in Britain. They require at least one kill per day. The arithmetic is simple and compelling: 80,000 multiplied by 365 equals more than 29 million dead birds a year.‘.

The Fields Medal awaits.


Another membership

Last week I went to a trustees’ meeting of Pond Conservation and felt guilty that I hadn’t yet got around actually to joining.  So now I have.  I am a fully paid up member of an excellent but small conservation organisation.

It’s interesting that we use (actually, I don’t) pond life as a term of abuse. Why don’t we use wood life, soil life or seashore life as an abusive phrase? I guess it’s because the bottom of ponds are thought of as slimy and smelly.  Am I selling this organisation to you?

The thing is, that Pond Conservation is about a lot more than just ponds – it’s about all freshwater life – but ponds are very familiar and everyday places to start.  And they are neglected too.  If every garden pond and every pond in the countryside were full of life then we would have much more wildlife around us.

Excuse me for going back to a bird example but there is good evidence that tree sparrows, one of the farmland birds that has undergone massive declines in numbers, produce more young when they nest close to water bodies and the reason for that is that the water bodies have large insects such as dragonflies that can disappear down baby tree sparrows’ throats.  So countryside ponds, garden ponds and village green ponds will not only have life in them they will enhance the wildlife all around them (and tree sparrows aren’t at all slimy).

Pond Conservation’s Million Ponds Project is an absolutely fantastic project and has involved a large number of partner organisations from the Ministry of Justice (fair rights for ponds!) to the British Aggregates Association (we dig ponds?!).

Rather spookily, just as I typed the words ‘million ponds’ in the paragraph above a press release arrived in my inbox telling me about a joint project between Pond Conservation and the RSPB (funded by Biffaward) – so there can be no clearer sign that I should tell you about it.  It’s part of the million ponds project and will create 15 new clean water ponds at the RSPB Cantley Marsh nature reserve.  This project will benefit, it is hoped, Norfolk hawker dragonflies, grass snakes, rare aquatic stoneworts, otters and a few birds too.

If you have a pond or if you have £24 per year then why not have a look at Pond Conservation’s excellent website and sign up!


PS  Pond Conservation is looking for a trustee with financial expertise to act as an Honorary Treasurer. Contact me if you are interested.