You should read this in Birdwatch

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddI have a great affection for Birdwatch magazine. First, they pay me to sound off about whatever is on my mind at the time and that is just completely lovely of them! Second, they put a Hen Harrier on the cover of the August issue with the headline ‘Stop killing our harriers’ and have been great supporters of the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. But it’s just generally a very good magazine for the thoughtful birder.  Birdwatch has a whole stable of talented birders and talented writers. One person who qualifies on both counts is Mark Cocker and I always read his pieces several times because they are worth it.  And his article in the December issue is, as ever, well worth reading and thinking about.

Every issue has great photographs of birds, common birds and rare birds, and I always learn some identification tips which I then promptly forget or, if I remember them, never have the opportunity to use.  This issue has just stunning images of Eastern Crowned Warblers and Rough-legged Buzzards.

But I always read my own column, ‘the political birder’, as soon as my copy of Birdwatch arrives – partly to remind myself of what I wrote several weeks earlier and partly to see what images have been inserted alongside the text.  This issue has my column talking about the Rally for Nature on 9 December.

After reading my column, I turned the page and found myself in familiar territory –  an excellent 4-page article entitled ‘Getting away with murder‘ about grouse moor management written anonymously by a raptor worker.  It’s understandable that it is anonymous because this guy clearly has to deal with gamekeepers quite a lot and it is an excellent summary of what is happening up in the hills from an insider’s perspective. Please read it and then come to the same conclusion as the author – please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

It is a fascinating read – but you’ll have to buy it for yourself to find out.


2 Replies to “You should read this in Birdwatch”

  1. I’m sure modesty forbids, Mark , that you comment on your nomination as Conservation Hero of the Year in the November edition. Top of the list as well (but having a surname beginning with A probably helps that one). You’re up against formidable opponents and I think Chris Packham might just get it on his Malta stance. Voting now closed and as I only get a hand-me-down copy I’ve lost my opportunity!

  2. Excuse a few thoughts which probably raise more questions than practical answers. I purchased Birdwatch for the grouse moors article, which is excellent, thought provoking and disturbing, and I would recommend people get hold of a copy. I am these days a bit depressed when out in iconic landscapes hoping to see those remnants of upland wildlife spared by the landowners, and angry that a powerful minority take such an insulting attitude to the rest of the country (so what’s new?). One or two thoughts :

    many congratulations to Birdwatch and Warners Group Ltd for publishing this article, I hope ways can be found to get it further into the mainstream in time

    it would be good if Birdwatching magazine followed a similar path, if their own corporate owners feel able? These issues desperately need to be out in media which are also owned by powerful groups. Be aware that Shooting Times, Country Life etc have considerably greater circulation figures.

    anyone sticking their neck out is liable to be attacked by people who are demonstrably stupid but know how to bully (cf all kinds of spurious attacks on the rather too cuddly RSPB !) It really is a power and establishment issue.

    as the article suggests, the eyes, ears and creative use of photographic and optical technology by wildlife watchers and the public (are drones legal over moors?) are good weapons, but I suggest what’s needed is a further strategy to undermine the up-market image and ‘brand’ of British bird-shooting sport, with its associated economy in clothing, retailing etc. Selfridges and M & S were a good start.

    In North Yorkshire for example grouse is big in rural retail outlets and up-market pubs/ hotels, and these businesses are as vulnerable to retaliation as the low paid rural workforce. Any potential economic fall out needs to be seen by public and politicians as entirely due to lawbreakers, not conservationists.

    further developing wildlife tourism is of course one answer, and the economic case for this needs to be championed

    apart from the Greens I have no faith that any political parties are much of an answer, whilst I of course support M A’s petition I suggest the real politics will need to be outside Westminster for the time being (the verdict on on the Scottish govt remains unclear)

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