Henry goes to Dinnet – were you driving past?

Tues 16 June  Copy

We’d just been to Balmoral (oops! – haven’t told you about that one yet) and this place seemed to ring a bell or two so we stopped to have a look and a photo.

I’ve noticed, because it’s me taking the photos, that there is a difference between how men and women react as they pass us on the road. Now it occurs to me that nobody is expecting to see a six foot Hen harrier by the side of the road as they head to work in the morning or as they go about their business, so members of both sexes ought to be equally surprised by the sight.

Men tend to put a ‘what’s that all about?’ puzzled look on their faces, whereas women tend to adopt a ‘What a laugh!’ look, and a big smile, sometimes accompanied by a thumbs up.  Our sample size is mounting all the time and I wish I’d kept proper notes right from the start.It’s even true within the same car if there is a couple passing by; the man looks puzzled and the woman looks delighted. What does that tell us about gender differences I wonder?


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19 Replies to “Henry goes to Dinnet – were you driving past?”

  1. Whilst picking up some dinner from the supermarket this evening I sneaked a look inside the current Shooting Times. It features a two-pager from Sir Beefy Botham who apparently senses a turning of the tide against the evil RSPB. He is still spraying the ball all over the place and keeping the scorer busy with wides and no-balls. A bit sad, really. Apparently RSPB supporters are to a man/woman city-dwellers, which accounts for their complete lack of understanding of how grouse shooting is the most environmentally benign thing in the world. He ends his piece by inviting readers to send him examples of the RSPB's 'errors' at the e-mail address beefy@youforgotthebirds.com. I am sure he would be equally pleased to hear from all of us about YFTB's errors, why conservationists are up in arms about hen harrier persecution and about all the good things the RSPB does for birds of all kinds from wrens to sea-eagles. I'd imagine it would take several e-mails to cover all of those things...
    Elsewhere in the magazine an old sage by the name of Lyndsey Waddell (my apologies to him if I've miss-spelled his name) offers the opinion that the five disappearing Hen Harriers probably fell victim to Peregrines. He finishes his article with what under the circumstances is a rather sick joke:- the assertion that 'as birds of prey of all kinds become more common' this kind of thing (i.e. one raptor species preying on another) will happen more and more. I wonder where he gets the notion that either Peregrines or Hen Harriers are getting more common on English moorland?

    1. These people are churning out propaganda of the sort that would even have made Josef Goebbels blanch. Unbelievable.

  2. rather than pointing out YFTBs errors, we could all respond to beefy@youforgotthebirds.com pointing out RSPBs and other conservationists strengths,and why we support them.
    We are being bullied, time to stand together and continue to fight back, even if we don't always agree with everything all of the time. I'd rather conservation was influenced by RSPB than YFTB !!

  3. Help/Advice needed

    This is nothing to do with your piece today, or HHs but slightly perhaps hedge- related.
    Several times a week I visit a FC wood. It is full of birds, deer, wild flower verges with orchids, yellow rattle, bedstraws, vetches, and many other flowers. The birch/oak scrub has cuckoos, warblers, owls, thrushes, buzzards and kestrels. There are hares on the fields adjacent.
    Today there are notices up saying Chemical Spraying in Progress. I am very concerned, not just because the orchids are about to come in flower, but also because of the birds nesting at low level. Someone said 'they want the low stuff out' meaning low vegetation I suppose.
    Is it permitted to spray at such a sensitive time of year? To whom could I complain? What spray would be used? Has anyone any advice or suggestions? Thank you.

    1. Hilary - if it is a FC wood I'd get in touch with their local staff to express your concern. But others may be able to help rather more than that.

      1. I have done that, but no reply so far. Last year, when they were felling well into the nesting season several people also tried to contact them, again no reply.

        To whom are the FC answerable?

        1. To whom are the FC answerable? Ultimately to you and me - they manage the PUBLIC Forest Estate for us. So keep trying to contact local staff (though "local" staff may now actually be based 100s of miles away). No reply - then go up the chain of command until you do get a response. And publicise, publicise, publicise. But I agree with Tom - there could be a reasonable explanation - but, if so, why didn't their notice explain why they need to spray now?

    2. Do you know if the site is designated as a SSSI (you can find out at http://www.magic.gov.uk/). If so, they will probably have to get permission from natural england for these operations, so you could give natural england a call

  4. Definitely get in touch to ask, but be open minded, the spraying could be to remove invasive non-native plant species - short term gain etc

  5. I am shocked (shocked, I tell you!) by the poor quality science on display in this article.

    Mark, have you excluded the possibility that the women are smiling and giving the thumbs up to you?

    With research this shoddy, an offer of a post as science adviser to YFTB cannot be long coming

  6. The interesting thing about Dinnet is that I have heard that the management of the grouse moor has been taken over by GWCT as a demonstration site ( a sort of grouse moor version of Allerton).

    I therefore anticipate a healthy population of hen harriers there in the coming years, living in harmony with the grouse.

  7. I would hope someone from Fc will tell you exactly what is going to be done, but having been ( a few years ago now !) in charge of chemical application research for FC I think I can help. It is most likely treatment of weeds around young trees. The reason for doing it at this time of year is that this is when competing vegetation risks swamping very young trees. Herbicides are used because cutting vegetation like grasses stimulates their growth, sucking away water & nutrients from the trees. Normally a spot 1 metre diameter will be treated - trees are normally spaced at 2.5-3 metres square, so only a small part of the site is treated. In the flat lowland pine forests tractor mounted line spraying is used. FC pioneered low volume application - not, I'm sad to say, for the environment but because it was very difficult to get water onto the hills for conventional medium volume spraying. However, what it means is that the techniques forestry uses, including ultra low volume application means using far less chemical than medium volume (the norm in farming) and there is far less drift. Obviously, going on site at this time of year does pose a threat to birds and in the lowland pine forests tractor drivers watch for Nightjar leaving the nest (Woodlark, the other key ground nesting species, have finished by the time spraying starts) and avoid the nest, either going round, or over with the nest between the wheels and the spray turned off. We know it works because nest location is passed on to the local ringing group and young are ringed & nests monitored. For Thetford, you can follow the subsequent life of Nightjars that have been satellite tagged on the BTO website. There is a big contrast to farming where the general attitude seems to be 'its a pity that the Skylarks nest in the tramlines but we have to get out and spray even if it means running them over'. Similarly, the quantity of chemical used - and the resulting drift onto other habitats - could be cut drastically by using low volume application - but is technically more demanding. A big hike in chemical costs would bring it in straight away - with minimal extra cost to farmers. Its not just farmers and foresters who use herbicides - during my time we had more and more conservationists on FC courses who had tried controlling birch on heathland by cutting it and found all they got was 3 times as much birch !

    1. Thank you, that is very helpful indeed. The site is not a SSSI. Is there a closed season for felling and taking out timber? I have not seen it myself, but am told FC are felling at present in local wood (not the one I visit).

    2. I also wondered if FC take into account local conditions when working re. nesting birds, seeding flowers etc. The wood I visit is approx 800 feet above sea level, Spring arrives later there than it does here in the village. It's very obvious when you look at the bud break, flowers and birds. Admin. centre 100 miles away may not know this.

  8. Really good answer from Roderick,just dubious about some of his thoughts on farming.
    Would think it is probable that if low pressure spraying was cheaper then as lots of spraying done by contractors then that is what they would use also I promise farmers do not like spending more on spray chemicals than is necessary and they are expensive already.
    Logically it would cause more drift with using less water low pressure than with medium pressure,of course it is easier in woodland to avoid drift from the wind than in open farmland.
    Farmers running over Skylark nests in tramlines is a contentious issue as to see a such a small nest while driving and controlling the spray make it nearly impossible to avoid them and spraying times would be controlled by diseases in the crops.
    Really a case for conservationists to all agree on trying to get the agricultural schemes changed to pay farmers more for important things and less for things that help wildlife very little then maybe if Skylark patches in fields were paid better farmers would have them where Skylarks would then not be nesting in tramlines where all Foxes and Badgers even Hedgehogs have the knowledge to follow a tramline in the crop and a good feed is assured,my guess is they ruin more nests than sprayers especially as we have probably double the population of Badgers now than we had fifteen years ago.
    Might not be scientific but it is obvious some of the decline in Skylarks is simply down to the high Badger population.Anyone who doubts it needs to take note of one Badger one night only on Springwatch,this type of thing happens every night out in the countryside.
    What a pity that all conservationists do not make changing these schemes a priority as the prediction of Chris Packham that maybe seven farmland birds could be extinct in UK by 2022 is seriously frightening and still lots of people do not seem to see that getting small areas of wild bird food areas onto more farms is one simple thing that would probably do more to help them than carping on about hedgerows.
    My guess not scientific at all is that at some point in history our country had hardly any hedges but lots of what are termed farmland birds.The UK has enough good hedgerows for the farmland bird population to at least triple before miles of hedgerows is the problem.

  9. Hilary, forestry does fell all the year round - with modern harvesters costing up to £500,000 and big industries depending on the supply of timber, it would be impossible not to. Also, whilst nesting birds are an obvious problem there are other considerations - especially ground conditions, with the risk of worse soil damage on wet ground in winter. Forestry does take huge precautions over birds and other wildlife - basically avoiding all nests that can be found, and working around rare & vulnerable species, with Goshawk being particularly important. As Goshawk generally use the same nest again, foresters are able to plan around them - but carry out surveys in the spring to check for movement. There must be some impact on smaller birds - but in contrast to farming only a small part of the forest is affected at any one time - with a 50 year rotation and a six month breeding season that means just 1/100th of a forest will be affected (on average) each year. But this is definitely an area where the protection of the individual and the population meet head on because lack of management is the single biggest problem for woodland bird populations in GB (and especially England) a lot of the species we value & are declining like Nightingale depend on earlier stages of growth and with nearly 1/2 England's forests unmanaged they are losing out badly.

    1. Thank you Roderick, that's very reassuring and helpful and I will share with other concerned woodland watchers.

      Something must be working well in this particular spot, because of the great range of species. Cuckoos every year and nightingales in the birch scrub last year (none this year).

  10. Thanks Hilary - sounds great, though a shame about the Nightingales - they are hard to hang onto in England these days !


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