2015 in the Birdwatch readers’ Blog of the Year – Jan-June

January: I saw a Great Grey Shrike locally (I’d forgotten until I looked back), Defra were hopeless (hardly news, I know), David Harsent won the TS Eliot prize for poetry for a book which included a poem about a killed Hen Harrier, a Scottish gamekeeper was jailed for killing raptors, SNH was put under pressure over the killing of Mountain Hares on driven grouse moors, a mystery of a dying hedge from 2014 was solved and Devon beavers were given a reprieve despite complaints by anglers.

Perhaps the greatest service this blog did in the first few months of 2015 was to flush out the behind-the-scenes actions of the Hawk and Owl Trust, led into the wilderness by its chair Philip Merricks, in lobbying for brood management of Hen Harriers. In a series of blogs (see Defra probably has one more bad decision left in it, Collaboration or collaborationism?, So what is the Hawk and Owl Trust’s position on brood management? and following) the H&OT position was revealed in all its inadequacy.

February: Despite the Hawk and Owl Trust claiming that the world loved them because they loved landowners a poll by Rare Bird Alert suggested that the H&OT had little support from birdwatchers and their President Chris Packham resigned because of differences over policy issues. Malta very narrowly voted not to get rid of spring hunting.

A local issue, but of national importance, was whether the Forestry Commission should be colluding and cooperating with a development firm to put luxury holiday chalets in a wildlife-rich woodland – Fineshade Wood. Henry was first introduced, #haveyouseenhenry, to widespread bemusement. I heard a male Pintail make a funny noise. In the run up to a surprising general election the Labour Party made an inadequate and unconvincing gesture towards nature.

March: We learned that Songbird Survival can’t identify songbirds, yet alone understand their ecology, I posted the 2000th blog post here, I signed up for meat-free week and supported the excellent World Land Trust,  in a pre-election gift the Pitcairn Island seas were created a marine protection zone as had been promoted on this blog for many years, Rules restaurant was unable to comment on the amount of lead it feeds to its customers in game meat, and at the first (and excellent) BAWC conference Chris Packham destroyed the Hay Wain and a six foot Hen Harrier emerged on a still-bemused world.

An e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting closes (early because of the general election) having amassed 22,399 votes.

April: The first mention on this blog of the West Pennine Moors which NE has forgotten about – and may even have invented a new SSSI notification procedure to bury. I learned the fascinating role of Pine Martens in ridding the world (or parts of Ireland anyway) of Grey Squirrels and allowing Red Squirrels to recover. After last year’s success in persuading M&S not to stock grouse meat in its stores the conversation started again. The Labour Party had a nature deficit in its manifesto – but that was probably the least of its worries.

May: The Conservatives won the general election and everyone else including the natural environment lost it. The long-running Catfield Fen story was resolved, it seemed. Three male Hen Harriers had gone missing in Bowland – we didn’t know they were just the first three.  NGOs launch a defence of the nature directives. I met up with some old school chums. I discover that I am BBC Wildlife magazine’s #14 in their nature power list – sandwiched between two chums, Matt Shardlow and Martin Warren.  We discover that YFTB is funded by the British grouse industry – what a surprise. Can the BBC handle nature properly? Always grab the chance to get out and experience nature.   The Countryside Alliance and GWCT flounce out of the Lead Ammunition Group in an attempt to wreck it. And the loathsome Linnet.

June: three more male Hen Harriers disappear from active nests, we learn (initially here). The Hen Harrier romps to a glorious 9th place in a vote organised by David Lindo for the country’s favourite bird.  African vultures plummet in numbers. A plague of pigeons forces grouse moor owners to put gas guns on the moors? Bitterns are booming.

More on 2015 at 6pm.



7 Replies to “2015 in the Birdwatch readers’ Blog of the Year – Jan-June”

  1. Mark, whatever festive spirit you are drinking, I want some.

    Your blog has been really helpful to me in trying to learn more about conservation in the UK. I have been following it daily for the last third of this year, and notice that you blog every day, frequently more than once a day. Amazing. You deserve your Blog of the Year title. I thought I was doing well posting two or three times a week.

    Anyway, all good cheer for the season, and thank you very much. Apart from endless photos of unrecognisable (to me!) bird skeletons, I have enjoyed every post.

  2. Thanks again, Mark, for such stimulating reading, for keeping us informed and entertained. Have a splendid Christmas and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to following you in 2016.
    We got out today, into the wilds, but it was upon our return that we saw the hen harrier ….. Bath bomb, by Lush.

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