Quite a few things

  • isn’t Bruce Springsteen fantastic?! Maybe not relevant to most topics on this blog but I have spent a large part of the day with The Boss on in the background on Spotify.  I even joined in sometimes.
  • yesterday Barry Gardiner MP (Lab Brent North) called for a parliamentary debate on whether to ban driven grouse shooting. It won’t happen, but is a sign of the times.  And one of the signs of the times is that Labour is getting its act together on the natural environment. Hooray!  Remember Barry was one of the #sodden570.
  • worrying news that the Wildlife Crime Unit’s funding is under threat.  I do sometimes wonder whether this unit’s funding is always kept under threat just as a distraction for us all. Government would be mad to cut this funding – so if it is left to Liz Truss, I guess it might. Sign the e-petition here .
  • I’ve been enjoying the Wood Pigeons eating Ivy berries on the wall of our shed. They are really beautiful birds, close to.  And they get into some amazing contortions hanging, often almost upside down, balancing with their wings outstretched, and leaning far out to try to pluck a preferred berry. Really, really beautiful birds.
  • there are persistent rumours (1)…that Defra might say something about Hen Harriers and the results of the Hen Harrier group some time soon.  These rumours started about 15 months ago but eventually they have to be true.
  • there are persistent rumours (2)…that Natural England might be merged with the Environment Agency as a cost-saving move. These rumours are less likely to happen now that the Environment Agency chair, Sir Philip Dilley, was caught on holiday in Barbados as the north of England suffered floods…
  • …and Miles King unearthed the interesting fact that Sir Philip is apparently a director of Grosvenor Holdings, aka the wealth of Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, only English-born member of the Sunday Times rich list and the owner (since 1980), of Abbeystead, one of, and the largest of, three main shooting estates in the Forest of Bowland. Miles wonders whether Sir Philip shoots (himself in the foot?).
  • are there lots of catkins on the Hazels where you live? There are around here – most disconcerting! Especially when a Chiffchaff was perched in one of them – it must be spring?
  • I wonder how the Iceland sample analysis is going?
  • And I wonder whether Ruth Tingay has any more fascinating blogs (like these – one, two, three) in her?
  • British Birds is always worth a look and Adrian Pitches’s News and Comment is the first thing I turn too – excellent this (January) issue as always.
  • I’ll be heading to Israel in March to race around seeing birds and raise money for conservation.
  • there are persistent rumours (3)…though diminishing somewhat, that JNCC might be for the chop too.  This comes around every now and again and, again, eventually it will be true.
  • every politician is heading to floods – but it was good to see the excellent Natalie Bennett visiting Hebden Bridge and the Calderdale Green Party. I wonder how many of the visitors get an invitation to visit Richard Bannister on Walshaw Moor (only one I’ve heard).
  • thank you to those of you who voted this blog into a commanding first place in the vote for the Birdwatch readers’ ‘Blog of the Year’.  I don’t think I’ve won anything, except a few bets, for decades. Congratulations to Mya-Rose Craig who came second ahead of some very good other blogs.
  • Other Birdwatch readers’ winners included the incomparable Chris Packham as Conservation Hero and Roy Taylor as ‘Local Hero’ and…no, go out and buy the magazine yourselves!
  • I wonder what is happening about the West Pennine Moors – watch this space.
  • at the time of writing, four of your guesses for the final number of signatures on our e-petition have been passed. Two weeks to go…
  • If you live in the Yorkshire area then you might well see me talking about grouse moors on the regional slot in the Sunday Politics programme.  Let me know if you see me please (because I won’t).
  • …I come from down in the valley… The Boss is just brilliant – though, of course, he doesn’t live in Hebden Bridge.
  • and last, but not least, there is now a Facebook page linked to the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting – click here and share widely right up until it closes on 21 January please.
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14 Replies to “Quite a few things”

  1. Yes, Springsteen is great. By a strange coincidence, last night we watched the recording of Roy Orbison with Springsteen, Elvis Costello, KD Lang and many more. Now that truly was amazing!
    Oh yes, and your Facebook link works, just shared it. Think if the other 27k signers did the same!
    Congrats on BLOG OTY. Well deserved.

  2. Mark, I couldn't find an e-petition related to the Wildlife Crime Unit. The link just asks for us to write to our MPs.

    1. WCU petition (to local MP) is http://www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk/campaigns/wildlife/wildlife-crime

  3. Celtic pedant point: the current Duke of Westminster was born in Omagh, Co Tyrone, NI; not that that makes much difference to anything else.

  4. The e-petition link goes to a Guardian article...


  5. In respect of a merger between the EA and NE, here is a quote from the Environment Secretary's sycophantic presentation to the Oxford Farming Conference yesterday:

    This is changing. Defra and its organisations like the Environment Agency, APHA, the RPA and Natural England will in the future be more integrated, operating towards clear shared goals. And from July, the Environment Agency and Natural England will be using the same boundaries and the same plan. There will be one back office so we can put more resources into the front line, helping us save 15 per cent from our running costs, improving the value we provide to the taxpayer.

    So, looks like a done deal!

    There is a link to the full speech on Martin Harper's blog on the RSPB Community site:

  6. Congratulations on the Blog of the Year Mark: absolutely well deserved.

    Conservation Hero of the Year, congratulations to Chris similarly a worthy recipient.

    Guano Award of the Year, no surprise as to the 'trustless' winner or the runners up? Is there a presentation ceremony for this category? I could well imagine the menu and maybe even supplier, or maybe they get to shoot their own on a NY estate? Imagine a Ralph cartoon as they tuck into the lead enriched grouse?

    Fingers crossed that the Facebook link pushes the signatures into orbit ....

    Hazel catkins were out on New Year's Day here in Yorkshire!

  7. In terms of economic policy, scrapping the WCU would be a symbolic gesture. The money saved is a drop in the ocean and would make no difference to the state of the economy. Osborne could pretend that it is all about economic responsibility but the main result would be a resounding message that the government doesn't care about wildlife. Defra's claims that the government is committed to stopping the persecution of raptors would look even more ludicrously hollow than they already do if this is allowed to happen.

  8. The record on amalgamations between environment bodies is absolutely consistent: whatever its quality, the culture and priorities of the larger body invariably win. What sign is there today of the Countryside Agency agenda: conservation-dominated Natural England never knew what to do with what CA did to the extent that some staff were left with literally nothing to do for years after the amalgamation. If you don't believe the same would happen to NE - and the conservation voice in Government - Sir James Bevan helped us all out with his 'people before wildlife' comment. Which at one level is right, but in the context it was said, a Government that has set out to pit the environment against the economy and which completely refuses to even consider the real land use issues around farming, including management for sheep in the uplands, it is a chilling foretaste of things to come. Following the forestry sales fiasco, fewer people probably realise that it was the rainbow coalition stretching from RSPB to forestry industry body Confor against the amalgamation of the Forestry Commission with NE that probably saved not only FC but NE as well. The reasons were the same: it was not a criticism of NE per se, simply the inevitability that, amalgamated, the forestry voice in Government would have quietly disappeared under the bigger pressures and culture of NE'/s core concerns.

  9. Mark: I don't know whether any of Springsteen's lyrics had an environmental message but these by Joni Mitchell still ring true even though she wrote them in the 1970s:
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    They took all the trees
    Put 'em in a tree museum *
    And they charged the people
    A dollar and a half just to see 'em

    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got
    Till it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Hey farmer farmer
    Put away that DDT * now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But leave me the birds and the bees

    And Patti Smith on Saturday Live on Radio 4 this morning chose an 'inheritance' track by Neil Young which had these lines: "Look at Mother Nature on the run" and that lyric, like Joni's, was also written over 40 years ago.
    Patti covered the song recently and changed the lyric to "Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 21st Century"....
    She added on the programme that it (certainly) wasn't a good run......
    How good would it be to get her to come to Hen Harrier Day 3 though, like Joni, she lives too far away. Perhaps other blog readers know of UK singer songwriters who have written similar lyrics who BAWC could try to get to sing for us next August? That would definitely swell the crowds....


    1. Nick Bee - indeed. i was listening to Saturday Live and had the same thought as you - at the same time, or quite possibly just after you as you're pretty quick thinking. The Joni Mitchell lyrics (some) would have appeared as a quote at the end of Chapter 7 of A Message from MArtha had not Bloomsbury had a panic about being charged for using song lyrics without authorisation. And a few lines from The Eagles Last Frontier 'we have got to make it here' would have appeared in Chapter 5! Tricky things songlyrics - Martha is a slight change of lyric ('from' instead of 'to' of another song, and mentions Kentucky Bluebirds, which would have appeared in Chapter 4.

      Tell me about it!

      But your point is a very good one.


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