Mmmmm! Yummy!

I tell the story in Fighting for Birds of staying at the house of a grouse moor manager and being given grouse to eat for dinner. I quite like grouse but I prefer pheasant on my plate.  There was a bit of an expectant hush as my host and some other guests waited to see my reaction to the profferred food.  They all looked a bit deflated when I said ‘If they are good enough for hen harriers then they are good enough for me!’ and tucked in.

But I couldn’t eat a hen harrier – however yummy it might be (and they probably aren’t).  Luckily our law-breaking upland residents aren’t scoffing hen harriers or selling them to the local restaurants as a tasty dish to set before tourists.  In a way, I wish they were, it would make it all the easier to get people angry about it.

Photo: BirdLife Cyprus

So think how BirdLife Cyprus staff, members and supporters must feel when they see ambelopoulia on local menus. How would you like to settle down to a snack of robins and blackcaps?  Would the occasional willow warbler add to the spiciness? What is your favourite songbird meal?

Killing these songbirds is illegal, traditional and people make money out of it. Does that ring any bells?

To learn more click here, here, here, here or here.



I have sent the following to  referring to applications Mr A W Alston NPS/WR/007223 & NPS/WR/007224.  You could too and the closing date for receipt of such views is Wednesday.


Catfield Fen is drying out, and has been for several years. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt about that.

Catfield Fen is part of the Ant Broads and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Broadland Special Protection Area.

According to the studies that have been carried out no-one can rule out water abstraction for agricultural purposes as being the cause or a contributory cause of the decline in biological richness of this site of European importance for nature conservation.

Renewals of two abstraction licences (Mr A W Alston NPS/WR/007223 & NPS/WR/007224) for spray irrigation, which could be damaging to the integrity of the site, are currently being considered by the Environment Agency.

It is my view that given the importance of the nature conservation interest, and the possibility that the site has been and could be damaged by water abstraction, that the applications to renew the licences should be refused.  This would be in line with the requirements of the Precautionary Principle which both Natural England and the Environment Agency should apply to any Natura 2000 sites.

In any case, the very high quality of the Catfield Fen site and the undeniable damage which is being done to it through drying out, is a matter of much greater public significance than a marginal increase in agricultural production (if indeed such a case could be proved) and private profit for an individual farmer.  The applications for licence renewal give no information that would allow me or the EA to assess any public value from granting them.  No case is made for the necessity of importance of renewing the licences. Given that there is evidence that there may be a public disbenefit, ie loss of internationally important wildlife interest, and no evidence of any public benefit, from granting these licences,the EA should refuse them.

I would therefore like to register my objection to the renewal of abstraction licences which might affect Catfield Fen and the biodiversity of the Broadland SPA and its SSSIs.  Please keep me informed of any further consultations and any further action by EA pertaining to Mr A W Alston NPS/WR/007223 & NPS/WR/007224.

I would also like to point out that the link to the consultation was not working over the weekend when I tried to access it on Sunday.  Despite the closing date being this coming Wednesday.  This might hinder others from objecting to these applications.


Thank you WWT

Thank you to the staff, visitors, volunteers and wildlife of the WWT London Wetland Centre for giving me a good day yesterday.

An audience of 45-50 folk heard me talk about nature conservation issues from reintroductions to raptor persecution, and from protected areas to farmland birds.  The talk seemed to go well and there was some Twitter chatter about it from the likes of @ianpeirce777, @petemrcooper, @Klavins_photo and @Ldnperegrines.

The Wetland Centre sold out of Fighting for Birds yesterday but they have more  copies on order.

The captive short-clawed otters were putting on a show to delight visitors but the star wildlife sighting for me was a water vole – a species I haven’t seen for years.   And the sun was shining.


Working at home and away

Today I am giving a talk at the London Wetland Centre at 230pm – I’m looking forward to it and  maybe I’ll see you there.

However, I have experienced the joys of working at home this week.  One day a nice man brought me a lovely book to read (now, admittedly I had ordered it and paid for it, but it still felt like a present when it arrived) and then another man brought me a case of red wine ( ditto!).

When I put the washing on the line I felt the sun on my back and was able to have a look at the late-flowering buddleia in the garden.  I think there is a general law about buddleias.  When first you look at them it looks as though there are no butterflies but it takes not only a second look but often a third look to spot them.  This time there was a red admiral and a small tortoiseshell.

When I heard the ice-cream van outside I nipped out and had a cornet (no flake).

Bringing the washing in a bit later the two butterflies were still present and still difficult to spot – but lovely to watch.

Don’t get me wrong, I got a lot of work done too.  It rather helped that I woke up, rather inexplicably, at 3am and when I am awake then I am awake.  Working at home, and mainly writing and communicating these days, means that I can do quite a lot of that at any time of day.  5am would be a more normal time for me to wake but that means that by breakfast time I have sometimes done most of a day’s work so the rest of the day can be taken more easily.


Interesting slip

In Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday the Prime Minister said that he wants all government departments to be departments for growth.  The Agriculture Department should be promoting British food, apparently.

Sounds like a good idea perhaps, except you don’t have an Agriculture Department PM – you don’t even have a department with agriculture in its title. Maybe you were thinking, briefly and inaccurately of your Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Or maybe the PM of the ‘greenest government ever’ cannot any longer think of the environment, talk of the environment or bother with the environment?

Surely it would have been better to wait a while before announcing the knighthoods for a bunch of sacked Ministers including Jim Paice.  This blog feels glad for Jim and his very witty and amusing wife but feels that it would have looked more like an honour and  less like an integral part of a compensation pckage if there had been a few weeks delay.  It must be good news for the thousands of Defra civil servants, NE and EA staff and the members of various now-extinct quangos that they will, no doubt, soon be offered honours beyond their dreams for facing complete loss of their jobs rather than demotion to the back benches.  The ‘all shall have honours’ announcement is eagerly awaited.