Early week and Early Day motion 603

Mark Avery at HoC 2012

Photo by Martin Warren

Early Day Motions are a way of raising an issue in Parliament.  MPs write a few words about an issue and then other concerned MPs can add their names to demonstrate support.  If an EDM gets a lot of support, particularly cross-party support, then the issue tends to be taken a little more seriously than if no-one signs up.

EDMs are the playground for backbench MPs – Ministers and Shadow Ministers usually don’t sign them (although they are able to – it’s a loose convention not a hard rule).

And so, checking whether your MP (for they do work for you!) has signed any EDMs, which ones and whether their apparent interests represent your own, is a good thing for you to do to get a little involved in the democratic process.  You will find that the personalities of MPs come to the fore here – some are notoriously grumpy about EDMs and never sign any, whereas others throw their favours around rather indiscriminately.  Which category is your MP in, or do they pick and choose?

If you would like your MP to sign a particular EDM then ask them! That’s what I did on Friday evening and my MP, Andy Sawford, replied very quickly to say that he would add his name to EDM 603 so I expect that  his name will appear on the list in a few days time.  Well done Andy and thank you!

EDM603 refers to the future funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and already has 108 MPs signed up.  That makes it the equal-9th most-supported EDM in this session of Parliament.

Interestingly there is a very noticeable party split of support.  The Green Party’s whole parliamentary membership (ie Caroline Lucas) is signed up, as are the whole of the Respect Party (George Galloway) and Alliance Party (Naomi Long).  In addition there are Plaid Cymru (3),  Scots Nats (4),  SDLP (3), Independent (1), Liberal Democrats (23) and DUP (5) MPs too.  62 Labour MPs are already signed up (and Andy Sawford will be adding his name) but a small and insignificant party called the Conservative Party has only managed 4 signatories; Andrew Rosindell (the sponsor of the EDM), Peter Bottomley (who signs many EDMs – 421 out of 870 in this session of Parliament), Zac Goldsmith (who is the greenest Tory in Parliament and a member of the Environmental Audit Committee whose recent report supported the work of, and need for, the NWCU) and Sheryll Murray (for whom this is the only EDM she has signed).

But just four out of 303 Conservative MPs supporting this EDM?  Very poor.  Totally inexplicable of course.

Ask your MP to sign EDM 603 (or any others – why not?) and ask them also to explain why they won’t if they are not prepared to do so.  Tell them that you care about this issue and that wildlife issues may influence your vote in the next general election.

And if your MP has signed already then why not thank them by sending them an email, or on Twitter or Facebook?

I will keep you updated on the signatures to EDM 603 over the coming weeks.



Problem with site corrected – I believe

If you have visited my website recently and encountered some information about V****a on it then I’m sorry about that but the site was temporarily hacked.  I don’t think this lasted for more than a few hours, and I know that only a small number of users during the relevant period even noticed it (I could see nothing at all myself).

I think I have (with a bit of help from my friends) removed the offending code. All it did was to increase the search engine optimisation of some websites selling certain medicines.  Visiting my website won’t have done your computer any harm.

If you ever see anything on my site which you think is inappropriate please let me know – ranting about raptor persecution or the NFU do not count as inappropriate for these purposes.




Waxwings near me


I popped out one afternoon last week to visit an industrial estate. A birder going to an industrial estate in January is most likely to mean ‘waxwings’.  And that is what it meant on this occasion.

Waxwings has been reported from the Burton Latimer/Barton Seagrave area over the previous few days and when I had finished a walk at Stanwick Lakes the sun was still shining and I thought I’d try my luck for some January waxwings.

It was just a short drive up the A6.  I passed Nene Park, the former home of the once-mighty Rushden and Diamonds and now the home of the always feeble Kettering Town FC where a small number of waxwings were briefly seen before Christmas – they left the ground in disappointment perhaps, as I have done on many occasions.  Before I got to Finedon a red kite drifted over the road (I didn’t make my target of 250 red kite days last year but I was well over 200 so it was quite fun keeping count). Finedon is the home of the Rev Richard Coles, previously of The Communards, but now a local vicar and BBC Radio 4 broadcaster – I wonder if he has seen any waxwings?  Further up the road I passed as closely as you can to the 10 wind turbines which dominate the local landscape, and of which I am very fond, as they turned tirelessly in the breeze generating clean electricity.  On the straight wide stretch of road that is essentially the Burton Latimer bypass there was a police speed-camera van on my side of the road looking down the hill and a few hundred yards further on a large pile of flowers marking what I guess was the site of a recent car accident.  How sad to lose someone you love at this time of year.

As I reached the roundabout with the A14 at the edge of Kettering I turned off towards Burton Latimer and was wondering where to start my search for waxwings but the birds made it easy – they were in the trees on either side of the road and fly-catching above it. That really was easy!

I drove a little further as there were double yellow lines on either side of the road, went round the nearest roundabout, headed back and pulled off the road.  On the edge of the industrial estate, with white, charmless, square industrial units, lorries coming and going, and notices, tall fences and a general air of built-up grot, a large flock of waxwings was moving around in the trees.

I counted 76 birds but there could easily have been more (and who cares really – there were lots?).  They were mostly sitting in the tops of alders, ashes and willows.  A lot were fly-catching in the very welcome sunshine.  I couldn’t see what they were catching, if anything, but the fly-catching showed the birds off well in the sunlight.  Mostly though, they sat in flocks in the tops of the trees, occasionally flying out of sight and then reappearing with a berry to eat.

The waxwings sat at the top of the trees in the sunshine and looked lovely.  i stood on the pavement and looked up at them.  they didn’t seem to mind at all, or even really notice, and I had really good views (and added waxwing to my 2013 year list).

Nobody else was watching these birds and I got a few looks from lorry drivers and others going about their normal business whilst I, strangely it seemed to them it seemed, stared into the tops of trees at some birds.  Fair enough! It would only be a wildlife sighting which would get me walking the pavement of the Burton Latimer industrial estate near the Abbey Board and Alpro units between Kettering Road, Polwell Lane and Altiendez Way. Abbey Board seems to be a paper and cardboard manufacturer and Alpro is , I discover, an organic soya retailer – the things you learn through birdwatching!  But I can’t find any mention of Altiendez on Google apart from the name of this road – I wonder where the name comes from?

So waxwing visitors from Scandinavia had brought me to a previously unexplored (by me) grotty part of my local area. Visitors attracting visitors.

The waxwings were lovely.  They always are.  I went back again the other day to try to find them to show my son before he went back to university but I failed. There was sunshine still, and lorries, and grottiness and some fieldfares in the nearby fields but no waxwings.  But that unexceptional corner of an unexceptional industrial estate will always mean ‘waxwings’ to me now.  As I pass by, down on the A14, that turn-off will always mean ‘waxwings’ to me. Wildlife has the power to change perceptions of life, geography, culture – everything. That grotty part of east Northants has now become ever-special to me.

Get out and see some wildlife today – and as many days as you can.  Maybe you don’t even have to go out – enjoy the birds in your garden.  I am waiting for the day that waxwings perch in the tree in my or my neighbour’s garden.  It would feel like the neighbourhood had been annointed.



Painless giving


I mentioned Give as you Live in a blog before Christmas and it still seems like a very easy way to raise money for charity.

If I download ‘something’ while I am shopping online (don’t ask me how it works – I just click) then my chosen charity (which happens to be the RSPB) gets a little bit of money from the retailer. So far I have raised over £13 in the last few weeks without it costing me anything.

I was mildly ticked off by a commenter on this blog for promoting something that encourages purchasing but that’s not true in my case.  The scheme is well named – I am giving as I live my life.  So the £13 has come from Vistaprint (where I got some Christmas cards printed), East Midlands trains and Premier Inn.  If any of you think that I would stay at a hotel or jump on a train just to give the RSPB some money then you are wrong, and both types of purchase are helping to reduce my overall carbon budget by the way.

It still seems a good idea to me so I think that many of you could give it a try.  If you find any snags with it then please let me know.



Wet enough for you? Ralph Underhill cartoon