Happy nuptials


Three petitions

Hardly anybody wants grouse shooting to continue – or if they do then they can’t be bothered to exert themselves so much as to sign a petition to protect their interests, and hardly anybody wants it to be licensed (even though the RSPB has promoted this idea in its magazine). In contrast, a raggle taggle group of campaigners got almost 50,000 signatures to support a ban of this allegedly economically important and allegedly traditional, alleged sport.

Three times as many people want driven grouse shooting banned as either licensed or maintained.

Of course, all this might change if, in the next week, Jane Griggs’s e-petition gains a shed load of signatures. But that would be a comeback akin to that of the Terror Skink or Banggai Crow.


Three e-petitions - how do they compare?

 PositionSignaturesClosing date
Gavin GambleBan48,174closed
Jane GriggsPro15,20224 May
Ed HutchingsLicense16,59415 June


There is more chance, but I’d rate it a slim one, that the RSPB might drum up significant support for licensing in the next month.  How many, or how few, signatures do you think that licensing will attract by 15 June?

I’d be surprised if the ‘pro’ and ‘ban’ e-petitions together, what an unholy alliance!, will reach the signature total of Gavin Gamble’s e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting.

If I had access to the RSPB (many) Twitter accounts and Facebook page and mailing list I know I could get Ed Hutchings’s e-petition well over 100,000 signatures in a month’s time.  If the RSPB doesn’t, then it is a sign of indifference, nothing else.


Wild food (34) – Garlic Mustard by Ian Carter

As suggested by the name this cabbage-relative has two flavours for the price of one, though the garlic comes across rather more strongly to my mind. The leaves are actually tasteless until they are crushed or, if you will, ‘tasted’. The chemical reactions producing the strong flavours only take place (as a defence mechanism) once the foliage is under attack. It’s a bit like Schrodinger’s cat – the act of tasting destroys our ability to perceive the plant’s tastelessness.

I always think of it as a rather poor substitute for Wild Garlic but with the advantage that it is abundant and widespread along verges and hedgerows. If you fancy a quick garlic-flavoured nibble and are not lucky enough to be near ancient woodland then this is your best bet.

It is at its best early in the summer and the leaves become increasingly tough and tattered as the season progresses and hordes of hungry invertebrates take an increasing toll. Even the fresh leaves look as if they have had chunks bitten out of the edges giving them their distinctive shape. Could this also be a defence mechanism – a deceptive message that this plant has already been started so please move along and find something else where you will have less competition?


Paul Leyland – Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee


Paul writes: Searching for insects is a bit like birding. I have a home patch, life list, year list, etc. I even get to look for Cuckoos. So it was great when I found this bumblebee last week. A lifer on my home patch! It’s a good record as well. Barbut’s Cuckoo Bee (Bombus barbutellus) is recorded mostly in Southern England, not often near the Yorkshire Coast. My home patch is the 1km OS square TA0978, which consists of my garden, two field paths and a stretch of, not too busy, main road with hedgerows either side. Nothing special but it turns up a good variety of insects.

Cuckoo bumblebees behave like the birds, by taking over the nests of other bumblebees. Most bumblebee species have a cuckoo to contend with. Barbut’s Cuckoo Bee resembles the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) and uses this to its advantage. The cuckoo will hang around a suitable flowerbed looking for the right bee, then follow it home to the nest. She then enters the nest and once inside will find and kill the existing queen bumblebee, then take over. She will lay her own eggs and once they hatch let the existing workers feed the larvae and raise a new generation of cuckoos.

A good way to spot a queen cuckoo bee in spring is by her behaviour. Bumblebees are normally very industrious and are seen constantly flying from flower to flower collecting pollen and drinking nectar. If you see a bumblebee, which perches on a flower amidst other bees and doesn’t move around for a while, there is a good chance that it is a queen cuckoo. Another pointer is that they usually have very dark wings.


Please respond to Forest of Bowland AONB consultation

The Forest of Bowland AONB is consulting on its next 5-year plan for 2019-24.  They would like your views by a week today, 25 May.  It’s easy to fill in the short consultation form – takes about 5 minutes.

Have a look at their last plan with its images of Hen Harriers and talk of natural beauty and how that means a lot more than just landscape – click here.

There are very few questions, and most of them are a choice of boxes to tick, but questions 3 and 5 allow free text.  Here are my responses to those questions.

Q3: Hen Harriers – though their numbers are dramatically depleted. This is, as your previous management plan states, ‘the iconic bird of prey of the area’ and yet in the timescale of your previous plan this species has often failed to nest in Bowland. This is, as you know well, your chosen logo – and yet you sit idly by and do nothing for it.  Other National Parks and AONBs have spoken out against raptor persecution in their areas and yet you remain eerily quiet on the subject – it’s almost as though you don’t care. And it’s almost as though you condone what is happening under your noses. That can’t be true surely?



Moorland management: management of large areas of Bowland for game shooting is a problem not an asset. Have you noticed how the roads, particularly around Abbeystead in my experience, are littered with released non-native Pheasants which are a road hazard and which in late summer carpet the road with their squashed remains? How is the release of such large numbers of these birds an asset to the natural beauty of the area? There is evidence that Pheasants may contribute to reptile declines (snakes and lizards) – what evidence do you have on the health of Adder and Common Lizard populations in Bowland? A subject on which you could facilitate research?

Bowland is a notorious hotspot for wildlife crimes against protected birds of prey. Your logo is practically extinct in your AONB whereas 30 years ago there were over 20 nesting female Hen Harriers. You cannot sit idly by any longer. Why is the AONB not active in finding solutions to these issues? Why are you not recruiting volunteer rangers to identify wildlife crimes and report them to the police? Why are you not highlighting wildlife crime in your consultation? Why are you not organising local meetings to highlight the problems and seek the public’s help in finding solutions? Why aren’t you doing more? You could facilitate a lot of action but you appear to be complacent and inert over the massive elephant in the room – your AONB is losing its natural beauty because of criminal action by a few.

Visitor experience and information: my visitor experience would be greatly improved by seeing Peregrine Falcons and Hen Harriers in your (my! our!) AONB. What are you going to do to facilitate this?

What plans do you have to change your logo to a dead raptor if things continue as they have done in recent years?