Wild food (16) – Hairy Bittercress by Ian Carter

For a small, low growing and rather unassuming plant, Hairy Bittercress has quite a bit going for it. It has the welcome habit of bringing wild food right to your back door as it often grows as a garden weed, springing up in flower pots, the gaps between paving slabs or around the edges of flower beds. It is available for most of the year, emerging in early spring and seeding itself right through into the winter if conditions remain mild, though it is often at its best earlier in the season.

It doesn’t entirely live up to its name in that it’s not especially hairy and it doesn’t taste bitter, though the cress part, at least, is spot on. You can use it in salads or in sandwiches and I find it a great fall-back for days when I haven’t been able to get out into the field; I can wander into the garden at lunchtime and brighten up a cheese sandwich with a sprinkling of leaves. I was delighted to find it last week in the grounds of my daughter’s accommodation at the University of Sheffield. She and her flatmates seem to subsist mainly on pizza but at least now they will be able to add a few bittercress leaves to top up their vitamin C levels.

The elongated seed pods (when present) are also edible, though the tiny seeds are eaten by small finches and other species, so leave some in place if you want to attract more birds to your garden. There are a few similar but less common bittercresses and the well-known Cuckooflower (or Lady’s Smock) is also part of the same group. All are edible and have varying degrees of spiciness so feel free to experiment.

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Dr Coffey’s reading list (22)

Therese Coffey

Dr Therese Coffey is the junior minister at Defra. Now that Gavin Gamble’s e-petition in favour of banning driven grouse shooting has passed 10,000 signatures Dr Coffey will need to sign off a government response.

In order that she does not make Defra look even more foolish than they do already I am providing a reading list for the minister to inform her response.

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and put Dr Coffey on the spot.

Dr Coffey, in the Westminster Hall debate you said a few things about solutions for wildlife crime (even though you did not acknowledge the scale of the problem).

Here are some quotes:

  • ‘I have heard the concerns of some hon. Members that birds of prey, particularly hen harriers, are deliberately being killed. The Government take the illegal persecution of raptors very seriously. On the missing hen harriers in the last fortnight, the matter has been referred to the police. The local wildlife team has been involved and the national wildlife crime unit is aware. I can assure hon. Members that wildlife crime is a Government priority. We recently confirmed £300,000 of funding per annum for the NWCU for the next four years. Raptor persecution is one of six wildlife crime priorities for the UK. The unit has a dedicated group chaired by a senior police officer, with representatives from Government and NGOs working to deliver progress against this wildlife crime priority. It is building an intelligence picture and is due to advise on further action.’
  • ‘The Government have no plans to introduce licensing. ‘
  • ‘Several Members referred to vicarious liability. I am aware that this principle was introduced in Scotland, but there is little evidence to suggest it has had an impact on the conservation of birds of prey. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and will consider whether the approach is necessary and proportionate to assist in tackling wildlife crime here’
  • ‘…the Government have no intention of banning driven grouse shooting, but we have every intention of bringing to justice those who break the law’
  • ‘The issue of agri-environment funding has been raised. I expect we will continue to support our environment once we have left the EU and that, in the meantime, payments will be made to support environmentally beneficial land management’

So, what are you going to do?

 

 

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and put Dr Coffey on the spot.

 

The government response should:

  • be published within 2 weeks of Gavin Gamble’s e-petition reaching 10,000 signatures – FAIL
  • announce that vicarious liability for wildlife crimes will be introduced in England because of the unacceptably high levels of wildlife crime
  • announce that Defra will ask the RSPB to come forward with proposals for licensing of shooting estates within a month and that Defra will respond to them by Christmas
  • acknowledge the level of concern about driven grouse shooting which led to 123,077 signatures being gained last year for an absolute ban on this hobby (I’m not expecting Dr Coffey to say anything nicer than that about a ban)
  • confirm that Defra is looking at removal of farming subsidies from grouse moors in its post-Brexit agricultural strategy
  • confirm that the evidence for wider environmental damage of heather burning has increased recently and that this is an issue that government will address and that this will require widespread changes to grouse moor management (burning and draining)
  • mention where the government is with dealing with the RSPB complaint to the EU over unsustainable moorland management due to grouse shooting practices
  • acknowledge that the plight of the Hen Harrier has not improved in two breeding seasons since the Defra Hen Harrier plan was launched and that the grouse shooting industry has not cleaned up its act and is on a last warning
  • announce that the details of the 15-year Natural England Hen Harrier study will be published by Christmas 2017 in a government report with further recommendations for Hen Harrier conservation
  • acknowledge that wildlife crime applies to many other protected species other than the Hen Harrier
  • announce that the National Capital Committee has been asked to compile a report on ecosystem services and grouse moor management
  • announce a review of the economic costs and benefits of intensive grouse moor management will be carried out by independent academics and published by Christmas 2018.

 

The government response should not:

  • say that funding of the NWCU is a sufficient response to combatting bird of prey persecution in the uplands (because nobody who knows has ever suggested such a thing)
  • say or suggest that grouse shooting provides a nett economic benefit to the nation (because there are no such figures)
  • suggest that the current Hen Harrier Action Plan is remotely fit for purpose
  • praise gamekeepers
  • conflate benefits of all shooting (economic or environmental) with benefits of grouse shooting (because it makes the government department and/or its ministers look either stupid or biased)
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Thought-provoking Findlay Wilde

Did you read this blog by Findlay Wilde?

I’ve got my cards. I’m wondering to whom they should be sent…

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Dr Coffey’s reading list (21)

Therese Coffey

Dr Therese Coffey is the junior minister at Defra. Now that Gavin Gamble’s e-petition in favour of banning driven grouse shooting has passed 10,000 signatures Dr Coffey will need to sign off a government response.

In order that she does not make Defra look even more foolish than they do already I am providing a reading list for the minister to inform her response.

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and put Dr Coffey on the spot.

 

 

Today’s reading is basically an extract from my book Inglorious where I spoke to the RSPB Investigations Officer, and former police officer, Guy Shorrock (see pages 37-38):

A gamekeeper in North Yorkshire, on an estate in a region where Hen Harriers haven’t nested for years, said that they were ‘mopping up’ up to half a dozen Hen Harriers a year as the birds came through in spring.

Guy also told me:

A gamekeeper came to see us from a shooting estate in the north of England. I interviewed him twice – once with a colleague and once again with a police officer. This gamekeeper had been dismissed and so you always have to be a bit careful about whether the accounts given were true or malicious, but you don’t have much choice about that – the happily employed raptor-killing gamekeepers aren’t going to be the ones who talk openly about what is happening.

He started giving us the data and told us that over a three-year period, 1996–99, while the Langholm Study was in progress, he and his fellow gamekeepers killed about 30 Hen Harriers each year.

This is a somewhat eye-watering number, but it is entirely feasible biologically, as the population was then higher and it would involve birds wandering through the north of England in winter, birds attempting to settle in spring and those heading from their southern England wintering haunts back to Scottish moors.

The same estate was killing Peregrines too. The gamekeepers made a platform which was suitable for Peregrines to roost on, and one gamekeeper shot nine Peregrines during the year using that one platform. It seems that once you’ve got it sussed out, raptor killing isn’t that difficult and becomes part of the gamekeeper’s routine.

In addition there were many other raptors killed on this estate, according to the dismissed gamekeeper, amounting to 200–300 birds of prey a year – including Buzzards, Short-eared Owls, Goshawks and even, it was claimed, a rare Rough-legged Buzzard. This estate was thought to be at the very top end of upland raptor killing, and apparently took some covert pride in it, but Guy believed that killing 50 raptors a year, each act being a wildlife crime, was and is commonplace on upland grouse-shooting estates.

At the end of the Westminster Hall debate in October 2016 Dr Coffey said ‘I will finish by stating that the Government have no intention of banning driven grouse shooting, but we have every intention of bringing to justice those who break the law.

Go on then, Dr Coffey – how are you going to do that?

The truth is that your department is soft on wildlife crime and soft on the causes of wildlife crime.

 

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and put Dr Coffey on the spot.

 

The government response should:

  • be published within 2 weeks of Gavin Gamble’s e-petition reaching 10,000 signatures – FAIL
  • announce that vicarious liability for wildlife crimes will be introduced in England because of the unacceptably high levels of wildlife crime
  • announce that Defra will ask the RSPB to come forward with proposals for licensing of shooting estates within a month and that Defra will respond to them by Christmas
  • acknowledge the level of concern about driven grouse shooting which led to 123,077 signatures being gained last year for an absolute ban on this hobby (I’m not expecting Dr Coffey to say anything nicer than that about a ban)
  • confirm that Defra is looking at removal of farming subsidies from grouse moors in its post-Brexit agricultural strategy
  • confirm that the evidence for wider environmental damage of heather burning has increased recently and that this is an issue that government will address and that this will require widespread changes to grouse moor management (burning and draining)
  • mention where the government is with dealing with the RSPB complaint to the EU over unsustainable moorland management due to grouse shooting practices
  • acknowledge that the plight of the Hen Harrier has not improved in two breeding seasons since the Defra Hen Harrier plan was launched and that the grouse shooting industry has not cleaned up its act and is on a last warning
  • announce that the details of the 15-year Natural England Hen Harrier study will be published by Christmas 2017 in a government report with further recommendations for Hen Harrier conservation
  • acknowledge that wildlife crime applies to many other protected species other than the Hen Harrier
  • announce that the National Capital Committee has been asked to compile a report on ecosystem services and grouse moor management
  • announce a review of the economic costs and benefits of intensive grouse moor management will be carried out by independent academics and published by Christmas 2018.

 

The government response should not:

  • say that funding of the NWCU is a sufficient response to combatting bird of prey persecution in the uplands (because nobody who knows has ever suggested such a thing)
  • say or suggest that grouse shooting provides a nett economic benefit to the nation (because there are no such figures)
  • suggest that the current Hen Harrier Action Plan is remotely fit for purpose
  • praise gamekeepers
  • conflate benefits of all shooting (economic or environmental) with benefits of grouse shooting (because it makes the government department and/or its ministers look either stupid or biased)
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North York Moors

There are indications that many intensive grouse-shooting estates are undertaking more heather (and in some cases Sphagnum) burning this year because they feel that the Walshaw Moor net is closing in on them.

Here are some examples of what heather burning actually looks like from the North York Moors.  Does this burning follow the heather burning code, we wonder?  No doubt Natural England will decide in their normal fearless manner protecting the natural world.

 

Does this look like the type of habitat management that is great for wildlife to you? Great for mosses?

If not, then please add your name to Gavin Gamble’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

 

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