Win a copy of Behind More Binoculars


Behind More Binoculars will be published on or soon after 16 October – apparently the books are arriving on a slow boat from China – how exciting! – so that’s a bit less than a month away.

But I’ll give you the chance to win a copy signed by the authors, Keith Betton and myself.

Here are quotes from the book, one from each of the interviewees. Match the quotes to the interviewees and you could win yourself a book.  The winner will be the entry, posted as a comment on this blog post (I won’t publish the comments, just use them as entries to this competition), which matches the most comments correctly to the interviewees. In the event of a tie then the first entry submitted with that number of correct answers will win. Interviewees and their partners and offspring, employees of Pelagic Publishing and anyone else involved with the production of the book are excluded.

The 17 interviewees, in alphabetical order, were: Tim Appleton, Dawn Balmer, Tim Birkhead,  Bryan Bland, Ann Cleeves, Tim Cleeves, Roy Dennis,  Frank Gardner, Jon Hornbuckle, Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp,  Tony Juniper,  Tony Marr, Bill Oddie, Kevin Parr,  Richard Porter, Barbara Young.


  1. Q: Are you good with a baseball bat then? A: Pretty, yeah. I can break a knee with no trouble.
  2. Q: What’s your British list? A: 472
  3. Q: What is your favourite bird group? A: Babblers.
  4. …she is married to Peter Capaldi, so Dr Who has sampled our curry too.’
  5. I kept tame Jackdaws, one of which I taught to ride on the handlebars of my bike, and another time I reared three Shelduck which used to follow me around
  6. …the highlight in the garden was a Wryneck – the one and only Wryneck I’ve ever seen. I’d actually walked around to look at the colony of Grass Snakes we have on the compost heap and a small bird flew up, and it was one of those strange moments, where I knew straight away it was a Wryneck even though I’d never seen one before. we had brilliant views: it was incredibly confiding.
  7. I was most impressed by the quality of RSPB staff, many of whom at that time were birdwatchers like me.
  8. I absolutely hate the idea of watching a half-dead bird with 500 other people!
  9. I found New Zealand disappointing. It’s quite hard work for such a big land mass.  There are some lovely native species such as Tui, Kokako and Morepork, but so many of the birds are just boring imports from Britain
  10. I play the guitar for an hour every day. Rock guitar!
  11. The two things, fishing and birdwatching, definitely went together. The busy bird time tends to tail off in late June and then the fishing season starts.
  12. ‘…even if killing didn’t cause population declines I just don’t like it. I put it in the same category as child abuse. I just don’t like people killing or being cruel to birds. So yes, I’m a bird lover.’
  13. …my boss said to me ‘You’re bloody hopeless at this, but we have a job as a communications/public affairs officer – would you like to do that?
  14. Ours was a very eventful trip, including as it did a hijacking of our flight in Pakistan which could easily have ended in disaster – a man holding a hand grenade pulled the pin out, detonating the grenade and blowing off his own arm!
  15. ‘I’m a supporter of Caroline Lucas. I’m not a political person and don’t really like being in that arena.’
  16. I once spent a night in Thurso jail because a kindly policeman offered it as an alternative to sleeping rough.
  17. My best find was a Black-winged Stilt at Beeston Rylands, Nottingham, in May 1973.’

I set up a similar competition when Behind the Binoculars was published, there were 20 interviewees and the competition was won by Stuart Benn who correctly matched 7 of them.  So don’t be put off if you think you might have correctly guessed just a few – you might still win.


Rules:  Entries must be received before 1800 on 16 October.  Employees of Pelagic and people interviewed in the book are not allowed to enter. Entries must be made as comments on this particular blog post and the time of comment will be taken as the entry time.  Entries should include a valid email address so that I can contact the winner.  Only one entry per email address is allowed. The person with the most correct answers will get the book and in the event of a tie it will be the first of the tied entries that wins.

That seems a lot of rules for a small prize – and anyway, why not just order the book now and find out what the answers are as soon as it is published? If you move quickly, and use the code BMB30 you can get 30% off the cover price.




Email your MP about the ‘Great’ ‘Repeal’ Bill

Takes about three minutes – click here to use the RSPB template to contact your MP.

I’ve done it!


The Moorland Imbalance (1)

In their little booklet, the GWCT address five areas that they say are commonly-heard criticisms of driven grouse shooting. This week I’ll deal with each of them.

GWCT say that it is claimed that ‘Conservation organisations want to ban it‘.

This is what is called a straw man – it’s a device for avoiding the real issue by pretending that the issue is something else.

So the GWCT say that conservation organisations don’t want to ban driven grouse shooting giving the impression that all is well with driven grouse shooting and neglecting to say that the RSPB is in favour of licensing shooting estates including driven grouse moors. And neglecting to say that the Scottish government is investigating the licensing of driven grouse moors too after a public petition asking for this to happen.

There is also widespread public support for introducing vicarious liability into English law for wildlife crimes because that would put land owners in the position of having to take responsibility for the actions of their employees.

Of course, GWCT also, in their booklet neglect to mention that a UK-wide petition on the Westminster parliament website secured 123,077 signatures in favour of banning driven grouse shooting and that a rival petition in support of grouse shooting secured a mere 25,322 signatures.

We also know that the National Trust has parted company with one of their grouse-shooting tenants in the Peak District because of a difference of opinion on how that land should be managed.  It remains to be seen whether a shooting tenant will be found to replace the exiting tenant or whether the NT will impose standards that grouse shooters cannot attain.

So, however much the GWCT might want to give the impression that there is nothing to see here, there is a lively public debate about how awful driven grouse shooting is, and a range of views about how those ills should be dealt with. Only the industry seems to be content that the status quo can remain.

None of this is evident from the GWCT booklet.


Paul Leyland – Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle

Paul writes: This beetle has a long name to match the size of its antenae, the Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle, or Agapanthia villosoviridescens. It’s a medium sized beetle, up to 22mm excluding the antennae. They develop in the stems of herbacious plants, such as nettles, thistles or umbellifers so are frequently seen alongside hedgerows. Once spotted they’re quite easy to watch or photograph as they remain still for long periods. I usually spot them basking on leaves in bramble bushes. They are found throughout Europe. Records in Britain are fairly sparse but I see them quite frequently in Yorkshire, in rural locations, so there shouldn’t be any reason that they aren’t widespread throughout lowland Britain.


Taken with a Sony A6000 and a Tamron 90mm macro lens, 1/125 second ISO 1000.


High Water, Common Ground

I was lucky enough to attend the world premier of this film on Friday.  There were about 100 of us in the Picturehouse at Hebden Bridge.

Some of the readers of this blog will remember that Hebden Bridge lies below the infamous Walshaw Moor – and that Hebden Bridge flooded badly in 2012 and on Boxing Day 2015. Hebden Bridge forms part of the story of why we should ban driven grouse shooting.

The film looks at a whole range of community actions that are in the category of natural flood management and interviews scientists, land managers and mobilised citizens about what they have achieved.

Here’s a short trailer…

The uplands are important, trees are important and you’d think that in a more natural world beavers would be important too.  The rather unspoken argument for rewilding was made strongly.

But even if you don’t take that message from these examples, you will see that flood management thinking is changing and that more ecological methods are gaining ground, soggy ground.  See here for more about the examples in the film.

Congratulations to Andy Clark who made the film.  It’s something of which he can be proud. And it sounds like he has plenty more ideas for future films. I’ll look forward to seeing them.