Bowland Gull Cull 24

Dr Coffey – what a charmer! What an advocate for wildlife she is as biodiversity minister!


Gilruth in The Field

There is a ridiculous article in The Field, penned by Andrew Gilruth of GWCT, which starts with the sentence ‘Our raptors arguably live in a golden age’ which sets a new standard for nonsense, even from the once rather impressive, and now rather irrelevant folk in Fordingbridge.

Chipping in, in the race for the most ludicrous comment, is Amanda Anderson who claims that brood meddling, which wasn’t carried out anywhere in 2018, ‘has played a central part in this year’s [Hen Harrier] success story’. Yeh right!

Tempting though it is to take the article apart line by silly line, this would be a waste of effort.

Utter tosh!


Today, I am in court

Today is the third and final day of the hearing of our legal challenge to NE’s licensing of brood meddling.

I may be able to write a few words about it for publication here on Friday afternoon – I’ll try.


Guy Shorrock – Capercaillie

Guy writes:

The Capercaillie – still not out of the woods

Capercaillies, the world’s largest grouse, are impressive birds.  Their name derives from the Scottish Gaelic ‘capull coille’ meaning horse of the woods.  I’ve only seen them a few times in Scotland, but had great views in Sweden on several occasions.  I’ve also been fortunate to watch them from hides at very close quarters and experienced competing males with their amazing lekking display, ending with the ‘cork out of the bottle’ sound, as they attempt to win the rights over the waiting females.

They also have something of a fearsome reputation, as some of the testosterone charged ‘rogue’ males can be unafraid of humans and will attempt to drive them away.  This photograph was of one such bird in Sweden.  I confess I had previously found accounts of people being harassed by these birds as highly amusing.  However, having experienced it at close quarters, I can now confirm it is not quite so funny and keeping a safe distance is the priority.

Unfortunately, along with the widely reported declines of many species, things are not looking too rosy for these birds in Scotland, and numbers have decreased significantly since the 1970s.  Scotland’s population is assessed every six years by RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) with the most recent survey conducted during winter 2015/16.  This estimated some 1,114 individuals, down slightly from the previous estimate of 1,285.  RSPB Scotland is leading an action plan and working with several partners, including SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland plus various land and forest managers to reverse this decline.  Numbers appear to have stabilised in some areas, but the there are still a range of potential problems facing these birds.

The species rich Caledonian old growth forest of Scot’s pine (my favourite tree!) once covered huge areas of Scotland.  Tragically, around just 1% remains and these fragmented and isolated forests now provide sub-optimal habitat for capercaillies and other wildlife.  Encouragingly, many are working hard to reverse this decline, such as ‘Trees for Life’, the recently formed Revive coalition, along with various rewilding projects.  Deer, fencing and forestry management can also be problematic.  RSPB research has demonstrated the problems of direct mortality through collisions with deer fencing and a program of removal and marking of fences has been undertaken.  High deer densities are still a problem with too much grazing and browsing preventing regeneration of native pinewood.

Cold temperatures and wet weather in June, when the chicks are small, can reduce chick survival significantly and the unpredictability of weather from future climate change may cause further issues.  Increases in human disturbance, where capercaillie habitat and popular recreation sites overlap, and predators, particularly in fragmented forests, may also be having a negative effect on productivity in some areas.

Hopefully, the efforts to support this magnificent bird will be successful.  Increasing good quality habitat will no doubt be the key issue, and this in turn will bring huge benefits for other wildlife and ourselves.

Image taken with Canon 70D at 1/250 second with a Canon 70-200 f4.0 L lens at f4.0 ISO 400.


A letter to my MP

Brexit and EDM1963

Dear Mr Pursglove

I see you voted against the government’s Brexit deal yesterday evening.

I assume that you will be voting against the No Confidence motion today.

I think you will be on the winning side again.

But just for the record, your views on Brexit and mine are poles apart. I voted Remain, and I am still of that view. I accept that your views are different and that your views might better reflect those of your constituents than do my own views but neither of us can be sure of that after the years of chaos that have followed the referendum. I would like the electorate to have another opportunity to express their views and so I support a People’s Vote.

On another matter, I would ask you to consider adding your name to Early Day Motion 1963 on the subject of lead ammunition which was recently tabled by Caroline Lucas MP. The government position on this is bizarre – Defra refuses even to consider making the use of non-toxic ammunition mandatory. This is one of the worst aspects of Conservatism – living in the past and ignoring the science of the present. I strongly expect that this EDM will attract support from other parties but very little from your fellow Conservatives but you can prove me wrong and I ask that you do, please. As a backbench MP you can give the government a nudge in the right direction and help to prevent the Conservative Party being seen as the party in favour of poisoned food and a poisoned environment.

Please read EDM1963 and consider signing it. If you do not feel able to sign it I would be very grateful if you could take the time to explain to me why not.

Yours sincerely

Dr Mark Avery