Red Grouse in Iceland?

No, we aren’t going back to that well-known place to buy frozen foods but to that well-known country of Gyr Falcons, King Eiders and Brunnich’s Guillemots.

Apparently, the traditional Icelandic Christmas dish is a Ptarmigan, but numbers have declined and so Iceland has imposed strict quotas on numbers shot.  Birds should only be shot for personal consumption but it appears that Icelandic shooters cheat on this restriction.  I’m shocked.

Ptarmigan.  Photo: Boaworm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

According to this slightly dated article, Icelanders lacking a dead Ptarmigan on their plate are importing grouse from Scotland to fill the void, fill their plates and fill their stomachs. The article says Black Grouse (it actually says black grouse which could signify the species of grouse or the colour of the meat) but I think they probably mean Red Grouse (my Icelandic is rubbish by the way).

If anyone has any more information on this: is it true? what is the email address of the Icelandic Foood Standards Agency? where do the Icelanders get their Red Grouse? is this the type of thing that Liam Fox thinks will revitalise our economy in a post-Brexit era? could you tell the difference between Ptarmigan meat and Red Grouse meat in a blind tasting? then please do get in touch.



Flowers we can pick (7) – Red Campion

Plantlife, the charity which speaks up for the nation’s plants, says that it’s OK to pick these 12 common flowers (provided you don’t go beserk in the woods and fields of the UK).

Three things you might not know about Red Campion according to Plantlife.

Another alternative name from the Wildlife Trusts probably relates to an apparent use of its crushed seeds according to Wikipedia.




S. Rae [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


See you for a chat on Sunday (and Saturday looks good too!)


Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have arranged a programme of events at Potteric Carr Saturday and Sunday 21st-22nd July in celebration of the reserve’s 50th birthday. Visitors can enjoy free entry to the site and trails, where there will be activities for all ages and reserve volunteers and wardens throughout, to help visitors spot wildlife and make the most of a visit.

In addition to free entry to the reserve, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have arranged two special events with Vicky Woodgate and Dr Mark Avery at Potteric Carr’s visitor centre. Booking for these sessions is via the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website and there is a small charge. Both writers will also be signing copies of their books.

Vicky Woodgate has been a commercial artist for over 20 years and travelled the globe on interesting projects when working as a scenic artist in the TV, film and theme-park industry. She will be bringing her popular family workshop based on her newly released book ‘A World of Birds‘ to Potteric from London’s TATE modern – a great opportunity to work with a fantastic artist and see at first-hand how her art is crafted.

Her workshops run on the following days

Saturday 21 July 2018

15:00 – 16:00

Sunday 22 July 2018

09:30 – 10:30

Sunday 22 July 2018

11:00 – 12:00

On Sunday, Dr Avery will be holding a question and answer session between 15:00 – 16:00, as an author and leading commentator on environmental issues. He also worked for the RSPB for 25 years where he was their Conservation Director for nearly 13 years.

Mark said; “I’ve visited Potteric Carr several times but not for a few years. In recent years the wildlife has really increased so I’m looking forward to this visit. And everyone likes birthdays! Looking back over my time in nature conservation we’ve made a lot of progress, but there is so much to do. Come and hear what I think about the past and the future, and ask as many difficult questions as you like.”

Andy Dalton, Potteric Carr’s Gateway manager said “Potteric is a really special site, an oasis in the heart of business park development, major road and rail networks. Over the last 50 years, the site has thrived and is now a well-known and important habitat for wildlife and place for people to enjoy and we are especially proud of what we’ve achieved at Potteric Carr with the help of our volunteers. We are delighted to welcome Vicky and Mark as part of the celebrations this weekend – it’s a great time to visit and we hope all the activities and free entry will encourage more people to explore the site.”

Last month , Potteric Carr’s volunteers were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in honour of their 50 years of voluntary involvement in Yorkshire’s wildlife conservation. The QAVS is the MBE for volunteer groups and represents the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities.


Guest blog – The Acceptability of Wildness by Ian Parsons

The Acceptability of Wildness?

Whilst running my spring tours in Extremadura this April and May, I read Richard Mabey’s book, ‘A Brush With Nature’, a collection of some of his columns from BBC Wildlife Magazine. I am sure that many of you have read it (it came out in 2010), but if you haven’t, I wholeheartedly recommend it.  In one of the columns, Richard speculates on whether Britain as a nation is ready to accept proper rewilding of our landscapes and the large species that will go with them.

He uses, as an example, the town of Trujillo in Extremadura, in particular the White Storks that inhabit the main square (Plaza Mayor) of the town. As graceful as these birds look, they are a little bit messy when it comes to nesting and a large variety of detritus ends up being scattered around the areas below their nests, not to mention gallons of ‘whitewash’ which can be squirted surprising distances from a high up nest…

I know Trujillo very well, I lived on the Plaza Mayor for two years at the beginning of the millennium and it is a beautiful medieval town, situated in a bird rich area (although latterly it has been much prettified and is now very much more commercial). I have to admit to the guilty pleasure of watching many a well to do tourist walking around the square, admiring the architecture of the imposing catholic church only to find themselves splattered in a downpour of Stork crap. Yes, I did laugh every time I saw it and yes, I know it was childish.

Trujillo is a major player in terms of internal Spanish tourism and what Richard asks is whether a city like Bath or Brighton would accept these magnificent birds and all the detritus they bring with them (large sticks, bits of rubbish, lots of crap) when they nest, just as readily as Trujillo (and virtually every other settlement in Extremadura) does, or would these British tourist destinations object to this ‘wild’ behaviour on its streets.

I think we can guess the answer.

Once my tours had finished, we headed north out of Extremadura and into an area where the Wolf is very much present, we went there because we like the village and because we know there are Wolves in them there hills – a couple of years ago, when we first visited the area, we stood transfixed on the edge of the village surrounded by the blackness of a moonless night and listened to wolves howling, it absolutely blew us away.

This year we returned, determined to explore the rugged countryside around the village. There are a number of waymarked walking routes heading off from the village that take you deep in to some beautiful landscape, so off we went.  In to Wolf country.  Several miles into the walk we stopped, overlooking a tumbling torrent of a river, we hadn’t seen a soul since we had left the village, nor had we any phone signal, it was just us and the wildness and it was brilliant.  It was here that Richard Mabey’s column came back to me and set me thinking, if it would be difficult to get people to accept ‘messy’ White Storks in Britain, can we really expect them to accept Wolves?

The Wolf is a species that provokes much discussion and argument.  In Britain, the thought of Wolves running free and completely wild would most likely cause mass hysteria; putting a waymarked walk deliberately into an area with Wolves present would be condemned as reckless lunacy; deliberately walking on these routes would more likely be judged as suicidal rather than recreational.  When it comes to the Wolf, the majority of Britain would panic.


Panic is often irrational and in the case of the Wolf it clearly is, but for centuries the Wolf has been demonised by the church as being the devil incarnate, whilst it has also been turned into the bad guy of many a fairy tale and children’s story/film/cartoon etc.  This image is now part of our subconscious and coupled with a separation from the reality of living with Wolves for hundreds of years, we British now have that irrationality very much ingrained when it comes to these apex predators.

In Spain, the Wolf is also the cause of much discussion and argument, but interestingly this has nothing to do with fears of being hunted by packs of them across the landscape, it is all about farming. Wolves kill livestock, there is no getting away from that, they do. I am going to avoid going off on the tangent of Wolves and livestock, as otherwise this blog is in danger of becoming a book, but I mention it to illustrate that in a country where people live with Wolves, the polemical feature of that relationship has nothing to do with human safety.

Between 2000 and 2015, seventy four people were killed in Britain by Cattle, in the same period in Spain, exactly nobody was killed by a Wolf, nor was anyone attacked. Wolves do have the potential to be dangerous, but then so do Bees, so do Cows and so do Humans and we share our lives with these three far more deadlier creatures without thinking about it. The problem is that the truth, with all its statistics and hard facts, just doesn’t seem able to penetrate the wall of irrationality we have when it comes to Wolves and if the truth can’t get through that wall, how can we expect people to accept the Wolf back in Britain?

I loved the feeling of walking through Wolf country, I relished the idea that where we sat down and ate our lunch a Wolf may well have come sniffing by that night, attracted by the exotic scent of our sandwiches, and padded over our footprints. If you ever get me talking about hearing Wolves howl, I can assure you I will go on and on about it for hours. In short, I am an advocate of the Wolf, but I am also a realist and I just can’t see Britain accepting the Wolf back as a truly wild animal. Before you start to react to that, before you start writing about education and economic benefits etc. just think about how much fuss Britain makes over Herring Gulls and sandwiches, Pigeons and their droppings and then ask yourself the question Richard Mabey posed in his book, would we accept a large bird crapping over our historic towns and monuments, over unlucky tourists and, god forbid, shiny cars? I don’t think we would, Britain likes its wildlife to be benign and tidy, packaged into small parcels of land that we can then cycle over and walk our dogs on. The sad truth is Britain won’t accept rewilding in the real sense of the word.

PS Please prove that wrong.


This is Ian’s twelfth Guest Blog here (see Feel Good Factor, last week; Whitebeam Spring, 14 March 2018; How red are Reds? 18 November 2017, A Question of Importance, 13 January 2017; Disturbing Conservation, 13 December 2016; Tree Blindness, 15 September 2016; Seeing the Wood for the Trees, 9 March 2017, Love Vultures – Ban Diclofenac, 27 July 2017, Building for Wildlife, 29 August 2017; Bird of the Year, 3 January 2018; A Recycled Argument, 12 January 2018).

Ian’s book, A Tree Miscellany, was reviewed here.



Bowland gull cull – I keep asking

Dear Natural England,

In November 2017 you told me that the investigation of the gull cull in Bowland was entering its final stages and that you would answer my questions (of mid July 2017 and subsequently) ‘once the investigation is concluded’.  On 11 June you told me that ‘the investigation is in its final stages’.


Please let me know when my questions will be answered.

Please let me know to whom I should complain if I do not get a full response by the end of July – please tell me this before the end of July.

Please tell me how many investigations of a similar nature NE has conducted in the past five years and how long each of them took to conclude.


I have a strong feeling that you are simply mucking me about, and you can rest assured that I will pursue this issue with vigour.

Dr Mark Avery



The story so far:

Natural England is carrying out an investigation, it seems very, very slowly, into the culling of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Abbeystead grouse mooor in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire. The Bowland Fells Special Protection Area for Birds was notified partly because of its importance for Lesser Black-backed Gulls. It has been suggested by the RSPB that NE consented culls in this area (under what basis is not known) but that the terms of the consent may have been breached. The interest in this case derives from puzzlement over why NE consented any culling of this species in its English stronghold (was this legal), and whether the conditions of that consent, if it existed, were breached.

An FoI response from NE13 June 2018

Bowland gull cull update25 April 2018

Natural England continues not to come clean on Bowland gull cull9 April 2018

Smidgeons of information on gull culls from NE14 February 2018

Bowland gull cull licensing facts still kept secret by NE6 February 2018

FOI Bowland gull cullNovember 2017

Quick response from NE on Bowland gull cull7 September 2017

Any NE news on Bowland gull cull?5 September 2017

Response from NE on Bowland gull cull15 August 2017

Those gulls again10 July 2017

RSPB calls on Natural England to act7 July 2017