Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill




Michael Gove: the Hen Harrier badge? Someone called Amanda gave it to me.  She said they keep falling out of the sky outside her kitchen window. Seemed a bit crazy to me.


Michael: will you stop going on about Hen Harriers?

Michael: I never mentioned them actually.




I’m looking forward to this event


Holding a new book

My copy of Behind More Binoculars arrived in the post recently. Aren’t books lovely?  And a book with a jacket illustration by Robert Gillmor is especially lovely.



Pre-publication offer – Save 30% on Behind More Binoculars (and anything else ordered at the same time), from using offer code BMB30.




A fun evening in Chesterfield

Yesterday evening I headed off to Chesterfield to talk to a local group of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. It was a fun evening and it’s good to talk in or near upland areas where the issues are local ones.  There was a good turn out of people and I was speaking in a church hall that is being used as a place of worship while the church itself is renovated – so there was an altar and a large Christ on a cross behind me as I spoke.

I gave my usual talk but from the start it was obvious that the audience was swelled by a band of gamekeepers from the local Peak District estates (Strines, Moscar, Broomhead, Snailsden, Park Hall and Hope Woodlands and Crag I’m told).  They arrived and left on a couple of minibuses so I hope they enjoyed their evening out when they could have been watching the footie on TV.  I was delighted to realise that quite a few of these ‘keepers read this blog although they clearly don’t agree with all of it. And they don’t appear to read it quite carefully enough as several of them told me that I have written things here on this blog which I never have – it’s all there in the public domain still, so, lads, have another read.

I’ve spoken in a room with gamekeepers many times – I don’t change my talk, I give essentially the same talk every time – and I said to these lads that I’d be happy to come and talk to them all at a gamekeepers’ meeting if they’d like. I wonder whether they will take up the offer. I did say that I might want to bring a friend!

But when I know that gamekeepers are in the audience I look them in the eye at particular moments in the talk – particularly when talking about bird of prey persecution. It’s always very interesting how many of them look away at those moments, even the ones who have looked quite confident of themselves as they come into the room.  They won’t meet my gaze.

It seemed like a great opportunity to get the other side of the argument out to the audience and the leader of the pack, a land agent who didn’t wish to be identified, but whom I’ve emailed today, said a few words at the end although he wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the ‘keepers wanted to shout out their own points so it all got a bit disorganised.

But Mr Land Agent had his say and asked me difficult questions like whether I cared about Lapwing.  He was essentially using the GWCT bluffers’ guide to grouse shooting discussions which I will be covering in quite some detail next week so I’ll leave most of my discussion until then.

But as many of the audience, the non-gamekeeping part of the audience, pointed out, Mr Land Agent did not attempt to deny the fact of widespread raptor persecution on driven grouse moors.  He had the opportunity but he chose not to bother. Rather telling that, I’d say. A hobby of killing birds for fun which depends on wildlife crime in order to survive in anything like its current form is doomed and does not deserve a place in our society in future.  And that makes the demise of driven grouse shooting inevitable – and I think the grouse shooting industry realises that full well.