Icelandic wildlife

I wasn’t expecting to see lots of dung flies in Iceland – but I did.  On a cool day, and a short walk, I saw more Yellow Dung Flies in Iceland than I have all year in Northants.

On the other hand, I was vaguely expecting to see a Puffin or two if I went to the right places – and I did.

This one was pretty cooperative (and actually there were thousands within view at this time on the Westman Islands) but you can, in summer, get a trip out of Reykjavik to see these birds (and you don’t even have to learn the Icelandic for Puffin).

And from the same part of the harbour in central Reykjavik you can get a whale-watching trip, like I did with Elding

… and stand a good chance of seeing a Minke Whale or two – in fact I think we saw at least five different individuals.

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Some news items

  • sad news from Malta – the great Joe Sultana passed away on Tuesday, aged 78.  Joe was a passionate campaigner and advocate for birds on Malta and in the Mediterranean in general.  He led BirdLife Malta for many years and his son, Mark, is now BirdLife Malta’s CEO. Campaigning against bird killing (much of it illegal) is a not a stroll in the park and yet Joe remained calm and determined throughout a long career. One of the great joys of having worked for the RSPB was to have met others in the BirdLife partnership and get to know them a little – Joe was always approachable and friendly and keen to encourage and advise those with less experience than his own. At a Bird Fair a few years ago I remember talking to Joe and gaining great encouragment from his enthusiasm for our campaign against raptor killing on grouse moors.   See here and here.
  • Mike Clarke will be stepping down from RSPB – the RSPB’s CEO, Mike Clarke will be stepping down some time in the next 12 months, he has announced.  Mike succeeded Graham Wynne in spring 2010 and so he will have been in post for 9 years come next spring. Mike’s time at the top has coincided with what has probably been one of the most difficult in the RSPB’s recent history what with Brexit, austerity, a changing public perception of charities, an unfavourable Westminster government and increasing government restrictions on what charities can do.  He has kept the ship of the RSPB more than simply afloat and he’s obviously not done yet!
  • Michael Gove has launched his Agriculture Bill – I’ll be writing about it over the next week in a series of blogs.
  • I’ve felt a bit under the weather for a little while, I’ve had a cough that seems keen to stay with me, but I seem to be shaking it off now. Yesterday I picked some more blackberries and today I cut the grass and picked a basket of apples off our small apple tree.  I saw a Hobby over the house on Monday just as I was listening to India being reduced to 2 for 3 wickets on our way to victory in the fifth Test.  Must get out and see some birds.

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Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill

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Then and now in Private Eye

This is from the 1990s (a reader believes)…

And this is from the latest issue…

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Defra doesn’t have a clue

Defra doesn’t have a clue about who the Secretary of State has met recently. That’s the most charitable interpretation of their behaviour.

In March this year (Defra have the date wrong in their response) I asked Defra the following questions:


What meetings has Michael Gove had with Ian Coghill (GWCT) and/or The Ninth Marquess of Downshire (aka Nicholas Hill and aka Nick Downshire) and/or Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association) and/or Teresa Dent (GWCT) since becoming Sec of State for Defra.


At any such meeting did Mr Gove say that he was intent on protecting grouse shooting’s vulnerable flank – or words to that effect, or sentiments to that effect? And what did he mean by these words?

I was told that Michael Gove had had no such meetings.  I didn’t believe this and so I asked them to check.  Defra then came back to me and said they had found one meeting – with Teresa Dent.

When Guy Shrubsole found out about the roundtable meeting, quite an important meeting, which Michael Gove had had with grouse shooting interests it was pretty clear that both Amanda Anderson and Nick Downshire had been present.  So I asked Defra whether they were really, really, really sure that Mr Gove hadn’t met Nick Hill and Amanda.

They responded to me last week admitting that the Secretary of State had met some of these people at the meeting with grouse shooting interests. They were kind enough to send me the minutes of the meeting (as here) even though I had sent that to them in my request (to save them time!).

It took Defra 6 months, and three attempts, to anser my enquiry accurately (assuming that there are no more meetings which they haven’t disclosed).

This was a perfectly reasonable question which I asked, and not technically very difficult. Yes, I’ll be complaining to the Information Commissioner about Defra’s failure to have appropriate systems in place.

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