Kids stuff – pretty good too!

I went to a funeral earlier in the week and although the deceased was a close geographical acquaintance rather than a close emotional friend it was, as they often are, a moving experience.  When I came home I stood in the garden and thought a bit, and took this photograph of the last few flowers on the buddleia bush which has lasted into October.

I find that the natural world is where I go when I am happy or sad.  Is that what you do too?




But then I saw the results of the Childrens’ Eyes on Earth photographic competition.

Wow! these young people have a lot of talent.


Last Breath: Kseniya Saberzhanova, 13 years old, Russia, Public Vote Prize, Children’s Eyes on Earth 2012

This image was voted by you and me and lots of other people as their favourite.  And, actually, it is my favourite!

I think it’s because the fragility of the butterfly, and its orientation on the hard stony ground, with our plastic detritus in the background, is very powerful.






SOS: Anastasya Vorobko, 8 years old, Russia, First Prize Winner, Children’s Eyes on Earth 2012


The overall winner chosen by the judges.

Very atmospheric – a worthy winner.








Emergency Exit: Juan Carlos Canales, 14 years old, Spain, Second Prize Winner, Children’s Eyes on Earth 2012


Second Prize went to this striking image of two sacred ibis flying over an industrial skyscape.








Fields of Green: Bianca Stan, 14 years old, Romania, joint Third Prize Winner, Children’s Eyes on Earth 2012


Joint Third Prize – strange and very memorable.








Morning at Situ Gunung: Michael Theodric, 10 years old, Indonesia, joint Third Prize Winner, Children’s Eyes on Earth 2012


Joint Third Prize – utterly beautiful.  What a planet we inhabit!  Shall we try and keep it beautiful, please?








In The Wind: Sophie Vela, 14 years old, France, Special Prize, Children’s Eyes on Earth 2012


Special Prize Winner – how many goes did it take to capture this image? The answer is blowing in the wind?
















































Naturally curious

Reading the minutes of other people’s meetings is not my natural habitat or habit.  However, you never know what you might find.  The trouble is,  most minutes are written to hide rather than expose any interesting parts of the meetings they purport to summarise.

Phil Catterall [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

What might we find out if we had the energy to read the minutes and papers from Natural England’s Board meetings? Well, you tell me for you are probably as likely as I to spot something juicy.  Here are three recent examples to get you going but you might find something much better.

Briefing paper on badger cull – it’s interesting that the areas suggested for culling were suggested by the farming community (para 2.4).   I hadn’t appreciated how much in charge they were.  But the whole paper is interesting.

Engagements of Chair of Natural England – you wouldn’t envy him the job would you? Simon Jenkins and lots of farmers! And the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (that wasn’t Prince Charles by any chance was it?).

Dedication of NE’s NNRs for open access – quite interesting, and I had missed this. Why are all NNRs (owned by NE) going to get open public access? Is it a good idea? How well will any appropriate assessments be done?  What are the motives behind this? I note that the Minister is content with this proposal (what a good delivery agency to ask!). It couldn’t be, could it, that this is in preparation for another move to sell off some public land and recognises that access was a sticking point for forestry?  Or could it be a move which would aid the merger of FC and NE? Some hope! What do you think it means – if anything.


Mown down – the Grasslands Trust

By Bluescan (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week’s news that the Grasslands Trust has gone into liquidation is sad to hear but it may only be the first and most public sign of the impact of the recession on our tangled bank of wildlife conservation organisations.

I know many of the Grasslands Trust’s staff personally, including their Chief Executive Lucy Cooper, and some of their trustees too, and I am saddened by this outcome.  Let us hope that as much as possible of the Grasslands Trust’s 10-year legacy of conservation work is protected and that their excellent staff find new roles in nature conservation.

The Grasslands Trust was, for we now have to talk of it in the past, a small charity with a turnover of about £350k pa and about a dozen staff.   About half of that £350k came from grants and so the spending of it was ‘restricted’ to the purposes for which the grants were given.  There are many small NGOs that are very dependent on grants, and it can be a rather hand-to-mouth and nerve-wracking existence.

The grants and voluntary donations that have been going to the Grasslands Trust are now, in theory, available for other wildlife NGOs to collar.  I say ‘in theory’ because who knows whether levels of donation from individuals and grant-giving bodies can be maintained in the current economic climate, there are plenty of non-wildlife causes that may be able to tap into those funds, and if there are people out there whose main interest is grassland conservation they may feel that they don’t have other good options for their charitable donations.

Different charities, of course, having different funding models.  Some are dependent on rich donors, and since the rich are always with us (and are not an endangered species under the current government) there are always opportunities there.  Some depend on us visiting their sites and spending our money with them (and it has been a poor summer, weather-wise, for those organisations).  Some depend on grants – and grant-giving bodies get their money from donations and/or interest on investments (which aren’t likely to be having the best of times these days).  Some have close collaborative relationships with (or are in hock to) statutory agencies whose budgets have been cut in government austerity measures. And all, to some extent, depend on our generosity.

Whether you give your money to a wildlife NGO will depend on many things – whether you like bats/bees/butterflies/bitterns/basking sharks/bluebells, whether you like the staff of the organisation, whether you are feeling flush with cash or pinched with debt, what you think you will get back from the organisation and from which side of the bed you emerged today. But you are investing too.  You are investing your money in nature conservation, and it’s wise to undertake due diligence in any investment.  Will your chosen wildlife NGO do a good job with your money and will they still be there in five years time?

The Charity Commission website is not a bad place to start. And here, just for interest, are some figures to show the range of incomes achieved by some wildlife conservation charities in recent years


By Agnico-Eagle (Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The National Trust £413m

RSPB   £122m

WWF- UK £58m

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust £26m

BTO £4.6m

Butterfly Conservation £3.3m

Plantlife International £2.8m

Marine Conservation Society £2.2m

Bat Conservation Trust £1.49m

By Hephaestos at en.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation £938k

Buglife £680k

Froglife £625k

Pond Conservation £607k

Bumblebee Conservation Trust £293k

Badger Trust £120k




Round up

Defra: are pretty hopeless really aren’t they?  I haven’t had a reply to my ex MP’s letter about Andrew Wood’s witness statement.  I’m probably on a database as a pleb – but that’s better than being a patrician.  (see previous blogs on Wuthering Moors).

Autumn: I saw a jay on my walk around Stanwick Lakes last weekend.  I don’t see them there very often – in fact, thanks to the wonders of Birdtrack I can tell you it is my 5th record in 293 visits over 6+ years.  Three of these have been September and October records and the other two were in February and April.

Fighting for Birds: was momentarily (!) Amazon’s 6th best-selling wildlife conservation book (after a book on rhinos (on the list twice), Douglas Adams’s and Mark Carwardine’s excellent Last Chance to See, EO Wilson’s Diversity of Life and Planet Earth- the photos).  If you’ve read Fighting for Birds, and enjoyed it, then please consider putting a review on Amazon – there are five already.

Autumn: the buddleia in my garden is late-flowering and so attracts any butterflies still around.  It’s nearly over now though.  Recent sightings – beautiful red admirals, a tortoiseshell (now so much rarer) and large white.

Fighting for Birds: feedback out of the blue ‘a fascinating book, well done and some good jokes along the way, now write one for kids and politicians and x factor watchers, that’s where you need to be‘ and some more from a friend ‘As my contribution to your pension fund I bought your book. It’s very good and I enjoyed reading it. It took less than one weekend, so I must have been quite interested.’.

Autumn: used to be a time for me to attend all three political party conferences (yes, there are other political parties too). This year the first half of the Conservative Party Conference has just finished in Brighton, the Labour Conference is getting going in Manchester and the second half of the Conservative Party Conference will be held in Birmingham.  Fashionable though it is to slag off all politicians and all of politics – I used to enjoy these events (after the first year or two finding one’s feet) and find most politicians to be well-meaning folk.

Badgers: the e-petition against a badger cull passed the magic 100,000 mark on Monday afternoon, and has now passed 135,000, but please keep signing.

Autumn: a chiffchaff was calling from the trees in Trinity Square Gardens by the Tower of London on Wednesday lunchtime.

Hooray for Henry!:  I’m really pleased that Henry Edmunds has won the Nature of Farming Award this year.  Thank you to all the readers of this blog who followed my advice and voted for this very wildlife-friendly farmer.

Autumn: the house martin nest, down the road, which I pass on my way to the postbox, fledged some time in the last 10 days.  Sometimes they keep going into October.

Songs: these songs about birds by Ronnie Haar are different.  Some of you will enjoy them a lot.

Autumn: there were about six apples on the apple tree in the garden this year and the blackberries are very red and rather poor in the hedgerows.  And in any case, the Devil started spitting (or worse) on blackberries yesterday – as legend has it.  Little blackberry and apple pie this year.  I look with some envy across several back gardens to a pear tree laden with fruit.

Dead eagles: Why not email the Scottish Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP,  to express your outrage at the death of a young eagle in east Scotland (as suggested by Wendy Mattingley in a comment on this blog on Tuesday)?  See Monday’s blog.

Autumn: with Britain’s 2nd-ever magnolia warbler on Fair Isle (from America) and a booted warbler in Norfolk (from central Asia) who knows which way the wind is blowing?

Catfield Fen:  I’m grateful to the Environment Agency for telling me that there were 84 responses and/or expressions of interest to the renewal of the abstraction licences near Catfield Fen.  That’s an awful lot!  And thank you to readers of this blog who are counted in that number. The EA is currently compiling a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to answer the common questions raised and will set up a dedicated page on their website where all the relevant documents can be held and viewed, including the FAQs, that we will be updated at key stages. Clearly, all those comments are making this particular case ‘an issue’ – quite right too.  See previous blogs (here, here and here).

Autumn: it’s a very good year for hawthorn berries where I live – is it for you?  I wonder how many will be left when I do my bit for the BTO winter thrush survey?  I noticed this year that the May blossomed very late and the flowers here all turned pink (from creamy white) late in the season – much more so than usual.

My mum: is in her 80s and she told me yesterday evening that she had read the first chapter of Fighting for Birds but has read all of Fifty Shades of Grey and laughed all the way through it. She’s now moved on to Fifty Shades Darker. I must reconsider my writing strategy.



Ralph Underhill cartoon – 2

Each Saturday the Standing up for Nature blog features the work of talented cartoonist Ralph Underhill.  Feel free to comment and to suggest future subjects for Ralph’s pen.