Blogger in Residence – hire me!

If you are an environmentally friendly organisation or business, with a good story to tell, then hire me as your Blogger in Residence to write about your work.

I am looking for organisations with interesting environmental stories to tell, who would like me to write one blog a week about their work for periods of a year (50 blogs), six months (24 blogs) or three months (12 blogs).

Blogs would appear on the website on a separate Blogger in Residence blog and could be uploaded to your website or other sites as well.

For more details, expressions of interest, questions etc contact me at before the end of February.  Places are limited – there are only seven days in a week!




Guest blog – Peter Watson, the Deer Initiative

Just before Christmas I was sat in the Head Office of the Deer Initiative when I was made aware of a deer vehicle collision involving James “Arg” Argent, star of The Only Way is Essex, just outside of Dundee. In doing so Arg and his companions joined a group of between 42000 and 74000 vehicles that are involved in incidents with deer on the road every year, a group which also includes Mark Avery. This is a statistic which newspapers jumped on in October last year causing a rush of phone calls to our office. However, by reacting to media interest instead of instigating it we are unable to control the timing and content message we would like to put out.

Apart from  the impact on high profile ‘celebrities’ the distress for drivers and the welfare issues for the deer and all the other wildlife killed and maimed on our roads are to my mind mean we should be taking this issue seriously. You might expect that Government , the insurance industry or drivers’ organisations would be funding work to look into reducing the carnage but sadly since wild deer belong to nobody it is easy to deny responsibility.  We know the scale of the problem, we even know the worst sections of road for accidents to occur but how do we best get the message to politicians, officials drivers and the insurance industry that we should be doing something about this issue?

So in an attempt to get the ball rolling, Mark has kindly allowed me to write this guest blog.

Firstly I would ask that you follow our new twitter account @Deer_Aware.  Secondly please have a look and pay particular attention to the times of year i.e. Autumn and Late spring (rutting seasons), and hours in the day you would expect to see deer i.e. dawn and dusk.

But, you ask, why should I be bothered about deer vehicle collisions? Studies have suggested that deer related accidents do £17m worth of damage each year with 425-700 deer vehicle collisions result in personal injuries in the UK every year and tragically 15-20 result in fatalities, for further information please look at the publication section of the Deer Aware website.  In July 2011 four deaths due to deer on roads were reported making it the worst month on record which is somewhat surprising as it is not a peak month. As the deer population in the UK expands it is expected that deer vehicle collisions will continue to increase.

Much has been made in newspaper articles about the size of the deer population in the UK being bigger than at any time since the last ice age. Opinions on this vary, some see it as a massive win for conservation especially for our native species Red and Roe deer, others see them as an ever increasing burden on SSSIs whilst a number of people believe there is a real problem with non-native species such as Muntjac and Sika. Whatever the twist placed on the particular story the safety message we wish to be passed on are often buried. So with this in mind here are the key messages we would like to put across to you:
1. Be watchful- especially during peak months (May, October and November) and in areas with large deer population. The sighting of one deer is usually an indicator that there is a larger number in the locality.
2. It is more important to be in control of your vehicle than it is to avoid the deer- swerving can sometimes lead to worse damage than hitting the deer.
3. If you do hit a deer report it- the reporting of Deer Vehicle Collisions at will provide data which can be used to generate reports.


Many bits and pieces

Last week this blog passed its 2000th comment – which seems pretty good going.  I am pleased to see that regular commenter Dennis Ames provided that 2000th comment alongside 137 others over the months.  I do enjoy seeing all your comments- whether I agree with them or not – do keep them coming please.

I haven’t mentioned the January issue of Birdwatch yet, and it won’t be long until the February issue is out in the shops.  My January column is about lead ammunition. Rather topically Birdwatch selects red-throated diver as the bird of the month and mentions that the Outer Thames Estuary holds 40% of the UK wintering population – not a good place to put an airport then?

I’m drawn to entering the The Rialto/RSPB poetry competition – how about you?

The stats I get for my website tell me where readers are located across the world – not surprisingly the vast majority are from the UK with most of the rest of the EU next, and the USA providing most of the other page views .  But over the months most of the rest of the world has dipped in to this blog with Africa and the ‘stans’ being the main gaps on the map.  I don’t pore over the figures but I have sometimes wondered what the occasional reader in say, Chile, Mozambique or South Korea gets from reading about red kites, George Osborne or Duke of Burgundy butterflies.  And I have wondered whether i am really looking at a map of where the UK readers of this blog travel.  Evidence to support that came from the following message this week: ‘I have just emerged from a swamp in Cambodia where I’ve been holed up for the last 3 weeks. I arrived in town this morning and went to the nearest internet cafe to catch up with news. Your blog was the 5th site on my list of ‘must read’.

The National Trust is marking the centenary of the death of their founder Octavia Hill with a range of awards for those who help the natural environment – closing date for nominations is the end of January.

Remember that next weekend it is not only the last racing at Cheltenham before the Festival but also the Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s been so mild that my garden hasn’t been crowded with birds although the goldfinch numbers are quite good on the feeders and we seem to be getting more and more chaffinches too.  But someone told me this week that they have a resident blackcap this winter which reminded me that although I hardly ever normally spot a blackcap in my garden they must be there because I do often see them on BGBW day! See what you can see – and maybe make sure your feeders are filled up this weekend because that feels less like cheating than putting out lots of food specially next weekend.

I’m not on target for seeing red kites on 200 days this year at the moment.  After three weeks I am only on eight sightings – just under three a week whereas I need almost four a week.  But when I do see them I am sticking to my New Year’s Resolution of spending a minute enjoying their beauty – they are marvellous.

I found this comment on Big Society interesting – particularly the take it has on charities in times of austerity.  The point is rather exaggerated perhaps (in fact, it is!), but the danger that charities become closer to government for financial reasons in times of austerity is clearly a danger. It’s a danger particularly if that government at the same time becomes more openly anti-environmental and wildlife needs NGOs to speak out on its behalf.  It’s a danger that our NGOs must avoid.

This looks like quite an interesting conference.

Peter Kendall is standing unopposed as NFU President for a fourth consecutive term but there are a range of candidates for other positions. How high will the environment feature in their campaigns I wonder? And ‘for’ or ‘against’? And does the electorate care?

Do, please, publicise this epetition on vicarious liability.

I had to check some things about forestry a little while ago and found the answers I needed in the book which I wrote with Roderick Leslie years ago but which has been re-published recently.  We, the authors, get our tiny royalty checks for Birds and Forestry in the spring, so how about making a contribution by buying?!

And I thought I’d end with some other comments from that reader in Cambodia that put a smile on my face: ‘Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. Many of the subjects you cover are beyond my area of expertise (and in some cases, my interests), but the way you present the material and the clarity of your writing/arguments, draws me in.’.  If that’s the case for some of the rest of you, then I am very content.


NGOs need to hunt in packs

This is an excellent opinion piece from the RSPB’s Conservation Director, Martin Harper.

And, this is the time when all conservation organisations will be tested – we need a very strong and concerted approach from the wildlife NGOs otherwise their individual efforts may not be strong enough to achieve what is necessary.


Is this what the Lib Dems are for….?

The news that the government is to consult on the possibility of a major hub airport in the Thames Estuary comes as no surprise following the Chancellor’s autumn statement but does open up a new environmental battle.

I’m still waiting to hear from The Treasury, via my MP Louise Mensch, on why they think that the habitats regulations are a brake on the UK economy.

Juliette Jowit’s article in the Guardian sets out the changing face of Tory pronouncements on aviation and airports.

On Newsnight last night the airport question was debated and it was good to see Caroline Lucas (our only Green Party MP) and Germaine Greer (Buglife’s President apart from anything else, and there is quite a lot else) speaking up for the environmental problems of this scheme.

But maybe we are about to see what the Lib Dems are for.  The Guardian, again (other newspapers do exist, I know), suggests that the leeking of the plan to consult on this hub airport has handed a gift to the Lib Dems who will support the consultation but oppose any plans to build new airport capacity in south east England.

I was talking to my local RSPB Group yesterday evening and this topic came up.  It was interesting that several people came up to me in this marginal constituency (take note, Louise Mensch, David Cameron and George Osborne) and said that they hoped that this would be the issue where the Lib Dems showed some environmental backbone within the coalition government.

I very rarely fly and the Thames Estuary looks like an inconvenient place for me to go to do it, living here in east Northants. And at the present rate of rail fare increases, travelling to a Thames Estuary won’t look very feasible by the time any airport could be built.  Yesterday, my day return into London on the 0714 train from Wellingborough, where I had to stand on the full train as far as Luton Airport Parkway station before being lucky enough to get a seat, was £89.

Trying to pour more and more people into, and through, the southeast of England doesn’t seem to work very well at the moment.  Doing more of it involving wrecking some of its remaining environmental hotspots is crazy.  But crazy things happen, particularly when they are intricately bound up in the politics of the nation.

Will the environmental and wildlife NGOs mount a successful campaign?  What will the political parties do? Where is the Labour Party on this? Have we found what the Lib Dems are for…by finding out what they are against?