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Thursday, 29 December 2016

The all-out war on BADGERS and the lies behind the science the government uses to uphold a cull

The myth of BADGER culpability for bovine TB in cattle is rooted in poor science – and economics.
Firstly, the science. This year, a leading naturalist wrote an updated edition of 'The Fate of the Badger'. He concluded by remarking on the size of the Mycobacterium bovis bacillum – the cause of bovine TB. At 3-4 microns, many thousands could fit on a full stop! Even at 300,000 bacilli per millilitre, it has been estimated that a cow would need to drink three millilitres of badger urine to obtain an infective dose. Thus the size of a badger is irrelevant and many other scapegoats wait in the wings – deer, dogs, cats, pigs, sheep and alpacas all also carry bovine TB.

What is not irrelevant is the mode of transmission or locus of infection: is an animal suffering pulmonary (located in the lungs and caused by inhalation of the bacilli) or extra-pulmonary (elsewhere in the body) TB? Cows tend to get the former. It has been known since the 1980's that “kissing cows” – nuzzling each other over fences – are the principal route of transmission, so why this fixation on badgers? Extra-pulmonary TB occasionally affects badgers and is caused by bite wounds affecting the neck. It is much less infectious than pulmonary TB.

Secondly, the Economics. The economic rationale for culling badgers is bound up with the question: who controls the countryside? Just 36,000 individuals own half of rural land in England and Wales. These big landowners are members of the Country Land and Business Association and the National Farmers Union (NFU). And Defra and the NFU are bosom buddies: next door neighbours in Smith Square, London. Modern farming is a business and there is little space for sentiment in business. The NFU is inordinately powerful, yet most farmers are pretty ignorant about life beyond the farm gate. Most have no conception of epidemiology or biological processes yet, as a force, they are loud and intimidatory, even behind the collars and ties of the NFU. But if farmers were better businessmen, they’d rumble the NFU propaganda they’ve been fed for so long and direct their ire at the politicians, not a defenceless, harmless wild animal that just happens to be big and noticeable.

The bloody killing continues because of politics. The badger cull is an intellectual heirloom. 

Continuing to cull badgers to demonstrate their commitment to tackling bovine TB, ministers cannot – dare not – admit that original fatal error. As Albert Einstein remarked: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The trouble is, as Robin Day noted during the Falklands war, politicians are “here today, gone tomorrow”. Cows continue to die of bovine TB and innocent badgers continued to be killed because politicians are the ultimate short-term animal.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Trapped & Ringed on PURPOSE - what should the ethics of ringing be?

Yesterday, two local ringers took it upon themselves to trap and ring the DESERT WHEATEAR that has chosen to overwinter on the tiny beach at Thurlestone in South Devon. They came along with a spring trap and placed it strategically in a position where the bird regularly feeds. They then placed mealworms in the trap to entice the bird in. They were clearly delighted when their efforts worked and went charging over the shingle, racing to extract their prize from the trap. This is purposeful, targeting ringing in my book and an outrage - I am expecting a viable explanation from the British Trust for Ornithology. Upon handling, the two ringers discovered that the bird, a first-winter male, was in relatively poor health, with a Fat Score of just 1 after 5 weeks on site.
Now, I am not against the ringing of birds per se, as it can be very beneficial for birds and their habitat at times and can go a long way towards conservation but this particular episode is very, very concerning. I don't see any benefits from ringing a lone vagrant and certainly don't want to encourage this sort of behaviour. Twitchers and bird photographers get a hell of a lot of bad press for 'harassing' rare birds from these so-called 'scientists' but it seems a national organisation can allow this to happen unchallenged. I am awaiting a response from the top honcho of the BTO but I won't hold my breath as I am still to this day to be told why they sanctioned the trapping of a vagrant churring Nightjar close to me, a territorial bird that was never seen again after being manhandled 'illegally' (in my view) - another targeted trapping.
I have been supporting and championing the efforts of the BTO for the past three years in supplying them nearly 100,000 records of bird data but I am afraid if I don't get answers on this, that support will be withdrawn as of 1st January 2017. The ball is in their court. We cannot have one rule for ringers yet another one for twitchers and bird photographers

Friday, 18 November 2016

15 new members of a most exclusive club

Following an exceptional autumn that has seen the likes of 13 Siberian Accentors, 5 White's Thrushes, 4 Black-throated Thrushes, a Siberian Thrush, an Eyebrowed Thrush, 5 Asiatic Brown Shrikes, a Black-faced Bunting, Eastern Kingbird, 2 North American Cliff Swallows, 7 Pine Buntings, Eastern Crowned Warbler, 5 Isabelline Wheatears, 5 Eastern Yellow Wagtails, perhaps 7 Stejneger's Stonechats and a Killdeer this past week, an unprecedented number of twitchers have now crossed through that magical 500 barrier, resulting in 325 in total. Steve Gantlett, on the other hand, becomes the first to reach 600 (with Siberian Accentor) and is now three clear of his nearest rival Chris Heard on 602

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A SIBERIAN ACCENTOR irruption into Europe sees UK's first records

Autumn 2016 - the Year of the SIBERIAN ACCENTOR irruption
When news of a Siberian Accentor trapped & ringed on Utsira (Norway) on 6th August 2011 hit the headlines, no birder could have foreseen what was to follow just five years later in October 2016. With a protracted period of strong East/NE winds starting late September and continuing well into October, indications of something incredible happening began in Finland on 4th October, when another Siberian Accentor was discovered, followed by several more in Scandinavia over the next few days. It seems that because of a particularly bumper breeding season in Arctic Russia, presumably due to a startling bloom in insect matter, this tiny but beautiful Dunnock-like bird has irrupted. So much so, that by 24th October, a staggering 153 had been discovered in Europe, including 56 in Sweden, 45 in Finland, 10 in Denmark, 7 in Germany, 6 in Estonia, 6 in Poland, 5 in Latvia, 5 in Norway, 3 in Lithuania and a single in The Netherlands. With such a huge arrival, it was inevitable that the UK would share in, that being achieved when a brightly marked individual was discovered by Judd Hunt in a small quarry at Scousburgh (Shetland) on 9th October - the first record for Britain & Ireland. As one would expect, that sparked off an epic twitch, with no fewer than 177 observers connecting during its two-day stay. However, for those with less money or time to spend on the hobby, the prayers were answered on 13th October, when Spurn stalwart Lance Degnan discovered a first-winter feeding at close range with up to 4 Dunnocks on hard standing opposite Easington Gas Refinery in East Yorkshire. Being at such an accessible location for many, this bird was a real top drawer, attracting over 4,000 observers in its week-long stay! In fact, the irruption proved remarkably kind to the home range, Britain reaping 9 different records between 9th and 24th October - truly sensational!
1) Scousburgh, Shetland, 9th-10th October;
2) Easington Village, East Yorkshire, 13th-19th October;
3) Huntscliff, Saltburn, Cleveland, 15th October;
4) Hendon South Dock, Sunderland, County Durham, 16th-18th October;
5) Holy Island, Northumberland, 18th October;
6) Troila Geo, Fair Isle, 20th October;
7) Lund, Unst, Shetland, 22nd-24th October;
8) Fair Isle, 22nd October;

9) Sandside Bay, Deerness, Orkney, 24th October

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


PURPLE GALLINULE in North Lincolnshire
An adult has been discovered this afternoon at Alkborough Flats NR, 8 miles north of Scunthorpe, showing at 250-300 yards range at the reed edge from the first hide. Use the car park off of Whitton Road DN15 9JG. This record comes very hard on the heels of our first considered genuine Purple Gallinule at Minsmere RSPB Reserve (Suffolk) on 31st July to 4th August and associated with a widespread dispersal from breeding grounds in France due to severe drought.

Monday, 1 August 2016

PURPLE GALLINULE gets an upgrade!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Vilified in the Birding World for voting LEAVE

One bout of abuse after another - that has been the response on my twitter feed since the British people overwhelmingly (by over 1.25 million) decided to LEAVE the European Union during Thursday's referendum vote. I make no secret of the fact that I am extremely right wing in my political views and anybody that knows me personally would be well aware of that. However, it's my lack of support for the EU Birds Directive that seems to be getting up people's goat. I have already explained much of the reasoning's behind this on my facebook page but what gets me, is the vitriol coming from those with an invested interest in supporting a REMAIN position. Many of these moaning birdwatchers are on the EU payroll, getting grossly overpaid by up to £340 per day for conducting surveys involving wildfarms, solar farms, new roads, HS2 and other infrastructure projects. EU demands unnecessarily that Great Crested Newt surveys should be conducted everywhere so that they can be moved elsewhere and it is literally 'money for old rope'. Property developers and builders aren't interested one iota what natural habitats or creatures are being destroyed - they just have to be seen going through the motions and get the surveys done by a recognised or registered 'ecologist' - it's a complete con. For a while I got sucked in, working on HS2 surveys, but soon realised it was 'blood money', when developers and councillors didn't have any concern whatsoever for the rare bats and butterflies that fell within the route, the loss of Ancient Woodland and all of its Bluebells and Badger setts and the breeding Corn Buntings, Yellow Wagtails, European Turtle Doves, Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Linnets I found and censused along the route. It was a traversty and I rapidly resigned. Plenty of people are throwing lists of achievements they claim are attributed to the EU legislation but little evidence of when the Commissioners actually applied that legislation - it's all a Red Herring. Did the RSPB, BTO, Wildlife Trusts, etc explain, for example, the success of EU legislation in preventing the shooting of migrating birds throughout the Mediterranean? Of course not! Did it explain or prevent the decision by the SNH to order the destruction of up to 5,800 Greenland Barnacle Geese on Islay each winter? Of course not! Did any of them attempt to prevent several restaurants from legally obtaining up to 2,500 eggs from nesting Black-headed & Mediterranean Gulls in the Solent? Of course not! Were efforts and legislation passed in order to prevent the decline of farmland birds throughout the EU region and a ban on the harvesting of European Turtle Doves? Of course not! And what of our seas? Were these conservation charities proud of the EU's record in maintaining the biodiversity and abundance of our sealife during these 43 years - I think not! And then there is the vexed issue of farm animal welfare...

Did any of these groups highlight what effect increased human population growth has on our wildlife Can we continue obliviously on without delimiting the ever-increasing volume of people. Are they of the opinion that the more houses, roads, factories, towns and cities there are in this country, the easier it becomes to feed and water ourselves, and make a countryside better for wildlife. Come on! Do these groups all deny that habitat loss is the principal cause of biodiversity loss and a catastrophic decline in abundance? Do they deny that habitat loss is principally caused by human activity and population increase? I see no mention of population growth in their promotional blurb, that's because they daren't talk about it, but more than happy to take the money and ignore the core issue. The referendum result shows that each of these conservation organisations, as well as all mainstream political parties, are living in denial of a basic fact which most ordinary tax-paying Brits have little difficulty in identifying and making a voting point on. These same ordinary people have no problem talking about it either, but the political class refuse to, and this mindset is supported by our wildlife organisations. Population growth adversely affects climate change too. The reality is, is that until human population growth is tackled, the planet will continue to suffer significant and irreversible declines in wildlife and ever increasing greenhouse emissions.

And so to the Referendum in question.....

If you take out the votes of Greater London, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the overall count, there was an overwhelming majority of people in England and Wales that voted in favour of quitting an undemocratic European Union. In fact the majority was so ginormous that it was easily able to dwarf the impressive majorities in favour of remaining in these three regions by well over one and a quarter million votes! Proof if ever needed that the great British public has finally woken up, completely ignoring the advice of their governments, both Tory and Labour, as well as the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

There are genuine reasons for this -:

1) Northern Ireland is still driven with sectarian bigotry and voting there was highly influenced by religious/community belief rather than economic...

2) The greater Ireland is a major beneficiary of the EU and even though their economy has largely been ruined by the euro currency, an overhaul of housing and road infrastructure has seen a transformation of fortunes. It has a population deficit and thus shares little in common with the pressure on housing, congestion, environment that we here in England will experience

3) Scotland is another major beneficiary of EU aid and it is in their interest to Remain but how the SNP can both govern itself and hand over power to Brussels is beyond me. But again, Scotland largely benefits from massive open spaces, away from the conurbations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and can easily sustain a marked arrival of new immigrants, unlike much of Southeast England, the Midlands and Northeast. However, the ability of Scotland to break away from the UK is greatly vexed, North Sea Oil values having evaporated to leave a somewhat cumbersome deficit. Furthermore, it will not be able to join the EU and keep the pound sterling - can't see to many Scots looking forward to the euro!

4) London is hugely multi-cultural and is an overcrowded, heavily congested, expensive, polluted metropolis alienated from the environment; it has an enormous housing and congestion crisis. The majority of people living there have no idea how much countryside is required to produce their food nor are they bothered.

Delight at Brexit and my experiences with the EU Birds Directive