Saturday, 18 November 2017

Ban Driven Grouse Shooting

Dear John edwards,
The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Ban Driven Grouse Shooting”.
Government responded:
Defra is working with key interested parties to ensure the sustainable management of the uplands, balancing environmental and economic benefits, which includes the role of sustainable grouse shooting.
The government appreciates that many people hold strong views on the issue of driven grouse shooting. The government considers that shooting activities bring many benefits to the rural economy and can in many cases be beneficial for wildlife and habitat conservation. We recognise that it is vital that wildlife and habitats are respected and protected and the law is respected. We will continue work to ensure a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship between shooting and conservation. We do have concerns that in some limited instances management practices have unwanted consequences for the wider environment.
Persecution of British raptors and other wildlife
All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. We have identified raptor persecution as a wildlife crime priority. Each wildlife crime priority has a delivery group to consider what action should be taken, and develop a plan to prevent crime, gather intelligence on offences and enforce against it. The Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) focuses on the golden eagle, goshawk, hen harrier, peregrine, red kite and white-tailed eagle. The group is working on developing tools to help tackle raptor persecution crimes.
The National Wildlife Crime Unit, which is part-funded by Defra, monitors and gathers intelligence on illegal activities affecting raptors and assists police forces when required. Despite instances of poisoning and killing of birds of prey, populations of many species, such as the peregrine falcon, red kite and buzzard have increased. We are concerned that with respect to eliminating illegal bird of prey persecution, there are still individuals who continue to commit these crimes. We will work with all stakeholders to try to eradicate these crimes.
In particular the government takes the decline in the hen harrier population in England very seriously and is committed to securing its future. In January 2016 the hen harrier sub-group of the Defra led Upland Stakeholder Forum published the Hen Harrier Action Plan to increase the English hen harrier population. It contains six actions which individually can bring benefits for hen harriers, but when combined, underpin each other and have the potential to deliver positive outcomes.
The Action Plan was developed with senior representatives from organisations including Natural England, the Moorland Association, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Parks England and formerly the RSPB. These organisations, led by Natural England, will monitor activities and report annually on progress to the Defra Uplands Stakeholder Forum and the UK Tasking and Co-ordinating group for Wildlife Crime.
Targeted control of problem species is only one part of a complex mix of factors that can influence populations. Maintaining the balance between biodiversity and the numbers of each species is important. Defra monitors populations of a number of rare or vulnerable species where human intervention is thought to be a contributing factor in their decline, and ensures appropriate action is taken to keep their populations out of danger.
Subsidies to grouse moorland estates
Neither subsidies nor agri-environment payments are paid to farmers to support shooting activities. Agri-environment schemes provide funding to support environmentally beneficial land management, including the management of habitats and work to improve water quality, facilitate carbon capture and protect our historic landscapes. Uplands, including grouse moors, have complex land ownership and tenure arrangements with many areas being designated common land with multiple beneficiaries. Hence, many of the agreements under our schemes result in funding going to grazing tenancies that are critical to the beneficial management of these areas.
Flood risk, water pollution & environmental damage
The government is aware that the UK uplands have 75% of the world’s remaining heather moorland and about 13% of the world’s blanket bog. 70% of the UK’s drinking water is provided from upland catchments, and tourism brings in an estimated £1.78 billion to England’s upland national parks.
The government recognises that healthy, active peat provides good habitat for grouse as well as numerous environmental benefits and ecosystem services. Natural England is working with landowners of grouse moors within Special Areas of Conservation to develop voluntary agreements, which include vegetation management principles for the various habitats on grouse moors. The government encourages land managers to work closely with Natural England to put voluntary agreements in place for all the benefits they bring to moor owners and to the environment.
The government is also working with moor owners and stakeholders to further improve management practices and peat condition, such as through the Blanket Bog Restoration Strategy.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Click this link to view the response online:
The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.
The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee:
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

Friday, 10 November 2017

Writers of San Miguel de Salinas and Stanza Mar Menor

This is what we do'when we meet and you can join us.

On Friday 10th November the Writers of San Miguel met for another analytical two hours or so. There were five of us around the table that did give a good range of perspectives.

John Mac. read ‘Tough Love’, a poem inspired in part by the itinerant flower sellers that take their goods through bars and restaurants here in the costas. Emotive and not one word wasted with combinations such as ‘as if the petals/can deflect the blow/from a bunched fist.’ This was followed by ‘Elemental Truths’ that includes ‘Words, sprinkled like diamond dust’ and with lines that contain other elements such as carbon and palladium to name just two.

Nikki brought copies of and read Chapter Two of her book. We went through it line by line with contributions and suggestions coming from around the table. It is so easy to be focused on the story and so easy to miss obvious words, punctuation and to miss exactly what is being said. Again it was only minor tweaking here and there, that was needed. Nikki cannot be with us next time, but in the meantime we can carry on going through on-going chapters. It is good for us too.

John E read two football related poems. One that did not work and one that could be okay. He will give ‘Euphoria’ some more attention, give it a resounding tweak or two and maybe send it in to Hereford FC to which the poem relates. The other one is binned! He had also twenty six verses that are very raw W.I.P and although that is in a sort of poetic form it may become prose. It is something that he is giving serious thought to. Particular remarks were made about his punctuation or more to the point the lack of it. He finds that interesting and will continue with it and read the work of others who lack any punctuation. He has in mind to read more of e e cummings, John Clare and a writer who has just formed a new Stanza in Brecon. His name is Gareth Writer Davies. Don't laugh too much, but David was not impressed.

Now and with everything that has flashed out from our TV screens David has been working on, would you believe Diversity, Allegations and Robots and with a haiku. Here we have Robot Revolution One and Two followed by ‘The predators of power have gone to far!’ and with two haikus. They are more to the point! He and I have been discussing these all week and so his two poems morphed into three and were the better for it. They have been emailed to Margaret who is still ensconced in Sheffield but they were preceded by ‘ a health warning’ as sexism, feminism and abuse of power can invoke strong words. We await her replies! He does not consider that he will send them anywhere, but for him they are more considered (I could say) and less likely to be trashed by a ‘feminist’. I think that he still got away very lightly. He has passed his health tests and will be heading to Murmansk next Friday. We wish him well and I will send him our meetings via email. Likewise we can email him our own work and he will send us his writings and keep us up to date with his publications. Good luck for all of that.

Amy who has been very busy with her own work and course added another perspective and opinion. The more minds the better to examine our writings.

Our next meeting is twenty forth of this month for ten to ten thirty am. That is two weeks today and hopefully Margaret will be back in Spain. However Nikki will not be with us.

Great stuff and more of the same next time when Darlene intends to be with us.

Sent from my iPad

Friday, 3 November 2017

Photos from Tuesday 31st October

Azure Winged Magpie, record shot for identification.

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Throat

Booted Eagle

Grey Plover

Purple Swamp Hen


Zitting Cisticola

Snipe with out of focus Cetti´s Warbler in the background.

All photos Copyright Bryan Thomas 2017

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Another birding day in Provincia de Alicante

Tuesday 31st October was my first available day to get out and about to see birds in Spain for several weeks. I was in Gran Alicant at ‘sun-up’ to meet Bryan and for this morning we reversed our usual route and headed across country towards El Hondo and San Felipe Neri. It proved to be a very good idea. Before we had left the urbanization Black Redstarts (Colirrojo Tizón) were around and in the past few days both Black Wheatears (Collalbra Negra) and Blue Rock Thrushs (Roquero Silitario) had been seen.

Heading towards San Felipe Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulgar) perched and flew. We passed a ruined building and on a top corner perched ‘statuesque like’ was a Green Woodpecker (Pito Real). We stopped in the entrance to the North Gate and in the Eucalyptus there were both Blackcaps (Curruca Capirotada) and Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común). In the car park for the Information Centre we had views of Meadow Pipit (Busbita Común) several Linnets (Pardillo Común) and a Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón) perched full on for us and photographed. We then turned our attention to the lagoons with those next to us showing a lot of mud and chopped down vegetation. Purple Swamphens/Gallinules (Calamón Común) were close by and they must have numbered almost ten. Feeding here were more Meadow Pipits, at least one Water Pipit (Bisbita Alpino) and Bluethroats (Pechiazul) clear views, but not one wader in sight. Two Crested Larks (Cogujada Comùn) called and flew.

One hundred and fifty Glossy Ibis (Morito Común) over.

On the enclosed pond there were both male and female Red Crested Pochards (Pato Colorado) and even though we did hear a Red Knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna) we did not see one. A Little Bittern (Avetorillo Comùn) called too.

On the boardwalk we could see dead fish floating on the surface and whether this was due to a combination of hot weather, lower water levels or pollution we did not know. Maybe the latter could account for a waderless lagoon. The one bright moment was a solitary Snipe (Agachadiza Común) The next water, after the boardwalk, yielded an abundance of both Moorhen (Gallineta Común)and Coot (Focha Común). In the distance was a raft of Little Grebe (Zampullin Común) and also Marbled Duck/Teal (Cerceta Pardilla) and Shovelers (Cuchara Común). There was nothing else of any note.

The next lagoon was reduced to puddles and was almost birdless except on the far left there were a dozen Lapwing (Avefria Europea)), some Shelduck (Rarro Blanca) and a Grey Heron (Garza Real). I like it much better with water and birds. If only I could control the water levels!

We moved on and at Santa Águeda one Azure Winged Magpie (Urraca de Robo Largo) flew into a tree, perched and flew on. It was our first one at this location and there are photos to prove it! We will bear this one sighting in mind for later in the winter. Here we saw our third Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental) of the morning.
This location too, was dry. It could be very good with rain. Kestrels were seen here too, but the only other raptor was a Marsh Harrier.

Heading towards La Marina we saw Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero) more Marsh Harriers and four pale morph Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada). The Black Shouldered Kite remained elusive. In the fields of Lucerne grass there were more White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca), Meadow Pipits and several Skylarks (Alondra Común) calling and feeding. Then and in the distance nearer to the mountains we saw ten Common Cranes (Grulla Común) wheeling around.

Now it was time to visit El Pinet and there we saw the following birds.
Grey Plover - Chorlito Gris
Greenshank - Archibebe Claro
Redshank X 2 - Archibebe Comün
Ringed Plover - Chorlitejo Grande
Little Stint X 4 - Correlimos Menudo
Kentish Plover - Chorlitejo
We had clear views of all of them and the Grey Plover was a good one to see.

Over a cup of coffee we saw a Sandwich Tern (Charrán Patunegro) fly over, but as yet no sea birds.

The small birds which also included Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional), Stonechats (Tarabilla Común), Robins (Petirrojo) and Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común) made up for the lack of waders until we reached El Pinet.

I don’t believe in doing a list and some of the common birds I seldom mention, but what birds I have said that we have seen - were certainly seen and some even photographed. For the first time in several years I have included the Spanish names which I should know anyway.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Thursday and today, Friday 20th, were two clear days where I could visit the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge. Yesterday saw heavy rain, but I did see some of the usual geese and ducks and through the rain I saw two Peregrines argue over a post. This is a regular feature as seen from the Holden Tower. It was not a good day for birding and the weather for today was very good.
The Holden Tower gave me close views of Cranes and by the end of the day the total for these birds was seventeen. The Geese grazed close by with Canada, Greylag, Barnacle and Pink Footed easily seen. The Red-breasted Goose had been seen again grazing with the Barnacles, but it was not in view until later. Late in the afternoon from the Zeiss Hide it was spotted and it was not easy to see. However I had good views of it even though it seemed to be closer to the ground than other Geese. It is an attractive bird and a first for me. At the same time Cranes were still in view and a Yellow Legged Gull was seen although there was a discussion as to whether this was a hybrid or not. Anyway another English first for me. Also from this hide a Cetti’s Warbler called frequently and a Water Rail squealed twice.
This is an amazing place to visit and although some birds are distant there are many that can be viewed much closer.
I did not see many small birds, but there is much movement as different species have been seen passing through. There was a flock of Linnets flying in the edge of the estuary. The species list is posted on their website.
From discussion it was said that ‘farmland birds’ numbers are poor and some of this decline can be attributed to pheasant rearing for the shooting industry. This provides a heavy concentration of one species in an area to the detriment of other wildlife including snakes, slow worms and lizards.
However it is places like the wetland centres and wildlife trusts that provide good news through their endeavors.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Catalan Suppression

I felt that I had to write this. I live in Spain and I am aware of some of its history and the fact that in British terms it is a relatively new democracy as is common with other mainland European countries. Also the Iberian Peninsular covers a large area, that has five languages - not counting Portuguese - and with autonomous (partly self) governing regions. The old divisions of Kingdoms, Republic and Franco’s rule still linger and this can be very evident in the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. This week's booing of Gerard Pique, a Catalan, when he represented Spain in an international game is a clear example of this.

Now, that is some of the background to what I really want to say. All of us have witnessed violence on our streets and England is one example. The behavior of the Spanish military police force when dealing with people expressing a wish to vote for what they consider is their right was met with un-necessary and excessive violence. It was ordered by the central government in Madrid where their need to unity was imposed over freedom. It matters not one jot whether Cataluña will be better off as a totally self governing region or not. What matters is that opinions and rights are respected.

I was appalled at the politicians responses. The Spanish Government and EU politicians and bureaucrats must surely know that suppression will lead to long running disputes. The rise of nationalism can be dangerous. I did not welcome the rise in popularity of Le Pen or AdF in Germany, but democratically they are part of the system.

I was appalled by the EU response to the violence on the streets of Barcelona when ‘police’ were preventing people from voting with violence. What harm could be done if voting took place in this ‘illegal’ referendum and the Spanish Government ignored the outcome. There would have been no disorder. Now we have more people on the streets with numbers enhanced by those who are protesting, not necessarily about the referendum, but about excessive violence. I do understand, however, that mainland Europe’s way of dealing with disorder is far more excessive than in Britain and this may account for the European leaders attitude. On the other hand it probably is because they are ‘shit scared’ of the breakup of the European Union.

If PM Cameron had come back with something that clearly the EU ministers would not give then Britain would not have needed to hold a referendum. Holding it was madness, as well as, the vote for us to exit Europe. That seems as even more madness. It is clear to me that we are dealing with an intransigent Europe and in the long term we could say ‘we told you so’. Suppression in the 1900’s created a divided continent and so let us hope, forlornly or otherwise, that the situation in Cataluña is managed.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Photographs From Our Recent Trips

On 10th September at San Felipe Neri we searched for and found a Temminick´s Stint. Sadly it was not there when we returned the following Thursday.

This Kingfisher was photographed at El Pinet where it was perched for a considerable time. Brian would have like a shot of the bird in flight but it stayed where it was.

On 16th September we visited San Pedro Del Pinatar we had good views of both Curlew Sandpiper and Sanderling.

We travelled south and at the Salinas, near La Manga we saw two Caspian Terns. A first for me and Bryan´s second in Spain.

All photographs Copyright Bryan Thomas 2017