If you have enjoyed reading this blog - and I do hope that you have - then you may be interested in buying the book of the blog!
Blogging for Nature is not available through any good bookshops - the only way to purchase it is through a website which you can find by clicking here.
A snip at £9.92 (+P&P) this book contains 143 of 700+ blogs which have appeared here over the last couple of years.
The book also contains hints and thoughts on how to blog and comments on the blog from a number of regular commenters here (eg Stackyard Green, nightjar, redkite and Sooty).
Blogging for Nature has a very kind Foreword written by the former Secretary of State for Defra the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP.
And, if you buy the book you will discover Sooty's real name.
277 pages which cover; the change to a coalition government, the recent breeding of red-backed shrikes and little bitterns, hen harrier persecution, thoughts from the Bird Fair, Game Fair and political Party Conferences, news from Hope Farm, the forestry debate, eagle owls, our Bird of Prey Pledge, Letter to the Future, the odd mention of Rushden and Diamonds FC, RSPB nature reserves, predator control, farming and farmland birds and so much more.
Thank you to the RSPB for agreeing to me publishing this book.
Not all regulation is good. The biofuel issue illustrates better than most others that if governments get things wrong, and impose that error widely, then disaster ensues. And the biofuel issue illustrates the few options left to the individual when government makes big mistakes.
I'm here talking about crops grown for fuel (and it doesn't really matter whether we are talking biomass or biofuel here) on a large scale and on land that could be or was producing food. I'm not thinking of biofuels produced from household or agricultural waste. I've written about this issue over the last couple of years a few times here (see here, here, here and here).
I won't go into the details again now - the essence of the argument is that if you use productive agricultural land for growing fuel rather than food then the food has to be grown somewhere else - and it will be. Because the world isn't large and empty, the places that extra food is grown are likely to be places like rainforests which are currently rich in carbon and rich in biodiversity and good at producing ecosystem services of a wide variety of types. And because rainforests (and grasslands etc) are good at storing carbon whereas most biofuel crops lead to low savings in carbon the perverse outcome is that carbon suffers, wildlife suffers and food production suffers - an amazing triple whammy. Well done us!
This argument has largely been won with decision-makers (although vested interests oppose change as they always do) although winning the argument has not led to any substantial change in government policy, so far. Later today when I will up my car with diesel I will have no option but to be putting the bodies of long-dead lifeforms into my tank (that's what those fossil fuels are after all) but also more than a splash of biofuel which represents the bodies of dead tigers or other wildlife which will have suffered from this crazy EU-wide policy.
And so if you want to participate in the Red Tape challenge then as well as telling government to get its hands off laws that protect wildlife (see yesterday's blog) why not also post a comment asking for the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to be revoked forthwith? I have.
I've just sent Vince Cable an email and I am asking you to do the same, please.
In a quite breath-taking move, the coalition government has put all environmental regulation up for grabs in the 'Red Tape Challenge'. Potentially this is 'Bye, bye' Wildlife and Countryside Act and 'Bye, bye' Climate Change Act. Surely some mistake, here?
Even to refer to legislation like the Wildlife and Countryside Act as 'red tape' is to belittle the efforts of past nature conservationists and parliamentarians who carefully constructed this legislation which was widely welcomed at the time and whose aims and general thrust have rarely been questioned since.
Now it can't be the case that all existing regulation is perfect, that is very unlikely to be the case, and I can tell you now that it isn't (gasps of amazement). However, to put absolutely everything on the table risks throwing out an awful lot of babies with a few drops of bath water. And the Cabinet Office must know this - that Oliver Letwin is no fool.
Please do act on this - Step up for Nature with the RSPB and make politicians see sense.
Regulation forms an important tool in the conservation kitbox and yet it is generally out of favour with all political parties at the moment. Rather than saying 'No. this is wrong, don't do it' politicians reach for incentives, voluntary initiatives and other weak measures to try to make the world a better place. It's a good job that sensible people passed laws to prevent kids being pushed up chimneys to clean them otherwise would we now face the 'Chimney cleaning operators' voluntary initiative to reduce by a few weeks the average age of young sweeps'?
If you feel as angry and worried about this move as I do then please act - and I see that 38 Degrees is giving you another opportunity to express your views here.
Following a blog on reintroductions how about one on reintroductions' evil twin - introductions?
There is a general rule in biology that about one in 10 non-native translocated species becomes established in its new home - and that then one in 10 of those becomes an economic or conservation problem. Non-native species are one of the prime causes of species' extinction and so carting species around the globe is generally a bad thing (please note - Richard Branson).
Many of the non-native species in the UK were allegedly brought here by the Romans (eg pheasant, rabbit) but others were deliberately or accidentally released by the landed gentry (eg little owl, grey squirrel, muntjac deer and Canada goose). But then there is a long list of species whose origins are unknown but which are here as a result of careless trade across the globe.
This blog has commented on ring-necked parakeets (here, here, here and here), pheasants (here), muntjac deer (here) and grey squirrels (here, here and here) at various times to illustrate the practical and intellectual issues surrounding this subject.
It seems likely that we will face continuing and growing problems with non-native species becoming established in the UK. One of the latest arrivals is the scary creature the killer shrimp. What havoc might this species cause in our waterways? What happened to the New Zealand flatworm that was going to take over our gardens about 15 years ago?
Prevention is better than cure, and far cheaper, but difficult to police and ensure. I just have a feeling that this is a growing problem that we will all have to live with. It won't kill us - but it might finish off a few more native species if we aren't careful. And experience shows, we won't be careful enough.
Reintroductions stir up quite strong opinions amongst birders, land owners and conservationists alike, yet to me they form just one of the tools in the conservation toolbox, and you just have to bring them out for the right job.
There are sensible international guidelines on where, when and how to reintroduce species, which are always used to steer official reintroduction projects here in the UK. They relate to trying to make sure that any reintroduction project is necessary, will work and won't do harm to other species or to the target species elsewhere.
Reintroductions are different from introductions - reintroductions refer to native species (but how long ago counts as native?) but introductions refer to non-native species. I'll come back to non-native species soon.
Reintroductions of birds in the UK are rather few and far between. People tend to forget that the capercaillie once went extinct in the UK and was reintroduced in the early 19th century by land owners. More recently the bringing back of the white-tailed eagle (to the Scottish part of the UK) and red kite (to England, Scotland and Ireland) have been reintroductions which we can already say have been biologically successful. It's no accident that these two species are birds of prey - they were both exterminated by human persecution, both are slow at regaining lost territory even if the populations are doing well and there is quite a lot of expertise about rearing and keeping birds of prey in captivity through the age-old practice of falconry - and people like them lots (although not everyone by any means).
There have been a few potential reintroduction projects which we, the RSPB, decided not to start or support. We thought about a reintroduction project for choughs in Cornwall but decided that the birds might get back to Cornwall on their own from Wales or Ireland - and we were right, but also wrong in that it seems much more likely given the circumstances that the birds actually arrived from Britanny. And the RSPB did not join in with the osprey reintroduction project at Rutland Water as we thought that the birds would come back to England on their own - and they did in the foot and mouth year of 2001 when a pair was revealed to be nesting in the Lake District.
And then there is the great bustard reintroduction on Salisbury Plain which we were a bit sniffy about for a while but are now helping practically. (see here and here).
We are working with partners on a few reintroductions right now - they are all going well but none can be said to have succeeded completely yet. I'm sure that with continued effort, sometimes a bit more luck and continued funding then they all will.
Current reintroductions projects include cirl buntings, in Cornwall, corncrakes in Cambridgeshire (see here and here), cranes in Somerset (see here, here and here) and a bit of finishing off of red kites in Northern Ireland (see here) and white-tailed eagles in east Scotland (see here).
To embark on a reintroduction project is usually a big decision - it's likely to be a long slog, costs money, is not certain to succeed (whatever it looks like in retropsect) and so should not be entered into lightly - but it is sometimes the only way to make a big conservation leap forward. The track record of success so far in the UK is high. And I always think that compared to land purchase, for example, a successful reintroduction project is cheap in terms of what it can deliver. I am very grateful to my predecessors for the fact that I now very regularly see red kites over my garden in east Northants.
And it's not just birds - other less mobile species are often very good candidates for being given that helping hand too (see here).
But let's finish on the white-tailed eagle - a magnificent bird. Its demise in the UK was due to persecution and its return due to sustained efforts to reintroduce it. Plans to return this bird to its former haunts (though long-distant in time) in East Anglia were put on hold when Natural England took the hint from the prospect of massive financial cuts and announced that it could not be a partner in such a project. The subject of an East Anglian reintroduction was quite a lively subject of debate here on this blog (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here). It's a project which is resting not dead. In fact, I had a chat with someone keen on resurrecting the project only last week. I wonder....?