A new threat to UK wildlife?

Many of you will have been reading the stories in the news recently about an increase in unexplained deaths of brown hares and the possibility that Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease or myxomatosis is now infecting them. Dr Diana Bell from the University of East Anglia’s School of Biological Sciences has urged members of the public to report sightings of obviously sick and dead hares by photographing the animal, including the head and bottom, and emailing the photographs and precise location to d.bell@uea.ac.uk. It isn’t certain yet that the disease has jumped species and there are no lab results so far proving these hare deaths are caused by the virus.

It has been an accepted dogma for many years that hares don’t get myxomatosis. Scientists in Australia, where hares are an introduced pest, tried for many years to infect them with the virus and failed. Although they look superficially similar, rabbits and hares are very different physiologically. If the virus really has mutated sufficiently to infect hares, there are significant implications for both hare populations and potentially other wildlife.

Although brown hares have declined nationally by more than 80% in the past 100 years they, like hedgehogs, polecats and harvest mice, aren’t fully protected in the UK and they can be forgotten about in impact assessments. Luckily there’s a very helpful publication on just this topic, co-authored by our very own Steph Wray and some leading lights of mammal ecology.

Cresswell WJ, Birks J, Dean M, Pacheco M, Trewhella WJ, Wells D and Wray S (2012). UKBAP Mammals: Interim Guidelines for Survey Methodologies, Impact Assessment and Mitigation. The Mammal Society, Southampton

You can get a copy from the Mammal Society, Natural History Book Service, from Amazon (other ubiquitous giant online retailers are available..well, maybe) or perhaps just come and chat to us about UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) mammals. The kettle’s on.

March 2017: Spring is coming…

So Biocensus. What’s occurring?

I’m not sure it’s a case of “hold on to your hats”. It feels more like “the captain has put the seat belt sign on, please return to your seats, and grab a waxed paper bag, you’re going to need it” type of affair.

As many of you will be aware we are fast approaching a critical mass of large infrastructure projects, with HS2 Phase 1 enabling works about to commence at the same time as ongoing protected species surveys, as well as initial survey work on Phase 2A and the three new areas of Phase 2B. This is on top of other significant projects from Network Rail, Highways England and National Grid.
As a direct result of Biocensus being (quite frankly) awesome, we’re going to be heavily involved across all these areas. This comes fast on the heels of a record-breaking and milestone reaching year in 2016-17 for Biocensus. Although this will undoubtedly give us senior managers more grey hairs (quite a challenge for me!!) I’m sure that the next year is going to be an exciting and rewarding one.

This does mean that we need, more than ever, large numbers of new ecologists to register with us and to be processed through the quality assurance system. We’re also now actively encouraging small companies to register all their staff because as long as they hit the requirements for each project we’re happy to get good quality ecologists from anywhere! If you are already registered please can I ask that you put the word around about our network and encourage friends and colleagues to sign up too! There really is that much work out there and by signing up with us you will be maximising your chances of getting involved.

One other effect of having the surge of work we are currently experiencing is that we’ve been recruiting like mad! Last week we appointed two new ecology survey schedulers (an essential role in our operation) and we are currently looking for a senior and a principal ecologist to bring a greater depth of technical project management in-house. They will contribute to our work on the ground, conduct QA checks and supervise our ecologists in the field so if you know anyone good then please point this advert out to them. It’s a great opportunity to become part of a friendly and fun team, in what is still a relatively small company (in terms of staff), experiencing rapid growth at a hugely exciting time. If I didn’t already work here I’d be jumping at the chance – honestly, I really would!

Finally, a pretty picture of a bird. A fieldfare I caught and ringed in my garden. I’d left most of the apples down on the ground for the winter to encourage winter thrushes like the fieldfare, although if I’m honest I was really hoping for waxwings, which although they were in the region never visited my garden as far as I know. Maybe next year!?

I hope you all have a great early season and remember if you’re a freelance ecologist or a small company then get your skates on and register with us!

Cheers

Tim

December 2016: Happy Christmas

Well, it’s that time of year again and we’re well and truly in the Christmas office party season!  A time of year when all photocopiers live in fear!  We’ve got our office party tonight – fortunately, we don’t have a photocopier, but they’ve got one next door……

There have been three exciting events since my last missive.  The first and most exciting can be found at the bottom of this piece.  Once you’ve seen that, come back and read the rest of this!

UK Supplier MapThe second was the launch of our on-line supplier registration form which can be found here. Since its inception, Biocensus has been unique in delivering the vast majority of its field work via a UK-wide network of freelance ecologists.  As we go into 2017 we currently have over 450 local freelance ecologists on our books, all of whom we have used at least once in the past. As it stands this means that we cover pretty much all ecological disciplines in most areas of the UK.

Our goal is to deploy a local ecologist, and when we say local we mean within 50 miles, although they’re often a lot nearer (the record is held by a bat surveyor who walked the half mile to his job!).  The step change at the tail end of this year and going into 2017 is that we are now asking freelance ecologists and small businesses to register with us ahead of being required, so we can resource jobs and deploy people more efficiently.

I know for a fact that there are lots of awesome ecologists out there and I wanted to have a system where I can prove that we’ve got many of them on our books. We have always worked hard on the quality assurance aspects of using freelancers in our work and ensuring a robust approach to this has been central in developing our new registration system.

As an indication of our commitment to recruiting and deploying only the best ecologists, we have asked Dr Stephanie Wray (the chair of our board) to oversee the Biocensus QA process and take it to the next level.  For me, a crucial part of this is client feedback and their ideas on how we can improve.  So for all our existing clients that are reading this, please do provide feedback, whether it’s good or bad.  All of this is essential to our drive to continue to improve the quality of service we provide.

Alongside this development work we are excited to announce that we are expanding our team in the Stroud office. If you know anyone who may be interested in working with us to provide excellent service to clients running large infrastructure projects please let them know that we are currently recruiting a Senior Ecologist and an Ecology Survey Coordinator. Full information is available on our website: biocensus.co.uk/about/work-with-us

Finally on this subject, I would encourage any freelance ecologists reading this to register with us as soon as possible.  We are anticipating record-breaking levels of demand for ecological input to projects next year and by being registered with Biocensus you are maximising your chances of being part of this.

The third exciting thing (well OK it might only be exciting for me) was my election onto the Governing Board of the CIEEM at the Institute’s autumn conference in Nottingham this year.  As a result, I step down from my place on the advisory forum which I have held for the last four years.  Although this has been immensely rewarding I felt that I would like to be more closely involved in the running of the Institute and to play a small part in furthering its development, and I am very much looking forward to attending my first board meeting in January.

Otter Video[ryv-popup video=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/196645643″]OK, so the first exciting thing. I was on a run along the tow path of the Kennet and Avon canal (which runs alongside our office) the other day when I spotted this in the water.  There was about 10 mins of footage but most of it was in the dark as it was in a tunnel.  It then emerged into the light, as bold as brass.  One might say a little too bold for survival in an urban environment, but let’s hope it wises up soon.   So 50 bird species seen from the office and now this, although as rules are rules we can’t add it to the office list as I wasn’t actually at the office when I saw it!

Christmas BirdFinally, I hope you all have a great festive break and a well-earned rest and we all hit the ground running for a mammoth 2017!

I’m off to find a mince pie, a glass of mulled wine and a warm photocopier…….  Merry Christmas.

Tim

November 2016: another busy summer for Biocensus

Well another classic summer passed in a sleep deprived blur. November already? Really?

As some of you may remember I shouted my mouth off once too many times about the lack of industry best practice guidance for ornithological impact assessments, and this culminated in me talking at the CIEEM spring conference in London. This gaping hole in the impact assessment world is at complete odds with the advanced position of organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) when it comes to many other aspects of bird conservation.  As I say, I was a bit too vocal about this and now find myself leading the effort to produce some best practice guidance in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

It was obvious to me from the outset that in order for any guidance to get ‘buy-in’ from our industry, it needed to be endorsed by some key organisations such as CIEEM, BTO, RSPB, the Association for Local Government Ecologists (ALGE), the statutory nature conservation organisations such as Natural England, and of course our fellow consultants. In order to set the ball rolling I convened a meeting with the BTO a few weeks ago. It was an incredibly positive affair with six people from BTO in attendance and comprised enthusiastic discussion of what was needed. It’s very early days yet but my intention is to set up a working group of interested parties and then to have a workshop where the future structure and scope of the guidance will be established. The next stage for me is to have similar meetings with the other main players and get this workshop planned. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated through this blog as things progress.

One direct effect of my being involved in this, is that this year I was “back on the tools”. It had been a couple of years since I did any breeding bird surveys, and it occurred to me that if I was going to write the best practice guidance then I should remind myself of the job and the challenges it presents. In reality it also reminded me how hard it is to get up to do dawn surveys in June! Especially when you then have to do a full day in the office afterwards. You know you’re pushing it when colleagues in the office, are asking if everything is alright! Having said that, it was nice to be out and about at dawn some mornings…..I suppose!

Skylark

The other major change for Biocensus over the last couple of months is the addition of one office and four new members of staff. Gavin who has been with us for 18 months has now established an office in Stroud, Gloucestershire where he is overseeing the delivery of our projects. As a result of a fairly full Bath office and the fact that Gavin lives in Stroud we decided to expand the team up in Stroud. Thanks to some insanely large and challenging projects they’ve all been kept more than busy!

Stroud Office

Finally, last month saw the official launch of the bird book ‘Britain’s Birds’ at the annual Bird Fair. This was a special moment for us as Biocensus helped produce the publication. The reviews so far have been outstanding and thanks to a piece on Radio Four’s Today programme the book was briefly outselling the latest Harry Potter (albeit very briefly!).

Britain's Birds front cover

Britain's Birds

The launch at the bird fair went off extremely well and the signing session seemed to go on and on. Many of the comments we’ve had back have been praising us for producing a bird book made up entirely of photos (3200 of them!). This certainly isn’t the first book to have tried this (there have been some truly awful attempts down the years) but arguably is the first to have pulled it off so convincingly. Obviously I am biased! Clearly the advent of digital photography and the staggering advancements in associated technology have meant that the quality, range and sheer volume of images being taken, allows such a project to be undertaken. The book contains an image of every species of bird ever recorded in the British Isles and in each type of plumage. If you haven’t got a copy yet you can buy one from here. There are also very quiet rumours of Biocensus being involved in more WildGuides projects in the future, which is very exciting.

July 2016: The EU vote and its potential effect on British wildlife

As we’re all now aware, the British public have voted to leave the EU.  I don’t want to add to the political debate here, but at the same time, for someone that blogs about wildlife I think I need to at least acknowledge the potential effect on British Wildlife, of this radical decision. The good news I guess is that in the short term, not a lot will change with respect to the level of protection endangered species receive in the UK. All the EU directives are enacted in UK law and therefore the removal of the UK from the EU won’t change these UK laws, at least not overnight. In  order to change these laws there would need to be new legislation drafted and passed through the parliament.

However, it just so happens that the Law Commission has just carried out a review of the current UK wildlife legislation and published it findings in the form of a draft Bill in November last year . I was invited to speak at The Westminster Briefing on this very subject in May and at the time, although the Brexit elephant was sitting comfortably in the corner, the general feeling among many of my peers was one of positivity. In its current format the draft Bill recommends a strengthening of the current legislation as well as some long overdue rationalisation, and updating of Schedules (lists) of protected species. However, I think we should be aware that the current format may well not be anything like what is eventually passed in the end, and a debate and review of the Bill in the current non-EU, red tape burning atmosphere could, and I underline could, result in an eventual weakening in the legal protection for wildlife in the UK. Challenging times are certainly ahead. I think I speak for many environmentalists when I say that this is the time to put away the hankies and accept the new order and to work even harder than normal to maximise the opportunities for wildlife that this hiatus presents. Out of this change could come an enormous number of positive things (OK – if I’m honest I am humming the tune from the end of the film Life of Brian – while writing this!).

Britain’s Birds

On a more positive and uplifting note, I can now reveal that Biocensus is incredibly proud to announce that we are officially a production partner with Princeton University Press, WildGuides and RSPB in the release of the forthcoming bird book “Britain’s Birds”. It is the first book ever to present images of all British species in all plumages (immature and both sexes if relevant) and it has been a mammoth undertaking by the authors.

Britain's Birds

I have been closely involved in the production and wrote the legislation section for the authors. I’ve even got a photo in the book (taken whilst sitting in a Gin bar in Majorca – that’s what I call fieldwork!). The book will be officially launched at the annual bird fair at Rutland Water 19th -21st of August but there is a chance to take advantage of the pre-publication offer  – order now for £13.99.

Storm Petrels on Priest Island

A few weeks ago was my annual trip to Priest Island where I ring storm petrels. A lot of them. As in a thousand! We do this every year in order to enable us and the RSPB to monitor the population of these enigmatic little birds. This year the weather was kind and we caught just over 1000.  One of these birds was first ringed, as an adult bird on Shetland in 1988. This makes it at least 28 years old!! Quite incredible for a bird that weighs about 25 grams. The good news is that according to our analysis the population on Priest seems to be on the increase. This is after many years of apparent decline.

DSC_0093

April 2016: Spring has sprung and the long awaited ITTs for HS2 Phase 1 have been issued!

So the season is definitely underway and spring has sprung! It won’t be long before we’re all knee deep in great crested newts!

Over the last month the big news in our sector is the issue of the long awaited ITTs for the Enabling Works Packages on HS2 Phase 1. There are seven joint ventures all bidding for three lots, each of which is worth approximately £300 million each.

A fair amount of ecological consultancy work will be included in these lots. By this I mean on-going surveys, production of method statements, licensing for certain activities, overseeing mitigation works and translocating any number of protected species. A large chunk of this will need to be overseen by a whole host of Ecological Clerks of Works (ECoWs) but at its peak there will probably be so much demand for ecologists that together with all the other requirements for ecologists across the country it will put a serious strain on resourcing.

Enter Biocensus (to provide ecologists that is, not machine operators – although thinking about it…???). Our unique capability to provide large teams of local ecologists is custom built for this eventuality. So for the last month I’ve been whizzing around talking to people to allow us to now be in the position of having advanced talks with a number of the JVs bidding for this work.

We passed our RISQS Audit!

Our big news is that last month Biocensus passed its RISQS audit and are now on the Sentinel system. This means Biocensus can now act as primary sponsors for ecologists with the Personal Track Safety (PTS) Qualification to track-side work on the railways. If you or anyone in your company requires ecology work on the railways, we can deploy teams of ecologists under Biocensus sponsorship, saving you the hassle of arranging sub-sponsorship or Track Visitor Permits.

Tim at the CIEEM Spring Conference

In other news, last week I was lucky enough to be asked to talk at the CIEEM (Charted Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) spring conference. My presentation was entitled Ornithological Impact Assessment: moving towards a standardised approach.

My main thesis is that considering the number of other animals groups covered by best practice guidance, ornithology is still surprisingly lacking in this regard. I intended the talk to be a call to arms to the industry to remedy the issue, and I’ve been really pleased with the positive response and offers of help.

I’m hoping that over the coming months I’ll be able to form a working group of interested parties and draft a plan of action that will eventually lead to the publication of such guidance. I’m a passionate believer in evidence-led consultancy, and feel that when we do surveys and impact assessments we must ensure that in the first place they are indeed required (sometimes surveys are carried out on the precautionary principle) and secondly that they are implemented in a standardised and scientifically robust manner.

Finally, bird ringing…

bird_biocensus

Those of you that have read these missives over the years will remember that I always used to finish with a bird ringing story.

Well I moved house six month ago and Easter saw us emerging, like hibernating animals, into our garden blinking in the sunlight, and most importantly putting up a mist net and catching a few birds.

This little fella (or lass) (one can’t tell, we have to assume they can) was the highlight.

Best wishes,

Tim

February 2016: how we can help you

It occurs to me that this is generally the time of year where most of our clients (so a good proportion of people reading this) begin to plan the year ahead and realise they are going to need help with the ecology aspects of their projects. Therefore, it seems that now may be a good time to highlight what Biocensus can do to help and to explain/reiterate the scope and scale of the operation. You can see examples of the types of things we do below.

If you’re looking at resourcing large projects (and smaller ones too!) and are wondering how you will be able to recruit enough in-house ecologists it may well be worth talking to us.

Best wishes
Tim

Delivering via our network of ecologists

We deliver 90% of our work via a well-established network of experienced free-lance ecologists.

Last year we used 132 different people to service our contracts. The joy of our delivery model is our ability to react very quickly to demands and to operate at large scales. For example, a recent GCN surveying job required us to field 22 people full time for 14 weeks.

And last year we managed to mobilise sufficient expertise on the ground to exclude 80+ badger setts in 10 weeks!

illustrative image for subbie locationsUsing local ecologists for local projects

We are reminded time and again of the value of local ecologists when their depth of local knowledge helps us in delivering our services.

Their understanding of how individual planners and LPA ecologists interpret policy and guidance, and how they like to see information presented and surveys conducted, is a huge advantage.

Reducing our carbon footprint and costs to client
Another benefit of our network is its geographic coverage. We can service jobs throughout the UK with local ecologists – our aim is to get someone within 50 miles, although often they are considerably closer. The winner of the closest ecologist award this year, is a job we had in Stamford where the licensed bat worker lived 1 mile away and walked to the job. How’s that for reducing our carbon footprint and costs to the client?
Biocensus Office

And our in-house team keep everything on track

Of course backing up our local ecologists is an in-house team mainly comprising principal and director level ecologists who manage project delivery and client relationships, helping us ensure that projects run smoothly and keep to budget.

 

 

 

December 2015: some time to plan for the new year

Wind, rain, Bath traffic grid locked it must be nearly Christmas. I really must start thinking about presents etc… otherwise it’ll be audio book CDs, screen wash and charcoal briquettes from the local garage on Christmas Eve. Again!

As is always the case at this time of year for Biocensus a fair chunk of my time has now switched to planning the work schedules for next year and getting in touch with clients to find out what their requirements are likely to be. I often find the best way to achieve this is to go and visit people face to face so I’ve been buzzing around for the last month or so seeing quite a few of you. Hopefully more still in the New Year.

CIEEM Autumn Conference
In November I was at the CIEEM (Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) autumn conference in Sheffield. As usual it was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and chew the fat over a few drinks and discuss the pressing issues of the day e.g. the new Bat Conservation Trust guidance, the UK’s possible exit from the EU and the location of the best karaoke bar in town!

stephBy far the most important event however, was our Chairman Stephanie Wray officially taking up the reins as the new President of the CIEEM, a post she will hold for three years. It goes without saying that we’re all incredibly proud of this achievement and count ourselves as incredibly lucky that Stephanie continues to be so closely involved in the growth of Biocensus. In other CIEEM news I was re-elected to the advisory forum for another three year stint. A job I have really enjoyed over the last three years. As a profession we are still fairly young and there remains a fair amount to do to push the institute through its various stages of maturation.

 

 

We did it!

The final piece of big news is the announcement that both Rich and I completed our marathon back in October. I can just about walk again now!! In total we raised just over £4000 for Hospiscare (a Devon based charity that cared for my mother). We’d like to say a huge thank you to those of you who donated and if you missed the opportunity you can still do so here 😉

Rich Marathon Tim Marathon

Finally, can I just take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Jolly Happy New Year!

Tim

October 2015: it’s been another busy summer

unnamedThe more observant among you will have noticed that I haven’t been inundating your inboxes with missives over the last few months. No excuse really, it’s just that when things are so busy, then writing blogs always seems to drop to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Must do better! Will do better!

It’s been another busy summer for all of us here at Biocensus, with a vast variety of jobs and contracts. Luckily Gavin (the new Operations Director) was quickly up to speed and we were therefore able to keep on top of some particularly sizeable and complex jobs which involved deploying large teams of surveyors in the field. This is fast becoming a specialism of Biocensus.

As a result we are shortly going to be trialling our new sub-contractor database which will simplify and streamline the process of sourcing, quality assuring and contracting free-lance ecologists. Long gone are the days when all this information resided in our heads, which served us well for a while but is frankly a precarious system (highly susceptible to the proverbial bus) that doesn’t befit a growing consultancy.

As the company grows and deals with larger contracts and bigger clients so our quality assurance and health and safety processes have had to evolve too. One added advantage to the new subcontractor database will be that the correct checks and balances will be in place to ensure that the right people are being put on the right job together with appropriate risk assessments and method statements to cover the work. Underlying all this (and it is reiterated on a regular basis here in the office) is the acceptance that we can always do things better and that no system is perfect or has ever finished evolving. Feedback from our clients is therefore critical to this process. Although they are fundamentally important to our operations, health and safety and quality assurance are probably not the most exciting topics for a blog so let’s turn to some cool biology…

Priest Island Success
North ScotlandThe annual trip to Priest Island to ring storm petrels has now been and gone, with the main difference this year being the temperature. I regretted the optimistic decision to pack a mankini when the late June temperature plummeted to…..SINGLE FIGURES! Nevertheless, it was another successful trip with 920 birds caught in three nights. We are using ringing as a way of estimating the population size as counting birds that nest underground and fly in to the burrows in the dark precludes any counting method. Priest Island is an SPA and home to one of the largest storm petrel colonies in Scotland. This research has been summarised here

Of course while in Scotland it would have been rude to turn down the opportunity to ring a few other species I don’t normally get to catch. For example, I was instructed to fly up wearing my fieldwork clothes and within 30 mins of landing in Inverness (possibly less) I was at the top of a Scots Pine ringing four kestrel chicks (pictured at the top of this blog). We then also managed to squeeze in a trip to ring wood warblers.
Storm Petrel

Next year I will hopefully be fitting a number of geo locators to individual birds. This project will be funded by Biocensus and represents our ongoing commitment to support conservation research. Currently we know very little about where storm petrels go in the winter and in order to fully understand the pressures on these charismatic little birds and the reasons for their population decline it is essential that we have all the necessary information.


Marathon Running!
12045787_858533487578108_7729599617200188018_oFinally, myself and fellow Biocensus colleague Richard, are intending to run the inaugural Bristol to Bath marathon on 25 October (I blame Rich, and he blames margaritas!). We will be raising money for a hospice charity based in Devon. My Mum passed away in August of this year after fighting cancer for 25 years. Hospiscare are a wonderful charity that did a lot to help my Mum, my Dad and the whole family through a very tough time. I appreciate that we are constantly bombarded for donations these days so please don’t feel obliged but if you’d like to make a small donation you can do so here Take care and enjoy the autumn!

Tim

Don’t forget you can read this blog on our website and catch up with previous blogs by Tim and the team. And, if you’re in the mood to be social, why not follow us on twitter,  connect with Tim on LinkedIn and like our company page?

March 2015: All systems go!

After the usual lull in February it’s now all systems go. I’m talking about business but to be honest it’s been very much the same outside for the last week. All the birds are singing and the first flowering plants of the year are putting on a show and adding some much needed colour to the muted washed out hue of winter. A bit like me!

primroses

It would appear that this year is going to be a busy one with jobs pouring in, including some big ones! Thankfully with our new technical director Gavin Wilson we should be well set up to deal with it all, and more (hint hint)!

Last month we had our annual directors and partners night out. The traditional part of this day is the AGM followed by a competition of some sort, complete with a trophy. One year it was pitch and putt, the next clay pigeon shooting and memorably (or not as it turned out to be) competitive wine tasting! This year we went old school and had a pub games tournament. It would be ungracious of me to mention who one the trophy this year….

As part of our ‘getting to know the neighbours’ push I introduced myself and Biocensus to our two neighbourly architects. DKA are directly upstairs from us in the Malt House, whilst the Nash Partnership are about four doors down along the canal. By way of saying ‘hi’, I did a lunchtime seminar/CPD session for them describing what we do and how ecology as a discipline fits into the construction industry, and most importantly how this produces great opportunities for practices and their clients. Not only are we lucky to have these two companies as neighbours but as an added bonus everyone I met seemed really friendly and I’m sure we’ll work with both in the near future.

The exciting development (in a slightly geeky way) this month was Biocensus instructing Thirty8 Digital to take over the running of our website, and more importantly to start designing our new all singing, all dancing bespoke subbie database. We decided a while ago that having most of the information about our subbies (geography, skills etc…) in our heads was a risky strategy (lots of buses around Bath etc…) so we’re now in the process of building the database. Talking of which, if you are a freelance ecologist and a member of CIEEM and you want to be on our database then get in touch.

The other night, Dez, Gav, Steph and myself were at the ‘People, Politics and the Planet – Any Questions?’ event in London. Some big (really big) issues were covered and a range of interesting views were expressed by the panel members, including a frankly pantomime villain role played by William Cash of UKIP.

Anyquestions1

Apart from making it abundantly clear that he was not the world’s biggest advocate of wind turbines (by even the most enormous stretch of the imagination), he also declared that if he were able to do anything for the environment then he would repeal the Climate Change Act! Whoever booked him obviously knew a thing or two about the entertainment industry. However, my overwhelming feeling after the event was one of depression.

The problems facing the world with regards to energy, food, water, climate and biodiversity are so vast and so complex, and yet the humans trying to sort them out are so small (minded) and simple (minded). It sometimes feels like the issues are just too big for us. I’m a twisted old cynic I know, and I really don’t want to be, but when far more people sign an online petition to reinstate someone that allegedly assaulted a work colleague, than sign a petition against fracking, the badger cull and repealing the Climate Change Act, National Parks Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act (combined!!) it says it all. I really, really hope I’m wrong. I’m not going to give up hope.

On a more positive note our peregrines have been getting ‘jiggy’ with it and it’s hopefully only a matter of days before we have some eggs you can watch progress here.

peregrine

We’ve just had a sweep stake in the office to guess the date of the first hatch. I reckon I’m nailed on with the 1st of May (my birthday by a happy coincidence).

Take care and enjoy the spring! Tim