Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Post 462 - It's Baffling Brexit time!

Hey everyone, today's post 462 and today is the day that Theresa May triggers article 50, and takes the UK out of Europe. It's confusing to say the least. But, everybody understands what's going to happen in terms of immigration and things more towards the human side of it, but how many times have you seen anything about what's going to happen with nature after Brexit in the media? I personally haven't seen anything positive at all, but I don't check the media often. I have covered this in previous posts, but that was way back around the referendum. It's been months since that, and I've been thinking quite a bit about it, but I thought as we're here at this pretty important point in our history, I need to push the message out that the government needs to make better laws for nature.

Anyway, I thought I'd start with the obvious stuff, so, what you'll probably know is that the EU has a load of laws that they've made that are used in all the countries that are in the EU. We have gone by those laws for decades now, so we don't have many of our own, which means that we now have to create our own laws again. Like all votes, laws and other things along these lines, there will be some great decisions, and some bad ones. The EU had some great laws about things such as animal testing. That law was something that I paid particular attention, especially since we actually did two lessons on it at school...

I found this to be very interesting, the fact being that if the school didn't have to cover any part of Brexit at all, but they chose to give up two of my drama lessons to teach us the basics of it, they gave us essentially a reading comprehension of it. We were given a news article about what will happen after Brexit in terms of the laws. It went over that we will have to create our own laws, and that the ones they already have will be scrapped, unless we choose to go with them. There are some great laws about it, such as rabbits cannot be used to test makeup and other products.

Well from what I've read elsewhere I know that's not entirely how things are. Now Article 50 has been triggered the Government will be working on something call the Great Repeal Bill. If I have understood things right that means we will take all of the EU laws and make them UK laws. So things like the Birds and Habitats Directive and other nature laws will be UK laws. This is so we don't have to start writing a whole new set of laws from scratch.

That sounds ok doesn't it?

Well, maybe but there are some laws that will need a bit of a rewrite to make sure they work for the UK so there's one chance for things to change. A group called the Environmental Audit Committee has been looking at this to help make sure the Government does look after the environment properly and they were asking for a new Environment Act before Article 50 was triggered.

The other worrying thing is that all of the laws will be looked at after Brexit and if the Government doesn't think we need them they might get rid of them. If the Government keeps its promise to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it”. Then we might get even better laws?

Well I hope so but it seems not all of the government agrees. I saw this tweet about and article which made me worry..

So I've been wondering what to do. I've been thinking about re-starting my petition but I think I'll wait a little while until some more information comes out like the 25 year Environment and Farming plans that are due to be published.

I've seen a great initiative called GreenerUK which a lot of the UK's big nature organisations support. It has a list of all the MP's that have signed to support this call to make our environmental laws better. I'll be writing to my MP to ask if he will sign it.

I thought that a quick thing I could do is start a Thunderclap to ask people to support Greener UK and try to get more MP's supporting it. I've set it up so that it launches on Earth Day on the 22nd April. I hope that you can support the Thunderclap and tell your MP that we all want stronger protection for wildlife after Brexit.
Hope you enjoyed.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Post 461 - Simply Beautiful, Slightly Breathtaking, Snow Buntings!

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) at Redcar beach
Hey everyone, today's post is 461. It's been a while since I've done a species post like I focused on in my original year of nature so I thought it was time I did that sort of thing again.  I also wanted to cover a lovely species that I've seen over the Winter before they depart as the spring migrations get
underway. These birds are, or well were, still here this weekend as I saw another at the weekend.

Recently, I've been using Rare Bird Alert quite a bit, and trying to see if I can get my list to 200. There hasn't been an 'official' update of my count yet, but I'm sure I must be almost there. Anyway, you may have heard in other posts that I've been doing a lot of 'Bunting Hunting', and I thought I'd do a post on one of the Buntings I'd hunted, but of course only with my camera. If only that was the case across the rest of North Yorkshire :-(

Hopped up on to a groyne post
Well Rare Bird Alert told me that there were some interesting birds on the coast not too far from me at Redcar and I just had to make the trip to see if I could find them. This one is probably one of the cutest birds I've seen yet, and I was able to get really close to them! I was surprised by how easy they were to photograph, they lined up perfectly for me! They were quite used to all the people milling about too and sat tight in their spots until people got quite close. I spent about an hour watching these lovely birds. I am of course talking today about the simply beautiful Snow Bunting!

Here are some facts:

  • They are small birds (even for Bunting size) with their tiny length of about 16cm, and a wingspan about double that at around 35cm.
  • Sexual dimorphism can be seen in these birds, with the males weighing 42 grams and the Females a tiny 35!
  • They have an amber status in the UK, probably as there are so few here, and are of least concern in Europe, and globally.
As , very kindly, did its friends!
  • In 2007, there were 60 breeding pairs in the Summer, so this backs up my statement of them being so few, and they are described as being 'resident breeders'.
  • Their European size can be between about 700,000 to 1.7 million pairs, so this shows that we only get a tiny percentage of them.
  • Their egg size is 22 x 16 mm on average, and it only weighs 3.1g (only 6% of this is shell).
  • From the egg being laid to the bird fledging is actually a very quick process in this bird, incubation lasts literally 2 weeks, and then fledging happens 12 days after that!
  • Their clutch size is usually about 5, but can range to 4 or 6 as well, and sometimes the bird will have two broods, depending on how late in the year they have the first one.
Lovely birds set against a slightly stormy sea (Doris was on the way!)
  • They live about 3 years, so they have to start breeding the first year they can, but the longest a Snow Bunting has lived (that we know about) is almost 9 years! Exactly 8 years 11 months and 2 days.
  • It also has one of the prettiest common names I have ever come across, it can be called, the 'Snowflake'

Thanks to BTO & RSPB for the facts.

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 2 March 2017

Post 460 - Wonderful World Wildlife Day

World Wildlife Day - This Earth is precious
Hey everyone, Post 460 today and it's the UN World Wildlife Day tomorrow. I was asked by another young wildlife blogger, Thomas (@EWblog) to contribute to a post on young naturalists' hopes for the future. You can read that post here. There are some great thoughts from young people about the future.

Well it's a really important day so I thought I ought to do a post too to help spread the word.

There are a lot of people I admire that have made powerful statements about the world, the environment, our wildlife, about how precious it is, how we must treasure it, care for it and pass that message on to future generations. One of the loveliest, most moving statements I have ever read about this I covered in my Post 404 for Earth Day was by a Chief Seattle - please click through and read the whole message as it is an amazing, beautiful statement about the planet and just as important now as when it was written in the 1850's. A key message from it is:

Chief Seattle 
"You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth."

As many of you know, and the message in my piece for Thomas, is that I have been thinking a lot about Brexit and how it will affect nature. This is most of what I wrote:

Like it or not the UK will be exiting the EU.
One thing I thought a lot about about before the referendum and after it, is how little focus nature has got in the discussions. Most of the talk seems to be about the economy and immigration. I was so concerned I started a petition to try and keep EU nature laws. 

Can farmers help wildlife - yes they can! 
Why did I do this? Well,  The State of Nature report told us that a lot (56%) of species in the UK are in decline. Europe has developed a lot of strong laws around nature, such as the EU Birds and Habitats Directive. We have a choice now when we exit of what to do about our laws. The plan is initially to adopt all EU regulations and then decide which we need and which we don’t. Is that good? Well reading about this I’m not sure. Farmers want the Government to look after them, and that could be a good thing, as they produce a lot of our food. But some of the current practices are not good for wildlife. Pesticides and Bees is one example. There is evidence though you can farm and improve things for nature without farmers suffering

A seasonal treat :-) 
Are the current laws strong enough? Well they are good but at the moment there is a debate about hedge cutting. Birds are protected by only allowing hedge cutting outside of the nesting season but some farmers want to cut earlier which might put some struggling species under more pressure like Yellow Hammers and Turtledoves. And, dare I mention it, there are the issues of Grouse Shooting and raptor persecution, badger culling and the potential of a vote on Fox Hunting all of which I feel very strongly about! So, I’d say we definitely don’t need these laws to be weakened.

The Environmental Audit Committee recommended a new Environment Act. They considered all these issues and made a great set of recommendations.  I’d like the Government to act on this and keep to one of its pledges nicely summed up in the first recommendation:

"In order to meet its manifesto commitment to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it”, the Government must, before triggering Article 50, commit to legislating for a new Environmental Protection Act, ensuring that the UK has an equivalent or better level of environmental protection as in the EU."

On World Wildlife Day I’d like to see Government deliver this recommendation and make sure it is enforced!

I think all nature lovers need to keep a close eye on things though. I asked Caroline Lucas a little question about the Government paper on Brexit, I got a simple but worrying reply (Thanks so much Caroline).
On World Wildlife Day I hope you will enjoy nature, go for a walk, see wonderful species and connect with our wonderful wildlife.

 At the same time I hope you treasure it so much that you will stand up for nature and keep an eye on what happens as we part ways with Europe.

I hope very much we keep the strong nature laws and maybe even get much better ones!

#Doonethingtoday on #worldwildlifeday. Listen to the young voices and #standupfornature
Hope you enjoyed,