Wales: Licences Granted To Kill 100 Linnets and 19 Other Red/Amber List Species : 2448 Birds At Risk
Twenty Threatened Species On Welsh Hit List (01/17 to 09/18)
In the wake of the shocking news that both Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England have been issuing licences to shoot some of our most treasured birds, come more awful revelations, this time from Wales.
Many people have been in touch with me, lamenting the apparent decline of birds in Wales, so it is with a heavy heart that I share with you these statistics.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the body that claims to 'maintain and enhance biodiversity', has been busy issuing its own licences to kill.
Figures from a FOI request* show that in less than two years (01/17 to 09/18), 73 licences were issued covering a staggering 2,448 birds of at least 20 species.
All of these birds are on the RSPB Red and Amber lists.
Some might say that it makes NRW's slogan of 'Looking after our environment for people and nature' seem a little spurious.
NRW issued licences that permitted the killing of a diverse list of species that included Linnets, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Meadow Pipits, Lapwings and Skylarks. Though a number of the individual licences ultimately resulted in no reported deaths, many more do not detail the number of birds actually killed as the figures had not yet been submitted by the time the information was collated. That in itself might make one wonder just how NRW monitors the culls once permission has been granted. They say in respect of the unknown totals "we have not received licence reports for some of the licences listed on the attached spreadsheet. This is because most of these licences are still either current or have just recently expired."
Hundreds Of Birds Confirmed Killed
But some figures are confirmed and are very worrying.
In the case of Gulls and Starlings at least, it appears that a very high number were taken while many more are likely to have been killed by the time the final figures were logged.
NRW issued licences to kill up to 617 Herring Gulls, 499 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (mostly to 'preserve public health and safety'), and a staggering 1022 Starlings (some of the allocation to 'preserve air safety' but also bizarrely to 'prevent serious damage to cattle feed').
(...killing birds because they are damaging cattle feed? Makes no sense to me)...
Another reason given as justification for culling both Starlings and various species of Gull was (bizarrely) to prevent 'serious damage to livestock' including chickens, cattle and lambs.
(How, one might ask, does a Starling carry out serious damage to a cow?)
All in all it seems that randomly allocated reasons are given as justification for issuing licences to kill some of our most threatened species.
One of the saddest statistics from the list is that of two licences to kill a total of 100 Linnets for being a threat to air safety. While we all appreciate that ensuring the safety of air traffic is essential, one has to wonder whether permitting the extermination of 100 Linnets is entirely necessary, or indeed appropriate, in order to maintain public welfare. One of the Linnet licences resulted in no reported birds being taken but the outcome of the second licence, allowing for a further 50 birds to be killed, is not confirmed.
Other permits enabled applicants to kill Curlews, Oyster-catchers, Stock Doves and Kestrels (also for 'preserving air safety').
Remember the Passenger Pigeon.....
So, there we have it. The full tally of birds is below.
ALL of these are red/amber listed species.
Only birds on the red and amber conservation lists are included, so there will be many many more birds killed under different licences which do not appear on this list, for example ravens and pigeons.
The long term survival of our struggling birds appears to be in serious doubt while these public bodies are in charge of 'protecting' our precious wildlife. Unless this changes, we will surely see many more extinctions reminiscent of the Passenger Pigeon's infamous demise during the 19th century when a population of 5 billion was reduced to zero in a hundred years because humankind found reasons to 'control' these beautiful creatures.
It seems that little has changed.
An urgent and widespread shift in attitude towards wildlife is needed.
The issuing of licences to kill threatened birds - just because they are are in conflict with human activity - needs to stop.
Otherwise, make no mistake, they will be gone. Forever.
Totals of birds permitted to be taken by NRW between 01/17 and 09/18 (bird numbers associated with each individual licence have been added together)
* I am extremely grateful to Mike Bosley for providing these statistics, the result of his Freedom of Information request to NRW.
Herring Gull 617
Lesser Black-backed Gull 499
European Starlings 1022
Great Black-Backed Gull 29
House Sparrow 16
Black Headed Gull 65
Common Gull 2
Meadow Pipit 2
Mistle Thrush 2
Song Thrush 2
In addition another licence was issued to control an unspecified number of "Wild birds"
- this licence is explained by NRW as follows:- "the number of wild birds permitted to be killed under the licence was not specified; this is due to the fact that the licence covered works along an extensive electricity line, and it was therefore not possible to specify a number. Please note that the licence did not permit the killing of Schedule 1 species."
This is worryingly vague.....
Licence To Kill. Wren, Bullfinch, Skylark, Oyster Catcher, Robin.....40 Species On Natural England's Death List
Natural England have confirmed that they issued licences to shoot at least 40 species of birds between 2015 and 2018. The list of species makes for shocking reading and includes such treasured birds as the Skylark, Blackbird, Great Tit, Red Kite, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Kestrel, Bullfinch, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Plover, Robin and Wren.
I received the grim news as a result of a Freedom Of Information request.
Natural England say that these are all 'individual licences' permitting the 'lethal control (shooting)' of the said birds.
The list doesn't even include any species listed on the CL12 'Air Safety Class' licence or General Licences GL04, GL05 and GL06, so the actual number of species targeted is likely to be much higher.
I'd requested the information as part of my campaign to stop the cull of English Ravens and, in their response to my enquiry, Natural England have also confirmed that permission was granted to allow a total of 60 Ravens to be shot during the same period, 45 having been shot to date.
The news that so many of our most treasured species of birds have been shot is appalling and fills me with dismay. I know many of you will feel the same.
A significant number of the species for which shooting licences have been granted are classed as endangered and feature on the RSPB Red and Amber lists for birds of conservation concern, several including the Skylark, Curlew and Ringed Plover being in need of the most urgent conservation.
While the specific reason for each of the licences being issued is not known, can there be any justification for shooting a Bullfinch? Or a Wren for heaven's sake?
Who in their right mind requests permission to shoot a Skylark?
And for what possible reason?
The world, it seems, has finally gone mad.
Here is the full list of species for which shooting licences have been issued:-
Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull, Lesser Black Back Gull, Curlew, Oyster Catcher, Buzzard, Raven, Kestrel,
Peregrine Falcon, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Stock Dove, House Sparrow, Wren, Black Bird, Great Tit, Finch, Starling, Golden Plover, Cormorant, Goosander, Egyptian Goose, Moorhen, Mallard, Pink Footed Goose, Canada Goose, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Ruddy Duck, Bullfinch, Ringed Plover, Fantailed/White Dove Barnacle Goose, Robin, Coot, Sky Lark, Sparrow
*Red List Species Highlighted In Red *Orange List Species Highlighted In Orange
Today I took a long walk in the pouring rain. And I did some thinking. And wrote a poem.
I call this 'St Bees weather', it reminds me of my youth, walking for hours in my little piece of heaven, a tiny, remote village on the edge of the sea in Cumbria.
It seemed to rain a lot in St Bees.
But, getting soaked through, meandering aimlessly across fields, down tree lined lanes, listening to the raindrops, surrendering to the elements;
Well it was freeing and life enhancing.
Now, alas, I live in a town. 'Needs must' and all that. But I still take long walks in the rain - and I can still feel the joy of getting soaked through.
Today, as I walk, I can see people in motor vehicles, usually one person to a car.
They fear the rain it seems.
They could, many of them, have walked to wherever they were going; the local shop, work, the school run. People used to do that. I know because I am old and remember. Now they think they are too busy, too important.
Before they know it, they will come to believe that this is normal behaviour.
I'm not entirely alone on my walk, I see another two souls surrendering to the elements, each of them, like me, having given up on an umbrella, preferring instead to feel the rain on their skin. One is a mother, with a pushchair. Hers is a lucky child. This mother knows that, all wrapped up in warm clothes, it is good for her baby to be out in the rain. It's natural.
We know that. The multitudes in their cars have forgotten. They might quite possibly be part of the trend to scorn anything natural. This is, after all, a country where they kill wildlife and chop down trees.
Foxes, badgers, squirrels, rabbits, mountain hares and goats, geese, starlings, magpies, pigeons, gulls. Even ravens. 'Kill them all' say the people and the authorities agree.
Take away their habitat, the places they lived before people came along.
Once a fragment remained, in tiny, well dressed suburban gardens, where some people would feed the small creatures. Now they find that too rustic and they replace it all with nylon grass and plastic.
Groups of people fell forests to make room for industry - oh so ironic - towers of concrete in place of trees, and they are applauded and held as examples of human innovation and intelligence.
It is not so.
Meanwhile the people in their cars drive everywhere they think they need to be, and for those who would drive but want to stare at screens instead, they build new, ever faster, railways through virgin countryside so that people with little lives can gawp at little screens, while what is left of the countryside passes them by outside their window. They are unaware. They draw the curtain to block out the light. Now they see their screens more clearly.
These people don't like the rain either.
On my walk, I see a sparrow sheltering under the eaves of a house. The poor thing looks terrified, not afraid of getting wet but fearful that I have noticed it and might choose to harm it.
And I wonder how did I find myself living here, in an age where people are so at odds with nature, where motor vehicles and human infrastructure take priority. Where wildlife is labelled a pest and removed. Where green is replaced with grey. Where anything natural is seen, by fools, as a potential inconvenience in their little lives, and where, given the opportunity,..... they would probably try to stop the rain itself.
Then, one day, they stopped the rain
Because it made some people wet.
They vowed to turn it off again,
Whenever it might pose a threat.
The people in their cars were dry,
Their minds at ease, but unaware,
They didn't stop to wonder why
There was no life left anywhere.
And so they tried to dim the sun
In case the lie was clear to see,
Illuminating what they'd done,
In case the truth should set them free.
Alas too late, a storm arrived,
A thunderclap, a silent scream.
The people left their cars, and cried,
Awakened from their foolish dream.
© Jason Endfield 2018
Take a look at the photograph, this is the island of Faray, one of three beautiful, unspoiled islands that are being purchased by the Orkney Islands Council.
The group of islands, comprising Faray, Holm of Faray and tiny Red Holm, were offered for sale last summer at a guide price of just £200,000, something of a bargain for three small jewels sitting in an azure sea, off the coast of Scotland.
Paradise you might say. And going for a song. Surely they would be secured for future generations to cherish...?
Orkney Islands Council: "significant development opportunity..."
But now, in a shock announcement, the council, which hopes to complete the purchase early next year, says that it plans to industrialise these three unusually beautiful islands by turning them into wind farms. That means filling the pristine, timeless landscape with concrete, steel and oil and jeopardizing the unique wildlife habitat that provides sanctuary for large colonies of birds and animals, including an important breeding colony of grey seals. Faray and Holm of Faray are officially classed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation. But this appears to mean nothing because now, together with their tiny neighbour Red Holm, they will be ruined for all time.
The Orkney Islands Council has described the purchase as a “significant development opportunity.”
Council leader James Stockan added “We have always said that we were going to be an entrepreneurial council”
A representative of the Stewart Endowment Trust, who are selling the islands, said - in an astonishingly misguided statement - “We are delighted that they will be moving into the guardianship of the local authority, where they will remain a precious asset for the whole community for generations to come.”
Hmm, not so much a 'precious asset for the community', more like selling off the family silver. This will come to be seen as a scandalous betrayal of the local people. It seems like both the Stewart Endowment Trust and the local council have effectively sanctioned the complete industrialisation of these pristine and unique islands.
One can only hope that the Trust will rethink its sale of the islands to the council, now that it is aware of the appalling plans for industrial development....
Joni Mitchell once famously lamented 'paving paradise to put up a parking lot' - but this is actually worse. This is destroying paradise forever at a time in our history when we should know so much better - and doing so in the worst possible way - by selling out to an industry that notoriously makes its money out of wrecking places like this.
How has this been allowed to happen?
"Tell the more naive or lazy elements of the public that you've found a solution to a currently fashionable environmental issue and they will invariably believe you, it's easier for them, even if the solution is absurd jiggery pokery staring them in the face."
Since writing about the environment, and particularly when I've spoken out against wind energy, I've been criticised by many who have accused me of being a mouthpiece for one or other organisations or industries. The accusers tend to be faceless trolls or sometimes just angry people sitting in darkened rooms.
Just for the record, I'm not paid by the nuclear or fossil fuel industries to write about my opposition to wind farms, I do it all by myself - and for free.
Nor am I aligned with any political party, frankly I don't hold any of them in particularly high regard.
And neither am I associated with any crackpot conspiracy theorists or other cranks who might co-incidentally share an opinion I have voiced. In fact this suggestion really offends me - there is no room for conspiracy theories in my world - simple facts speak for themselves without dressing them up in conspiratorial clothes. And I treat those spouting venomous words from their sad little conspiracy hideaways with utter contempt.
Oh and finally, I'm not a climate change denier - how, why and to what extent the world might be warming up due to human activity is really not my focus - I just know that wind farms won't help us out of a crisis, they'll just fan the flames and add to the problem.
When I started my blog, little did I know it would take me on this journey. I was led by instinct and intuition and quickly found a voice. However there were many who wanted to pull me aboard their bandwagons - and they came along surprisingly quickly, trying to get me labelled in some way and boxed off so that I wouldn't step out of line. And I resisted. Labels are not my thing, and living outside of the boxes - well that really confuses people. Which brings me back to my original point.
Just because I don't like wind energy doesn't make me a sheep or part of someone's club.
What happened to people thinking for themselves? If more of us thought for ourselves as individuals instead of letting others speak for us then we might make some progress. Change comes through free thought and not from lamely accepting a preset agenda. That just makes us compliant robots.
Tell the more naive or lazy elements of the public that you've found a solution to a currently fashionable environmental issue and they will invariably believe you, it's easier for them, even if the solution is absurd jiggery pokery staring them in the face.
For example, fill the horizon with wind turbines, spin a few lines about how they are the solution to global warming and many people will find the sight of them comforting. Never mind that it's all a grim fairy tale that is destroying the very nature about which the beguiled onlookers claim to care.
It's a fools paradise.
They gallantly relinquish their plastic straws to save the planet but would be happy to see them recycled into turbine towers and blades which slice up birds and pollute the earth.
So, although I am constantly accused of working for others and being a mouthpiece for various organisations or ideologies, I'm not - I remain fiercely independent, I have to be.
And when I campaign against wind turbines or when I petition to save wildlife, I am doing so as an individual. And thankfully I am supported by a large number of individuals, each thinking independently.
We might be mere ripples in a big ocean but slowly and surely the ripples are making waves.
* Fishing Industry Cleared Of Sperm Whale Deaths
* Royal Navy Denies Any Responsibility For Strandings
* Wind Industry Experts Admit That Turbine Noise Can Affect Whales
I was criticised by many after I wrote a recent blog piece suggesting that the unusually high mortality rate of marine mammals over the past few years might have something to do with the proliferation of offshore wind farms. I was accused of having a 'basic level of logic' and an 'uninformed opinion'. Interestingly much of the criticism (as usual) came from those with an investment in the wind industry...
There has been precious little independent research into the subject.
An ongoing investigation into this year's huge increase in whale strandings is being carried out by the UK and Scottish governments, neither exactly neutral on the subject of wind farms with both governments heavily invested in offshore energy projects.
1000 Whales Dead This Year
This year alone, it is estimated that upwards of 1000 whales have died around the coasts of the UK and Ireland in an exceptionally high mortality event. In 2017, when some Minke whales were washed up on the East coast of England, it was suggested that noise from nearby offshore wind farms had affected the animals' delicate echolocation mechanisms, but the idea was quickly ridiculed by 'experts' even though it appeared to be a perfectly reasonable suggestion, one that should have at least been investigated further....
Royal Navy Denies Its Sonar To Blame
During 2018, as more and more reports came in of whales, including large numbers of Cuvier's Beaked whales, being washed up around the UK coastline, it was decided that sonic activity from military manoeuvres in the North Atlantic was the most likely cause for the whales' deaths, though the Royal Navy was quick to deny any involvement on its part and said at the time: “There is no evidence that the deaths of these marine mammals have been attributed to any Royal Navy Sonar operations, trials or exercises."
So with nobody accepting blame and no credible explanations being put forward, what was causing the mass deaths? Such large numbers of dead whales couldn't be ignored. I decided to take a closer look at some studies and a little research does in fact bring up some interesting findings....
Study Suggests Fishing Industry Not To Blame For Sperm Whale Strandings
A study by the University of Utrecht into the strandings of thirty Sperm whales around North Sea coasts in the summer of 2016 reached no definite conclusion. It did however rule out disease as being a contributory factor. Significantly, the researchers also said in their report that "We found no evidence of manmade trauma due to entanglement or ship-strike, nor was there evidence of significant levels of chemical pollution." The fishing industry is popularly blamed for whale deaths and to some extent this might be justified - but the Dutch study found no evidence of this with regard to the Sperm whale deaths.
And anyway, even given the many and varied human-made perils that whales face, we cannot afford to ignore the very feasible threat posed by offshore turbines - however much money is invested in this dubious industry.
2,590 Turbines In North Sea - And Many Unexplained Whale Deaths
If we concentrate for now on the well documented reports of whale strandings around North Sea coasts, we can see, as the map below illustrates, that there are an astonishing 2590 wind turbines currently operating in the North Sea across 40 extensive wind farms. Let that figure sink in for a moment.....
In the absence of any obvious explanation for the whales' deaths, might it not be entirely logical to believe that they had been disoriented by low level nose emitting from the vast banks of turbines?
"Wind Turbine Operation Creates Noise That May Affect Cetaceans" - 2004 Report
The North Sea is awash with turbines, all emitting low level noise that might be capable of affecting the navigation and communication of whales and other cetaceans. Both construction and operation of wind farms produces noise which can disorientate whales.
A 2004 study on the impact of wind farms on marine life stated that "Wind turbine operation also creates noise that may affect Right Whales and other cetaceans. Noise from operating turbines can reach a marine mammal through an initially waterborne, airborne, or substrateborne path. Aerodynamic vibrations caused by the rotating blades travels through the air before reaching the water and then the animal. Vibrations from the structure itself will enter the water directly. Vibration from this source may increase overtime as the mechanical components wear". (Nedwell & Howell 2004).
"Noise From Wind Farms Can Overlap With Communication Signals Of Marine Mammals"
The industry admits that they are trying to find ways to avoid harm to whales and other cetaceans during construction of wind farms, so they know there is a problem. But they have also implied that operational noise from established wind farms can have a detrimental effect on marine mammals.
For example, in an article for Renewable Energy World, author Dr Federica Pace, an expert on the subject of underwater acoustics, states clearly that "servicing vessels used during construction and operation [of offshore wind farms] can generate continuous noise at low frequencies, which overlap with the communication signals of many marine mammals, such as Baleen Whales."
Dr Pace goes on to say that "the [noise] thresholds that lead to changes in behaviour and wider population impacts are still largely unknown..."
Back in 2014, the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), were warning of the impact that construction of four new offshore wind farms in Scotland would have on marine mammals. "...another nail in the coffin of the local harbour seal population...." they said, adding that it would also severely affect the population of Bottlenose Dolphins, "...there is no certainty that the effects of construction over a period of five years on the Bottlenose Dolphin population can be recovered."
2016: Strandings Again Linked With Wind Farm Activity
By 2016, numbers of stranded and beached whales were rising dramatically. The CSIP (U.K. Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme) were alarmed at the unusually high mortality rate. And they too were considering that wind farm activity might be contributing to the deaths, pointing out that "the strandings have been linked with wind farm activity, naval sonar, and even climatic factors".
Online Trolling Of Those Who Dare Question The Wind Industry
Oddly, now in 2018, it seems that nobody wants to blame wind farms. There is aggressive criticism and online trolling of those who propose the notion. I know from experience. What has changed? Only perhaps the fact that huge amounts of money have been invested in offshore wind, so the thought that it might be causing the mass strandings of whales is too much to contemplate. Too much money at stake perhaps?
Naturally we are all horrified when we find that plastics are threatening the survival of marine life. And we all worry about pollution in our oceans. And rightly so, of course. But isn't it about time that we face up to the fact that wind farms might also be lethal to marine creatures? Or will we just bury our heads in the sand and ignore the possibility?
Independent Research Needed - Before Any Further Offshore Wind Farm Development
I say that we need - and urgently - an independent and thorough study into the very real possibility that the increase in offshore wind is having a direct and lethal impact on whales and other marine wildlife. The fact that more and more wind farms are being sanctioned and installed without such research is a scandal.
"Offshore wind farms will one day stand derelict and crumbling in our seas, testament to the stupidity of humankind in the pursuit of nonsense...."
Just when you thought they could not cram any more wind turbines into the Irish Sea, the Crown Estate has announced that it is considering the installation of more of the monsters off the Cumbrian coast, adding to the frenzied industrialisation of our coastal waters.
The Irish Sea is already home to the world's biggest offshore wind farm at Walney and the ugly Burbo Bank development in Liverpool Bay. In an astonishing triumph for backward thinking, this means more sea pollution and more damage to the environment from an intermittent and inefficient source of energy.
Nuclear Plant Cancelled...
To add insult to the injury that wind farms cause to the natural world, came news of the cancellation of the Moorside nuclear plant which was to have been built on the same Cumbrian coast close to where the hare-brained turbines will now be installed. The promise of efficient, cost effective and reliable nuclear energy, from what would have been a state of the art nuclear plant, has now been dashed at least for the moment.
If the billions thrown at wind energy had instead been invested in a new reliable, cheap and clean nuclear plant at Moorside then we might have made some progress towards responsible and sustainable energy production.
Wind Energy = Fairy-tale Ideology
Instead, as the Irish Sea fills with ever more steel, plastic, concrete - and noise - in the form of huge wind turbines, one can only wonder at the stupidity of humankind whose dogged worship of a fairy-tale ideology is causing the destruction of much that is truly precious in this world. The wind farms that we are allowing to be constructed today, apparently at the expense of nuclear energy, will come to be seen as the biggest of mans' follies. They will one day stand derelict and crumbling in our seas, testament to the stupidity of humankind in the pursuit of nonsense.
According to reports, Scottish Natural Heritage are slaughtering thousands of migratory geese as they arrive at their winter home on a Hebridean island.
More than 8,000 of the legally protected Greenland Barnacle Geese have been shot in the past three years with nearly half of that total being killed last winter alone. These figures are really shocking given that they relate to just one single island, Islay. The island is home to 60% of the world's population of this RSPB amber-listed species. Despite being internationally protected, the geese which fly in from the North Atlantic every year as they have for millennia, are alleged to cause harm to grazing land used by sheep and cattle, bringing the migrating visitors into conflict with farmers.
I've spoken before many times about SNH and their particularly bloodthirsty approach to the wildlife they purport to protect but this news is especially appalling given the sheer number of geese killed.
Scientists have been questioning the methods used to control the geese, which are shot, often randomly using pump action shotguns, leaving countless birds wounded and left to die slowly and in great pain. Dead birds are reportedly dumped in landfill sites.
There are no words for such vile acts of cruelty but the embarrassingly misguided judgement of SNH must be challenged. Over and over again we are seeing them making poor decisions skewed in favour of farmers and gamekeepers while neglecting in their duty towards wildlife and nature. Indeed their lack of integrity is offensive and their morals and reasoning questionable to say the least.
Meanwhile now, with the geese arriving once again for their winter stay, the isle of Islay will become a bloodbath as this beautiful and endangered species is gunned down under the authority of SNH, the agency ironically entrusted with conserving our wildlife.
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