Celebrating badgers for National Badger Week in Stafford

So its been a week since Brexit happened yet everyday it continues to send shock waves through the country. I never actually thought things like this happened, complete uproar! Nevertheless as I spoke about in my latest blog (about the results) it’s about battling on now and trying to create something positive. There are many things that we can’t let the vote results get in the way of; from hen harriers, and the upcoming Hen Harrier Day, and wildlife crime (just a few days ago I read an article about an illegal snare set up by a primary school) to badgers with what is very likely to be another season of badger culling later in the year.

At the moment we’re not quite sure how far the badger cull will span further across the UK this year but it’s very likely that new areas will be sucked in and the dreadful killing of badgers will happen. Just north of me in Cheshire an expression of interest in the badger culling licence has been submitted. Cheshire was one of six new counties to apply for badger culling licenses this year. Areas of my home county are also vulnerable and the same could happen within the next few years, if the policy continues. Some of these areas include Eccleshall which is just five miles west of the county town of Stafford where this weekend events will be taking place to shout above those who want to bring a cull to Staffordshire or culling in any area in the UK, and celebrate the badger for the animal it is without being entwined with politics, farming or cruelty.

And so they should be! Badgers have lived in the UK for over a quarter of a million years and therefore undoubtedly a part of our heritage. They may be our largest carnivore but they’re very secretive and whenever I watch them it feels magical! On my patch the local badgers sett is situated in a small(ish) undisturbed clump of old oak trees. Real badger land.

All this week National Badger Week has been running which is a week long celebration of the badger. Events have been running up and down the country with the aim of inspiring more people to realise how wonderful they are, why they so greatly deserve to be a part of our landscape and most of all, why we should be protecting them. I felt really privileged to mark the beginning of this years celebration in Lush, Oxford Street last Saturday, and have the finale organised by my badger group, The Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group, this weekend in Stafford.

Tomorrow evening (Friday 1st) we have an event at Oddfellows Hall in Stafford town centre starting at 7pm. The evening will begin with a talk from wildlife photographer Craig Jones who gave a passionate and emotionally beautiful presentation at the Birders Against Wildlife Crime conference earlier this year. There will then be a town hall debate called ‘The Big Badger Debate’ where lots will be discussed from badger protection, persecution and the impact of housing developments to their ecology and importance within the British countryside. It should be very lively with a panel including Dominic Dyer, CEO The Badger Trust, Peter Martin, chair The Badger Trust, Mark Jones, vet from Born Free Foundation, Jordi Casamitjane, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and myself. We are hoping to have a good audience with a mixture of opinions.

On the Saturday (2nd July) it’s going to be a very full day with a variety of entertainment for children, as well as adults, and a peaceful protest around Stafford town centre. Before the march at 12 noon there will be talks from Dominic Dyer (The Badger Trust), Peter Martin (The Badger Trust), and myself. We will then start at around 1pm from the Market Square and be on our way around the town centre projecting and creating a clear message against the unscientific, unethical and cruel cull. Once we arrive back there will also be talks from Mark Jones (Born Free Foundation) and Jordi Casamitjane (IFAW)

I’m sure it’s going to be a very inspiring and empowering day as we gear up for the high possibility of more culling this year and of course celebrate the importance and greatness of having badgers as part of our natural heritage.

It would be wonderful to see some of you there and have your support.





My worry, my future, but not my choice

My future has been decided but by a seven month gap, I had no say. I had no say on what my future would hold regarding the direction the country I live in will go, and what that will mean and result in.

Above everything the thing I feel the most passionate and now worried about is our natural environment. Everyday I observe it, record it, enjoy it and it brings me such happiness. Going out onto my patch and exploring what’s about; swifts flying high, chiffchaffs singing, buzzards squawking overhead, badgers tumbling over and sneaking over fields at the dead of night. Campaigning and doing whatever I can to give those species that are on the brink or entangled into the poor decisions and disregard of humans; from hen harriers and turtle doves to badgers and foxes. Trying to spread why our natural world is so wonderful and what we can do to help it has just got harder. Harder in a way that we’ve put 70% of UK environmental safeguards at risk, but we need to make sure this isn’t lost. In a world where nature is not a top priority, this is going to be beyond tough but vital for the future of everything simple in our country which brings us life everyday. 

The combination of shock and worry makes this post difficult to write, and I really didn’t think I’d have too. Yet again I was too ignorant to think that as a country we’d vote for a future, and one with peace in mind. No longer are we a continent of unity, which I believe being a member of the EU represented. By the looks of things, we will no longer be a country of unity either as the results have split us a part. When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt numb from the shock. So much so I had to check if Friday had actually happened, it didn’t feel realistic. Fortunately this morning I seem to have come to terms with the matter but still terribly unsure of whats happened. A reason why I feel ‘better’ this morning was after yesterday and the satisfaction I got from speaking my thoughts a loud, effectively getting it off my chest.

It was the launch of National Badger Week at Lush, Oxford Street and I was very privileged to go along and talk. After what had happened in the last 48 hours it wasn’t just badgers I was going to talk about. Regarding the results I spoke about what this could mean for nature as well as the voice of young people. I further discussed this with Dominic Dyer and MP Kerry McCarthy. Both were unsure of what’s to come, and that at the moment there are no answers. Two interesting points were that farmers have lost 65% of there subsides, which came from the EU, meaning due to the extortionate costs of the badger cull it could be put off this year. Not that’s any reason for us to have voted leave as food prices are likely to go up and this will only be short term, but in the mean time it gives us an opportunity to fight against the cull. The point was also made about the high percentage of young people who voted to remain. Obviously when they voted they were looking to the future; their future jobs, future economy, what their country will look like in the future which I believe included the environment. More precisely issues which are growing in awareness such as climate change. Something we need to work together on small and large scales to tackle, and if nothing is done soon enough it will catch up with us in the future. Instead, older populations decided our future.

Based on what has happened already since the results, the uncertainty, and shock, I have never felt so worried. On Friday morning I felt ashamed and embarrassed to be English. Embarrassed by what our neighbours must think and ashamed because of what we’ve lost. We all worry in life; for myself that may be if I’m going to get some homework in on time, whether I’m going to have time to go and put my trail camera at my local badgers sett later, or whether I’ve got the grades I need to get into the University I want and later a job. However I’ve never felt so worried, this decision effects all this and the thing I care about above everything; nature. I know I’m being very bleak at the moment and (I hope) I’m exaggerating what the situation may be. Of course I don’t want a bad outcome for my country. The uncertainty is making it a lot worse though, I feel physically and emotionally exhausted – what’s to come? After all that blabber from the Leave campaign saying we’ll ‘take back control’, well it feels as-though we have no control now.

We had backing and support from the EU, including in relation to the natural world. From nature directives and environmental laws to a community that could work together to fight climate change and work for progress. We’re out on the other side now though and unfortunately it looks bleak. However bad it looks though and perhaps how bad it’s going to get, then the stronger we have to fight and collaborate for the sake of our natural heritage. That’s what I’m going to do, for the sake of wildlife do whatever I can and more. Making sure that its protection continues but also progresses, through increasing species numbers, richer habitats and for it to be safe to thrive and future generations to enjoy.

Tomorrow’s walk on my patch

Only within the last week running up to the EU referendum have I taken much notice of what both sides have had to say as right from the start I’ve been firm in my ways to remain. Not that matters much as I can’t vote but I believe it’s still important to have an opinion on what way the country I live in should go. Clearly within the last week both sides have pulled out their strongest bullets and have shot them in all directions to grab those last undecided people but one thing they haven’t mentioned has been the environment. I haven’t watched every TV debate or studied everything from both sides so I can’t say it hasn’t been mentioned at all (as I’m sure it has somewhere) but my point is that it hasn’t been used by campaigns as a tool to gather extra votes from the general public.

Unfortunately this doesn’t surprise me. Just like during the General Election last year it was something briefly mentioned on the party manifestos but it didn’t make it into the mainstream media. However as I think back, some environmental issues did cause controversy which became popular. Such as the badger cull and the Hunting Act as the Conservative party made pledges related to both. Maybe if the campaigns were to mention how nature would be affected it would catch some extra votes and not just from those who are interested but those who are attracted by the change in the order that seems to be running the campaigns: the economy and migration. On the other hand, for the sides to gather votes they target the public through things which are personal to them and they know they’ll be influenced by. For example their job, their house, their savings, their livelihood and perhaps their children. In connection to our busy day to day lives, the importance of our natural surroundings is taken for granted and not considered as something voters will be affected by.

My previous sentence stated the possessive determiner ‘their’ five times and I could of gone on. Nature isn’t considered something that effects our day to day lives but of course it does in many ways. I wonder if you asked 100 people, how many would know how we would; loose the protection of environmental laws that have helped protect endangered species, scrap lowering pollution levels, no longer work with a wider community to speak out and act against climate change, vital habitats will become vulnerable, and so on. Everyday risks mount up and fighting these alone is impossible, to do something we must work together.

I went along to the Birmingham Wildlife Festival last Saturday and it was a wonderful day. There was a great atmosphere, inspiring talks, and the weather was kind to us as the sun beamed all day. The speakers spoke about a whole matter of subjects. From fox hunting and the badger cull to local wildlife issues and ones from all around the world. There was large amounts of discussion about the EU referendum and what it could mean for nature. I enjoyed all the talks equally but one that I agreed with and included content that makes me frustrated as we have not yet taken action in this way was by Peter Martin who is the recently elected (as of last year) chairman of The Badger Trust. He called the idea the murmuration technique. There are many conservationists, wildlife campaigners, NGOs, charities and groups out there that are passionate about protecting some aspect of our natural world. Whether that’s Birders Against Wildlife Crime and their mission to make anyone and everyone aware about the on goings of wildlife crime, the Badger Trust and their dedicated protection and fight for the badger against the cull, persecution and much more, the League Against Cruel Sports who oppose and work with politicians to strengthen laws and bring activities which bring injustice to animals to an end, or larger NGOs such as the RSPB or the Wildlife Trust who are both well known and work up and down the country, or even individuals who put their everything into wildlife protection. The list goes on and many of the work done by these different groups cross link. On local scales and sometimes on national scales, these examples and others do work together but not as much as we could. The shear number of people who support each of these is massive and if they were to fly together, could create a massive movement…as of that in a murmuration!

Peter’s discussion made a lot of sense and the points he made are very important. Fortunately we are currently blessed by social media for bringing more individuals and groups together through this vast network which has already changed campaigning and the future, mainly being due to awareness, but it could still be much more.  Anyway, I’ve gone a bit off track but I wanted to include that point as to me that is why we should remain a member of the EU.

On my morning patch walk today I observed swifts, a few buzzards, watched some blackcap fledglings and overall like every time I visit, it was very pleasant. On my mind though I wondered about these species and what leaving the EU could mean for them and of course all wildlife. Tomorrow’s walk on my patch could be very different. Obviously things aren’t going to change overnight but what could happen over time? It concerns me the protection we’d loose and I am pretty certain once that’s gone, our current government will not have the environment at the top of its list (if at all). Swifts and blackcaps are both migratory birds which travel over parts of Europe each year. A place where they’re also enjoyed and in a strange perception of place and distance, bring us together as we share these wonderful living things. On my way back I passed a polling station and I was pleased to see it had a good queue of people waiting outside to get in. Everyone must use this opportunity they have to shape the direction Britain goes. I know I will be publishing this post late so if you read it before 10pm and haven’t voted – go and do it now! It influences all of our lives, generations to come and the wildlife around us.

Catch up: Springwatch, my patch and peregrines

Unfortunately not much of a break came after my AS exams. Of course I fitted in my wonderful trip to Spurn and a trip to Suffolk last week, of which I will discuss more about in this post, but on Monday I was back at school starting my A2 courses. On the bright side, on my way to school I’m privileged to be accompanied by swifts squawking over my head. Always a good start to the day and keeps me going as I long for my trip to Spurn next month where I’ll be, guess what…counting swifts!

After not posting very much for quite a few weeks and there’s so much I want to post about, I thought I’d round it all up into a ‘catch up’ blog post to share some news and excitement.

After getting back from Spurn I did something that I haven’t done for quite a while due to an injury and exams (I’m fed up of that word!!) which was going for a fairly long distant walk exploring local countryside. As we (me and my granddad) haven’t been out together doing any considerable distances for a while we only did around 15 miles which was quite light on what I used to be able to manage. Over the next few months though I will hopefully return back to my previous fitness levels as we train to do the North West Way next summer which is 191 miles and should take us around two weeks. That sounds a bit mad but I can’t wait. The connection I get and some of the wildlife experiences I’ve had when I’ve been out walking have been some of my BEST! This should definitely be the case when doing this walk as we take paths through the Ribble Valley, along parts of the Pennine Way, scramble over parts such as Great Dun Fell, Cross Fell and the awesome falls of High Force, and through parts of the Lake District.

An update some may be familiar with is my visit to RSPB Minsmere and appearance on BBC Springwatch Unsprung last Wednesday (8th June). The two days away were brilliant! At Minsmere not only did the Springwatch team make me feel very comfortable but the reserve is beautiful and I managed to sneak in a few hours before the show and preparing to go exploring. Species included marsh harrier, stone curlew, a stoat family, bittern, avocets, little grebe, lots of herons (but unfortunately no purple heron) and many more. I also saw a few swifts about which had a big influence on my 2nd place, according to last Wednesday, artwork! When on Unsprung, I was a fellow guest to Benjamin Zephaniah. Of whom I’m a big fan of his work and really enjoyed spending time with him throughout the day. On the show though I spoke about attracting and encouraging as many people as possible (whatever age) to appreciate and enjoy their natural surroundings. I mentioned my recent first peregrine watch at Lichfield cathedral, going into schools and communicating with those my own age too. I also got the opportunity to talk about my recent post-exam trip to Spurn. I had a really wonderful time so a massive thank you to all those at Minsmere and the Springwatch team.

On my way back I stopped off at Paxton Pits in Cambridge after recent sightings of a Great Reed Warbler, and I did manage to get a glimpse of as well as listen to its beautiful song from the reed beds which were opposite to me.

On the subject of bird song, during my school lunch break yesterday I decided to sneak off onto my patch, which is luckily next door to my school, with my audio recorder. Many may think it isn’t the most exciting place on the planet but it is to me and when I condensed all the audio clips I recorded together the sound was beautiful. With a mixture of blackcap, chiffchaff, robin, song thrush, blackbird, crows and even a bee crashing into the microphone! I did quite a few of these earlier in the year for the backing sound of The Guardian podcast ‘ Sow, Grow, Repeat’ but I’m glad I went out with it again yesterday and again realised how effective it is.

You can listen to it here – https://soundcloud.com/georgialocock/bird-songs-of-my-patch-15062016

Keeping it local; I’m also hoping to be doing another peregrine watch within the next few weeks. One chick fledged this year which is good news, especially if it is successful. Both parents are flying back and forth with food as well as the chick occasionally following. Perhaps beginning to learn vital hunting skills for the future. Upon my visit earlier this week there was no sign of any of the birds but after walking around the cathedral a few times I heard a squawk from behind me. When I turned round to the direction the noise came from I got an amazing sight of a bird rising upwards then going into a stoop. Unfortunately it wasn’t successful and the skill wasn’t great so imagine it was a youngster but still an amazing sight!


Myself and Benjamin on the Springwatch sofa –  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07fd703/springwatch-unsprung-2016-episode-8