Wednesday, 5 October 2022

The Quiet Autumn Continues

The quiet autumn continues, with little or no improvement in the number of birds passing through over here in the west. During most Autumns, the visible migration of Meadow Pipits can be spectacular with several four figure counts of birds on the move, but not this Autumn, in fact it has been a struggle to record three figure counts! 

A couple of days ago, I was at the coastal farm fields from first light, under 6 oktas cloud cover, with a 10 - 15 mph south-easterly wind that increased as the morning went on. I was supposed to be at the Nature Park ringing, but with that wind, it would have been impossible. 

I mentioned the lack of visible migration so far this autumn, but the sea has been equally as quiet, and it has been for a good few years now. Something is going on, but I'm not sure what it is. This morning all I recorded were eleven Cormorants, two Shelducks, 22 Common Scoters and a male Eider

I've already touched on the vis, or lack of it, and this morning from my watch-point all I could muster were 25 Meadow Pipits, two Reed Buntings, 37 Carrion Crows, a Grey Wagtail, three Skylarks, a House Martin and an Alba Wag. Demoralising!
 
A/the Little Egret was feeding in a tidal pool as usual
 
I had a look in the cemetery afterwards, to see if there were any grounded migrants, and there was diddly squat! There's a pattern emerging here!

In my last post I talked about the government reviewing their plans for agri-environment schemes, with the fear that Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes could be scrapped. Every week we receive a veg box from Riverford Organic Farmers, and in the box, besides the delicious vegetables, is an opinion piece from Riverford founder and creator, Guy Singh-Watson. Guy's opinion pieces are always well-written and thought provoking, and this week he talked about the latest government plans regarding environmental schemes for farming. I hope Guy won't mind, as I have reproduced Guy's piece word for word below, as it sums up the chaos and incompetence from this government, and how I feel about the current situation.
 
The EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which paid subsidies to farmers, was an expensive environmental and economic failure since its inception in the 1960s. By the time we left the EU, it amounted to a little more than a levy on taxpayers to support landowners. Arguably it increased production, but at huge environmental cost, and with minimal respect for the rights and welfare of the non-landowning public or potential new entrants to farming. For me, the silver lining to the Brexit cloud of uncertainty was the prospect of a saner agricultural policy of our own.
 
"Public money for public goods" emerged under Michael Gove as the guiding principle of the UK's new farming policy. Indeed, it was enshrined in the Conservative manifesto in 2019. The idea of incentivising environmental benefits was heartening, but defining and measuring "public goods" was always going to be a challenge; one which Defra and successive ministers repeatedly underestimated, resulting in delays, confusion, and frustration for farmers. But details of new Environmental Land Management (ELM) subsidy schemes slowly emerged from endless consultations, and after six painful years, something usable did seem to be appearing. Last month, we filed an application which really did seem to promise public money to support tree planting, rewilding, and more. Finally there was hope, and we were moving from madness to sanity. 
 
Then, last week, Defra announced that they are reviewing their plans - prompting fears that ELMs will be scrapped, and we will return to the indefensible system of area-based farm subsidies with little or no reference to environmental performance, just like the EU. Wildlife trusts and environmental organisations are furious. It seems that the rearguard lobbying of the National Farmers' Union and certain landowners may once again have taken its toll. If ELMs are lost, the future of our food and farming will be shaped by the commercial interests of a rich landowning elite and the agrochemical industry, and subsidised by your taxes. 
 
Six years of agonising failure of governance, and the unprecedented uncertainty that creates, is progressively destroying the industry and countryside I love. While our leaders indulge in debates of ideological dogma, the resulting policy vacuum is crippling anyone tasked with making the long-term decisions needed to deliver economic growth and environmental sustainability. We deserve much better.
 
Well said Guy, I couldn't agree more! 

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