Country Life Today: Baby owls, ancient kings and what the new Environment Secretary means for the British countryside

This morning's news round up takes a look at the new head of DEFRA, takes a look at baby owls who'll be tracked throughout their lives and looks back at the moment in history which brought Scotland and England together.

If you like it then you ought to put a ring on it

This baby barn owl is being ringed by the South Downs National Park Barn Owl Watch near its home at a barn near Midhurst. It is one of three owls being who starred on a baby owl webcam and which is to be tracked by ornithologists to get insights into their lives.

‘Barn owls are just amazing. Obviously they are lovely to look at, but I think they’re also a really iconic species of our countryside,’ says South Downs National Park ranger Angela Ward.

‘They’re a good indicator of the health of landscape. As a general rule the more barn owls we have, the healthier the eco-system is.’

See the owls on their webcam

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What does DEFRA’s new secretary mean for the British countryside?

Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle after taking office as Britain’s new prime minister saw the job as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs go from one of the highest-profile members of the government — Michael Gove — to a less familiar face: Theresa Villiers.

Mrs Villiers has been the MP for Chipping Barnet since 2005 and is a former Northern Ireland Secretary. ‘Last year she led a call to end live animal exports, with a petition attracting 1.3 million signatures,’ reports the Farmers Guardian, adding that the National Sheep Association ‘has continually warned against outlawing the practice, which helps lift prices across the industry.’

The BBC’s report on the new cabinet notes that MRs Villiers  ‘has previously said she supports the ban on hunting with dogs but thinks the Hunting Act could be improved.’

Here is her voting record in parliament on environmental issues, according to the website, which shows that she has voted in favour of selling state-owned forests, culling badgers and against extra regulation for fracking:

The voting record of new DEFRA secretary Theresa Villiers. Source:

The voting record of new DEFRA secretary Theresa Villiers. Source:

Full stories — Farmers’ Guardian,

On this Day… The King of Scotland becomes the King of England

Coronation of King James I at Westminster Abbey in 1603.

On 25 July, 1603, King James VI of Scotland was crowned King James I of England, the momentous moment at which our two nations were united after centuries of conflict.

How can you tell if the Union Jack is upside down? (Country Life)

Stat of the Day


The percentage of the planet that is currently witnessing its warmest spell of the last 2,000 years.

The number comes from the University of Bern, who have ‘reconstructed the climate conditions that existed over the past 2,000 years using 700 proxy records of temperature changes, including tree rings, corals and lake sediments.

Full story (BBC)

And finally…

Just so long as we don’t lose the ability to have a laugh, surely nothing too bad can happen… right?


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