Thursday, 23 May 2013

Wildlife Destruction

I just read something that shocked and offended me deeply.
Natural England quote 'Securing a healthy natural environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's landscapes are safeguarded for future generations' on their Twitter profile.
Yet they have 'permitted destruction of up to four nests and the eggs they held'
We are talking about the Buzzard, our most common Bird Of Prey or Raptor as they are also known.
There are around 40,000 breeding pairs of Buzzards in the UK while around 35,000,000 Pheasants are released in the UK each year, specifically to be shot. 
Lets not mince words here, Pheasants are deliberately released for those who take pleasure in killing
Oh I know most end up being eaten, and I'm not trying to be two-faced. I do eat meat,  although I do
try and avoid anything but 'freedom foods' ie meat from an animal which has been treated decently.
I might even support the idea of eating sustainable wild meat, after all I eat fish which is caught
at sea (the wild) so what is the difference?
The difference comes when we have an organisation like Natural England destroying the nests of
a majestic raptor like the Buzzard in order to preserve the rights of a few shooters. Then they have
the nerve to say it was to preserve the Pheasant!
Oh my word! the poor old blessed Pheasant, they look quite funny don't they and males make odd
noises when chatting up the girls! mind you, we probably all did that lads....
anyway I'll quote again 40 THOUSAND pairs of Buzzard and 35 MILLION Pheasants,
35 million new Pheasants bred EACH YEAR that is, for shoots.
The Pheasant isn't native anyway, they should be thousands of miles away in Asia.
I'm far from being a wildlife expert but I care. I think you should care too.
I won't try and preach (much)  but if you DO care then take action.
Tweet, blog,email, write, telephone, join the organisations which do so much fantastic work,
do anything you damn well like (as long as it's legal!)
Just don't sit there in silence and then whinge when it's too late.
There are so many shocking statistics I've read lately about wildlife both at a UK and
worldwide level. 
Also, I do not happen to think we have a right to say which species live with us and
which die. Extinct simply means that a species has gone - forever.
Many will go unless you and me try and do something.
Thanks for reading this.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

RSPB Loch Leven 10.5.13

After an overnight stop in Dunfermline I actually made a late start and got to the reserve about 11am
I had found the reserve last year, while en route to Scottish Birdfair and had really loved it!
As an RSPB 'vol' it's always a great pleasure to catch up with people on other reserves around
the country, to see what they're up to and what birds they have around.
As soon as I opened the car door the air echoed to the beautiful songs of Willow Warblers, probably
recently in from their African wintering grounds.They were accompanied by the resident Robins which I never tire of listening to.
I carried on towards the centre, past feeders with Blue and Coal Tits. It seemed odd that for some
reason the Coal Tits hung around longer on the feeders than others of their kind had the day before at
Leighton Moss.
I had a wander round the lovely shop, resisting the urge to buy yet more books!
after all, it was the day before the Scottish Birdfair where I actually bought 4 books and a dvd!
I went up the zig-zag ramps to the cafe and had a lovely lunch.
Although the main reserve isn't accessible to wheelchair users, they have large windows that
look across to the loch, with brilliant 'scopes that can zoom in on birds a good distance away.
Swallows were everywhere, Blue Tits went back and forth to their next boxes and a lovely
Tree Sparrow gave us a great close view.
It was great to chat to more staff and a local birder who helped me find some good birds too.
Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Greylag Geese and Mute Swans were close in with late Whooper Swans
grazing on a field. To the right of the centre is St Serf's Island which held a few Barnacle Geese,
probably my favourite geese.
Quite a few lapwing were calling as they displayed which is always a great sight.
Back outside I stayed near the feeders and had 2 Lesser Redpoll, a Siskin and a Coal Tit
all at the same time.
I drove the car to the far side of the car park and enjoyed Ostercatcher and Mallard.
Finally I trained my 'scope on more feeders and had House Sparrow, Goldfinch,
Greenfinch and Chaffinch all in view at the same,while Wrens sang enthusiastically.
It was a great way to start a lovely weekend in Scotland at a fantastic reserve!
If you're anywhere near, give it a go. I hope to go back again very soon.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Leighton Moss 9.5.13

In the late 80s & early 90s I often went to Leighton Moss for a day's birding.
I lived in Warrington so it wasn't too far, my parents also had a caravan nr Blackpool
so when we were up there it was even closer.
Living in North Wales means it's just that bit further away so I haven't been often enough.
My last visit was in 2009 on the way back from Mull, so as I left home for Scottish Birdfair
I decided it was time to pay a quick visit to this wonderful reserve.
It was teeming with rain as I got there but I was encouraged to see so much activity
on the feeders in the car park.
A couple of Coal Tits zipped frantically back and forth between the feeders and nearby bushes,
whereas their commoner Blue & Great relatives stayed put for far longer.
Dunnocks  picked away at whatever had been spilt on the ground, while House Sparrows used
both ground and feeders.
A pair of Mallard wandered about aimlessly while a pair of Collared Doves strode more
purposefully in front of the automatic doors. Actually they looked like they meant business -
I almost felt like showing them my membership card as well as the people inside!
I had a quick look round the shop but decided to get going to the reserve as I needed to carry on to Scotland fairly soon.
I went down to Lillians hide where around 20 years earlier I'd marvelled at my first ever Bittern
and Marsh Harrier. Can it really be over 20 years?
Anyway, the bad weather seemed set in so but it was really active out on the water.
Black Headed Gulls were everywhere, calling loudly so no other bird sounds could be heard.
Quite a few Coot bobbed on the choppy water along with Mallard, while further out
there were some smart Tufted Duck and colourful Pochard.
A pair of Greylag Geese flew down in to the reeds as Swifts and Swallos seemed to struggle
against the wind and rain.
I decided to head back, stopping for a while near a busy feeding station. Blue and Great Tits
were constant visitors, as were Chaffinches. A few Coal Tits visited while Mallards and a
Moorhen fed on the ground.
The best was left til last though as I saw Marsh Tit, beautiful birds which I hadn't seen for
a long time.
Pretty soon it was time to leave and make my way up to Edinburgh.
Leighton Moss is a lovely reserve and I really will have to visit again soon and give
it the full days birding it deserves.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Inked Naturalist - great bloke!

There can't be many who've gone into their local tattoo parlour and asked
'Can I have a Caspian Snowcock please?' 
Now there could, of course, be one or two tattooists in Southern Turkey where these smashing 
gamebirds are to be found, that may have had the odd request.
In Carlisle though? Well, actually there is one such person who has made such an enquiry!
Not only that, he's also got a particularly fine Red-Fronted Serin. There is a Roller too,
surely one of the most utterly fabulous of the European birds.
His name is Tristan Reid, but he is fast becoming better known as the 'Inked Naturalist'.
I had spoken to Tristan a few times via Twitter then had the pleasure of meeting him in person
on a field to the west of Edinburgh, just before he gave his talk at the magnificent Scottish Birdfair.
2013 is only the second year of this tremendous event, but it is certainly becoming one of the first
dates to be marked on the calendar for me, and I suspect many other birders in Scotland, the rest
of the UK and abroad too. There were exhibitors from Extremadura in Spain, as well as my great
friend Mohit from India and Keith Hackland from Texas.
More on Scottish Birdfair in other blogs, so for now, back to Tristan.
We chatted birdy stuff for a while,Tristan seemed understandably a little nervy about giving his
talk but honestly needn't have worried.
Some countries really are astonishingly beautiful. Turkey looks like one of them.
Tristan Reid had great shots of fabulous birds he'd seen on a trip there, and tales of the
friendly Turkish people who seemed to have made his trip even more memorable.
There was though, a downside.  Turkey is at risk from an utterly crazy scheme, dreamt up
by the very people who ought to be looking after it, the government.
They have privatised their water and now they will cause utter devastation of large areas
of natural beauty by damming rivers, depriving villagers of their homes and ruining their
The effect of all this on Turkey's wildlife will be catastrophic.  It will be too for Turkey's
neighbours, Iran, Iraq Syria etc etc. Not that the government seems to care. Every time
they hit an objection they simply change the law
Tristan Reid is raising awareness of all this by having iconic Turkish birds tattooed on him.
He's given his right arm for what he is so passionate about, and the left arm too.
His next venture in 2014 is to walk an incredible 4,000 km across Turkey to raise money and
awareness, speaking to schools whenever he can to try and oppose these dreadful schemes.
He is doing so much to support the Turks and their wildlife.
I think we should do all we can to support Tristan.
please visit

Saturday, 4 May 2013

brew up

I like to think I'm a fairly tolerant, live and let live sort of person. It takes a fair bit to wind me up but I saw this article a few months ago and it's no exaggeration to say I pretty much exploded when I
read it :-,d.d2k

Cornwall councillor Colin Brewer said Disabled children cost too much and ought to be put down!
It was all the more remarkable that he'd stubbornly refused to resign for 18 months but, in the end,
he did resign and I believed that had put an end to it.
Fast forward to 3rd may, the day after local elections and I was amazed to see he'd had the damn nerve to stand for office again! Not only that, the good folk of Wadebridge, Cornwall had somehow seen fit to elect him again! Only by 4 votes, but still, a man who publicly called for those with disabilities to be put down now holds public office - again.
Great Britain, really? I mean, really Great? what sort of Great Britain is it where someone like this can remain in office until their hand is forced, then, when they think it's all blown over,
re-take their position as if nothing has happened.
Something has happened though, hasn't it? Your cover has been blown Brewer and believe me
disabled people will not let this rest. 
These are the disabled people you may have seen representing this 'Great' nation last year in the Paralympics. These are the disabled people who get themselves educated often despite all sorts of medical treatment. In fact, in a way, it's because of those people who helped teach us and care
for us in bad times that we are spurred on to achieve as much as possible.
These people who, if you'd had your way, would've been put down long ago, are working hard.
Many (including me) are paying taxes, some of which no doubt is to fund council business. They're paying National Insurance to help fund the NHS so who precisely is costing who money?
My wife worked every day from leaving school til she died aged 33, she volunteered with NSPCC and taught those with learning disabilities at a Riding School!
Yes, that's right, some people with disabilities can even ride horses!
You see, as a disabled person I know damn well what I can't do, so I prefer to think about what I can do. Which is actually rather a lot. Not that I'm a high achiever, just a regular bloke who goes birding, watches rugby and likes the odd beer. That's not costing you a bean Mr Brewer.
Now, as a taxpayer, I'd like to see my taxes being put to good use. Maybe we could educate the next generation of disabled children, not exactly revolutionary is it? We could pay for their medical needs,
we could make the country even more accessible than it is now, we could encourage disabled people to contribute to society in all sorts of ways, limited only by our imagination.
The really serious limitation though comes when a supposedly 'Great'' Britain sees fit to elect
a bigot like Colin Brewer to public office.

Birding RSPB Conwy 4.5.2013

 A pretty chilly start to what is supposed to be spring today down at RSPB Conwy!  I opened the door to leave the visitor centre and was off to a cracking start with a beautiful pair of Bullfinches.
They're a bit skittish but have been using these feeders regularly for a few weeks now and I hope they'll stay.
When I get in the Coffee Shop I like a few minutes just to see what's there and today it was pretty good. A few Coot, some Shelduck, Canada Geese, a Grey Heron giving a lovely close view and a little to the left a smart male Gadwall.  A pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers were there too alongside good numbers of Tufted Duck
There's a fair bit of work going on and it's great to see Y Maes & The Lookout beginning to take shape. I went past the work and our dipping pond and out into our wildlife garden, being sang to the whole way by Willow Warblers, Blackbirds,Chiffchaff, Robin etc.
Down by the bridge pond I stopped for a while, trying (& failing!) to get a good view of the flitting Whitethroats. I was rewarded though, with a stunning male Blackcap, my first of 2013, framed by a pair of more familiar Dunnocks. Wrens were singing everywhere, more than I've noticed in past years. In fact, they were even drowning out the very common Robins and Blackbirds.
I met fellow volunteer Glyn in Carneddau hide, a great bloke and a brilliant birder. Tony was there too who visits regularly and Julian Wheldrick soon joined us, all terrific birders. There was a Wheatear just sadly our of my sight but I was really pleased with 3 or 4 Common Sandpipers, lots more Shelduck,& Canada Geese plus Mallard,Tufted Duck & Mute Swan. It's also great to see our Great Crested Grebes are nesting in reeds and we have 3 Lapwing chicks which we really hope will survive. Lapwing were really pretty common 20 or 30 years ago, it's so sad that they're now getting scarce. The graceful Little Egrets were around as were the Grey Herons,Coot,Moorhen etc
The best sight from the hide surely was to see dozens maybe even hundreds of Swift,Swallow & House Martin with a few Sand Martin skimming the lagoon for their insect lunch!
After a break for my pie lunch I wandered round for a bit, loving the birdsong!
hmm!? Sedge or Reed Warbler!? probably a couple of each but it's just great to have them back
isn't it?
I met great friends Alan and Anne Rogers, twice in the same spot an hour apart!
Promise I did move about....a bit!
It was lovely some Wildlife Explorers bird-racing in aid of Penguins, hope it went well for you all?