Sunday, March 13, 2022

General update as at 11.3.2022.

 Given that President Zelensky appears to be able to successfully lead the defence of his country via the means of a mobile phone I feel somewhat ashamed at my repeated apologies and admissions  of failure when it comes to WiFi and akin technical issues. Perhaps being located in Norfolk was not a help , but there you go !

Following the piece relating to the apparent persecution of a White tailed Eagle and efforts by the local MP to suggest such was unworthy of investigation I did write to the Speaker of the House of Commons and ask if the matter could be taken further. I received a very helpful response explaining that his position demanded neutrality and the means whereby he could take action simply weren't available. It was suggested that I could consider raising the matter with my own MP.  No further information or reports have arisen on the subject.

My time in Norfolk coincided with a period of poor weather  ( Storm Eunice etc ) and was hard work in some respects.  All of the ten days, barring one , saw rain and accompanying fresh to strong winds at times. Such was disappointing and frustrating, but there were still good birds to be seen. I didn't manage to see everything on offer but, nonetheless, had good views of Siberian Chiffchaff,  Great White Egret, Spoonbill, White fronted Geese,  Caspian Gull,  Goshawk and, above all else, phenomenal views of Red breasted Goose plus most of the "supporting cast" of species that we regularly associate with a birding break in Norfolk. Amongst these was Grey Partridge which, sadly , becomes less of a likelihood in my own local area. I had some prolonged views of a couple of birds at Holkham and admit to thoroughly enjoying the whole episode.

I returned home to find the village in absolute mayhem.  The gas supply pipes are being replaced which means traffic controls, excavations, and general disruption,  although it does seem the work is moving forward at pace ( that beloved expression of modern day MP's ). Unfortunately the house I live in is central to the traffic control system, which means parking is no longer available. Hopefully the work will be completed soon, although estimates tend to vary which is not helpful for future planning as , apparently, you've to be around at the point the conversion directly affects your address !!  Happy days.


  

Friday, February 18, 2022

White-tailed Eagle persecution.

Around a week ago a report was issued on Raptor Persecution's web site giving details, based in turn from a report issued by the Dorset Police and an accompanying appeal for further information. Essentially a White-tailed Eagle had been found dead in suspicious circumstances on one of the large estates in Dorset. The bird was one of those released under the Isle of Wight scheme and, sadly, joined another of its counterparts also found dead in Sussex last October. To my knowledge neither of these has yet had the routinely associated post mortem or toxicology reports placed in the public domain. Such follows a now almost regular litany of similar reports on bird of prey persecution, many of which are associated with shooting estates, although, in this case, there is nothing which has emerged which connects the estate in question with the incident. No doubt further information will be reported on in due course by the Police following their investigations. But that is when the whole scenario assumed a rather unfamiliar twist. The local Conservative MP, a Mr Chris Loder, put out public comments on his Twitter account advocating that he did not wish the Dorset Police to investigate what appears to be a criminal incident. Sadly he fell back on what has become a familiar stream of comments based on hysteria and predjudice stating that he didn't want eagles "killing our lambs or plaguing our farmers" and that he felt investigating county lines drug distribution activities were of more importance. I doubt anyone would argue against the need to carry out work on the latter, but it should not be assumed that investigating wildlife crime takes away resources from other section of the police force, a major aspect he appears to have overlooked. Wildlife Crime investigations are carried out by dedicated Wildlife Officers, a function I am sure he would support ( or would he? ). It has been reported that the wealthy owner of the estate in question has been a prominent supporter of the Tory Party and that his wife is involved with the Countryside Alliance, also that Mr Loder himself is a tenant farmer in the county. Whilst there is nothing in any reports to signal any connections with the incident, there is clearly a justification for concern to be expressed when such a clear case of suspected criminality is openly advocated by the local MP to be set aside and ignored. Whether such arises from utter naivete or other reasons is immaterial as, in my view , this is not an activity one expects from an MP. A colleague of mine recently contacted Mr Loder's office (01305 818446) and was advised that various complaints on the matter had been received from outside the constituency. Similarly the Crime Commissioner for Dorset (01202 229084) had received various contacts on the same subject. I feel the subject deserves airing more widely as there are obvious matters of principle involved given the scenario involves a serving MP. I would remind people that when the Prime Minister sought to "protect" the lobbying activities of the then serving MP, Owen Patterson, the whole sorry episode ended in tears. Here we have a serving MP openly advocating that an active police investigation into a potential criminal activity should be abandoned !! Not a responsibility I was aware MP's were invested with! Whilst it is clear Mr Loder openly opposes the release scheme on the Isle of Wight of White tailed Eagles , an open advocation that criminal activities against such birds should be, by implication, openly tolerated, encouraged and decriminalized is a step too far in my book. I have today sent an E-mail to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker's Office ( Houses of Parliament, Westminster ) drawing the matter to his attention and asking that he refer the matter on to whichever authority within the House of Commons it is that deals with such matters. I make no secret of the fact that, personally, I support conservation initiatives and worked in that sphere for many years and that I accept that the opinions and views of others should be considered equally, however, open advocation that the rule of law should be set aside in the cause of predjudice is not an initiative to be tolerated whether promoted by an MP or not! If other people feel similarly I would encourage you also to E-mail the Speaker ( speakersoffice@parliament.uk ) or,indeed, your own constituency MP. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Dawning of the Age of Aquarious.

I'm aware that, on various occasions in the past, I've "announced" my intention to start Blogging again. Admittedley this has usually been at the cessation of a period of lockdown associated with Covid, or in one case, after an injury and period of recuperation. The honest truth of the matter is that, whilst there was serious intent in the announcements, they never ended up with any continuity attached to them despite regular birding activities. Can do better was an understatement. Will this one be any better? Well, I hope so as Covid restrictions are being wound down or close to being withdrawn altogether. Admittedley, whilst the situation does seem to be improving, it's still more than a little patchy and, from a personal viewpoint, I think there's every reason to put effort into what might best be described as "personal caution". But, in my case, there's another reason why I hope things proceed differently. As the title of this Blog suggests ( and do forgive the pun ) I reached my 80th birthday on the 24th January and so fall within the Aquarious star sign. That's simply an unavoidable fact, not something to which I attribute any direct relevance ! But, given that I'm healthy, full of good cheer and free of restrictions I think there's every good reason to make an effort and set out what can happen in "one's personal autumn" given a little focus and concentration is applied to life! The strategy to be followed, as you might imagine, is not markedley different to anything that's gone before. Travel and birding, family and friends, and generally getting around and enjoying things. So it seemed the obvious addition to all of that was to share the enjoyment and provide a regular account of how things were going, the quirks encountered and the successes enjoyed. So, the eighth decade is born and, hopefully, will provide an encouraging testament to what can be achieved, post 80, and underscore the idea of picking up the baton and continuing ambling!! I've various UK trips arranged but, as yet, have made no firm arrangements to travel abroad as I don't yet believe "the Covid situation" is under absolute control. I'm sure some would disagree but, after enjoying various "domestic" holidays within the last couple of years, I'm more than prepared to extend the approach a little further. I can't speak for everyone, but I've also found that I've managed to save money within the lockdown periods too. So, I've effected a complete conversion to Swarovski. Having traded everything else in I'm now equipped with a pair of 10x56 binocuars and the new 115mm scope with binocular eyepiece attachment. Yes, the latter is heavy, but I'm not doing as much rampaging about the uplands as in the past and suspect a practical approach will soon emerge to cope with the problem. And so, despite the imminent weather forecasts, I've a trip to Norfolk planned and will put all of the above to the test. Watch this space.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The final week ( 21st - 27th ).

I'm actually completing this a few days after the 27th when I returned home ! After immodestly launching into what was intended to be a resumption in Blogging I hit problems via a visit from the Gremlin family and things came to a stop. Thankfully birding itself wasn't affected , which was good given a steady trickle of migrants, activity over the sea and Kilnsea Wetlands continuing to produce and shine !! May I take the easy way out ( apologies ) and refer readers to the official observatory sightings reports given they go into absorbing details of what was happening on particular days ( www,spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/sightings/ ). As for me I guess the verdict is , Can do better !! Thankfully I shall be back at Spurn fairly soon and intend to do just that !

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A quite varied week 13th - 20th September

The first week of my stay has proved eventful and absorbing. Other than one late afternoon and evening with rain it's also been fine throughout, a real bonus. AS ever I've elected to do at least one period of seawatching each day and been rewarded accordingly.This time of year sees Red throated Divers making their way south and each day has seen birds streaking south, low over the waves or even in small groups at height. A sight I never personally tire of ! Other sightings have included Great Skua, Arctic Skuas and Long-tailed Skua, indeed one individual ( presumed to be the same bird ) has taken up temporary residency offshore of the seawatching hide and has been seen quite regularly. A rather poor sighting ( for me) of a Sabine's Gull was less rewarding, but numbers of Mediterranean Gull in the area have been more than welcome and a few Little Gull have been in evidence. A couple of days has seen duck on the move with Teal being by far the most numerous. Other species have figured including Velvet Scoter and also the first Dark bellied Brent Geese. A group of Light bellied birds has also been on the Humber for the past few days. One of the star birds of the last few days has been a Dotterel spending time within the Golden Plover flock on the Humber. As might be expected numbers and variety of waders have provided an ever welcome diversion at Kilnsea Wetlands in particular. With winds being mainly in the east each day has produced something good worth searching for, which is the real payback associated with a stay in early-mid September.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

SPURN 2021.

Spurn, nowadays, and the approach you have to take whilst birding there, has changed significantly compared to the situation that presented itself when first I used to visit and stay there in the late 1950's. I was still at school, of course,so visits were done on a day basis or during the holidays when we used to stay at Warren Cottage. The penninsula itself, facilities, ownership patterns and even the area covered are much different to those days when , for instance, two fields had to be crossed in order to get to the shoreline from Warren Cottage passing a small reed filled marsh on the way. One thing it has not lost and that is its magic, an aspect that ever increasing numbers of visitors are now begining to discover for themselves! One thing steadfastly remains and that is that it is one of the premier bird migration locations in the UK, an aspect that even seems to improve and assert itself further as the years go by! The observatory has independent status, has a modern residential facility, staff, a vibrant committee, an ongoing research programme and an ever expanding record of success. One major element has changed , however, and that is the bird recording area embraced by the observatory.
As can be seen from the map above , this area has a northern boundary which circumvents Easington village in the north. This "new extension" has , itself, produced a whole string of excellent records and has certainly enhanced the importance in ornithological terms of the extreme tip of south east Yorkshire. The village too has attracted an ever growing population of resident birders !! This "development" has emerged when another important change has occurred to the penninsula itself. Several years ago the penninsula was (finally ) breached and it is no longer possible to journey down to the Point by car. This has made coverage of the recording area for one individual somewhat of a challenge, although the advent of electric bicycles which are able to cross the sandy breached area has improved matters for the lucky few. Alternatively,simply determining a schedule of visiting several of the key areas and picking up on a good selection of what is around is a reasonable startegy. Short wave radios are put to good use , but the frustration of being at Sammy's Point and learning of something good which has turned up at the Point never fails to go away! The fact that such a selection of riches regularly graces the Spurn/Easington area is testament to its unique position and importance. With people seawatching,catching and ringing birds, carrying out visible migration studies coupled with a veritable army of enthusiasts combing the recording area from dawn to dusk each day such prominence is hardly surprising. So, taking a holiday here presents endless opportunities and guaranteed enjoyment. I've started paying regular visits again since moving back to Yorkshire, an aspect supported over the past couple of years by the ever changing lockdown arrangements. As the Observatory itself provides a very detailed report on line each day drawn from the activities of its staff and volunteers, my entries will simply reflect my own coverage ( considerably much less adequate ) from my stays! I'll also just present it as a weekly summary too, the first one of which is set out below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The start of it all!!

A busy day from the onset with packing the car , a supermarket shop and other errands even before setting off. I'd decided to detour from the direct route to Spurn by calling at the RSPB Blacktoft Sands Reserve to try and see the WHITE-TAILED PLOVER. It's an easy option to simply turn off the eastbound M62 and go through Goole to the reserve. It wasn't that busy and the bird was actually showing from the first hide next to the Centre. How convenient!!!! After having my fill of what is an extraordinarily elegant, even shy looking , bird I visited the other hides as it's some time since I was last here due to all the Covid restrictions.
As I understand it this is only the ninth time this species has been recorded in Britain, so it's quite a significant occurence. ( Yorkshire is somewhat blessed today with a Green Warbler turning up at Buckton and the Black-browed Albatross sporadically returning to Bempton ). As I moved on Cetti's Warbler called loudly from nearby cover and proved to be the best of very few passerine species in evidence and recorded. As might be expected at this time of year waders were in good numbers. It was good to see numbers of Common Snipe , Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, together with a few Greenshank and Lapwing. An adult and immature Water Rail dodged about on the edge of one of the extensive reedbeds, three Marsh Harriers put in an appearance and several duck species were present ( Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal.). Conscious that I'd been there for three hours I retraced my steps to the motorway ( the only downside of this cunning plan! ) as I wanted to miss the Friday night exodus from Hull. It proved to be even less busy than previously, despite the roadworks affecting the centre of the city and I managed to reach Spurn by the end of the afternoon. This weekend coincides with that of the Spurn Migration Festival ( again I believe its ninth anniversary ). Its location has changed this year to the large field on the left immediately before the bad right angle bend at the Blue Bell. Previously held at Westmere Farm ( where I always stay in one of the self catering units) it had proved easy in the past to leap out and intercept old friends that had been spotted amongst attendees. A bit more ingenuity might be required this time around! Having unpacked the car some nine hours after the reverse process I got sorted out, ate and went to bed!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

To Blog or not to Blog?

When I look at the last Blog entry I made ( 1.1.21.) it's full of some certainty and resolve. A handful of days after writing it [ and after a really great morning of birding with Matthew ( my son ) to celebrate the new year ] we were in lockdown again! Great, I thought, here goes, back to following the intentions set out in the previous Blog dated 20.4.20 and accepting the limitations. Well, it's not turned out quite as bad as I thought it might as lockdown restrictions were lifted to some extent during the Spring and Summer such that birding might tentatively begin again and I managed to enjoy periods at Spurn in May, July and, more recently, late August. It's not until very recently though that I've felt a sufficient level of certainty that's then allowed a bit of forward planning to emerge. An enthusiasm for following up a few survey ideas has returned together, this time, with sufficient confidence to believe it might prove possible to see things through to the end! I'm just about to go back to Spurn for 2/3 weeks and then, similarly, from mid October to mid November, so life has certainly begun to take on shape again. Caution is still the word in many respects if a sensible approach is to be followed as I'm sure we'll face one or two "Covid challenges" over the autumn and winter but , nonetheless, I believe we've now reached a point where we can look forward with increasing confidence whilst embracing this new normality. In my case it hasn't yet reached the point of considering foreign travel !! So, the answer to the question posed in the Blog title is an emphatic "yes" and an accompanying expressed hope that opportunities to put words on paper and share the excitement and wonders of the outside world will now emerge. Watch this space !!

Friday, January 1, 2021

It seems a long time since I committed to producing a Blog on a regular basis (too long!). In the meantime, much has happened to affect all of us and the outcomes are most certainly not a cause for celebration ! So here we now are at the onset of a New Year with a large measure of uncertainty hanging over us. To me, the only way forward is to work within the official parameters made available and to make the best of things. Whilst I've remained at home today, setting up various things, I'm still looking forward to what the next twelve months will bring and to the inevitable surprises. Way back in the autumn of 2018, whilst in Cornwall, I had a bad fall down a steep, cliff footpath , took a battering, injured my left knee, which then took some time to mend. By 2020 I was recovered, starting off the year in Scotland, seeing a few nice things, including White-winged Scoter, and was ready to engage with a year of promise. Later, a week in Norfolk was something of a washout and, shortly after that, the problem with the Covid 19 virus emerged and lockdown restrictions followed on soon afterwards. Short periods at Spurn in July, August and October, when restrictions eased, revived the spirits and intent and, now, here I am again looking forward to future birding, but with the whole UK enduring various levels of restriction. It seems likely that this situation is going to apply in some form or another for a while yet and, therefore, the challenge is to construct activities within the regulations and get on with it ! For my part I've abandoned all plans to go abroad until at least well into 2022. I've decided to concentrate primarily on local birding, travel within the County as regulations allow and adhering to all the guidance and, then,more widely as restrictions are lifted. Easy, unequivocal and stripped bare of " what if's" and "if onlys". Given my home area is still in Tier 3 I feel very lucky having the opportunity to travel around in what is a countryside area where it's not difficult to avoid people entirely ! I've decided on a personal recording area of two 10 km squares ( OS areas SE 10 and 20 ). Large....yes, ambitious....yes but an area overall with a large variety of opportunity and challenge on the eastern flanks of the Pennines up onto the open moorlands themselves. Reservoirs, woodlands, moorlands, swathes of agricultural land combine to provide a rich variety of habitat. Whilst the current situation gives rise to serious concerns, there is room for hope once the vaccination programme really gets underway. In the meantime I think everyone should do their level best to accept the disciplines of the guidance and help to minimize the pressures on the NHS to whose staff our heartfelt wishes should be offered. Take care, stay safe and have an enjoyable year.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Quick update !

Hi everyone.   Well, I'm afraid my well laid plans and intentions have not really produced.  My "local routes" provided a good selection of local birds at the very beginning, but since then have failed to deliver any nice surprises.  I have to say that I've really enjoyed listening properly to Blackbird and Song Thrush songsters as, normally, I'd probably only utilise such wonderful outpourings as evidence of presence within a survey of some kind I was undertaking.  Yes, I agree , shame on me !
By far the most exciting discovery has been a local Greenfinch on territory.  It started off a bit creaky ( if not bronchial ) but has since developed and is now giving daily doses of its rasping calls coupled with a few melodious notes .  This is great news in a way as even the presence of an odd bird or flyover  within the three/four years I've been here has been has been decidedly thin !

Eyes to the skies from now on in the hope of intercepting something of note.  Fairly soon I hope to record the first House Martins that breed in the nearby estate and, fingers crossed, even the lone pair of Common Swift that bred next door  last year.!  In the meantime I'll continue to flog the "exercise routes" and turn thoughts to what will eventually prove to be a completely relaxed set of circumstances and complete mobile freedom.  At the same time I 'll also work hard at suppressing interest in the current system of north east and easterly winds, circumstances that are avidly prayed for usually but now, of all times, impose themselves when we're unable to glean any benefit from the bird passage they might influence.  And then I think of the people who might also have had a similar interest, but who, tragically , have succumbed to the effects of the epidemic which confronts us.  Time to turn to the uplifting notes of our nearby thrushes and to feel thankful !