Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Action on Hen Harrier persecution!

From time to time on this Blog I have commented on the need for greater concerted action to improve the status of Hen Harriers, particularly since the levels of persecution have brought the English breeding population in 2012 down to a single pair. Unconfirmed sources report that two of the four young reared by that pair last season have since been killed. Clearly this utterly ludicrous situation is one which cannot remain unaddressed.

Whilst I am sure that sincere efforts are being directed towards various solutions by differing organizations, the fact remains that the endless discussions are not leading to any imminent and satisfactory outcome. The species continues to be singled out for wanton persecution resulting in its population being at low ebb due to the relentless pressure.

The last few winters has seen a deliberate targeting of these birds at their roosts, despite adamant claims of innocence from those clearly involved.  Research by DEFRA, as part of the Hen Harrier Recovery Programme involving birds being fitted with satellite tags, has seen a significant number of the birds involved simply disappearing, often at known roost sites associated with upland grouse moors. The implications are obvious and yet the veil of silence and hypocritical denials persist. Sadly damning evidence, worthy of impactive news headlines, is being retained by DEFRA and looks likely to remain so in the foreseeable future  despite calls for its release.

Running in parallel to all such debate is a series of statements or responses on the subject from the shooting fraternity, usually claiming innocence or that the persecution is the work of persons unknown. Quite frankly, until such time that a genuine and sincere contribution is evident from its ranks, those who do play the game and obey the law unfortunately will be tarred by the same brush as those responsible for the misdemeanours.  It is the shooting fraternity's choice and debate about what proportion of people are legitimate constituents of its membership is wasteful and pointless. The "bad apple" point is no longer credible as it is abundantly clear that the present dire circumstances affecting Hen Harriers has been achieved by widespread and concerted action. It is happening within your ranks, you're aware of it, the ridiculous state of affairs continues and, therefore, justifiable action demands to be taken. Blame can also be levelled at the Government, which is showing a marked lack of resolve on the matter despite prosecution statistics showing otherwise and calls for action, not further discussion, arising over time. Whilst conservation organizations are no doubt doing all they can such, in my view, is not prominent enough in terms of securing change in the short term.

So where does that leave us?   Clearly the "independent" stance being assumed by the shooting fraternity, as far as their arrogant dismissal of the laws protecting birds of prey, needs to be curtailed and the "industry" brought under regulated scrutiny. Remember we are talking of commercial enterprises!  With that in mind I have, today, laid an E-petition within the Government's formal system focussing attention on the need to licence upland grouse shoots, but also to introduce an accreditation or licencing system on all gamekeepers as well.

The details can be examined via the link below and I would hope all UK readers will register their support by registering their signature.

Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers.

Doubtless some people will claim this is a potentially punitive measure in intent. In fact, besides drawing attention to the general topic of persecution and the need to contain its effects, the main objective of such licencing would be to isolate , gradually, those enterprises and individuals who insist on breaking the law. Raptor persecution in any guise is breaking the law of the land, denying the rightful opportunities of us all to enjoy our wildlife heritage and reducing, by deliberate intent, the biodiversity of the UK.

So, we need to act!  Doubtless much more will be said in forthcoming weeks but, in the meantime, please provide your support if you agree with the initiative and, more importantly, pass on the details to family, friends and colleagues. The need to promote this issue is of paramount importance and it is down to us to try and bring about change for the better.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Persistence clearly pays with petrels!

It's a sobering thought that the natural extinction rate of bird species is, apparently, one in every Century. It's an absolutely alarming prospect to learn that, in the last 30 years, twenty one (21) bird species have been declared extinct! Such provides the motivation behind the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme which currently contains 197 species viewed as Critically Endangered !! That's a truly shocking statistic and sets in context the challenges which modern day conservation faces.

Well, here's a story that bucks the trend and serves to bring hope for the future set against so many depressing stories which emerge!  Enter the New Zealand Storm-Petrel!  This species was considered extinct until 2003 when birds were seen at sea. Three specimens had previously been taken in the 1800's and are nowadays held in museums.

In 2012 24 birds were caught at sea using a specially designed net gun. These sparrow-like birds were then fitted with tiny ( 1 gm ) radio transmitters, which fed back signals to automated receivers. The fact that birds showed incubation patches brought hope that the research would lead to their breeding grounds being discovered. I suspect that no one quite believed that such an area would be within 50 km. of Auckland City!
The received data narrowed the search to the Hauraki Gulf area and the research team stationed themselves on several of the islands concerned. Then, the big break through!  Observers actually saw birds coming inshore and proceeding inland on Little Barrier Island, Hauturu in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Later , a signal was received from a bird clearly located at a stationary site in a forest area.

Such is the significance of this find that automated equipment is being used by the team, led by Chris Gaskin and Matt Raynor, the data from which will feed into a seabird management plan for the Hauraki Gulf area, now quite rightly being described as a globally significant biodiversity hotspot.

Besides several New Zealand based funding sources, the work is being supported by the BirdLife International Community and the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Congratulations should be offered to all involved for what is an uplifting story of commitment and unselfish support. There are many lessons contained within the "story line" that many politicians throughout the world might take on board and reflect on. Our current Government's attitude in the UK towards conservation  being a necessary partner within development is perhaps at the extreme end of what might best be described as misguided nonsense! Things can change, and for the better, as the above story shows, which underscores why our resolve to gain the best should never waiver.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Listing with BuBo.

Recently I've put some effort into sorting out my bird records, a task long overdue!!  Unfortunately I lost all my records previous to 2001, except for an odd foreign trip, so I've had an opportunity to begin things anew. Having promised myself that, with these "new" records, I'd be disciplined and utterly diligent,               I've now begun to bring the various systems I've decided upon into practice. And having promised myself that I'd "get around to computerizing everything one day" I've actually now begun that task as well.

Nowadays I keep a Field Logbook cum diary and enter daily sightings into " Bird Journal", which takes care of the more immediate end of the process. As far as lists go I rely on BuBo (BuBo Listing ) , indeed you'll notice I've recently installed a widget on this Blog which gives details of my current totals in BuBo for my World List and Western Palaearctic list. As yet these more reflect how much I've devoted time to entering records than to their totals as it's very much a "work in progress"  task and one which will see the totals increase dramatically as particular trips are added. Having seen in excess of 150 species already this calendar year I've also now decided to reinforce this within the blog by indicating the total reached when mentioning any new year list species for 2013.  So, for example, Harlequin Duck  ( remember it's only an example! ) will be followed by ( 152, 2013 ). But moving to BuBo..........

BuBo was created, and is maintained, by Andy Musgrove and Mike Prince. The potential it offers birders to maintain lists of their sightings is enormous and I believe we owe both of them a huge debt of gratitude for the  time and dedication they make available. The use of the site is free, but contributions are clearly welcome as this allows even greater developments to be added to the site's facility overall. As such provision is made to create, store,compare and print off as many lists as you wish to maintain and much, much more. You can commit records to more than one list as you're entering items, see who else has seen what, determine how many species you might have seen in a particular Continent, determine what your "target species" might be within the current year and so on. The facilities appear endless and more you use the site, the more you appreciate its value. Most importantly, new taxonomic changes are incorporated soon after they are revealed by the various authorities and the necessary changes made to country lists. Added to all this is a patient and thorough "back up" system provided by the above two organizers for any queries which might arise as well as a Forum facility being available. It's something we all should support given its thorough provision of detail, but , above all else, it's actually a great system to use and it's FUN!!  So take a look at it, try it and enjoy!

Despite all my enthusiasm for the above I don't think I'll ever discard my Clements book with its dutifully marked up little species boxes! It's not quite an ornithological comfort blanket but I do gather a lot of inspiration and motivation from simply looking through it. It's not a question of realising what I've seen, as I'm not into competitive birding, but realising how many great birds there are still to see and the exotic places they inhabit. Childlike wonder? Maybe, but I don't care as I continue to gain as much enjoyment from seeing birds and other wildlife as I've ever done.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

All good things come to an end. 19.2.2013.

Transfers to and from the island are dominated by the ferry schedules and so we were on the road well before 0600 hours. Sadly both ferry terminals are at "opposite ends" of the island to my home location so both departures and arrivals have an extra leg of  necessary travelling. Our birding had not quite finished though as, shortly after setting off, we had a single Woodcock tower away at the periphery of our headlights. Previous to leaving we'd spent a few rather chilly minutes simply looking at the night sky and enjoying the absolute silence. Given the wind direction not even any sounds were emanating from the nearby  coastline!  The only light pollution came from the occasional sweep of the lighthouse beam at Portnahaven, which was somewhat faint given hill land in between.

At various points of the first part of our journey we encountered both Roe and Red Deer, indeed I'm really beginning to wonder how many of the latter there are confined within the Rhinns conifer plantations! Whilst crossing roads and clearing fence lines don't usually present them with a problem , one hind had somehow managed to become "perched" on top of of a stone wall!!  This was as ridiculous as it was entertaining as she swayed too and fro whilst maintaining her balance. Shortly afterwards two Barn Owls showed well along the hillside north of the farm that no doubt served as home.

Eventually we reached Port Askaig as tankers, lorries and a few cars were being loaded below the arc lights.   The first glimmer of light began to rise in the east as a couple of Robins sang in the background. Goodbyes and boarding completed the boat then left within a few minutes and made its way down the Sound in the diminishing darkness.

The return journey showed more frost than I'd appreciated previously, but the emerging weather promised such conditions would be short lived. Whilst little of any exception appeared I was impressed with a large flock of 120+ Common Gulls systematically feeding across a field at the farm north of the house. Even before I'd made it inside home for my second breakfast, a party of 8 Choughs flew past me, tumbling and crying out as if in celebration. An apt conclusion to what had been a rewarding and enjoyable few days.

Later I went out locally for a while and was again struck by the presence of Stonechats in various places. They appear to have made a good comeback after suffering from the prolonged winter conditions of a couple of winters or so ago. We'd seen quite a few over the past days, including equal numbers on Jura.  They appear to abandon the most exposed moorland areas and make use of more coastal locations at the very height of winter.

As a commentary on what can be achieved, and how "small" our busy world has become, the journey to Sheffield takes little more than seven hours, so even eagles, Choughs and much more are within easy reach given weather, ferries, and road conditions are kind!!  Long weekends are feasible , but you probably need to add on an extra day to recover after all the excitement!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Eagles galore! 18.2.2013.

The forecast suggested that the weather would be improving so we took a gamble and decided to spend the day on Jura.  It was still cold in the wind, but the sun broke through eventually although still leaving some haze in the distance.

Such was perfect viewing conditions which increasingly began to pay off as the day progressed. Even before we got to Jura we'd had a single, although distant, Golden Eagle at one site and then watched another in display for a brief period at another location.  On Jura itself it first looked as if it might be a harrier day given we quickly encountered an adult male, an immature male and , then, a female in a relatively short distance!  Two or three Buzzards were in evidence and it began to look as if the conditions would entice raptors to display.  In passing through Craighouse a small party of Light bellied Brent Geese was present along the shoreline, which might be yet another signal of them extending their local wintering areas as I have had birds in the Sound of Islay in previous winters as well.

As we moved north inquisitive Red Deer became a roadside feature, suggesting few people had passed their way in the early morning. Birds were less in evidence, although various passerines were seen around Ardlussa. The removal of the mature conifers along the approach route and south of Tarbert now brings an altogether different vista to the journey. Sadly the road has "suffered " and doubtless work will now be needed to upgrade it once again.

Mid afternoon saw us undertaking our return journey, after briefly calling in to see friends and almost "winning" a spaniel in the process. It managed to install itself in the car's footwell and look appealing until we discovered that such behaviour is its party piece!!!  Thereafter provided some particularly exciting birding as we moved to the crest of an undulating bit of road and discovered  a 1st W Golden Eagle coming towards us  about 40 m. away. It provided the best views I've ever had of an immature bird as it veered off and then gradually circled away northwards. Soon after, or so it seemed, another sub-adult appeared, only to be joined by another bird , as they then  made their way towards the coast. When we thought everything had subsided Matthew then found a further, but distant, adult bird which was soon joined by another!! The obvious smaller male of the two began to display and we were entertained to some brief, but breathtaking views of this large bird plummeting towards the ground before sweeping upwards in a huge arc during which time its larger mate drifted around nearby.  Why is it such memorable birding always comes lumped together in this way!!

Later we actually found another two birds on Islay, admittedly distant but showing their golden heads nonetheless, which brought our total to nine different individuals, almost double that which I've ever had previously in a day and not something I'd like to try and equal.  Luck comes in strange doses it seems.  

We would have been selfish indeed to even expect any more from the day as we drove down the Rhinns.  The day itself was drawing in and, with it, the temperature, which was dropping noticeably and heralding a cold night in store for us all. The frenetic activity of the day was now past, but leaving indelible memories that doubtless will never be repeated, even by boys from Barnsley!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Success despite the weather. 17.2.2013.

Overnight the southerly wind had freshened and serried lines of waves with "white horses"  made their way to the head of Loch Indaal. It also seemed much colder despite it developing into a bright day

The day started well with a party of 6 Chough around the house as we took breakfast ( that looks terribly blase), but few other birds other than odd Herring Gull and GBBG were in evidence as the wind gusted and howled around the house. Not the most supportive conditions!

The north eastern sector of Loch Indaal was somewhat calmer and held some duck , although the numbers have already beginning to reduce, partly due to season but, also, I suspect, because of poor weather previously. A fragmented group of 20-30 Common Scoters had various males in display with much splashing, short flights and diving. Close by a couple of Slavonian Grebe loosely associated with the birds. A fine male Long-tailed Duck showed briefly, but water conditions and the gusting wind made telescope usage more than a bit difficult! Northern Eiders and odd Red-breasted Merganser were dotted across the loch but it was awkward trying to get any precise numbers.

After a quick supermarket "shop" we continued on with our intended quest to try scrutinize goose flocks for birds of interest!  Loch Tallant had around 30 Teal and a Mallard but nothing else and examination of an area for Common Crossbill drew a blank. A female Hen Harrier sailed gracefully around above a plantation before slipping away quickly using the benefit of the wind. After looking at various large flocks we came across one which held a Light -bellied Brent Goose and a fine Lesser Canada Goose, in fact the latter was the closest bird to us at one point!!  Excellent views in good light over a prolonged period ensured we were very satisfied with bioth our efforts and the outcome.

Afterwards we almost did a  reverse of the route we'd followed yesterday, but we didn't come up with anything new other than a female Sparrowhawk at Ballinaby. Its presence appeared to have ensured that any passerines present had  disappeared as neither finches nor larks were in evidence.

Eventually we meandered home, our journey finishing with the sight of a Common Buzzard and a female Peregrine circling around over the hill south  of the house.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A couple of unexpected bonuses! 16.2.2013.

After breakfast a brief session outside after dawn produced a Skylark in song, an odd Meadow Pipit and a few Fieldfare. A period  seawatching provided a single adult Gannet and a Glaucous Gull, probably a 2ndW bird,  flying past south. The latter may well be the 1st W bird from last winter that frequented the area. A nice Black Gullemot in full summer plumage was offshore.

We gradually moved northwards up the Rinns examining the various goose flocks for more exciting " constituents" as we went, but to no avail. The Loch Gorm area held few geese but we located a small , but mixed, party of Linnet and Twite. A journey down to Ardnave along the west side of Gruinart produced more geese, Chough and a variety of birds on Loch Ardnave ( Whooper and Mute Swan, Goldeneye, Teal ). Moving gradually around Loch Gruinart we had a splendid flock of Golden Plover in flight for several minutes and remarked on how many Lapwings were back on The Flats, a great forerunner to this year's breeding season. Curling around onto the eastern side we watched a variety of duck and waders, including a Greenshank, all of which were repeatedly spooked by a male Peregrine we'd seen earlier.

Loch Indaal was now a little choppy and yielded very little other than birds we'd seen before except for a party of around 30 Greater Scaup. Visits to a selection of other spots soon took us towards dusk , so we started on out journey back home. The final surprise was to find a Merlin sitting atop a road sign north of Bruichladdich, which I managed to photograph and which was a nice surprise.

Whiter than white! 15.2.2013

Spent the whole morning on a series of routine things, mainly phone calls given the lack of computer facilities.  Matthew duly arrived on the afternoon ferry into Port Askaig amidst quite nice weather. It's not always like that on Islay , folks!

Given we'd only a couple of hours of daylight left we remained around the Sound of Islay and Bunnahabhain area. He'd already picked up a handful of  species ( Hooded Crow, Shag, Black Guillemot ) but we pressed on in the hope of more. Tide and sea conditions were good and odd Great Northern Divers were in the northern part of the Sound.

We continued down to the Distillery and after a few minutes located the adult Iceland Gull. Whilst I can't locate the precise date, I believe this is the 9th or 10th winter it has been with us. It first appeared as an immature and has been returning to this favourite spot each year since.

From it's vantage point on the wharf it sallies out and joins incoming fishing boats into Port Askaig, riding on the prow very often, and then presumably avails itself of the material discarded on sorting. A nice bit of learned behaviour!!  Whilst it's not a particularly sharp photograph, the following shot of the bird in flight does show the quite nice broad white trailing edge to the wing.

So, after such initial success we made our way down to Loch Indaal and slowly southwards home to Portnahaven. It was good to spend time near the house at dusk listening to the natural world gradually "wind down". Odd parties of geese overhead, a Common Snipe calling and displaying (!), corvids moving into roost and then, finally, silence! A good start to what, hopefully, will be a productive weekend.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

WiFi update! 15.2.2013.

Hi folks.  Had a slight hiccup with my WiFi set up!!!  No details as they're too embarrassing to disclose.  Suffice to say No.1 Son sorted it out within five minutes of arriving for an intensive birding weekend!

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, read  "as soon as I've the gall to describe myself as a computer user".  I thought age brought wisdom?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hen Harriers...........a wall of silence.

Now I don't know about you, but I've seen precious little in the media in recent times which, essentially, keeps the appalling situation relating to Hen Harrier persecution "alive".  I personally believe this is absolutely necessary. Given, for example, the flawed views of the Moorland Association claiming there are plenty of harriers around in England, without acknowledging their presence in winter from more northerly origins, makes it  necessary to continually devote time to correcting such views before they gain wider acceptance.

But there is something of even greater concern!  I've received several  reports, admittedly based on rumour, that at least two of the four young which fledged last year from the only nest in England, have been found dead, with one report suggesting they had been shot. I've every reason to accept there is at least some truth in these reports given the sources involved, which automatically causes various questions to arise. One imagines that sat tagged birds were involved and, of course, the only body involved with such "research" is the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. The policy so far has been to refuse outright to reveal any findings from this study despite questions being raised, even in Parliament. Given this is public money, and that the expenditure has occurred over several years as part of the Government's Hen Harrier Recovery Plan, there appears to be a clear case for disclosure. Similarly, given the Plan has failed so spectacularly, there would also seem to be a case for the justification of such activities continuing to be funded from the public purse to be examined. With this in mind I have sent off various E-mails to my own Member of Parliament and to others to explore the matter and will set out the responses in due course.

But why should DEFRA be so keen to retain information that clearly is in the public interest and of particular assistance to a body like the RSPB and the Police?  Well, of course, a DEFRA report some little time ago did confirm that there was a correlation between upland grouse moors and the loss of contact from various tagged birds, but followed up by stating later that such could not be construed as being the location at which the unfortunate individuals had met their demise. That, I suppose, was the public element associated with their position, as one imagines that, on each and every occasion, the reports of such losses were reported to the appropriate Police Authority. The fact of the matter is that, very often, such areas comprise upland shooting estates against which one might assume the disclosure of such information would cause embarrassment, particularly given the apparent empathy existing within DEFRA towards such enterprises.
So, a wall of silence with the reasons for its construction and maintenance being robustly upheld!!

However, what of the conservation organizations? Whilst I always assume there is plenty going on in the background, I believe more should be made apparent to the public in order to keep such issues alive. Clearly our opinions diverge on this one if , for example, one looks at the latest edition of the RSPB's  Birds magazine. I can find no mention of harriers, the continuing persecution problem with the species or any declared lines of action, even if these are a reiteration of what has been put in place in previous seasons.  I concede that, over the years, the RSPB has spent an immense amount of money on this individual problem , but I suspect its membership, (now declared to be 1,087,712. ) would be happy at seeing such continuing expenditure. Why not ask the question in a future edition?  I fervently believe that, at the end of the day, it will be public opinion which will tip the balance and that those within the shooting community who continue to uphold illegal raptor persecution, as an expression of how THEY will ensure THEIR ends are best served, will have the most to lose. In the meantime, the lack of condemnation over yet more harriers possibly being killed is lamentable, is certainly a subject which would benefit from a public airing, even if it involved a correction to the facts!! It is certainly more important than ever at this point in time to continue to put up a fight on the issue to avoid, if nothing else, the situation gently slipping into the mists of acceptance. If that means putting up a wall of resistance, as opposed to wondering, from behind a wall of silence, what can be said that is new, then repeat the mantras of the past if nothing else.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The week the "environment" died ( or potentially so!).

Throughout everyone's lives particular dates emerge that stay with us all through the years. Personal matters rank highly, but these can sit alongside dates of significant events which take place, be they the outbreak of a war, the death of a monarch or, indeed, man's landing on the moon. Sadly , it seems to me that, as a conservationist, this last week could go down as that when the self-claimed Greenest Government finally turned its back on both commitments and realities to the environment that are emerging which will have immense influences on our future countryside and wildlife. Dramatic, unreasonable, unfair even! Well, possibly, but this is how it feels and such conclusions arising amongst the electorate are concerns which any Government should address. The fact is, it doesn't feel such is happening, indeed, successive indicators appear to reinforce such feelings of despair.

We recently saw some very positive proposals emerge relating to forestry, but can we really believe such reflected the Government sincere commitments?  Think about it and what was proposed previously and the reaction which emerged. No , the Government undoubtedly listened, but determined, in its own political interests, that it couldn't afford to alienate so many reasonable people given an election arising in 2015. A reprieve for our national woodlands, but so there should have been, indeed the initial proposals should never have arisen!

Last week saw the Government's Triennial Review consultation closing in which the future of Natural England now rests. But given the organization's objectives had been "amended" last year better to reflect the needs of commercial development and, successively, its budgets reduced, could such an organization ever be at the top of its game? Additionally, when attempting to operate within such strictures, it hardly helps when the Chancellor is forever intoning the need to relax environmental regulation and the Prime Minister is extolling the need for a review of European Environmental Regulations. Not the utterances to draw confidence from.  The "sensible money" would seem to be indicating that Natural England will be absorbed into the Environment Agency , but we shall see. What does shine through is that there is no level of interest or real empathy with environmental matters in their own right. Oh yes, but there's the Countryside Alliance some would say. But is real interest or empathy a product of treating the countryside as a playground, if you own a horse or a gun that is, or an area ripe for commercial exploitation or as a larder?  What of the countryside in its own right, wherein it provides spiritual uplift via its landscapes and plays host to our ever receding native wildlife ?  Conservatism and the retention of all things worthwhile no longer seem to gel together!

At a more local level we hear shocking stories of some local authorities considering abolishing ranger services and axing countryside initiatives due to the need to respond to the swingeing budget reductions imposed by Central Government. Sadly, environmental schemes are always an immediate target in such circumstances, but one hopes good reason will prevail. It has to be said that the benefits to health and well-being never appear to be factored in to such decisions, which most likely arise from an examination of sterile balance sheets. Whilst I am not against cost cutting or sensible economies, the incompetent performances of past and current administrations in their budgets leave something to be desired. Expensive "white elephants" ,such as those emerging from the recent reviews on defence procurement, would cover the commitments to the environment several times over and yet the continuing presence within the Exchequer's balance sheet for such initiatives, eventually swept off at the stroke of a pen, ensured that essential maintenance or enhancement to the very fabric of the pleasant land we were endeavouring to protect was simply not possible.  OK, well maybe a little over the top, but it is the feeling one is left with and that within any budget debates "the environment" is almost debarred from consideration!  In summary, do we want to preside over an environment whose condition has deteriorated to that exhibiting the lowest common denominator of biodiversity and quality or do we want to live in vibrant and uplifting circumstances?

And then comes the much vaunted talks on the EU Budget!  Well, I think we have a real problem with the outcome, verging on a potential disaster, when linked to the demonstrated lack of interest from our Green Government. We have to face reality and accept that the UK embraced intensive farming in the recent past to an over-enthusiastic degree, which has resulted in the decimation of the wildlife and botanical diversity in such areas.  Now we can debate and analyse it until the cows come home, quite literally, but what emerges is that, if we wish to rectify those excesses of the past to any reasonable degree , we need to take action now. Given the requisite budget that would otherwise have provided the funding has been reduced by 11 billion Euros and given that there has been a mandate given to allow Member States to reallocate what remains in conservation funds towards affected agricultural subsidies, the net result is that the potential for assisting wildlife conservation on farmland is much the poorer. Whether this production obsessed Government will be interested in seeking out alternative means of assisting such initiatives will be a test for the future. At the present time one imagines the concerns of the Secretary of State are equine in nature and that we may have to wait for some little time before our questions are answered, if , indeed, there was any prospect in the first place!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Illegal shorebird trapping in China.

News has emerged about migratory shorebirds being trapped for the meat industry in China. Apparently this illegal trapping is done by using mist nets and there are reports of the practice being on the increase. Conservationists have reported such activities to the Chinese Authorities but no action has resulted. A call is now being made , via a petition to the Government of the Peoples' Republic in China, for such activities to be brought to an end. This can be signed by following the link below,
End illegal shorebird trapping in China.

Whilst the promoted concern relates to Spoon-billed Sandpiper, no figures or data are presented to back up the claim and, therefore, the activity must be viewed as a potential threat to this endangered species as opposed to an activity which is currently decimating its numbers! With only around 100 known breeding pairs in the world there is clearly a justification for eliminating any activity which poses a threat, either now or in the future. Perhaps these activities need to be viewed in the wider context of the threat they pose to any species of shorebird. With various coastal habitats having been lost in  south east Asia, focussed activities that are concentrated on sites remaining which shorebirds utilise are of major concern. Having seen the intensity of the inshore fishing activity in the coastal waters through which one passes to visit Happy Island I have no doubt as to the efficiency with which the current shorebird trapping enterprises will be carried out and, therefore, their potential effects!!.

Given the UK's initiatives linked to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper I would urge everyone to sign the above petition, not least to offer some protection in future to the many species of shorebirds which pass along China's coastline.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The realities of bird conservation.

This is a book everyone should read, be they already an ardent conservationist or, equally, perhaps more importantly, if they have no particular sympathies with wildlife or environmentalism. There are a number of reasons why I personally enjoyed it so much. I worked for the RSPB for much of the period within which the narrative takes place, I admit to sharing the same opinions presented within the book and I also know the author!! Such being the case I suppose it's hardly likely I would find fault with its contents ( I don't! ), indeed it's slightly embarrassing to admit I agree with virtually all which is said in its 300 or so pages. I'd actually go a step further and suggest that its title should be a necessary reference source within every current academic conservation and environmental course due to its pragmatic style and up to date treatment. Additionally it would behove many whose managerial duties and responsibilities touch on the above subject areas to read it,  indeed,and in particular, it could be considered a compulsory text for those within Government, DEFRA and Planning Authority staff  and many within the agricultural industry!!

So why such unqualified support?

The reader will soon find that the pragmatic and logical approach taken towards some pretty hefty issues is consistent and is combined with a writing style that is light and entertaining, educational and presents summarized information which leads the reader to a better understanding of the various subjects under examination. I certainly appreciated certain matters better than I had done previously and I'd worked within "the industry"! Such success is not an easy one to achieve within a "factual book", but is something the author repeats with admirable ease.

Much of this is accomplished by the issues being set out in a personal context that ensures the "journey", which also embraces the beginnings of the author's interest in natural history, coupled with his more critical involvements in later years, is recounted in a very direct way.  There's humour too. The stories linked to the Reverend Gilbert White's research on bats and the observed activities, by the author, of biologically enthusiastic Bee-eaters on the Camargue are just two amongst many which made me smile. But there is much, much more which is equally as entertaining within the book. Aspects of contemporary conservation "history", cameo stories of personalities who themselves have played major parts within both research and policy advocation undertaken over the years and explanations related to the outcomes of various practical initiatives applied to different conservation challenges are all presented in an informative and engaging way.

In short this is a book that must  be read as widely as possible. As an extremely well constructed foundation dealing with the challenges confronting conservation, and the choices and approaches we might apply to them, this is a "blueprint" that should steer our thoughts and actions for some time to come.

On a more light hearted note I have also to mention the following!! I purchased my copy of the book last year, but then had two-three months with eye trouble within which time I did little or no serious reading. Throughout that time I had left the book out on a table as a reminder that I must return to it at an early stage. As you can see the book's cover carries a superimposed photograph of Mark Avery himself. During the whole of that time I was conscious of a gaze which followed me when passing, as if in mild rebuke for being ignored, but it served as an additional reminder that I should read it at the earliest opportunity!!  Well, it's been worth the wait and I've also every intention of reading it again at some point such is the overwhelming value of its contents. A real pleasure, a great read  and something I have no compunction in recommending to everyone, particularly birders. The various subjects presented in separate chapters, themselves replete with endless examples relevant to the case being considered, serve to illustrate why we should all find time to       " Fight for birds", a mission that the book more than successfully achieves.

"Fighting for Birds  -  25 years in nature conservation"    Mark Avery.
Pelagic Publishing
ISBN 978-1- 907807-29-9.  (Pbk ).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Back to (early? ) reality.

After succeeding days of dealing with the aftermath of returning from a period of being away, today provided some opportunity to see what was happening around home.  Sometimes, in winter, its a question of determining what is not around , as opposed to what is present. Suddenly that can change in Spring ( which comes upon us very often earlier than is supposed ), but that was not really confirmed today!

The moors around were virtually devoid of birds, with only a couple of exceptions. A distant silhouette proved to be a single Curlew sitting out on a knoll, but with no calls signalling its arrival, presence or departure. Strange that flocks are present on both Lochs Indaal and Gruinart and certain fields adjacent to them, and yet clearly this individual felt the need to visit (?) a local area.  Also noticeable were a couple of Herring Gulls patrolling over the open ground, a feature which progressively becomes more obvious as Spring advances.

Other than that.....not a lot!! A flock of Fieldfare, by numbers the ones which have been around for a while, periodically either fed on the ground or perched up on overhead telephone wires. A single Starling also perched up and gave out of its varied song. Absent was any sign of Stonechats, which I think almost exclusively high tail it down to more coastal spots during the height of winter and derive a living from a slightly less demanding habitat. So, no awards for diversity or biomass on this occasion!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Return to base. 2.2.2013.

Overnight had seen some snow, which I  presumed had then melted and coated the car screen etc in ice. After clearing all that away , I set off around 0800 hours. Quite quickly conditions improved and it was an enjoyable journey back northwards up the A1, westwards over the A66,  and then northwards up to Glasgow, over the mountains at Arrochar and on over the western parts of Argyll to the ferry terminal at Kenncraig. Two hours or so on the ferry, made more tolerable by conversations about birds and conservation with Malcolm Ogilvie, before the final hours drive to home from Port Ellen.  In all a thirteen hour plus day, but without incident and actually quite enjoyable given the consistent conditions. Long journeys never really produce bird sightings to any degree , but a skein of Pink-footed Geese in the area of the Solway broke the monotony. The ferry journey was completed in darkness and provided no opportunity to look for divers or sea birds.

Despite the recent bad weather on Islay, there was no damage or problems and even the bins were still in position, which was a surprise!!

Icelandic in all but origin. 1.2.2013

Following a further busy day I decided I'd use my final "free" day in visiting the coast. The Iceland Gull present at Barmston on the east coast of Yorkshire considered to be the form,  kumlieni, seemed an opportunity too good to miss, so early morning saw me headed in that direction. It took a while before I saw this vagrant from NE Canada and, whilst I agreed it looked more robust and heavier billed than the nominate form, I never actually saw it down on the ground. It appeared  flew around for a while and then disappeared on three occasions and gave more than rewarding views.

During this time period of almost three hours a noticeable movement of 300-400 Herring Gull took place southwards down the coast. Odd Red-throated divers moved off the coast and odd parties of Dunlin and some Sanderling were in evidence. Later I moved to Hornsea and spent some time at The Mere looking through the large numbers of waterbirds which were present. all in all , a good day!

Taking account of the predicted weather which was developing I'd changed my plans such that I would now be travelling back to Islay tomorrow, as opposed to in three days time when forecasts suggested things were likely to be a bit "robust".!!!  It's best to be flexible living in my part of the world.

A long vigil. 30.1.2013.

After a necessary day on the 29th committed to business, I set off early today straight to Spurn again, intent on seeing the Richard's Pipit. However I first of all took a few photographs given the suitable weather conditions. The tide was low and the huge expanse of mud exposed on Humberside providing a vast feeding area for innumerable waders.

This shows the huge enclosed "sweep" of the Spurn Peninsula away around to its tip where the lighthouse and cottages of the lifeboat crew are located. A couple of bait diggers can be seen setting out to a selected area way out on the exposed mudflats. The history of Spurn is fascinating, with successive peninsulas having existed throughout history. I always thought, many years ago, that I would probably see the current peninsula being permanently breached. That situation has been close , is still close and doubtless is poised to happen at some near future point!  What must be appreciated is that the east coast of Yorkshire comprises, along its southern extension, an exposure of boulder clay, which is eroded away so easily by heavy seas. Moving down the peninsula from Kilnsea one meets , at what might be described as the widest point, the old Blue Bell Hotel. On its external wall nowadays are two plaques, which pay testament to the changes which have taken place in that they depict the distance of the building from the sea.

So, over the period 1847 to 1994, over two metres a year has been lost, more in some years than in others.
A scary concept if you live on the very edge of the coast!! When first I went to Spurn, and just along from the Blue Bell, was Kilnsea Cliff, which has since been lost in entirety!!

So following this interlude I then went up to the Kilnsea Wetlands only to discover that "the bird", in the form of Richard's Pipit, had been seen at 0840 hours , but had then flown off. Typical!!  So, I settled in for a potentially long wait within which time there was precious little else to challenge or entertain. The main excitement was a squall within a period of rising winds that must have topped 60 mph, rocked the hide, forced water in through every joint and caused the passing heavy rain showers to be horizontal and look like misty snow!! All in all I stayed there for five hours!! I took a break at the end of the afternoon and returned after a half hour or so. Imagine my surprise when, within the next half hour, the bird flew closely past the hide, gave tremendous views for a couple of minutes or so and then disappeared!!  A lesson in application and discipline if you want to be a nerd, but a reality in being frozen and stiff if you're human!! I'll leave you to decide!

Close encounters with a Spoonbill. 28.1.2013.

Whilst the morning was taken up with some formal commitments the afternoon saw me at the coast north of Spurn Head doing a bit of sea watching. It was rather quiet, although a few Red-throated Divers were moving around along a coastal stretch that is a traditional wintering area. I decided to go down to Spurn itself, take a few photographs at leisure and look for the Spoonbill that was frequenting the Kilnsea Wetlands area.
Spurn has a very special place in my memories, my heart even if we want to get sentimental, as it was the first real place that my serious birding "took off" after Wath Ings, now the Old Moor RSPB Reserve, where I received tutelage and friendship from figures such as Dave Standring, Alan Archer, Colin Bower, Mike Clegg, Malcolm Rhymer and David Ashurst. My first holiday at Spurn was, I think, towards the end of the 1950's when Geoff Aynsley and myself had a couple of weeks there at the end of August one year. Fellow kindred spirits were Charlie Winn and Ken Hardcastle, but we were all  "presided over" by one, Lt.Col, H.G.Brownlow, who used to take up residence there for weeks at a time. His passion was bird ringing and his habit was to recruit volunteers for either "long" or "semi-long" drives down towards the Warren heligoland trap. I don't think I ever endured a "long" drive, "semi longs" were extensive enough and sometimes only resulted in a couple of unfortunate Willow Warblers despite the effort!! His pronouncement, on one occasion, that we were all good chaps, but he wouldn't have recruited any of us as subalterns said it all!! And it goes on for probably a couple of decades, memories galore, some absolutely priceless!

Anyway, after some general birding, resulting in not too much, I went up to Kilnsea Wetlands. Imagine my surprise when , in walking to the hide overlooking the wetland area, I turned a corner on the access track and there was the Spoonbill. A great view , but I did wonder about a bird that was so tolerant.

The bird was obviously weak but, nonetheless, was able to fly past me for a few metres. I later learned, sadly, that it had been found dead on the day following, no doubt a victim of the harsh weather and the limited resources available at a site which has only relatively recently been developed. A great shame!

Later that evening I also learned ( Grrh!! ) that a Richard's Pipit had been seen at the same site , but had moved off early in the morning towards Sammy's Point on Humberside.

Time to move on . 27.1.2013.

Given Matthew had to return to work on the 28th I'd elected to spend some time on my own in East Yorkshire where there are endless good sites for birdwatching. By now the snow had virtually disappeared and access to all sites was easy.

After leaving  Matthew and Rose's flat in Sheffield I decided to take a trip down memory lane and visit several sites in the Penistone area where I used to live. In truth I didn't see very much that was of particular interest, but the visits rekindled particular memories that , in themselves, were enjoyable. With the upland reservoirs having just lost their ice covering only the most hardy remnants of the previously present Mallard and Tufted Ducks were in evidence. One area I visited ( Whitley Common ) brought back many memories. In times past it had held breeding Common Snipe, Redshank, Curlew and Mallard and surrounding fields attracted spring flocks of Golden Plover and the almost annual small trip of Dotterel, although one spring saw in excess of twenty.. On occasions the area was the location of wintering Short-eared Owls, with larger roosts present in times of passage. Due to some stupid decision by the Barnsley Planning Authority permission was granted for an area to be "landscaped " and for it to be the permanent site for a model aircraft club. The birds, of course, disappeared and the area, admittedly still in use, reduced to the single common denominator of usage that could have been accommodated at any number of sites. Given its location on the Pennines flanks the usage of the now flattened grassed-over area is limited due to weather, but the loss of wildlife is permanent. Such is progress we are told!  However, I was amazed to find that in a number of fields to the south various "new generation" wind turbines had been erected, the sort that are very large and only one per field is the order of the day! I do hope the model aircraft never stray off course!

Of more interest to me were Little Owls! Whilst their short -eared cousins would never return, along with the Dotterel, I wondered how the local pair of these small owls was faring. I certainly didn't see any, either at a favourite barn or within the crevices of a much used stone wall. Whilst I concede the blades of these huge units would undoubtedly allow the passage of Little Owls below their scything arcs, would the very presence of this "disturbance" effect  cause birds to abandon even traditional sites?  A case of a disturbance effect, as opposed to an interference effect. I haven't the answer, although I somehow guess, somewhat sadly, that it would. Certainly I shall be overjoyed on some future occasion to find them in residence, but the point still troubles me that such effects are not something we can easily examine or determine and yet the outcome could be quite drastic. For such a past  rough area to have been promoted to one with "relevant usage", but no longer carrying any of the intrinsic wildlife value it was capable of sustaining, and proven to sustain previously, is perhaps one of the more damning lessons of our land use policies and the utter inadequacy of the planning system, in terms of the retention of wildlife value, and the people who preside over it.

After completing a call at a supermarket for routine stores for the week ahead I travelled to my base near Hull and made plans for the following days.

Elusive Waxwings. 26.1.2013.

Although 2-3" of snow had fallen overnight there was a very slow thaw in evidence and various breaks in what had been days of leaden skies.

Picking up on local information we visited various locations in Sheffield where Waxwings had been seen in the early morning , but with no success. We decided to go to the RSPB Old Moor Reserve, check additional areas on the way and, as a final fall back position, hope that the birds that had been seen regularly in that area were still about. In short, all birds had moved and even a couple of optimistic visits to new housing developments, and their pristine landscaped areas awash with Cotoneaster, failed to secure success.

Instead we finally fell back on what the reserve had to offer and thoroughly enjoyed the outcome. The feeding station was teeming with birds and it was a pleasure to see Woodpigeon, Stock Dove and Collared Dove feeding together along with birds like Bullfinch, Brambling, Tree Sparrow and Willow Tit. A quite lengthy walk along the nearby Pennine Way, which overlooks the reserve, and then continues past Bolton Ings,  was invigorating if its bird species were few in number. An enjoyable afternoon and well worth the effort.  Almost too soon the temperature began to fall and we contemplated a return, resigned to the fact that Waxwings would only show themselves when the appropriate occasion arose!!

A variety of wetlands! 25.1.2013.

Initially the weather seemed to be relenting, finally, but late afternoon saw it snowing again with temperatures not improving.

We decided to visit the lagoon at Mirfield, West Yorkshire where the adult Ring-billed Gull, present last year, had returned to once again. This is a rare bird in Yorkshire but this individual had been mobile of late, no doubt influenced by the drastic weather conditions. Having located the "favourite" lagoon frequented by the bird we found it more or less frozen over, other than a couple of open lenses of water. A group of gulls , mainly of Black-headed Gulls but with odd Common Gull too, held promise and so it was that a bird, initially facing away from us, turned around and proved itself to be the adult bird concerned. Thankfully it remained in situ and provided excellent views. A good start!

Our next visit was to the Calder Valley Wetlands near Wakefield, whose access I was keen to learn about. A great site, just off the M1, with a good variety of duck , all of which can be seen easily and well. As with the nearby Pugneys site, this water body would also appear to be one than freezes over later than others and ,therefore, attracts good numbers of duck in times of harsh weather. With the adjacent car park, pub serving meals, nearby large supermarket, this site lends itself to being used for family "introduction to waterbirds" events by some conservation body or the Local Authority.

A quick visit to the Anglers Country Park to take a look at the Long-tailed Ducks which were present. Both birds were feeding avidly and spent more time below the water surface than in view. Nonetheless, they were fairly close and gradually good views of them were obtained. Several other species were in evidence and, on the adjacent Wintersett Reservoir, both Smew and Greater Scaup were present. Whilst we didn't remain to witness the spectacle, the traditional gull roost has seen both Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls in recent times and the late afternoon is also the period when one might gain a glimpse of a wintering Bittern. Apart from the more dramatic occurrences, the feeding station  immediately adjacent to the car park is a facility which shouldn't be ignored, with a wide variety of passerines on show, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfort of one's car whilst having a coffee! Coffee, convenience and conservation in action!!  Following a chat with Peter Smith and Angie Smith, and a "catch up" on absent friends and colleagues, we left to visit a new site near to Royston.

Rabbit Ings is a large site, formerly the location of a drift mine, a coal stacking facility and a spoil heap, whose transition into its current state bears little relation or connection to its former configuration. As with the expertise associated with Lakenheath, the capability nowadays to restore areas and convert them into sites of conservation value is quite remarkable.  The substrates associated with sites such as Rabbit Ings demand particular expertise and engineering competence and the site is a very apt example of how this has been executed in abundance. A large area which, despite the bitter temperatures and snow, was being enjoyed by walkers, joggers and birdwatchers alike. Large areas of rough grassland, a  small wetland, hawthorn and birch "copses", all contrive to present a collection of habitats  that so very often nowadays are dismissed, if not destroyed. And what of the birds?  Despite being a "new" site, since September,2011 up to six Short-eared Owls have been recorded, along with Kestrel, Buzzard and Long-eared Owl. Of particular interest,  thriving numbers of Grey Partridge are present, of which we saw a few birds, and from which hopefully a more widespread population will grow now that this important nucleus habitat is protected.  All in all a most welcome initiative and all concerned must be congratulated in bringing this to reality. For me, a particular joy was in meeting  past friends, Cliff Gorman  and, earlier, Keith Bannister, with whom I was in regular contact when living at home with my parents opposite to another favourite area, Carlton Marsh Reserve, many (!) years ago.  How quickly the years speed by!!

Birding on Borrowed Time! 24.1.2013.

No, not the book that Phoebe Snetsinger wrote about her birding exploits, but the fact that the three score years and ten have run out!! I suppose the day should have been dominated by concerns over "Sell By Date" banner headlines and Actuarial Statistics but , instead , we concentrated on trying to see Waxwings throughout most of the morning. We didn't and must , therefore, be the potential recipients of some award to birders that recognizes failure!  Sheffield, nowadays, seems to be the "Winter UK Capital" in many respects for Waxwings. Where were they for heaven's sake?

Next we did the full-on urban birding bit with heavy traffic moving immediately behind us whilst we scanned through endless gulls resting out on a warehouse roof.  Eventually we located our quarry, a fine adult Caspian Gull and discovered later that an immature too was present in the same area. I discovered later that we were also on the edge of Sheffield's Red Light District!!  Not a spot to be recognized on one's birthday I suggest, but the extremely low temperatures and snow underfoot did a thorough job and ensured any errant thoughts were  put to bed   dismissed !

The remaining part of the day was "birthday boy" orientated with a viewing of  "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", and absolutely excellent film, ( make sure you see it )  and dinner out in the evening.

Return of the Natives. 23.1.2013.

This was our final day within Norfolk before returning to South Yorkshire so we headed down to what, for both of us , has become somewhat of a favourite RSPB reserve, Lakenheath Fen. This is a success story of a major kind and serves to show what conservation expertise can achieve and what it is clearly capable of.

The long trudge out in the snow to the Common Crane viewing point would have been applauded by a cardiologist, but didn't feel particularly rewarding in a personal sense!! A highlight was disturbing a Chinese Water Deer close by to the path, which afforded great views, even to our being able to see the small antlers it sported. Numbers of Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare and the odd Song Thrush foraged determinedly within the woodland plantations and a couple of flocks of Goldfinch were in evidence. Despite the harsh weather small birds here were more obvious than in several other places and a female Merlin hunted some hapless group in the distance.

However, with Grey lag Geese, Cormorant, Magpie, Reed Bunting, odd Blue Tits , several Marsh Harriers and even reasonable views of a single Bittern being on offer there was no sign of our quarry, and even with endless layers of clothing, the relentless, and renowned (!), coldness of the Fens finally begins to bite!

Disgruntled and in need of a lift, a Crane perhaps?

And so we sat, stamped our feet, took coffee, called on St. Jude......but to no avail, of Common Cranes there was no sign! However, and to prove we at least were in the right place, the information board in the hide served to stiffen our resolve to visit on another occasion. After all, on every previous visit we'd been lucky and, given the circumstances, it was hardly surprising the birds were moving around a little.

Click on the photograph to enlarge the size and enable you to read the print.

The journey back to Sheffield was uneventful, provided an opportunity to celebrate successes and commiserate over failure. The weather forecast even promised a gradual improvement,  well it would , wouldn't it, now that we'd survived the worst and seen some great birds in the process. In passing, thanks too to Matthew for the sterling work he'd put in doing all the driving ( rallying even! ) during the whole period and making the trip possible.

Golden moments! 22.1.2013.

It had snowed overnight, but only to a depth of 2" or so. Our first destination was Salthouse beach where we quickly found four obliging Snow Buntings. There was no sign of much else so we returned to Cley and walked east on the coastal bank , i.e. towards Salthouse, in an attempt to locate the Shorelarks seen previously, but to no avail. Various groups of Linnet and Goldfinch fed on the sparse vegetation and a good collection of duck and waders was on Arnold's Marsh. All in all the general spectacle was somewhat forlorn as a Little Egret aptly portrayed within a snow filled vista.

After calling in to see Patrick Dwyer at the Cley Centre we continued westwards to the Holkham area with the intention of having a good tramp around the Park to search for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Whilst, on one occasion, we had a single Green Woodpecker and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the same tree there was no sign of their smaller relative. Despite an extensive search we were out of luck although had some fine views of Redwing foraging below the grand tress that comprise the woodlands and of several Woodcock too.

With time creeping on we decided to go to Hunstanton to view the sea. Despite good sea conditions little was in evidence from either the cliffs, other than the odd Fulmar, or the Ski ramp site and so we reviewed what we might best recover from the day. Our decision to go to Wolferton Triangle and sit it out in an attempt to see Golden Pheasant took the vote and so we went even further west. So, imagine our  incredulity and delight when, at 1521 hours on a winter's afternoon, two magnificent male Golden Pheasants were feeding out on the grass "verge" running along the woodland. We'd usually relied on the advice of dawn and dusk visits being best, neither of which we'd found over the years was guaranteed , so mid-afternoon was a pleasant surprise. The colours on these birds has to be seen to be believed with contrast, vibrancy and sheer variation of colour being so extensive that it's difficult to retain a mental picture of what they're like!! This was more than an apt substitute for what we'd failed to see earlier!

And so, what to do now with a good hour or so of daylight remaining. Titchwell and the harrier roost took the vote and we took up station behind the new "blind" beyond the Fen hide which gives a good view of the reedbeds. A further surprise was in store as we had good views of the single female Red-crested Pochard before beginning to scan around in earnest for arriving harriers. As before 9/10 Marsh Harriers arrived to roost and a single ring tail Hen Harrier together with odd Little Egret. A couple of hunting  Sparrowhawk sped across the reedbeds and  a roost of Magpies noisily formed nearby until gradually the activity and noises of the day gave way to silence. Calling Cetti's Warbler and a couple of Water Rail brought the final Act to a close and we discovered that we were the last car left in the car park yet again!! Yet another rewarding day!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Service now resumed!

First of all, many apologies for the abrupt absence of "service" over past days.  I had supposedly made provision for WiFi access where I was staying, which worked for one evening only, as opposed to the whole week. Yours not impressed!  Waves will be made.

Talking of waves, I also changed my arrangements, sensibly I think, for my return to Islay. It meant setting aside a couple of commitments and visits in Lancashire and Dumfries, but I think it was well advised.  I was due to return today  Mon.4th , but if I say the wind has just whipped a large refuse bin across the yard you'll understand why I made the decision!  I managed to get back late on the 2nd (Sat) on a perfect sea.........

I have reports for the time I was away and will be catching up with their posting over the next couple of days.