Friday, May 17, 2013

Highland sojourn.

Today will be the last of my being in Northern Scotland;  not in some remote glen , but on the edge of the Beauly Firth backed by agricultural land and mixed woodland moving into the hills beyond. Quintessential countryside that possibly never serves to attract people for a birding holiday, but rich and rewarding for the delights it has on offer.

For me, as I've said on previous occasions, the opportunity to walk along a "typical" country lane with Common Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow to be seen and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Chiffchaff and Siskin calling from nearby woodlands, is pure enjoyment. Admittedly the experience is nothing special, in that it doesn't include some speciality or other, or is that the case?  It seems to me, with the benefit of hindsight spreading over too many years nowadays , that these unofficial stretches of our mostly undesignated general countryside are beginning to be particularly especial reservoirs of value. That contribution of importance began to emerge many years ago, but its value and significance nowadays begins to be of inestimable importance. With too many hedgerows gone already, copses stripped out, other areas left to simply reach a level of dereliction, these areas are those playing host to remnant populations of our "common" wildlife heritage. Too often, such remnant patches stand isolated amongst a stereotypic landscape of intensive productivity, in other instances they constitute a patchwork quilt of variety and, thankfully, such is the case in this area. Having expressed some general doom and gloom, I also feel there is room for some optimism too. Actual examples and reports of  "mini-projects", or simply changes in management processes, by individual farmers are there to be found if you look for them. Not enough, but that will always be case when evaluating something from a position of self interest. The task is to ensure that we, the public, express our appreciation of what we see around us to ensure losses are minimised. In that context, the intention expressed in the Queen's Speech whereby the current most  " Non Green UK Government Ever "  is to push forward on deregulation measures sounds ominous in the extreme given their previously expressed attitudes towards the countryside. Thankfully such potential measures would have no implications for the immediate environs here!!

Two general matters. Yesterday saw the 70th anniversary of the Dambuster's raids in the Second World War. Whatever your position relating to such celebrations, one aspect stands out prominently in my mind on each occasion some anniversary arises. The practice runs during the war to test the bouncing bomb were made in the Peak District. Whenever an anniversary occurs it is customary for the last remaining Lancaster bomber to over fly the reservoir areas involved. On three occasions, because of this,  I've had the privilege of seeing this magnificent aircraft in action. The first, many years ago, saw a friend, Major R.Weeks ( Rtd), and now deceased, and myself in a woodland north of Sheffield checking some mammal traps. His head suddenly snapped up and he said, " That's a Lancaster!"  We raced to the woodland's edge and, yes, there it was moving past, its throaty engine sound being the trigger that had belied its identity. The overall area, on the edge of the Peak District near to Penistone,  often operates as the "gathering ground" previous to the actual fly over of the reservoirs further south at an appointed time. To see the aircraft at close quarters is a memorable experience in itself,  to hear its unmistakable engine roar and witness how comparatively slowly this great beast moves is remarkable. To realise how easy a target the planes themselves must have been is a testament to the crew who flew them. No red mist stuff here, simply a dedication to routine duty. Other present day conflicts demand the same sense of selfless contribution and ,in my opinion, it demands at least a thought, if nothing else, from all of us for those who are in such situations.

The second matter concerns dogs!!  Having been pulled off my feet once this week by two exuberant sheepdogs spying a Roe Deer away down the lane, I was amazed when one of them went ballistic in the house, barking excitedly. Looking through the window, two Roe Deer suddenly erupted from behind the hedge 50m. away across the garden and ran into the nearby wood. How on earth do dogs detect such things? Passing horses have the same effect (!) , but at least they clip clop!!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Twitch by any other name! 11.5.2013.

Away early looking for Crested Tit and Black Grouse, but to no avail.  Talking to a couple of local wardens it seems the numbers of the former might just be low at present. Visits in recent years to this overall area do appear to suggest that Crested Tit is more difficult to see than previously, which is a shame. By contrast , Black Grouse appear to have improved in various areas, although not in others, with some populations being lost altogether.  The swings and roundabout situation within which many natural populations exist, compounded by the increasing number of influences we as humans bring to bear upon them !  Best not to contemplate the situation too intensively as too many conclusions are little short of being depressing!!!

The weather had deteriorated with rain at times. I travelled on to Burghead, via Lochindorb, pausing at intervals to scan various moorland tracts. The plaintive calls of Golden Plover contrasted with the far carrying and assertive outpourings of Grey lag Geese  ( where aren't there Grey lags nowadays? ).  A single Black throated Diver was seen on a roadside loch and Common Sandpipers fled out over the water from roadside territories. Somewhat subjective was the conclusion that Meadow Pipit numbers here "in the east" were far below the level  they are currently enjoying on Islay.

Hit on a clear patch of weather at Burghead, but this did little to assist the search for the recently reported While-billed Diver! A nice Great Northern Diver in full summer plumage and several Razorbills showed to full effect in good light amidst the calls of both Arctic and Sandwich Terns overhead, whilst a party of Common Scoter flew nearby.  Burghead is a nice picturesque spot with an interesting harbour and three adjacent buildings previously used for grain storage, all attributed to the past skills of Thomas Telford, whose influence in past days appears to have been as ubiquitous as the current day distribution of Grey lag Geese!! And so the putative twitch came to an end and I set off on my journey to Kirkhill, Beauly, to meet up with my younger daughters, get fussed over by the dogs and act as factotum whilst their Mum is away, ( oh and to oversee (my word) all efforts at revising for exams!!).

Speyside splendour! 10.5.2013.

I'd set aside a day and a half for some intensive birding before being up in Inverness staying with my two daughters for a week. Thankfully the day dawned bright and fine!  My "difficulties" with parking the night before were explained by the presence, at the hotel, of members of the Rolls Royce Club (Scottish Section). In all there was in excess of thirty of these vehicles, and what a magnificent bunch they were too. I'm afraid my little Ford Fiesta parked at the end of the line looked somewhat incongruous.........

I commenced on my round of visits to favourite areas and soon had a good list of species in the making! Things appear to be as equally "late" here as elsewhere, with some summer migrants noticeably absent. Good numbers of Willow Warbler and Sand Martin and odd Blackcap. I looked in vain for Crested Tit, but a great view of a female Merlin "stooping" at a Song Thrush made up for things and a nearby lochan provided views of Slavonian Grebe, Wigeon, several Goldeneye and a couple of Common Sandpiper. Odd Swallows only were around, and what I judged to be a recently arrived Wood Warbler ( 2013, 196 ) showed well, but sang far less enthusiastically.

 Later, up one of my favourite glens, and whilst enjoying a relaxed lunch break, a pair of Common Buzzard had a tussle with a female Goshawk, ( 2013,197 ) all of them providing great views in continuing sunlight.  Another location, and its varying habitats, provided a good selection of typical species such as Siskin, Tree Pipit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Treecreeper  and was then further enhanced by a couple of Scottish Crossbill.(2013,198 )

The day had already provided a good selection of "Speyside specialities" and time still remained!  Moving on I watched an Osprey eyrie from a distance and just caught the male (2013, 199 ) moving off on a hunting foray. The white crown of the female could just be seen by a telescope as she moved occasionally with the deep nest bowl. Tremendous birds!

Travelling on again, I was just passing a section of mature Caledonian pine woodland when a female Capercaillie (2013, 200 ! ) emerged "turkey like" onto the roadside verge. By this time things were very quiet, but, nonetheless, this was a total bonus. I'm not sure who was the most surprised and, as with all such experiences of value, it finished all too quickly. At close quarters the markings on the wings are very distinctive, as well as the size! Sadly, the weather deteriorated in that it began to rain heavily and ruined my intended evening walk on Cairngorm. I went up there anyway and, whilst the visibility was poor, I was rewarded with a sighting of five of the Reindeer herd which is present in the overall area.  A great day!!

I thought of parking on the lawn last evening!!!  I had to laugh at the "No  dogs allowed" sign though!!  Strictly for Rolls Royces it seems.

A day in transit. 9.5.2013.

A continuation of poor weather with intermittent periods of rain, grey skies and a fresh SE wind. Thankfully my ferry journey across to the mainland in the afternoon was unaffected, in fact the "newest" ferryboat cut through the sea conditions in fine style! As I travelled north eastwards the conditions improved, with the wind dropping, the sky opening a little and also a short period of evening sun!

The morning at home had been a bit of a "write off". Other than a few auks and the odd Gannet the major part of the ferry journey also was uneventful. As we reached the mainland, a number of Great Northern and Black-throated Divers were in evidence, some in splendid summer plumage.  The road journey north eastwards, via Fort William, Spean Bridge and Newtonmore was characterized by a low volume of traffic, which allowed the full benefit of evening bird song to be enjoyed en route. It was great, nothing special, but a continuous presentation matching the magnificence of the adjacent scenery. So very often bird song is snatched away by the ever present breeze, or worse, on Islay which, combined with much less tree cover, then makes a succession of Blackbird song a pleasant novelty!

I finally reached my destination as darkness was falling, after an almost continuous drive of  four and a half hours. And so to bed in order to assault the morn!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A day of improvement and surprises. 7.5.2013.

Probably the best day in the year so far!  Sunny, warm, light winds, a real pleasure to be out!  Another day on Jura , although with weather in contrast to a couple of days ago!

Such was the influence of the weather that the ferry was in constant service getting day visitors over to the island. It was a perfect day for birding, although conditions underfoot on the hill were still wet in places. Willow Warblers seemed to be everywhere, singing their hearts out as new territories were declared. North of Craighouse a succession of singing Sedge Warblers buzzed and wheezed alongside the road. The sea was placid, gleaming and yielded the nose and head of an Otter moving across the bay. Along the coast itself   7 Light-bellied Brent Geese looked absolutely resplendent as they fed in the shallows.

Farther on, a woodland stretch had innumerable Willow Warblers and  a Blackap (2013, 194 ) in song. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called, flew further on and fed for a while before slipping away. In recent years this species has begun to be seen more regularly on Islay and these increasing sightings possibly signals a slight extension of their permanent range onto "the islands". Best of all was a singing Pied Flycatcher, which was very mobile and difficult to see, which suggested heavily that it was a newly arrived migrant. Whilst the bird does breed on mainland Argyll, its numbers are very low and, therefore, this occurrence is worth monitoring further. A little later an absolutely stunning male Whinchat  (2013,195 ) perched for a while on a fence line and gave exceptional views.Off shore a Great Northern Diver in full summer plumage slowly moved northwards and provided great views of what is such a transition in appearance compared to winter.

As if to add further confirmation of summer several Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green-veined White and a single Orange-tip butterfly were seen.  In all, a very enjoyable day.    

Monday, May 6, 2013

Journey's end, journey in progress!! 6.5.2013

A picture taken this morning close to home showing a male Northern Wheatear, now on territory , and a Redwing that has yet to complete its onward migration to reach "home ground" and a local territory. Unless I ought to listen for Redwing there's a thing!!!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cuckoos and Curlews. 4.5.2013.

I confess to luxuriating in the experience in Spring of being woken up ( rather early I'm afraid ) by bubbling Curlews on the surrounding moorland and the metronomic-al reminder by one or more Cuckoos that time is ticking by !  Such was this morning's experience, providing a possible confirmation that Spring has arrived.

Soon after, following a close scrutiny of the grassland moor opposite and adjoining areas, it was apparent that there had been a fall of Northern Wheatears.  Usually early May is the time when passage can be dominated by "Greenland" Wheatears, but such was not the case today. Of the birds found only an odd "Greenland" was discovered;  by contrast several female Northern Wheatears was present, set against a seeming predominance of male birds in other recent days when, clearly, arrivals had taken place. Gradually the numbers reduced as birds moved northwards along the glen, the migratory imperative still influencing matters.

Because of time constraints and other commitments I decided to do a routine check around the immediate local area.  I find this approach, carried out at intervals throughout the year, provides a very useful barometer within which details can be compared from the equivalent period twelve or so months before. Wandering westwards across to the coast and around hill top fields, followed by a similar journey across the grass moor to the east and along the perimeter of the adjacent forestry, gives a good impression of what is around.

Whilst there has been much talk of how late, precisely in some cases, this season appears to be in 2013, looking at past bird records suggests things generally are not far from the norm. What does appear to have occurred is that Spring arrivals have been subject to being influenced by differing weather systems and, therefore, have appeared in a series of "pulses". For example, the wide arrival of Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler or Grasshopper Warblers appears not to have been completed and, in the above area, a number of  usual territories of each were, as yet, empty.  By contrast, particularly compared to last year, Meadow Pipit numbers appear to be buoyant ( good news for Cuckoos! ) and the number of Curlew pairs is higher than in 2012. It was consoling to find at least two pairs of obvious "local" Stonechats in residence, a good indication that their numbers were certainly back to normal, if not in excess, of the level previous to the poor recent winters which had caused reductions. Throughout the period "zips" ( my term ) of Goldfinch went though north, usually just one or two birds together, being returning  birds that had sought to spend the winter further south.
Routine perhaps, unexciting,  but a useful insight into the local situation and circumstances within the Spring of 2013.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Moluccan Woodcock (Scolopax rochussenii ) and Alfred Russell Wallace.

My eye was caught recently by an announcement that an expedition had secured film footage and recordings of the Moluccan Woodcock  (Scolopax rochussenii ) first described by Alfred Russell Wallace some 150 years ago and seen very seldom since. The discovery had been made on the island of Obi,south of Halmahera in Eastern Indonesia. A short film is now available on YouTube under reference or key in Moluccan Woodcock and follow various links.

Whilst short the sequence captures an image of this large, almost mythical bird, which is active at dawn and dusk and was found, not on high land, as expected, but on much lower swampy ground. Other sites were examined and resulted in 51 sightings of the bird!!!   Rather a drastic turn around compared to previously!!

From this my curiosity ran riot a little. I discovered that a company, Ashburton Minerals Ltd had drilled for gold on Obi recently and had high hopes for what appeared to be a southerly extension of the Gosowong Deposits within the Halmahera magmatic arc. This appears to have not been continued, at the present time at least  and therefore the threat to this recent discovery may have diminished.

The connection with the species' finder, A.R.Wallace, soon followed and a whole host of details just begged to be explored!!  2013 is the Centenary of Wallace's death and various celebratory occasions have occurred in recent times. That Wallace ( 1823-1913 ) was a remarkable man is in no doubt. Exploring the Malay Archipelago  ( the title of his book of his adventures )  over several years he discovered over 5000 new animal species of which over 200 carry his name. Quite independently, he arrived at the same conclusions as Charles Darwin on the mechanisms associated with evolution, which resulted in the joint presentation by Darwin and Wallace, in July, 1858, of the Theory of Natural Selection. It was the publication two years later of "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin that linked the author with the popular conclusion that he was the man who discovered evolution. Wallace was in no way bitter about this and comes over as a very genuine person for whom natural history and science sustained a satisfying permanent interest and challenge. He was described by Sir David Attenborough recently as "an admirable man".

This latter story has been convincingly told by Bill Bailey, actor, musician and comedian, who has recently presented two television programmes, "Bill Bailey's Jungle Hero" on BBC 2.  Bailey has a passionate interest in wildlife himself, but had been fired up by the injustice surrounding Wallace and his discovery. The relevance of this was clearly known about by the scientific community,but in popular terms, had largely gone unrecognised. Bailey had also visited SE Asia many times but, on this recent occasion for the television programmes , had followed much of Wallace's journey during the eight years he spent collecting specimens in the region from 1854.  It's absolutely fascinating stuff, and I would recommend everyone watch both programmes if they can, as much contained within them is new and refreshing.  Bailey's efforts over the years has resulted in a painting of Wallace being hung in the Natural History Museum, London close to the statue of Charles Darwin, a fitting culmination of a partnership which brought such insight to our world. Well done Bill Bailey!  Even the painting succeeds, in my opinion, to convey an image of a generous, kindly and sincere man.

Such has my own interest been aroused in the subject that I've already enquired about Wallace's book, "Malay Archipelago". This has never been out of print and can be purchased from Amazon and elsewhere!
Whilst knowing of Wallace's relevance in ornithological terms, particularly the Wallace Line, I confess to having erred towards Darwin as far as explanations relating to evolution are concerned. Somewhat shamefacedly, I shall now put that right!  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hen Harriers.......fascinating background information re the Yorkshire Dales.

This afternoon my copy of the Yorkshire Naturalist's Union 2011 Yorkshire Bird Report arrived in the post ( remember our post arrives via ferry or air! ).  A tangible promise of unqualified enjoyment!!  Now, as befits a big County, this is a big report, 248 pages in fact. Indeed, such is the array of unrelenting facts within the report that this can be classed as a book relating to the birds, or associated matters, within a given calendar year!!

I neither receive nor purchase a sufficient number of County Bird Reports to allow me to make any value judgement as to which is best or might act as a template against which others might follow. Suffice to say , this must surely be up with the best! Given the economics of producing such high quality reports nowadays and the need for high volume sales or advertising to influence matters, there is an admirable lack of pages given over to promoting this or that.  This is a solid bird report, end to end, and the YNU must be congratulated at getting the requisite part of the "business plan" affecting this particular aspect absolutely correct!! As a member of the YNU everyone receives a "free" copy, but individual copies can be purchased as well ( see the YNU website ).

Within the report is an article entitled " The importance of the Yorkshire Dales to Hen Harriers" by Stephen Murphy ( Natural England, ornithologist).  There is much which is absolutely fascinating within the report provided and the effort put into the work is understated and must be applauded. Having had an association with the Forest of Bowland area before all this work started, I was spell bound within minutes of receiving the report in terms of the detail made available. It avoids the thorny subject of Hen Harrier persecution, areas involved, Estates responsible and so on, but , accepted as an explanation of many things associated with the species, people will find the account utterly fascinating , and in this sense, it is more than a worthwhile success! Whilst I've criticized DEFRA for not releasing the more political elements of the research findings associated with pursuing aspects of Hen Harrier persecution, given that Stephen Murphy is connected with the Department, it must be remembered that this work is also associated with someone's Ph.D . Clearly my resolve to see such data in the public domain remains intact!!  But this is a day to acknowledge the presentation of facts that are interesting, bring relevance to an area of Yorkshire, its importance as an area towards which harriers gravitate regularly and pay tribute to the fact that information and data is there that, ultimately, will undoubtedly prove beneficial  in the fight associated with harrier persecution. Against this, it must be acknowledged, that there is a number of the birds carrying the devices upon which the conclusions are based that have now, sadly, met their end!!

May I end by mentioning the following, which will only be of relevance to, shall we say, the older element of the YNU.  Clive Varty, ( now deceased ), long time supporter of the YNU and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust , member of the YNU Bird Protection Committee and devotee of the Yorkshire Dales, its Peregrines and other birds of prey , would have loved, absolutely, to be aware of this sort of work going on and  associated with a species in which he held a great interest!  Despite the problems and challenges it is good to know such work continues that keeps the fascination of harriers alive and well!

In some ways, we are making progress, it's just that it seems to take so long a time to deliver positive results and changes!! In this respect, may I thank all members of the YNU who signed the E-petition following a recent meeting ( Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers. ) and for the sterling efforts of John Wint in organizing matter.

Some early thoughts on today's elections!

I always follow the results of elections, be they local or national, or even European!  Such can signal a sea change in a variety of aspects that affect us all.  Today's emergence of  UKIP , admittedly largely in England, has seen them gain 136 seats across various Councils. This will set off alarm bells amongst the other main parties, indeed because , first of all, it suggests UKIP is a party that can influence matters and can no longer be regarded as fringe! The excuses for failure from political parties, exaggerated declarations of success and drastic change will no doubt bore everyone over ensuing days. The fact of the matter is that there's been a significant change associated with the political balance scales, to deny it would be sheer lunacy!

As far as environmental matters are concerned what might all this mean?  In terms of the influences on local issues it's difficult to see what UKIP will bring to debates and decision making as their declared  policies on environmental matters, even in a general context, are difficult to pin down. Fewer Tory councillors might alter things, of course, and where additional seats have been gained by the Labour Party, hopefully a more sensitive approach will apply.

My hopes is that this significant upset will suggest to the Tory leadership that , if they want to achieve success in 2015, win back voters etc, they might be less inclined, for example, to introduce the self serving policies which DEFRA have excelled in bringing forward, and that they will be more responsive to pressure. This is a time for us all to ask questions about environmental policies, make our views known, and put all Parties under pressure so that they are more than aware of what the views of the electorate are in advance of 2015.   

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Squeezed time, some result!!

A slightly early post as I've still to complete a report and get it sent off!!  I couldn't resist rising to the challenge of trying to see the Ring-necked Duck and Long-billed Dowitcher seen yesterday on Islay, although what with telephone calls etc , it was mid-morning before I could escape!!

Driving both up to and from Ardnave Loch on the "Gruinart penninsula" in the northern part of the Rinns, it was noticeable that many of the Northern Wheatears had now moved through and only the odd "Greenland" Wheatear was to be seen . How compelling an imperative our migrants are linked to when on migration!!! Today was cold and grey with a stiff southerly wind, particularly in late morning. Previous to all this, I was diverted ( and delayed ) as, near home, Cuckoos called, but little else appeared to have changed as yet!  I'm utterly intrigued, however, by the behaviour of a pair of Choughs who appear to have a daily battle with a pair of Starlings nesting in one of the large ( Chough ) nestboxes in the barn. Regular appearances, such as this morning, eviction behaviour and the like, accompanied by raised decibels and I'm still not sure who is the official tenant!!

The real fun has yet to start as  "my" Swallows have not yet arrived and they have to use the "common entrance" to gain access to the barn!!  Happy days!

Anyway, Ardnave Loch proved to be a little windswept but, over two/three hours, provided some excellent birdwatching. The female Ring-necked Duck was easily located , although proved to be very active over the ensuing hour, until a period of preening ensured the bird was more static!  A party of Tufted Duck, a female Scaup, Mallard and nesting Mute Swan, plus Grey lag Geese and two Canada Geese in a nearby field added interest. Despite effort the Long-billed Dowitcher proved utterly elusive, or had possibly left? No problem, an earlier individual in late April a few years ago had "delivered" , but this had appeared to be a very confiding individual or was now exhibiting a skill for evasion!

Within the above period 21 Choughs flew around, 110 Barnacle Geese flew over, surely some of the last, and a fine Peregrine flew languidly over the area, providing insecurity to many and invoking general vocal alarm!  As I left a couple of Black-tailed Godwit literally ran from my path and gave great views.

Two great birds showing different development stages in plumage. Nice.

Back to desk work!!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A time to rejoice and reflect (but sadly).

It's probably best not to get too hung up on the reasoning behind why and how life itself progresses, be it for us as humans, for what surrounds us or what inhabits Earth alongside us or even, indeed, the processes that sustain us. But can we really afford to ignore everything completely?  Do we not have a wider responsibility to Mother Earth?

This morning broke clear and bright, sunshine and warmth bringing an automatic lifting of the spirit.  Indeed, this was the scene immediately outside my kitchen window this morning...... a tangible signal that we associate with Spring, despite such a scene being part of a managed process.


Despite this "warming" picture, the Spring has been marred by poor weather and numbers of young lambs have been found dead. A fine balance between what we can control and what we have no control over at all.

By contrast, my early morning journey down to the coast met up with these fine beasts that did the usual stampede across the road from farmland to cover. A great sight, but a subject I've mentioned previously!

Such was the close proximity of the encounter that I must admit to thoughts of my own mortality afterwards and of how fragile is the balance between assured continuity and closure!!

Now all this reflection comes in a week of good news in family terms and warm feelings of security.  "No. two daughter", Rachael , passed her driving test on Monday and enjoyed her 18th birthday today, "No.three daughter, Katherine , had her interview today to become a Prefect at her school, daughter, Ashley, continues to be embroiled in the high legalities of football club takeovers, my son's partner, Rose, gained a job as a designer in Sheffield, and my son, Matthew, traced some long desired reference material relating to his Great Grandfather, of which probably considerably more later!!  Satisfying milestones in personal terms and tangible signals of success.

But all this can also engage with extremely sad aspects too. Tomorrow, Dave, Chris and Emma will attend the funeral in South Yorkshire of much beloved wife, Mother and Mother in law, Margaret. A personal friend and someone from whom friendship and fun is no longer to be enjoyed and experienced. Heartbreaking and a signal life for us all is not assured, but an experience we should all use to the full to the best of our ability.

Nature too and our environment might always appear to be in equilibrium, a system that will always be there for us to use, take for granted,  abuse and generally ignore, but we do so at our peril.  Earth, like us, can also have finite aspects attached to its functions and be subject to circumstances we are responsible for and which could be avoided.  Given we,ourselves, are all subject to a finite period of survival it makes sense to make the best of that time, but also, within that time, to conduct our survival in such a way that it complements, not reduces, the very physical processes that sustain us. Whilst we will still have to experience personal sadness and loss, such a contribution to Mother Earth will still embrace personal success and friendship and provide for those who follow circumstances to be enjoyed within an environment that is vibrant, healthy and carries real promise and signals of permanent renewal and quality ( despite marauding deer! ).

Hen Harriers.......are we making sufficient progress?

Way back in January, 2012 I changed the title of this Blog to its current name. Previous to then it had operated under the title of Islay Birder. I wanted a more broad based title given my intention to be more involved in lobbying and other issues. During the sixteen months which have elapsed since the above date I've spent a lot of time promoting the current plight of Hen Harriers and raptor persecution in general  in the UK.  Over 30 postings have appeared where the main focus has been on the above two subjects, either collectively or separately, in addition to those associated with the Buzzard cull proposals. Some of the more relevant pieces are listed below.

Tuesday      1st May.           Hen Harriers in Bowland.....a lament!
Sunday       12th August       Raptor's muck or nettles I'm afraid!
Monday      1st  October      Hen Harriers.....satellite tracking and transparency.

Tuesday       12th February   Hen Harriers.....a wall of silence.
Wednesday  27th February   Action on Hen Harrier persecution!
Sunday          3rd March       Hen Harriers.....the lunacy must stop!
Thursday        7th March       Why are gamekeepers being protected?

All this has resulted in my deciding to register an E-petition, which I did at the end of February, see
Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers

As of this moment the number of signatures is 4350. Whilst this suggests that, by the end of February, 2014, the total will exceed comfortably that which was was gained for a previous petition associated with Vicarious Liablity,  it wouldn't appear to represent the potential number of supporters which undoubtedly are out there "in the sticks" given the number of birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts in the UK. The idea of E-petitions may be new to some, the means of registering perhaps bewildering ( just click the above link!! ) or they've simply not yet got around to submitting details yet. However, the reality of the current situation is that, if we really wish to improve things for our raptor populations, then we also need to raise our game.  This is nobody else's battle ; it's ours, yours and mine!

For anyone that is uncertain about the issues involved or the extent of persecution taking place, I can only urge that they read some of the entries listed above. For those who have signed the petition already, may I offer my heartfelt thanks.  For "birder technophobes", of which I know there are many,  please Tweet, promote on Facebook, circulate around your E-mail address books and so on. For those who might be Leaders or Secretaries of bird groups, whatever their type, please twist a few arms or publicise the details at some appropriate opportunity!!  To everyone and anyone who might assist in whatever chosen fashion,  many thanks!!!!

The reference for the petition is below if you wish to quote it in a Newsletter or correspondence. The title is as given in the link above.

Thank you all!