Saturday, June 21, 2014

Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group.

Whilst I was away in Speyside around a month ago I picked up a Scottish Provincial Press supplement entitled Energy North.  It's packed full of really interesting articles, to the extent that I shall try and get hold of future copies.

I'd not realised that such a group existed. It's funded by the Scottish Government, SNH, RSPB, Scottish Renewables, SSE, Scottish Power, RES and Vattenfall and £50,000 has already been spent on various studies with research costing another £54,000 underway.

At a recent meeting in Perth the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group ( SWBSG) announced the development of a Good Practice Guide focussing on how bird populations and their related habitats can be managed effectively where wind farm development is taking place. The research itself is being carried out by Stirling and Newcasle Universities the results from which will feed back into advice available for industry and others in the future.

With repeated concerns being expressed about the potential effects further developments might have upon wildlife, this guide promises to be an extremely useful tool and is a good representative example of how industry, government and the conservation NGO's can work together.

A little bit of natural "history".

A couple of weeks ago I returned home after a good spell of birding at a variety of places around the UK. Following a couple of  "domestic days" getting things organized I was ready to enjoy what Islay had to offer. But as with every potential idyllic situation , there was a downside too.

Despite a brief period of working the television then went off ! Now I have to say that I'm utterly dependent on Mr Murdoch's empire when it comes to TV services, as attempts to receive "ordinary" telly through an aerial on the chimney have met with unmitigated disaster. Indeed most of at least two aerials have been spread around the countryside as a result of high winds within fierce storms.  Natural forces at their most potent!

On this occasion the problem appeared to be associated with electricity, not from within a failed supply source, but of an altogether natural variety!! Various parts of the island had been affected and, of course, other equipment was affected too, including computers for some. I escaped that onslaught but suffered from some gremlins which now appear to have fled the circuitry of their own accord.

Well,of course, with all the excitement building around sports events, being without a telly was a bit of a bum deal given it took a fortnight to get things sorted.  And then, with a system restored, and entertainment guaranteed,  the next phase struck.  England's elimination? Oh no, that could be deemed "natural" in a way , I suppose. No, this held more potential than that!   Just after the Costa Rica v. Italy match commenced (our time ) we had not one, but two, EARTHQUAKES !

Just after 1700 hours a distant rumble was heard and slight effect felt , followed a minute or so later by another. See the British Geological Society web site for details ( ).  Thankfully , they were seven and six kilometres down and "only" 2.5 and 1.7 in intensity, of which I'm told the UK suffers around 25 per year!!   Was this a portent of things to come ?  Within 90 minutes the final blow was struck?  As for the telly, well, I've switched it off in disgust or in honour of all things natural!!!  

Friday, June 6, 2014

And finally, with apologies, a catch-up!!

I suppose I could give you a detailed catalogue of problems amounting to a collective tale of woe, but I doubt it's the sort of thing any of you really want to read.  Suffice to say, hardware gremlins, inadequate WiFi facilities in far flung places, despite being promised, and simply being away in places where no such facilities operate, have all contributed to an absence of entries.

In that intervening period though I have to admit I've enjoyed some damned good birding. From Fife/Lothian, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, the Western Isles and the Cairngorms, all have provided a succession of rich experiences and enjoyment. Simply listing out the best birds seen perhaps says it all..........
King Eider, Surf Scoter, Collared Flycatcher, Subalpine Warbler, Dotterel, Temminck's Stint, White-winged Black Tern, Red-necked Phalarope, Corncrake and good views ( again ) of Scottish Crossbill.  All these were supplemented by a rich "supporting cast" of species as wide ranging as Common Crane, White-tailed Eagle, Hobby, Black-throated Diver, both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and many others. A memorable selection and a Spring to remember!

Of course, there was the downside, there always is to some extent.  Moving up to the Western Isles for a period, intent on connecting with the Spring passage of skuas, was a total disappointment as the birds failed to appear whilst I was there!!  Persistent NNE winds worked against any coastal occurrences and although I had the odd Arctic and Great Skua not a whiff of any Pomarine or Long-tailed Skuas was in evidence. However, who can grumble at a period spent on the Machir in good weather and with breeding waders everywhere.  Who can grumble at the spectacle of successive waves of Turnstone, Sanderling , Dunlin,and Ringed Plover arriving with an urgency that saw them feeding frantically along the beaches, whilst others grabbed a short rest from the rigours of their northwards migration. Present in numbers one day,absent and still involved in their northward travels the next, some even perhaps having reached their ultimate destination in Iceland, some still moving on to more far flung locations.  A magical, dynamic, background tapestry that underscores the utter fascination of birding!!

Whilst away I also had an ample opportunity to contemplate the next steps necessary in following up the absolute pathetic response from the Government ( read DEFRA ) to the E-petition I'd registered previously and which had gained in excess of 10,000 supporters. Again, to all those who provided that support, many thanks indeed.  After a lot of consideration I've decided that to try and gain a retraction of the Government's official response, however dismal and patronising it might have been , is probably a waste of time.  Politically the response stands as an endorsement of the shooting industry and the Government's willingness to turn a blind eye to the continuing proliferation of persecution incidents. This could be a drastic mistake on their part given the number of people who are clearly disgusted at the arrogance being displayed and the continuing disregard towards raptor species. Such will come back in the form of reduced support, given the upcoming election next year, and deservedly so!

However, another initiative has also influenced my thinking. Past colleague and friend, Mark Avery, has also been doing a lot of thinking in the aftermath of the above petition. In his own words, despite misgivings about supporting the banning of any activities, he has come to the end of his "personal tether" and set up an E-petition which calls for the banning of driven up grouse shooting in England. In its early days it's doing very well already and rightly so. I shall devote a separate Blog entry to it shortly and provide the necessary means by which readers can access it and sign up in its support.  For the present time I wanted this particular Blog to explain what had been happening in the interim since my last entry in April  ( yes, April !! Many apologies again! ) and to declare business as usual.