Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quality raptors reign supreme! Monday,22nd May.

A slightly belated entry of a visit yesterday morning to Thorne Moors.  Leaving home early I travelled to Stanley, Wakefield where Matthew and I then went on to Thorne Moors NNR in bright, fine and virtually calm conditions, arriving out on the moor area itself sometime after 0830 hours.  The walk-in approach after Moorends was a riot of birdsong with Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Robin, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackbird and others, all contributing to a symphony of unorchestrated, vibrant sound, added to further by views of Bullfinch, Stoat and Roe Deer. Magic!


Humberhead Peatlands NNR ( or , as I prefer, Thorne Moors ) is a large wilderness which figured prominently in the time I was with RSPB until it was saved for the nation by its purchase and current administration by Natural England. Previously it had been worked for its peat by a firm  ( Fisons ) and the political aspects in operation prior to its purchase for the nation are a story in themselves.  As is the worth of Thorne Moors, its protectors ( William Bunting.... remember him ? ) and the fact that it is unique in so many respects with many isolated representations, be they botannical or entomological, besides its equally unique birdlife.  Other than planes flying overhead the  current  sense of "wilderness" takes some beating and is not replicated in many places in "downtown England" !

We walked out on a "bouncing" peat track, made slightly more moist due to recent rain, and headed for Middle Moor. Here there is a constructed viewing platform of some 20 feet in height which gives unimpeded views out over vast expanses of the moorland proper!  From here we saw Stonechat, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Cuckoo, Grey lag Geese,  but not quite what we were looking for, and so we moved on a little further. And then, suddenly, the bird we'd come to see.......Red-footed Falcon. An adult male swirling, swooping, twisting and dexterously weaving around at low level before rising up over our heads and providing first class views. It powered across an open water area, scything through the air on sculpted wings before swerving round and just as easily hanging for a moment in mid air. After several minutes of this awe inspiring display it simply disappeared which prompted a celebratory sandwich and a hope it would return.

It didn't return, but, then, an adult Hobby provided a not dis-similar diversion by hawking the now more obviously emerging dragonflies over the moor in front of us . Its own display of agility, as it swung with ease around the isolated stands or individual stunted trees on the heath was equally as entertaining until it , too, disappeared.  Eventually we made our (weary ) way back along the track ( try walking three or four miles  miles in a Bouncy Castle ) well pleased with our morning , which was enhanced further by a pair of Grey Partridge.  A good, productive time in an uplifting environment of peace and tranquility, what's not to like !


After the spiritually uplifting experience of Thorne and its wildlife, a call from my youngest daughter at the very end of the day confirming she was alright, safe and away from the horrific brutality of the bombing incident at the Manchester Arena brought reality into perspective with a sharp jolt.  Two entries on a histogram depicting experience that were in stark contrast to each other, but signified what can so easily arise in different spheres, both of which set out to provide joy and excitement, one of which ended in tragedy and irrevocable insecurity.  A good and bad day in equal measure !      

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Let's celebrate successes and take heart !

Yesterday morning ( Saturday ) Matthew and I visited Fairburn Ings RSPB NR, near Castleford in the Aire Valley, a large, linear wetland reserve with a variety of different accompanying habitats.  The weather was great ( until a torrential downpour in the afternoon, which we just missed ) and birdsong was in full swing in the glorious sunshine.  Reed Warbler song brought a roadside reedbed alive and Blackbird and Whitethroat similarly performed in a nearby hedgerow with at least one Cuckoo calling in the distance.  Common Terns and Black'headed Gulls "hawked" over the large water area, with groups of Grey lag Geese and Canada Geese moving overhead to nearby feeding pastures. We recorded an increasing number of different species and were very satisfied with what we'd seen by the end of our visit.  My only gripe is with the opening and closing times at some RSPB reserves which are somewhat late and somewhat early, but let's not allow that to spoil what was an otherwise great day.

One thing we both remarked on, and which always fascinates me if I'm honest, is the changing fortunes of some species. Having lived away from Yorkshire for a number of years I find myself contrasting what "used to be" with what I now find. And it's not all bad news either , although we are faced with some parallel situations that generate serious concern.  But let's set those aside for later treatment.  Many years ago, as a young birder, I would have been thrilled by sightings of breeding Cormorants and Common Terns and numbers of Gadwall and of Common Buzzard. Changes that, understandably, are perhaps taken for granted by our emergent generation of young birders.  But what of more exciting changes still, and changes that have taken place in the relatively recent past too !  What of Little Egrets, of which we had several yesterday,  of Avocet, of which a pair of birds appeared particularly hefted to a small island, of Cetti's Warbler, which sang lustily from roadside bushes adjacent to marshland and of Red Kite, a single bird of which drifted around at the western end of the reserve.  Such would have been a red letter day of first class proportions !  Not all changes have been the product of direct conservation initiatives, e.g. the release schemes for Red Kite, but are still a part  consequence of consistent action by conservation organizations like the RSPB who have continued to protect a wide variety of sites through direct ownership. A role that RSPB , Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and local authorities must receive recognition for. Long may that situation continue

For this day, at least, there were several things to really celebrate and enjoy. Let's draw strength from that enjoyment and stiffen our resolve and commitment to address the parallel problems referred to above. Beyond this,  the task is to simply get out and enjoy the great variety of birdlife which is available to us!      

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Labour's vision for our future environment.

Well, I'm finally up and running again !  Given that's it's destined to rain all day, and heavily at that at times, I thought I'd take the opportunity to get something "in print". Whilst there's much I could dwell on, given that I've had almost three weeks at Spurn Nature Reserve in East Yorkshire,  I thought it sensible to start afresh and concentrate on current issues rather than commit entries to what, after all, is "historical material".  And so I took a peek at the Labour Manifesto launched yesterday and examined what they had to say about the environment and nature.

Rather than being thrown into paroxysms of rage and frustration that really did ruin the day, I have to say there are commitments expressed that I was heartened by, at least from  a very quick read.  It's always easy to nit pick, to find omissions and seeming inadequacies but, on this occasion, the thing that impressed me was the specificity of certain undertakings. The trick is in the delivery of course !

In broad terms these are some  ( I'm sure there are others ) of the declared policies which caught my eye.

  • fully embrace the goals of the Climate Change Act. Over the next 10 years plant 64 million broad-leaved trees via schools and our communities and reinstate the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
  • fully implement EU environmental protection regulations including the Birds and Habitat Directive, matters relating to air pollution  and to refuse any Brexit deal that reduces environmental standards.
  • introduce a long-term plan that stops the loss and begins the recovery of nature
  • strengthens environmental protections in farming and fishing
  • create corridors of nature that better connect protected nature sites and thus provide pathways for wildlife
  • use a precautionary principle to protect the environment and people from harm  - NOT a pay to pollute approach which wrecks our planet.    

Now I'm sure there'll be those among us who feel the above is inadequate, is unnecessary, is irrelevant at this time and so on, but it does put specific ideas on paper that allows us , the voters . to evaluate their importance to us , as individuals, and to our nations' heritage.  There are bound to be omissions ( protective measures for the marine environment for example ) but I was impressed to see some specificity coming forward following an era of recent government when the environment has been seriously short changed, if not ignored completely . The combined efforts of Paterson, Truss and Leadsom have not particularly impressed should they represent an indication of future commitment ! 

For those of us who are concerned about nature and the environment it seems necessary for us to look carefully at the declared commitments of the various parties in this particular respect and , then, set alongside the prominent issues of the day that affect us all, decide on balance who should be trusted with power. As a nature conservationist these commitments appeared to address many of the issues which have exercised my mind in recent times. Do they go far enough? Can they be delivered ? Will they be held in sufficient priority and not open to compromise ?  Who knows ?  However, the more immediate step is 
looking at what other parties have on offer .

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Just bear with me a while longer !!

You might well be wondering why the gap in entries ( well , at least, I would hope so ! ).  The truth is that my E-mail account appears to have been accessed and, I suspect alongside it, full contact details ( address, telephone numbers etc ) AND details of this web site.

For that reason, and until I've sorted it out, which is likely to be very shortly, I've minimized my output on everything. Likely as not I'll be up and running again from the 8th May. In the meantime just think " Spurn" and Broad-billed Sandpiper !!!