Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Save a special home for Nightingales

Nightingale-Nigel Blake

The RSPB is here to give nature a home. Without a home to live in, all of nature is lost. So, when special places for nature are facing a severe threat, we must act.
Today we need your help to protect these special places - beginning with Lodge Hill in Kent.
Developers and the local council are proposing to build 5,000 homes in and around the woods where nightingales sing each summer. This is despite the fact that wildlife protection laws already recognise Lodge Hill as a nationally important site for the nightingale - a species we know to be in steep decline.
But the implications are even more far-reaching than the fate of this wonderful bird.
A must-win for all UK wildlife
If this development goes ahead it would be the single largest loss of protected land in a generation - and could set a precedent that threatens every other protected area for wildlife in the UK.
Without the nature conservation laws that protect special places, our wildlife would effectively be homeless, with nowhere to call their own.
At a time when many UK wildlife species are facing serious declines, that would be nothing less than a conservation disaster.
That's why we're issuing our SOS for Special Places and asking you to help us raise £850,000 for an emergency fighting fund for 2015.
Take a stand to save nature near you
This one case at Lodge Hill could unravel all the hard work our casework team are doing right now to save protected areas across the UK. Each and every one of these cases need your support too.
For example, next to our Forsinard reserve near Strathy in Sutherland, RSPB Scotland is working with partners to stop multiple wind farm developments that would undermine our work to restore this part of the 'Flow Country'.
In Wales, RSPB Cymru is battling to stop protected sites on the Gwent Levels being blighted by a proposed M4 relief road, which would drive right through special homes for lapwings, otters, water voles and one of the UK's rarest bumblebees.
Often, we work with developers to find a win-win solution for people and wildlife. But when, as in these cases, our advice is not being taken on board, we have to stand up and be counted.
Answer our SOS for Special Places with your donation today
We've reached a critical moment for nature. We're not just trying to save one area of woodland, essential though it is for nightingales. We're actually trying to save every special place for wildlife in the UK.
So please make a donation now and help us raise this vitally important £850,000 fighting fund. Let's do this together. Help us stand up for what's right and protect Lodge Hill and the Flow Country, and all the other special places our casework team are battling to save.
Thank you.
Signature of Bob Elliot Head of Investigations
Andrew Dodd
Head of Casework, RSPB

Skydancers on the Dee

Visitors to the RSPB’s Parkgate reserve on the Dee Estuary are being given the chance to see England’s most threatened bird of prey in action.

The reserve is hosting Skydancers on the Dee, a series of monthly events offering nature lovers the opportunity to experience hen harriers at their winter roost site.

Hen harriers breed in the uplands and are famous for the male’s spectacular aerobatic spring courtship display known as skydancing. The birds spend the winter on lower ground, often on marshes, and the Dee Estuary has long been one of the best places to see these remarkable birds.

Sadly, hen harriers are on the brink of extinction in England as a breeding bird. This year there were only four breeding pairs in the whole of England. In 2013, there was not a single successful nest in the country, despite scientists concluding there is sufficient habitat for more than 300 pairs.

Independent research has shown that ongoing illegal killing and disturbance associated with the grouse moor industry is responsible for the plight of the hen harrier.

Dan Trotman, the RSPB’s Visitor Development Officer on the Dee Estuary, said: “It is a real privilege to be able to see these magnificent birds hunting and roosting on the estuary. I hope that when our visitors see them in action, they will be inspired to help us save them from extinction in England as a breeding bird before it is too late.

“The saltmarsh at Parkgate is where the harriers traditionally roost but they roam some distance during the day to feed; recently we’ve been treated to fantastic views of one, sometimes two, hen harriers hunting close to the reception hide at Burton Mere Wetlands, so it’s well worth a trip there too.”
There is also a giant hen harrier spending the winter over at Burton Mere Wetlands. Harry is a six-foot male hen harrier, created by local young nature enthusiast Findlay Wilde. The large-scale model bird has been touring the country to raise awareness about hen harrier conservation. This year, it has made appearances at Hen Harrier Day in the Peak District, Bird Fair in Rutland and mostly recently, on BBC Autumnwatch at RSPB Leighton Moss in Lancashire.

Skydancers on the Dee is on Sunday 30 November from noon until dusk, at the “Donkey Stand” on The Parade in Parkgate. There are further events on 21 December 2014, 25 January 2015, 22 February and 29 March. All events are free and visitors can drop in any time. 

Skydancers on the Dee is part of Skydancer, a four-year RSPB project aimed at protecting and conserving nesting hen harriers in the English uplands. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and United Utilities with additional support from the Forestry Commission. For more information, visit www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer

Sunday, 23 November 2014


Nature is in trouble. Not only in far-flung places across the world, but also here in the UK. Sadly, despite well-documented evidence of the decline in our nature, continued incidences of wildlife crime occurring across the country and the vital importance of nature to all parts of our society, it remains far too low on the political agenda - even with a General Election just around the corner.
This is your chance to help change that.
On 9 December 2014, the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, League Against Cruel Sports and Dr Mark Avery - supported by Butterfly Conservation, the Ramblers and The Mammal Society - will be heading to London to hold a Rally for Nature.

  Do you love and care about wildlife?
Join us on Tuesday 9 December in London for a Rally for Nature 

Next May we will have a General Election in the UK and the political parties will be looking to win your support. Unfortunately, despite the well-documented evidence of the decline of so much of our natural heritage, and cases of wildlife crime occurring right across the UK - nature and wildlife remain low on the political agenda. This is your chance to tell your MP why nature matters so much to all of us.

We want people to urge politicians to include strong commitments to nature in their 2015 manifestos.
Specifically we want action to protect and restore wildlife by...
  • celebrating and defending existing laws, such as the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, which provide the foundation for nature conservation in this country;
  • fully implementing these laws and ending wildlife crime so that threatened species like hen harrier are able to fly free from harm;
  • legally underpinning nature's recovery by establishing a Nature and Wellbeing Act to ensure nature is at the heart of how we live and run our country, as well as establishing long-term targets and powers to help meet them.

Let's make 2015 the year that all political parties take nature seriously.

Plans for the day
We will have two sittings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. As the sittings are based on constituency we are not able to offer you a choice of which to attend, but we will confirm your sitting in advance to help you plan your day and travel arrangements.
At each sitting we will start with tea, coffee and biscuits; then grab a seat with your fellow constituents to listen to our guest speakers and take the opportunity to ask questions. There may even be a word or two of encouragement from some friendly MPs (they don't bite, we promise!). After some more refreshments, we will gather together and walk to the Houses of Parliament, with placards in hand. Here you will meet your MP and call on them to take action.
With Christmas only a few weeks after the rally, why not make a day of it and go ice-skating in Hyde park or take a winter stroll along the riverside? 

 Registration is on a first-come-first-served basis, so please book early to avoid disappointment. 

 We know that nature is not a luxury
We need it for our health, wellbeing, inspiration and economy.
We know that wildlife needs our protection.
Now it is time we let our politicians know too. 

This event is also supported by Butterfly Conservation, the Ramblers and The Mammal Society.

Like myself, many of you won’t be able to attend in person – it’s a working day and it’s in London! – that’s understandable. But you can play your part too – a really big part if enough people get involved.
Please contact your MP, of whatever political party, and tell them that you care about nature and you want them to act.
The partners  have made it reasonably easy  for you to add your voice, below is a link to a  standard letter that you can add to or amend

Please take five minutes to stand up for nature and use your voice to tell politicians to do more for nature.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Lapwing numbers boosted by RSPB nature reserves

Conservationists are thrilled that lapwings, birds which have been disappearing from the UK, have had a successful 2014 breeding season in grassland habitats managed by the RSPB.

Lapwings belong to a group of birds known as waders: typically long-legged birds which generally feed at the water’s edge or in wet grassland. The RSPB manages a number of sites in lowland England where the birds nest, including Otmoor in Oxfordshire and Rainham Marshes on the outskirts of London. The wildlife charity has also been working on Great Bells Farm on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, converting 160 hectares of poor-quality farmland into a freshwater nature reserve. In 2014, many of the RSPB’s sites were able to announce lapwing breeding successes, thanks to land management based on knowledge built up over decades across RSPB nature reserves, in lowland England.

Known as “peewits” after their distinctive call, black-and-white lapwings have a ‘red status’ in the UK, which means that the speed and nature of their decline is causing concern. These birds have been disappearing from lowland England since the middle of the 19th century. The most recent falls in numbers of lapwings is due to changes in agricultural land use. From the mid 1980s they began vanishing from south west England and parts of Wales. This year, numbers of lapwings breeding on RSPB lowland wet grassland reserves grew, with a higher number of chicks fledging, giving conservationists hope that these birds face a brighter future.

Ground works at Great Bells Farm were completed in 2013 and hundreds of birds immediately stopped by for the winter. This year’s breeding season at the site included 25 pairs of lapwings, raising 26 chicks, the number conservationists had hoped for.

Martin Harper, RSPB Director of Conservation, said: “In my lifetime the lapwing has gone from a widespread countryside bird to one increasingly confined to nature reserves. It’s challenging to manage land for lapwing, so seeing an increase this year is especially welcome. It gives us hope that this engaging species may in time be able to turn a corner as a nesting bird in lowland England, especially if land managers can be encouraged to get the most from wildlife-friendly farming payments.”

Sunday, 16 November 2014

         OTTERSPOOL.      Sun 16th Nov.             8-30am.    
       Med Gulls et al.

          Had a day out today birdwatching with old friends I first birdwatched with over 40yrs ago, Chris Murphy and Geoff Bond. Chris now lives in Northerrn Ireland and leads birding trips to Lesbos, Morocco, and Extramadura Spain amongst other places. Chris was probably the first ever leader of the LIverpool Group YOC back in the early 70s. He also sits on the NI rarity committee, so really knows his birds.

             We stopped at Otterspool on way over to the Wirral,  just to check gulls.  Explaining to Chris that I occasionally saw Med gulls with the black headed gulls. Checked on the prom and no sign at all of any, and  then was amazed to find 7 Mediterranean gulls on the playing fields of Jericho lane...........yes 7 !!  6 adult winter and  1 second winter bird.
             We also heard bullfinches at the Garden festival site, saw snow buntings at Leasowe, heard Cettis warblers at Red rocks, saw hen harrier, marsh harrier, water rail, cattle egret at BMW, and merlin at Old baths Parkgate as the sun went down. Sadly no harriers came in to roost, but nevertheles a great day out with some old friends,


Friday, 14 November 2014

Wally Hall Park re -visited

Walton Hall Park Lake

A topic  that came up in last night's RSPB comms meeting implanted an idea - that led to me taking an afternoon stroll to a park of my childhood. 

I don’t recall a lot about the park, and although not far away from where I lived it wasn’t one I frequented; it may have had something to do with it being across 2 major roads, queens drive and Walton hall avenue!

I remember it was a park that I went to with my father to see the  annual fireworks display. And I have a distant memory (well it was over 40 yrs ago) of riding through on my bike passing bowling greens, lakes and  I think  enclosures for a kids zoo/ aviary by the gates. I wish I’d  paid more  attention.
The park has been in the news again recently as plans to build on the park have resurfaced. The idea is for Everton Football Club to be rebuilt, alongside further shops & houses on part of the site. The friends of Walton Hall Park and resident group are objecting to the development  and have approached Liverpool RSPB for help; not sure where this will go but Chris is looking into it.

The park is mainly open parkland some of which is marked out for football pitches alongside the sports centre/play & fitness area.  It has along tree lined avenue that leads to the 2 water bodies a lake  with islands and I think  what was the old boating lake.

Corvids were very notable, magpies, crows and even a rook battled for my discarded butty crust. a large contingent of gulls (mainly herring gulls) paddled the grass. 

Armed with  a large bag of whole wheat I headed for the waters. The only other time I’d been of recent times was in  January 2013 when I visited the park when it was snowing, I recalled mute swans, they were missing today?
Geese feeding on wheat
Hybrid goose family

I was greeted by  a large honking gaggle of Canadian geese, either swimming towards me or waddling across the grass from the other boating lake. Typically (going on other Lpool parks that is ) coots and black headed gulls were the next most numerous, with a few mallards and moorhens.  No surprises there then.

Juvenile Cormorant

I sauntered around the lake and noticed 2 juvenile cormorants on the island, one sunning himself, again not unusual as I know Stanley park  about a mile away gets them as well.  

There were more mallards at his end of the lake and I noticed some ducks that had been there in the snowy winter, I counted at least 8 tufted ducks.
Tufted duck


A surprise was the lonesome male shoveler, extremely busy swimming in circles, head under water practically all the time going through the pond  weed.

Passing a couple of fisherman they asked if i'd seen anything foreign? No, not yet I replied, they then went on to tell me there was a nice pochard round the bend of the lake.  O.k thanks, on I went…They were right about the pochard, but it wasn’t quite what I expected, turned out to be a rather nice red crested pochard, nice little tick for this inner city park!   
Red Crested Pochard
Mixed fowl

Leaving the lakes behind I walked down the avenue, watching and listening.  The avenue is tree/shrub lined but had very few berry bearers so the hoped for winter thrushes were missing, only blackbirds and wood pigeons on the berries. Most of the smaller birds were found further on in the hedges between the allotment and the park, and on the allotments themselves, as I peered through the fence.  Pied wagtail, robin, wren, dunnock, starling ,sparrow, goldfinch, blue and great tits ; but best find was a  tiny goldcrest flitting about a conifer. 
Time for home, and the last bird for the day was a splendid sparrowhawk , swooped over my head, over the pitches  and off towards the allotments.

What will become of the park?


The time to save the hen harrier is now, says RSPB

The RSPB is today urging Defra to publish the workable elements of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, which the Society believes could bring about the recovery of one of England’s most beleaguered birds of prey.

However, the RSPB is also highlighting its rejection of one point of the six-point plan, known as brood management, as the Society believes that immediate removal of chicks from the wild and rearing them in aviaries is unacceptable and legally ambiguous. As the RSPB’s position on this issue has been widely mis-represented, the RSPB’s full view is set out here.

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. He said: “The hen harrier is one of our most iconic birds of prey, but it is currently in danger of being lost from England and it needs urgent action to save it. Defra has worked hard with the shooting industry and conservation groups to produce a Hen Harrier Action Plan, and we believe that the workable parts of this plan must be published and implemented now to help save this bird of prey. We think the more contentious elements, for which there a plethora of unanswered questions, should go for public consultation, while the rest of the plan fulfils its purpose of protecting harriers.”

The RSPB believes that brood management is a distraction, taking emphasis and resources away from tackling illegal killing. Martin Harper firmly added: “Brood management is worth considering once the hen harrier has returned to the hills and moors of England.  But to do it early could see young birds released to their deaths. 

The Society has no confidence that released birds will be allowed to fly free from harm. It is a sad reality that illegal killing of birds of prey continues, often linked by those with an interest in shooting. The evidence is real and compelling - gamekeepers continue to be convicted for the illegal persecution of birds of prey and there is a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management [note 2]. The RSPB will have no part of a project that could put a species at risk.
Martin Harper added: “We recognise that brood management has become a totemic issue for the shooting community, and that some have chosen to use strong-arm tactics against the RSPB. We reject the industry’s claim that only by removing chicks from nests will gamekeepers and shooting estates accept the plan. Aggressive and intransigent campaigning by the shooting sector is threatening to derail the plan, consign hen harriers to further years of persecution and ride roughshod across attempts to work with progressive voices in the industry.

“Ministers are accountable for preventing the human-induced extinction of species, and the illegal persecution of the hen harrier is the main reason for this bird’s desperate plight. It surely makes sense to publish elements of the plan which has agreement. We’re urging Government to recognise the urgency of this situation and implement a plan to save the harrier, so that hen harriers can once again be a regular feature of the skies above our moors.”

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


         WEDNESDAY WANDERINGS.             12TH NOV.


       Had a wander over to Leasowe to see the 2 snow buntings. They were feeding on the 5th tee on Leasowe golf club, right next to the embankment. Fantastic views as they were only about 10yds away feeding quite happily and not in the least bit disturbed by the couple of birders snapping away.
    Also lapwing looked fantastic in late afternoon sun roosting on the groyne, with turnstone nearby.



Saturday, 8 November 2014

The woodcock moon - unfortunate for some

Dead Woodcock

A Friday afternoon phone call from hubby Bill and a mystery to solve. His boss Graham had espied an unusual dead bird  outside the University’s Sherrington building, close to where they work.  It had a long beak, larger than a pigeon and brown speckled plumage, definitely not one of the garden varieties then.      Bill being the inquisitive obliging type went to investigate and finding it still in situ, duly bagged it and brought it home.

Amazing Camouflage
The bird was in poor condition having had its innards and chest removed by some sort of predator and only one wing was intact.   
Checking the length of beak, colour of legs and it's beautiful plumage markings we identified our bird as a woodcock .

Sherrington building

The Sherrington building has a lot of glass windows and we're surmising the poor thing flew into it overnight, killed itself and became lunch for something - probably a carrion eating bird, surely a fox would have taken the lot.

You’ll be pleased to know he/she was given a dignified burial at Bimson’s nook, asleep beneath the violas .

By the way this isn’t the first time we’ve found an unfortunate one.  Another Woodcock was found in 2012, amazingly  2 yrs to the day



Thursday, 6 November 2014

Iceland part 2

Hi all sorry about the delay in typing up the second part of my cruise to Iceland.
The boat docked in Reykjavik and I didn't have anyone to meet but was told to visit Seltjarnarnes, lake Tjomin and the nature reserve near the airport.
Reykjavik is the most northern capital in the world. Its largest building is the cathedral Hallgrimskirkja and it dominates the skyline. In other words its a great central point to help with getting around. Our ship had docked opposite the island of Vioey and you can get a ferry across to see the oldest house in Reykjavik. That was the sight seeing over and done with now for the land birds.

The western tip of the peninsula is known as Seltjarnarnes and is the easiest place for birders to search. Although its looks a good day it was blowing a gale.
In the UK we get excited when the first cuckoo is seen well in Iceland its the golden plover.

On my way down to the lighthouse waders such as ringed plover, turnstone and purple sandpiper were looking for any tasty bits. Arctic terns and puffins were tazzing past the end of the spit.

This id board helped give you an idea of what might be around at any time of the year but it was bitterly cold and I headed up towards the golf course and the small lake.

As I walked the path I noticed a skua flying toward me and I wondered if I would need to worry about being attacked. It didn't happen and the dark phase arctic went on its merry way. I was a bit disappointed cos I thought the scar would be a good story!

Looking over the lake one of the first birds was a family of whooper swans. The parents only had 2 juveniles but where very protective. Greylag geese, mallard, teal,white wagtail, meadow pipits. My only rodent of the trip ran across the path and a caterpillar was also on the path. Large numbers of arctic terns produced some nice pictures. The surprise bird here was a long tailed duck.

I walked around the lake i found a group of glaucous gulls with a possible iceland gull. This area is really nice and if you only have a day to bird watch in the capital then I cant complain about the quality.

I kept scanning the lake looking for red necked phalaropes but no sign. So I started the long walk back towards the ship and the family. It was a long trudge interspersed with more arctic skuas and terns.

Walking back I came through a very nice modern housing estate with a mixture of European and American cars/trucks. Its not the poor country who can't pay back the loans some councils would make you believe.
The gale forces winds and 10C made it feel a lot worse. I scanned the sea and started to find red necks where playing about in the waves, I think the eider really helps give an idea of size.

I have a great sense of direction and before I knew it I was in the local graveyard listening to redpolls, redwings and blackbirds. To think that some of these redwings will be flying to the UK in a couple of weeks after they had stripped the island of all its berries.

Next stop was lake Tjornin. Whooper swans use the island as well as black headed gulls to breed. I found my first wigeon here along with scaup and tufted ducks. The lake and the open fields and hedgerows make this in interesting area but I headed down to the newish nature reserve.
I wont spell it as you can see it from the picture. It seemed very new and small but it was trying to be an environmental centre as well so I wish it luck. A redshank was added to the day list which was creeping up to 40.

Heading back to the ship we enjoyed a wonderful sunset.

The next day was spent relaxing at the fabulous Blue Lagoon. The only bird seen here was gull beer.

The people of Iceland just love puffins and they can be advertised in many different ways but this is the biggest one I found.