Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy new year to all our members and followers

So as we say goodbye to 2013 we find several of our clan (who are secret ticker rivals) dashing to Denhall Quay, Burton in search of rarities to finish the year off.

Siberian Chiff Chaff - L Bimson

They weren't disappointed as they were treated to  great views of Buff bellied pipit and Siberian chiffchaffs.

Gt Northern Diver-  R Blythe
And on the other side of the Mersey, a Gt Northern diver admired the storm battered pier at Southport Marine lake!

But that's not the only good news, RSPB Liverpool is on the up with more people joining our clan. Some are seasoned birders who probably know more than they're willing to admit, and then there are the novices like Brian & Janet, who only joined us last month at the December indoor meeting. Yesterday Brian sent me an email.
' My first photo of a Kingfisher  last week thought you might be interested, all the best'

Kingfisher - B Johnson

You bet we're interested Brian, it's always nice to see what folks are up to and what they've seen. Always happy to share, as I believe we learn a lot from others. 

So I hope we'll see you all in 2014, lots of great speakers, lots of great field trips and a few RSPB events at a well known park and on the high seas!

See you all on the Sunday 5th January?

Laura (Bimo the Comms)

Pina Colada in the rain

Those of a certain age and over may remember The Pina Colada song

I was tired of the tv, I thought I’d try something new
So I got up early, even before all the dew
I went out with my bins, equipped with my scope
As I looked up to see the sky, I thought what a dope

'If you like Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga, birding can keep you sane
If you like getting up at midnight to try dunes on the coast
To find the elusive stonechat, and post on twitter to boast"

I didn't think about my budgie, I know that sounds kinda mean
But decided on Pennington Flash, where I hadn’t previously been
So I arrived in the car park, thinking I was mad
To find a slav grebe, I thought it wasn't half bad.

"Yes, I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain
I'm gonna try Mere sands, which is just down the lane
I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon and cut through to the lake
Where I’m looking for a bird called a goosander drake"

So I arrived with high hopes and see birds at Burton mere
A kingfisher in an instant, it brought quite a tear    
It was my favourite bird and I said, "Oh, wonderful"
Then we laughed for a moment and I said, "We’re off to Mull"

"Yes I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean and the taste of the champagne
If you like getting up at midnight to try dunes on the coast
To find the elusive stonechat, and post on twitter to boast”



Friday, 20 December 2013

The Dee Estuary In Winter

Short Eared  Owl - Burton Mere wetlands

Thanks to our Sean for the heads up on this. Folks you MUST watch this. Only 18 minutes, get yourself a cuppa and enjoy.

A great little film by the RSPB about the Dee Estuary  in winter, including Burton Mere Wetlands and Hilbre.
Beautifully shot, informative, great for your wader id.
The Shortie who lost his lunch and swirling Knot, terrific.
Well done Scott Reid


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Merry Christmas From RSPB Liverpool

Dear members and blog followers,

I would like to say that 2013 has been an interesting year.

Our group continues to grow. The speakers have been excellent and thought provoking. The outdoor field trips have seen us enjoy some great spectacles, wonderful birds and nature but even better great camaraderie. The idea of hiring community transport has helped us cut down on our carbon footprint and made us a greener group. There are a few new ideas for 2014 which I hope you will all enjoy and I look forward to leading you in 2014.

The groups committee has seen a few changes but we need to continue to adapt. New technologies have given us a great way to communicate with people and help to raise the profile of RSPB Liverpool and the RSPB and our ethos.   We have developed some wonderful partnerships with Mersey Ferries, Liverpool Palm House, the National Wildflower centre and others.

I'm sure you would all like to thank the committee and our helpers who support us throughout the year.

As I look forward to 2014 I wish to see the group numbers grow to over 200. On a sad note birds and nature are still struggling in our area and we must continue to support and raise fund which can be used by RSPB to create new nature reserves or build better sea defences.

I wish you all a happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Keep Birding.

Chris Tynan
RSPB Liverpool Local group
email: christtynan@aol.com

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sixty years of protection but the killing in Lancashire continues

Bowland Betty -sadly deceased
Despite 2013 being the 60th year of legal protection for wild birds, the latest RSPB s Birdcrime report released today (13th December 2013), tells the continuing story of illegal persecution of the UK s birds of prey.

Birdcrime 2012 reveals 208 reports of the shooting and destruction of birds of prey including the confirmed shooting of 15 buzzards, five sparrowhawks and four peregrine falcons. The report also includes over 70 reports of poisoning incidents. Confirmed victims of poisoning include nine buzzards and seven red kites. The real numbers are almost certainly higher as many incidents are likely to go unnoticed and unrecorded.

In Lancashire confirmed incidents included the destruction of a peregrine nest in which three peregrines chicks were found dead and the shooting of a buzzard, which later had to be euthanised.

The Birdcrime report follows on from the news earlier this year that in 2013 hen harriers failed to breed successfully in England for the first time since the 1960s despite enough suitable habitat to support over 300 pairs.

Some areas of the UK s countryside have become  no-fly zones  for birds of prey. Several studies have concluded that persecution on intensively managed upland grouse moors is the key issue affecting some bird of prey populations . This has prevented the populations of species such as the golden eagle and hen harrier from occupying parts of their natural range, especially in England.

Martin Harper, the RSPB s Director of Conservation said,  There are few sights in nature as breathtaking as witnessing a peregrine stooping or hen harriers skydancing. These are sights we should all be able to enjoy when visiting our uplands. However, these magnificent birds are being removed from parts of our countryside where they should be flourishing .

Martin Harper continued  Current legislation has failed to protect the hen harrier. The absence of successfully breeding hen harriers in England this year is a stain on the conscience of the country. It is therefore vitally important that the Government brings forward changes to wildlife law in England and Wales that deliver an effective and enforceable legal framework for the protection of wildlife.

In its latest report, the RSPB assesses the Government s progress on implementing changes that will make a real difference to birds such as the hen harrier. A significant development is the publication of the Law Commission s recommendations following a consultation on potential changes to wildlife law in England and Wales, set out in their  Interim Report  released this October.

The RSPB is heartened by some of the Law Commission s recommendations including the recognition of the seriousness of some wildlife crimes and the recommendation for an option for these cases to be triable at the Crown Court, where higher penalties are available. However, the nature conservation charity believes tougher legislation is needed to punish employers whose staff commit wildlife crimes and are calling on the government to introduce the provision of vicarious liability, where employers would be legally responsible for the wildlife crimes committed by their employers. This has been introduced in Scotland and early signs are that it may be having some deterrent effect with a reduction at least in the number of confirmed poisoning incidents.

Martin Harper added,  The RSPB is pleased that the Law Commission has recognised the need to extend criminal liability in England and Wales to those who ultimately benefit from wildlife crime.  However, despite an admission that the majority of consultees, including the RSPB, were in favour of the introduction of vicarious liability in England and Wales, the Law Commission has recommended an alternative version of extending criminal liability that we fear will be ineffective. We want to see the Government getting tough on wildlife criminals by making changes that will make a lasting difference to the prospects of threatened species like the hen harrier. The RSPB believe that stronger laws combined with a long-overdue change in attitudes from some within the driven grouse shooting industry are essential if birds of prey are to return to their rightful place.

Martin Harper concluded,  Wildlife laws have been flouted by some in the driven grouse shooting community for too long. It is time for this industry to prove to the rest of the country that they can leave archaic activities behind. They must show their activities are sustainable and don t rely on the illegal killing of birds of prey to promote ever increasing grouse-bags. The government must also demonstrate their commitment to enforcing wildlife laws with a strong rescue plan for birds such as the hen harrier. A key test of this will be whether birds of prey are allowed to make their home throughout our uplands once again. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

MISSING: Garden birds

Worried members of the public have been calling the RSPB's wildlife experts in their droves this month as concerns grow about the lack of birds in gardens. 
People looking forward to the familiar sight of birds flying to tables and feeders have been left disappointed so far this winter. With gardens unusually quiet for this time of year, a number of callers have even expressed their worry that they might have done something to cause the birds to stay away. 
However, the RSPB is reassuring people that this behaviour is down to particularly mild weather for the time of year. Richard James, RSPB wildlife adviser, says: 'We are receiving endless calls from people who are worried that they are somehow responsible for the lack of garden birds at the moment. 
'Many can't understand why feeders aren't being visited, despite being full of high-energy foods, which are usually in high demand by December. 
'It's almost certainly down to the mild weather. Birds will still be able to get hold of natural food in the wider countryside'
'The answer is almost certainly down to the unusually mild weather we're experiencing at the moment. Birds will still be able to get hold of natural food in the wider countryside so haven't had to call upon us humans for help just yet. But that could all change very quickly if the weather turns and temperatures drop. 
'We're urging people to continue to put out a little food and water as some birds will still be visiting garden feeders, but feed in moderation when fewer birds are present, to avoid wasting uneaten food. 
'As soon as the weather gets colder, those gardens that have food out will be birds' first port of call and normal service will be resumed! 
'And with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch coming up after Christmas, keeping your feeders, tables and bird baths topped-up when the weather does turn will not only make sure your garden visitors are well-fed and looked after, it'll also encourage them into your garden just in time for you to take part in the world's biggest wildlife survey.'

World's biggest wildlife survey

The RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch is back on 25-26 January 2014, giving people across the UK the chance to be part of the world's biggest wildlife survey. And this year for the first time, as well as birds, participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too. 
To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local park at any one time. They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online or in the post. 
Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB's latest campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it's by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for house sparrows, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species. 
The charity hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature. So far, 266,674 people have pledged to Give Nature a Home via the RSPB's website.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

Blackpool has secured a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of almost £330,000 to undertake one of the biggest green space projects the town has seen in many years.

Marton Mere

Blackpool Council, The Conservation Volunteers, Blackpool Environmental Action Team (BEAT) Nature Watch group and Bourne Leisure are teaming up to develop a new visitor centre, build new and renovate existing bird hides and carry out a whole host of environmental improvements at Marton Mere Local Nature Reserve.
Marton Mere is the only designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within the town and is nationally recognised for its bird populations.
It also supports a number of other regionally important species such as otters, dragonflies, butterflies and orchids.
The funding will help safeguard the variety and quality of site’s ecosystems and biodiversity and make the reserve more accessible.
A project manager will also be allocated to the reserve to oversee the works and encourage the local community to get involved as well as develop volunteer and education programmes.
The three year project is set to begin in January 2014 and volunteers are now being urged to get involved.
Cllr Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: “Securing this funding will help to safeguard, protect and improve Marton Mere for decades to come.
“As well as providing an important habitat for wildlife including rare species, it is also an extremely positive educational and ecological resource for Blackpool.”
Kath Godfrey, from The Conservation Volunteers, said: “People often don’t realise there is an incredible eco-system and wildlife habitat right here on the doorstep in Blackpool.
“What we want to do now we’ve secured the funding is work together with the local community, including everyone from schools to community groups, to help improve it.

“We’ll be reaching out to local groups to ask for their input and I hope lots of people will want to get involved in this very exciting project.”

And Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, added:  “Today’s HLF support will help protect and enhance the wealth of natural heritage, including many rare species, at Marton Mere.
“As the largest green space in Blackpool, this project will not only help boost the area’s biodiversity but by developing the site as an educational resource, local people and visitors will have a fantastic range of opportunities to get involved and take care of this important landscape for many years to come.”
As well as the new visitor centre – which Bourne Leisure have agreed to be sited on the fringe of the Marton Mere Holiday Village site – and improvements to the hides, there will also be a whole host of other work taking place.
Entrances will be upgraded and made more welcoming and the footpath network will be refurbished to create safe and secure access for visitors and enable wheelchair access.
A significant amount of specialist reed, scrub and grassland habitat management work will take place as well as the creation of special feeding and nesting habitats for waders and skylarks.
Vegetation clearance and pond works will also take place, helping to restore former orchid habitats and create better conditions for amphibians to flourish.
A comprehensive range of new education and training programmes as well as an interesting programme of events, will also be funded from the grant.
For more information on how you can get involved, email Lisa Foden, Stanley Park & Parks Development Manager atlisa.foden@blackpool.gov.uk/ tel: 01253 477477 or Kath Godfrey, Area Manager at k.godfrey@tcv.org.uk/ tel: 07764 655711.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A tale of two Tides

Deceased Water Rail -Neil P

Parkgate – Thursday, 5th November, 2013

Peaty Jen, Linda Rees and I rather foolhardily decided to go to Parkgate to watch the high tide.  On arrival we could barely stand up and decided to watch as much as possible from the confines of a very small but dry and warm car!!  We watched as thousands of birds took off from the encroaching water, it was too murky to see what they were, we knew we saw geese, think they were Canada and Pink Foot.  Lots of Cormorants battling but getting nowhere.  Ducks, Little Egrets, Waders all taking to the skies at once.  Wonderful to see, not good for them.  The small birds like Redwing, Linnet and Skylark were really struggling. 

We got out of the car, and immediately saw two Short Eared Owls.  We thought that perhaps the tide would not get to the wall. Wrong!  It overtook the wall causing untold devastation to the small mammals which were neither quick nor strong enough to get out of its way!  We saw lots of dead voles, shrews and other small things. 
Parkgate Rails- Rhodie B
As the tide continued to railroad in the Water Rail were flushed, we saw them being buffeted against the wall, and I have since heard that at least two have been found dead.  Such a sad sight.  A man decided to take a picture of a fox which was trying to get up the harbour wall, it was so distressed, it was last seen trying to swim out to sea away from him.  Another person lifted a little vole out of the water, took a picture, then put the vole back!!  Wish I had seen him, he would have joined the vole.  Cars were still driving along the coast road, and ran over the little creatures that had managed to escape the water until a very sensible motorist blocked the road and helped save numerous other mammals.  A wonderful spectacle in the sky, but a very different story on the ground.

Hoylake – 7th December, 2013

Another day, another high tide and a very different outcome.  Hoylake on Saturday was very benign.  No rushing waters, just gentle rolling wavelets, but the birds were very skittish, possibly from the two days they had endured earlier!  I saw lots of Knot, Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, Grey Plover and, the usual assortment of Gulls. 

As most people were looking out to sea a Sparrowhawk flew over our heads, and a good view was had by some of us, including me!

Peregrine on shore  - Rhodie B
Then the spectacle of the day was seeing a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a huge tree, near the edge of the water.  I watched it preen, it then took off and gave chase up the beach.  It didn’t catch anything so came back and hunkered down on a grassy mound in the sands.  The next thing it was off, flying low, at a tremendous rate across the beach.  It saw the Knot, the Knot saw it and started their wonderful synchronised flight.  The Peregrine singled one out and the chase was on.  They swooped, they rose higher and higher.  I think it was the luckiest Knot alive that day, it escaped.  I then walked back to the station, and home to a hot cuppa! 


New report charts ongoing disappearance of the UK's 'familiar' countryside birds

Turtle Dove Andy Hay

The latest State of the UK s Birds report, published today, reveals many of our most familiar countryside birds are undergoing sweeping changes with some experiencing  plummeting population declines, compared with the 1990s. It is now known that in some parts of the UK these birds have disappeared completely.

A section of the report looks at the UK s 107 most widespread and common breeding birds. Of these species, 16 have declined by more than one third since 1995, including willow tit, starling, cuckoo, lapwing, whinchat and wood warbler. Many of these species are reliant on habitats in the so-called  wider countryside  rather than being maintained on special sites, such as nature reserves, Of particular concern, is that the number of grey partridge has halved since 1995.
Yellow Wagtail - Andy Hay
The unique British race of the yellow wagtail - a bright  yellow-headed  version, whose population is found almost entirely in the UK - has declined by 45 per cent over the same period.

This year the alarming decline of some of the UK s most familiar countryside birds has been brought into sharp focus with the launch of the Bird Atlas 2007-11, published by the BTO last month. That mammoth mapping project covered all of the UK's breeding and wintering birds and revealed how many countryside birds are disappearing from the UK. For example, yellow wagtails have vanished from large areas of England and virtually disappeared from Wales, whilst the range of the turtle doves has shrunk by 34 per cent just since the previous atlas was undertaken in 1988-91.

Dr Mark Eaton is an RSPB conservation scientist. Commenting on the report, he said:  I think many of us have been shocked by how poorly some of our most familiar species are faring. Many of the birds were referring to arent rare and dont occur in remote locations. To the contrary, they are ones you used to see while walking the dog or enjoying a family picnic. But over two decades many of these species have ebbed away from huge swathes of our countryside. In contrast some species, such as the red kite, have become conservation success stories as this species has returned to our countryside.

The list of familiar countryside birds which are declining include:   Willow tit, a woodland bird which has declined by 82 per cent since 1995 and its range has halved over the last two decades; 
Cuckoo - L Bimson
Cuckoo, whose numbers have halved since 1995. The latest bird atlas reveals that although its range has contracted by just eight per cent over the last 40 years, though there are marked declines in abundance in the south and east of Britain;  Whinchat, a bird of open countryside which has declined in number by 60 per cent since 1995, and in range by 48 per cent over the last 40 years; Starling, a bird of urban areas and farmland whose population
has decreased by 53 per cent since 1995. The atlas reveals that its range has contracted by five per cent over the last 40 years with a steep decline in abundance in Britain, and an increase in Northern Ireland; wood warbler, a summer-visiting woodland bird, which has  endured a 69 per cent decline since 1995, and a range contraction of 34 per cent since the 1970s; Yellow wagtail, a bird of farmland and wetland which has experienced a 45 per cent decline in numbers since 1995. The atlas reveals that the yellow wagtail s range has contracted by 32 per cent;  Lapwing, a bird of farmland and wetland which has endured a 41 per cent population decline since 1995. The atlas reveals that their range has contracted by 18 per cent over the last 40 years, with the greatest losses in western Britain and Northern Ireland; 
Snipe - L Bimson
 Snipe, a wetland bird whose breeding range has shrunk by 31 per cent over the last 40 years;  Grey partridge, a farmland bird whose population has declined by 53 per cent since 1995 and whose range has contracted by 40 per cent
over the last 40 years;  Corn bunting, a farmland bird whose population has declined by 34 per cent since 1995. The atlas shows that the corn buntings distribution has contracted by 56 per cent over the last 40 years; and the species is now extinct in Ireland.

Phil Grice is a senior environmental specialist   Ornithology at Natural England. He said:  Whilst we have made great progress with reversing the declines in many of our rarer bird species, thanks to site management and species recovery work, improving the fortunes of our  wider countryside  birds requires us to think beyond good management of our special sites, like SSSIs. Through Environmental Stewardship and initiatives like Nature Improvement Areas, we are working in close partnership with farmers and other land managers to make a difference for biodiversity across whole landscapes, allowing people to experience England s characteristic wildlife close to where they live .

Colette Hall is a species monitoring officer with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. She said:  There s worrying evidence here that the breeding ranges of many of our waders are drastically shrinking. Were loosing much-loved species like snipe or lapwing completely from southern parts of England now. A main cause seems to be loss of habitat due to wetlands being drained for farming or development. We need to protect and restore these habitats in order for species like these   and all wetland wildlife   to survive and prosper.
However, the report is not all bad news. Following its reintroduction into England and Scotland and its ongoing recovery in Wales thr red kite
Blackcap - LBimson
has increased in number by 676 per cent since 1995. Among songbirds, the goldfinch and the blackcap have also increased their populations since 1995 by 109 per cent and 133 per cent, respectively. 

Dawn Balmer, of the British Trust for Ornithology, is the lead author on the recently-published bird Atlas. She said:  The latest findings  from fieldwork carried out by an army of volunteers for the atlas, provides a unique opportunity to assess changes in range for all UK species over winter and the during the breeding season. One of the most striking changes is for avocet which has expanded its range in the UK more than 17-fold over the last 40 years. Better monitoring of non-native species has also revealed the extent of their spread, such as a 50 per cent increase for Canada goose since 1988 91.

The State of the UK s Birds report also looks at how birds are faring in the UK s Overseas Territories. Although across these territories  globally there are 32 species of bird facing extinction, the report delivers good news for some species, including the Ascension  frigatebird and Murphy s petrel, as a result of concerted conservation action.

David Stroud of JNCC said:  The UK s Overseas Territories contain more species of bird facing extinction than the whole of mainland Europe.  Twenty-one of these species occur nowhere else in the world, so the UK has sole and total responsibility for them.

The State of the UK s Birds 2013 report is produced by a coalition of three NGOs - RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and the  Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust   and the UK Government s statutory nature
conservation bodies    Natural England (NE), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. (JNCC).