Sunday, 24 September 2017

Wader Fix at Frodsham Marsh

You may (or may not) have noticed that my blog posts are not as frequent as they have been in the past. The simple reason is school work, as I am now in the final year of my GCSEs, so school work and revision is my main focus at the moment.

However, everyone needs a birding break from work.

The last few weeks at my local patch Winsford Flash have been great and have included scarce species such as Caspian Gull, Sandwich Terns and a Yellow Legged Gull all passing through.

Caspian Gull at Winsford Flash

There have been a few waders too, but I have been missing seeing those big flocks of waders and the variety that you can get in some locations. So I was determined to get to Frodsham Marsh today and enjoy some wader watching. I wasn't bothered about chasing anything new, I just wanted to enjoy the spectacle of big numbers of waders. And I wasn't disappointed.

On the walk to No.6 Tank there were 2 kestrels hunting over the paddocks and several Chiffchaff calling from the hedgerows.  The water in the ditch was covered in weed, but you could see trails through it where the Moorhens had half clambered, half swam through it.  An arable crop yet to be harvested had attracted a big group of Reed Bunting and there were large flocks of Meadow Pipit flying overhead.

As we got closer to No. 6 tank several large flocks of Canada Geese flew over and large groups of Starlings were feeding in the fields. 


No. 6 Tank itself held a feast for your eyes. I counted counted 3 Snipe, 110 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Little Sint, 1 Golden Plover, 200 Lapwing, 150 Black-headed Gull, 2 Lesser Blacked Backed Gull, 7 Common Gull, 3 Redshank, 28 Ruff, 18 Pintail and 11 Wigeon. 


Something (I didn't see what) spooked all the birds and they took to the air in a huge flock, but staying in their unique groups to form layers of different species low over the water. The various duck species stayed closest to the water, whilst the gulls formed a middle layer as the Lapwing danced above the others putting out their alarm calls.


The perfect break from revision for a few hours.

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday

Friday, 8 September 2017

Arriving in Portugal - Porto

After arriving back from 3 incredible weeks in Portugal, it is now time to attempt to summarise what has been one of my most memorable holidays to date, in a series of posts that will be live on the blog over the next few weeks.

DAY 1 - PORTO

 After a long and difficult final term of year 10, I was delighted to wake up on the 11th of August knowing that in a couple of hours I would be jetting off to spend the final 3 weeks of the summer break in the beautiful north of Portugal.

'Hot' was an understatement on arrival in Porto, however despite the intense heat the birds were already performing well with Crag Martin and Red Rumped Swallow observed during the short walk between the plane and actual airport structure! Not a bad start, for me anyway.

We then headed into Porto where we were spending a night in a hotel right next to the River Douro with a fantastic view of the river and parts of the stunning city, including the monastery.



The rest of the evening was spent in the heart of the city of Porto.  A Portuguese meal in an amazing tapas restaurant called Jimao, great street entertainment and screeching Pallid Swifts acrobatically negotiating the historic buildings of the city concluded an absolutely fantastic first night in Portugal.


The next morning allowed just a hour or so to enjoy the Yellow Legged Gulls along the river before we headed back to the airport to collect our hire car.



I had seen so much in just the first 24 hours, but nothing could have prepared for what was still to come.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

3565 Thank Yous

As most of you will know, the Inglorious12th thunderclap went out on 12th August, and it spread it's message far and wide.

"I want to see an end to raptor persecution in the uplands. Criminal activity needs to be stopped #Inglorious12th"

By the time the message went out at 9:30am last Saturday, 3565 people had signed up to the thunderclap and we had created an outstanding social reach of 11,093,561.  When I first set up the thunderclap, I was hoping to beat the numbers of previous ones I had done, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect such amazing numbers.

I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported the thunderclap. Every single sign up has helped spread the message further and helped it to trend on twitter. People from all different backgrounds signed up, so we really did reach out to a lot of people who may not have even heard of a hen harrier before.

I wish I could do individual thanks to everyone, I have tried to on twitter.  Your support has meant everything and is the reason that the thunderclap was such a success. I must say a special thank you to a few people (and I am really sorry if I miss anyone out). 

Mark Avery - Mark, thank you so much for your constant support throughout the thunderclap. Your blogging, tweeting, talks etc have made a massive difference, and all the emails, DMs and encouragement are very much appreciated. I have some more ideas for another campaign, but it can wait until I get back from Portugal!  Chris Packham, Rob Sheldon, Blanaid Denman, Jeff Knot, Nick Miles, Natalie Bennett, @JW4926, @NannyBirds, @SheffEnvironmental - thank you for using your power to spread the message further.

There are also some groups and organisations that must be mentioned; RSPB, Wildlife Trust, BAWC,  Raptor Persecution, Team4Nature, League Against Cruel Sports, Rare Bird Alert. Thank you for the constant pushing of the thunderclap and for signing of course.

Again, sorry if I have missed anyone, I am grateful to each and every person that helped make a difference.  I know as soon as I post this that I will think of a load more names I should have mentioned.

So what happens next?  Well for me, I will let the impact of the thunderclap settle and hope that it has given some people food for thought. But awareness raising can be done in so many different ways and must be steady and constant to keep the message reaching out to more people.  Earlier this year I collected a whole list of words from people. I asked then to tell me the first word that came into their head when they think about hen harriers.  I have kept that list of words safe, and it will form part of my next awareness campaign and I will be asking for you help. But more on that when I get home.

We will win.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Hen Harrier Day 2017 - Sheffield

2014 was the year that the first ever Hen Harrier Day event was organised. Many of you readers will recognise the name "the sodden 570".  570 people turning up at a Hen Harrier Day event in the Peak District (quite frankly in the middle of nowhere) accompanied by the tail end of a hurricane is really rather impressive. Since that first inspiring Hen Harrier Day, every year more and more Hen Harrier Day events have been popping up across the UK and this year has been no different.

This year I attended the Sheffield Hen Harrier Day event. Arriving in a good time, after a reflective journey across miles of moorland, we had chance for a spot of breakfast before heading over to the main event organised by Sheffield Environmental (@SheffEnvironment).

Before the talks took place, it was nice to have a good hour catching up with friends and fellow conservationists, some of which had travelled many miles to be there,  which really emphasises the support these events have gained over the past few years and how much outrage people feel towards the illegal persecution of upland wildlife; including the hen harrier.


Each and every speaker perfectly explained their feelings towards the illegal persecution of the hen harrier (and other upland species). Their talks put into words the feelings of everyone listening; that the illegal persecution of the hen harrier and other upland raptor species must be stopped. All agreed that steps must be taken to safeguard native upland species from the continued, short sighted persecution.

Liz Ballard (CEO at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust),  Dr Ross Cameron (Senior Lecturer Landscape Management & Design at the University of Sheffield), David Wood (Chair of Sheffield Bird Study Group),  Dr Mark Avery (author, conservationist and so much more), Bl├ínaid Denman (RSPB Hen Harrier Life+ project manager), Natalie Bennett (former Green Party leader) and Iolo Williams all delivered heartfelt and fact filled talks.


It was great to listen to Blanaid Denman talking about her fantastic work with the RSPB Skydancer project team, but it was sad knowing that this was her last talk in that role. I first met Blanaid at the 2014 hen harrier day, and we have both seen so many changes since then. I'm sure many of you will share the same thoughts that I do regarding the amazing part she has played in hen harrier conservation and awareness raising over the last 6 years. I wish her all the best for her new job role and the new addition to her family.

2014 with Blanaid, Harley & Harry

Mark Avery gave yet another absolutely fantastic speech and also gave me the chance to promote my thunderclap to some of the folk who may not be aware of what a thunderclap is or how to sign up. It was however encouraging to see the majority of the audience raising their hands to the question of "who has signed this thunderclap".


The final speaker of today's event was Iolo Williams. His speech really did delve deep into our hearts. He started by discussing some of his personal experiences with the iconic hen harrier and ended with a really powerful, dramatic, anger filled rant based on why anyone would want to deliberately harm such a special species. His speech honestly did echo everyones thoughts and feelings.


I'll end my summary with a quote from Iolo's talk stating "we will win", words that I have heard again and again in the fight against raptor persecution. After witnessing all the emotion crammed into today's event (and I am sure this was mirrored at events across the country), I have hope that we will indeed win. Our voices are getting stronger and stronger by the day as more people are becoming aware of the devastation taking place in the uplands.

If you have not already done so, please sign the #Inglorious12th Thunderclap scheduled to go out on 12th August to keep the awareness going.

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Hen Harriers - Only 3 Successful Breeding Pairs

The RSPB Skydancer team today announced the number of breeding hen harrier pairs in England this year.  Last year there were just 4 breeding pairs, and Finn was the offspring of one of them.

I did not expect the numbers to be great this year, but I had hoped to see a small increase. However, only 3 pairs of hen harrier have successfully bred in England this year. 

Just 3 pairs! 

It's sickening isn't it.

The habitat is there for them, the food is there for them. Other ground nesting birds do well in the uplands.  The uplands are lacking natural balance; the legal and illegal persecution of red grouse predators goes on. Although technically a wild bird, the intensive rearing of red grouse in the uplands devastates the other native species. 

Please don't just sit and think how awful it is and do nothing. Please speak out against the on going persecution taking place in the uplands. Please make sure that future generations get to witness the spectacle of a sky dance.

The cycle of death in the uplands has gone on too long. Hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, foxes, mountain hairs are just a handful of the species killed and culled (legally and illegally) to boost unnatural numbers of red grouse that will then be shot. How can anyone fail to have a problem with that.  

So please join the 1675 people that have already signed the #Inglorious12th thunderclap which will go out across social media on 12th August and raise mass awareness about the persecution that continues in the uplands, our uplands.

Your natural inheritance is being stolen from you so please CLICK HERE and help spread the word that what is happening is wrong. 


Friday, 21 July 2017

Finn Update - The Next Generation

Last year, thanks to Ecotricity and the RSPB LIFE project, a young female hen harrier called Finn was fitted with a satellite tag before heading off on an adventure into the unknown.  She fledged last August from her nest in Northumberland.

Finn and her brothers

Normally, a freshly fledged hen harrier would hang around it's breeding site for a while, but not Finn. She showed determination from the start. Shortly after fledging she had crossed the Scottish border and then stayed in Scotland and over wintered in South Ayrshire.  And she has stayed that side of the border ever since.

And so began 11 months of apprehension! I get a "Finn update" every 2 weeks to let me know where she is according to the satellite tag. The updates are always a few weeks behind for Finn's protection. But every time the email is slightly late (for very valid reasons each time) I start to worry that maybe she has become just another statistic and become one of the many hen harriers that seem to just "disappear" over the uplands.

Hen harriers, and other raptors, are not well received in the uplands. Red Grouse form part of their diet and this does not go down too well in certain communities.  Shooting season for red grouse starts on 12th August and there is a lot of money to be made, so of course, the more red grouse there are, the better the shooting. So this is what I call the "cycle of death"! Red grouse numbers are boosted by ridding the uplands of predators, much of which is done legally, but there is a dark side too that sees raptors illegally persecuted.  So raptors are persecuted to protect a bird that is then shot and the process is repeated the next year and the next - a cycle of death!

I am sure you can understand why my heart wanted to see Finn soar, but my head told me to be realistic about her chances of survival.

So imaging my utter delight when the news came through that Finn was showing all the signs of starting a family of her own. I was shocked to say the least. It is after all quite unusual for a hen harrier to breed in her first year. 

Positive news is always welcome and Finn has a healthy chick due to fledge very soon. 


The excitement of receiving updates on Finn will of course continue and I can only hope that her chick has a long adventure ahead, but I will never know that for sure. Once the chick fledges, I will forever be hoping that it makes it, but every new illegal persecution story that comes to light will always make me fearful. 

You can all help speak out against raptor persecution on the #Inglorious12th by signing up to this thunderclap




Friday, 16 June 2017

#Inglorious12th Thunderclap

Thank you for arriving at this blog post.

The so called Glorious 12th (August) sees the start of grouse shooting season in the uplands. 

You may hear lots of stories about how the uplands are managed and all the benefits that come with that for some breeding birds like Curlew for example; but there is of course a darker side to all this in the form of raptor persecution.  Grouse moors are intensively managed to produce unnaturally large numbers of Red Grouse, many of which will then be shot.  But anything that would naturally prey on the Red Grouse is not welcome on the shooting estates and it is worrying to see a lack of natural predators in these areas.

Don't let my opinion sway you though, take a look through some of these links and decide for yourself.

Alleged illegal killing of a protected hen harrier


Shot Cumbrian Peregrine found at same location as dead Hen Harrier

Police investigating hen harrier death in Ravenstonedale area

Golden Eagles disappear too – mostly over grouse moors


Something I am learning is that where there is big money to be made there can also be criminal activity. Wildlife crime is not something you hear about enough in the news, as the environment and natural world are so far down the list of priorities in government, business, education etc. 

 The evidence just keeps getting clearer and clearer that serious wildlife crime is taking place in the uplands.  Modern day technology is helping to bring these activities to light more and more.

Just one more statistic for you. In theory, the uplands in England could support over 300 pairs of hen harriers. Last year we just had just 4 breeding pairs.  Only about 1% of what could be there. Not really a statistic to be pushed down the priority list. And this year's number of breeding hen harriers in England is not looking promising either. But even if the numbers doubled to 8 pairs, it still wouldn't be acceptable. 

So as the social media posts about the so called Glorious 12th start flooding in, wouldn't it be great to see #Inglorious12th trending and raising much needed awareness about the criminal activity that continues to plague these important breeding grounds.

All comments are welcome, whether you agree or disagree. It's always good to hear a wide range of opinions and ideas to move things forward.

Please sign up to the #Inglorious12th Thunderclap by clicking here and help raise awareness.

Last year 482 people signed up to a similar thunderclap and we created a social reach of over 1.3 million people. It would be great to reach even more people this year.


Thank you.

.........................................................

Updates Since Blog Posted

This blog was only posted weeks ago, and yet the illegal raptor persecution continues. Including this one:

Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate
https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/short-eared-owl-shot-on-leadhills-estate-police-appeal-for-info/

Since this blogpost was first published, the RSPB Skydancer team have published this year's hen harrier breeding numbers.

Only 3 pairs of hen harrier have successfully bred in England this year
https://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2017/08/01/hen-harrier-breeding-numbers-in-england-2017.aspx