Sunday, 15 April 2018

BTO's Heronries Census - 90th Year of the Survey

Yesterday I had a break from revision and, after a morning of ringing, took part in the BTO's Heronries Census for the fifth consecutive year. I have been counting the apparently occupied nests at the same site in Cheshire since April 2014.  There is actually a concentration of large heronries in Cheshire.

This year the Heronries Census celebrates it's 90th year. According to the BTO website, the census was only meant to be a one off survey back in 1928 for British Birds magazine, but it has carried on every year since and is probably one of the longest running data sets for any breeding bird in the world.  The number of active heronries counted in the UK is now well over 500 each year and around
two-thirds of all heronries in England, Wales and the Isle of Man are currently counted each year.

The census counts herons, egrets and other colonial waterbirds, however this particular site is purely made up of Grey Herons.  The site is a mix of deciduous and pine trees (Corsican and Scots) with the herons preferring to nest in the pines.  On the walk to the heronry, one thing we all noticed was how behind everything seems to be. There were only a handful of Heron chicks calling, the hedgerows were still so bare and the deciduous tree buds were only just beginning to show signs of opening.

It's not until you actually get into the wood that realise just how active a heronry is. The adults are continuously flying in and out, and its quite eerie seeing so many of these pre-historic looking birds circling just above the trees. 

Over the past 5 years, the heronry has had up to 71 apparently occupied nests, so just imagine for a minute the activity of over 100 adults nesting in close proximity!

The count really is a case of looking round the actual nests for signs that they are occupied. There are of course the obvious signs, the adult birds actually landing by their nests or hearing the chicks calling. 

But there are plenty of other clues such as droppings beneath the nests, discarded and predated egg shells etc.

By the end of the afternoon the count of apparently occupied nests was 64. The last 5 years counts at this site show that the numbers appear to be quite stable:

2014 - 70 
2015 - 64 
2016 - 71 
2017 - 69 
2018 - 64 

Following the count, we did the important engagement work and called in on the land owner to update him on the numbers and discuss the site generally.

If you are interested in getting involved, then visit the BTO's Heronries Census website page for more information.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Why So Quiet!

It has been far too long since I posted a blog on here, but this was always going to be a difficult time to keep it going as I am in the middle of revising for my GCSEs.

I have still found time to do some writing for other blogs though, so I thought I would post the links on here.

Posted on Mark Avery's blog on 2nd March

Posted on RSPB Skydancer's blog on 28th March

In 2 months all my GCSEs will be done and hopefully I will be posting a bit more regularly again.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Open Letter to Christopher Hope at The Telegraph

Dear Mr Hope,

I was alarmed to read one of your recent articles in the Telegraph, with an even more alarming headline;

There are several reasons for writing this open letter to you, but one of my main points is to let you know how disappointed I am in you as a journalist.  It appears that you have fabricated this absurd headline after reading my blog post and I am very disappointed in your "chief" journalistic approach to my meeting with Sir John Randall.

The first point I must pick you up on is your use of the words "plotting war"! Four people under the age of 20 talking with the PM's environmental advisor about a wide range of environmental issues is not "plotting war", but I am sure you don't need me to tell you that.

I am 15. I genuinely care about this shared planet we live on. We are facing a global mass extinction of wildlife, and yet you ignore everything in my blog apart from the sections on driven grouse shooting and the fact that unnamed "Pro-field sports MPs are privately appalled by the comments". So can you please clarify something for me. Are these unnamed MPs appalled that we talked about tackling "wildlife crime"? Our conversation was about "illegal activity" and sentences for illegal activity. 

As I commented in my conversation with Sir John Randall "it would be great if you could get the removal of gun licenses made law for anyone found guilty of shooting raptors". Shooting raptors is illegal, so surely this is not an unreasonable punishment. It is not in any way "plotting war" it is simply appropriately punishing those who break the law. Mr Hope, do you think it is acceptable that we had just 3 successful breeding pairs of Hen Harrier in England in 2017?

Banning the use of lead shot is not "plotting war"on the shooting industry either. It is simply ensuring that a poison like lead is not spread across our shared rural locations. Lead is a poison. It has been removed from fuel and paint as it is a health hazard, so surely it must be removed from the food chain. This is not plotting war, it is common sense.

But I can take all this in you article as you were clearly after a headline and wanted to create your story. This is not the thing that disappoints me the most about what you wrote. It's more about what you didn't write.

Georgia, Josie, Jordan and I are 4 young people who are genuinely worried about the future of the environment for our generation and for yours. We had the courage to put our heads above the parapet and speak out about our concerns on global warming, plastic pollution, lack of education in schools on environmental issues, marine conservation, investment in re-newable energy and more. You had a real positive story that you could have told. You could have chosen to write that story. You chose not to.

You have the power and influence to help spread our message far and wide. You could have supported us in our desire to tackle environmental issues, but you chose a cheap headline instead.  The surge of young people concerned and engaged with environmental issues should not be undervalued or underestimated.

I don’t think you will,  but it would be welcome if you at least offered some form of apology to my teenage colleagues and at the very least provide the names of the MPs that were “appalled" so that I can write to them also and explain to them how they are alienating themselves from my generation.

If you do choose to respond I would be happy to post your reply as a guest blog so that you have the opportunity to have your say.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Kind regards

Findlay Wilde