Monday, 28 February 2011

Grey Heron

The Grey Heron is a gift for birdwatchers. A tall, grey bird that is elegantly marked and pretty easy to see, I am sure most people have seen one.

The heron has a flaw though, some people don`t like them because they quite like eating fish and people with fish ponds see this as a bad thing. They go to great lengths to stop the heron eating their pride and joy, infact I have heard people boasting about shooting them, poisoning them and even trapping them and watching them die, all because they take advantage of our likeness for having gold coloured fish swimming in a pond in the back garden! They are called by some `vermin`, it is amazing what birds have been called `vermin` over time. Birds such as Osprey, Golden Eagle, Red Kite, Green Woodpecker, Dipper, Jay, Cormorant, Starling, Bullfinch and even the humble House Sparrow have all been labelled as vermin and pests in the past, but why I hear you ask! Interfering with man is the simple answer. These birds have all been shot, trapped and poisoned by man because they feed on things that we would rather have for ourselves or don`t `fit` in to our lives!

The Grey Heron is widespread over the British Isles and there are over 13,000 pairs breeding in Britain and Ireland. They breed in colonies, which are called heronries although they sometimes nest singly.

Monday, 21 February 2011

More Barn Owls

Below are some more photograph`s of 3 individual Barn Owls. Again, these were taken at Deeping High Bank in very bad light with squally showers.

All photo`s digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Save Our Forests, Part 2

Earlier this week the Government announced that they were dropping their plans for the sell-off of public forests. The Minister said that this was in part due to the public outcry and opinion and also to the on-line petition that was signed by over half a million people in Britain. Those of you who did this have helped to show this Government and the world as a whole that if there are enough voices against something then those people in power will listen. There is still hope for our slowly eroding countryside and the wildlife found within it.

Below is an e-mail that was sent by The Woodland Trust to those of us that signed the petition;

`Save England's ancient forests It doesn't end here...
Whilst welcoming Government intentions to abandon plans for disposal of public forests, the campaign to protect and restore England's ancient forests must go on, warns the Woodland Trust.
We welcome the opportunity for a more considered approach to the future of our much loved woodlands but our campaign continues. Whilst we welcome the removal of threats to public access, there is still an acute need for better protection of Ancient Woodland, our equivalent of the rainforests, and restoration of ancient woods planted with conifers.
Even if there are no sales of publicly owned forests, the worst of all worlds would be for there to be no change to the loopholes that have allowed 850 ancient woods to be threatened by built development over the past decade. Ministers have made strong commitments over the past few weeks to increase protection for ancient woods, and we will be holding them to these commitments.
As I write, there is a proposal to water down protection for ancient woodland in the planning system. We need your help to defeat this proposal by 28th February.`

Please visit The Woodland Trust website to see what the future holds.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Corn Bunting

The Corn Bunting is Britains largest bunting, the size of a Skylark. It is plump with a heavy, straw coloured bill. The plumage is dull streaky brown with paler, more boldly streaked underparts. Sexes are alike, although the male has a song that is likened to the jangling of keys. The bird has a local name in Sussex of `Stubble Lark`.

The bird is found in open countryside and in winter feeds on farmland. They avoid winter cereals and improved grassland and instead prefer to feed on winter stubble and rough areas of grass that have a good number of weeds. Most of the year it feeds on plant material, eating the grain from cereal crops and the seeds from grasses and weeds, but in summer it eats beetles and caterpillars, feeding the young on sawflies, aphids, beetles and ripening grain.

Most males have one mate, but some have two or more females nesting in their territory, although it has been recorded that one male attracted 18 females, 6 of which nested. Territories are re-occupied between February and April with males starting to sing to attract a mate. The female incubates between 2 and 4 eggs for 12-14 days and then feeds the young. The chicks leave the nest after 9-13 days, sometimes before they can fly.

This, I am afraid to say, is another farmland bird that has had a drastic fall in numbers. In the past 25 years their population has fallen by over 85% in Britain and again this is linked to changes in agriculture that has seen the loss of stubble fields and earlier harvesting, which has prevented a second brood from fledging being two of the likely causes. In Ireland this bird has become extinct as a breeding bird in recent years, although in 1900 it bred in 30 of the 32 Irish counties.

The photographs below were again taken on Newborough Fen, one of the few strongholds of this disappearing bird.

Singing male

All photo`s digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Monday, 14 February 2011

Grey Partridge

The Grey Partridge is a bird that has suffered a drastic, if not calamitous fall in numbers over the past 25 years. The population has fallen by over 85% in Britain alone and is also falling in other parts of Europe.

It was once widespread in Britain, but the decline in numbers during the latter part of the 20th century has been astonishing. The cause of this fall in numbers can be linked to a number of factors, all human based. Neglected management and destruction of hedges that give cover to nesting birds, autumn sowing of cereal crops which removes stubble during the winter, the use of insecticides that reduces food levels and of herbicides that kill the plants on which the insects that formed the main diet of the young chicks depended.

The bird is smaller than a pheasant, plump with a small head and short legs. It is well camouflaged, with grey and brown streaky plumage. For most of the year this bird forms flocks that are known as `coveys` and where numbers allow these `coveys` can number up to 16 individuals. They pair up for the breeding season in late winter. If disturbed this bird is very reluctant to fly, instead it crouches down and relies on its camouflage for protection.
The photograph`s above were taken in an area known as Newborough Fen, a few miles from my house in Peterborough and is a reliable place for sightings of this lovely bird.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

As bald as a Coot

Digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

The Coot is a water bird that is familiar to all of us. Frequently seen in flocks and often in the company of ducks, swans and other water birds, picking up discarded food or food that is disturbed by other birds. It is generally found on lakes, reservoirs, flooded gravel pits and large,slow flowing rivers.

In summer the population is around 46,000 in Britain and approximately 8,600 in Ireland and at present this seems to be stable, if not slightly increasing. In the winter this figure increases with birds that have come from northern and eastern Europe. The oldest bird survived for 18 years.

The saying `as bald as a coot` derives from this bird. The Coot is not bald, but has a white head. In old English the word `bald` has several meanings, one of which is `streaked or marked with white`, hence the expression.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Save Our Forests

Below is an e-mail that I received from a friend that he in turn received from The Woodland Trust. It details how this government is planning to sell off our forests here in Britain. Can I urge all my good friends to read this e-mail and then go to The Woodland Trust website and sign their petition that they are going to give to our government. Think back to the times when you walked as a child in a `huge` magical forest, just in wonder at the trees, all the wildlife and if this `sell-off` goes ahead our children and their children will not have that delight! So, I urge you, please sign the petition.

"Ancient woods must be treated as a special case Ancient woods are the UK's equivalent of the rainforest: unique, irreplaceable and our richest wildlife habitat. The proposals do not treat all ancient woods as a special case: only some are included in the proposed category of heritage woods.
Stronger protection is needed for ancient woods In the last decade we have fought to protect 850 cases of ancient woods threatened by development. This shows that much stronger protection is needed for these precious places before any sales can be considered.
Planted ancient woods must be restored The Forestry Commission owns over 20,000 hectares of ancient woods that have been damaged by the planting of conifers. Their restoration to broadleaved woodland would be one of the most significant contributions to wildlife conservation in a generation. We have lobbied passionately for their cause in the media. We have also persuaded government to halt their current back door sales until the consultation is complete. Replanting conifers will smother the life out of these fragile habitats so we need government to guarantee their urgent restoration.
Public access must be maintained The passionate outcry about the future of public forests underlines how important access to woods and their beautiful surroundings is to millions of people each year. The Government's proposals to include agreements to maintain existing levels of access to bind future owners are crucial to maintaining this public benefit and we must hold them to account on this.
Transfers to charities must be properly funded The proposals suggest that some woods could be transferred to charities such as the Woodland Trust. We would welcome the chance to work with government to safeguard the future of planted ancient woods in particular, perhaps through management agreements, but would need substantial and sustained funding from government before we could take over its responsibilities. We are concerned that such funding may be limited in the current economic climate. Stronger protection is therefore also essential.
Please speak up for our much loved woods by signing our petition to government now.
Thank you"

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Barn Owl

Below are a couple of photographs of a Barn Owl that I took at a place called Deeping High Bank, which is close to Peterborough and just over the border in South Lincolnshire. This site is excellent for Barn Owls and another owl, the Short-eared Owl in winter because of the `rough`, `scrubby` areas that are around the field margins that are full of field voles, the owls favourite food.

The Barn Owl is another one of our birds that has suffered a drastic fall in numbers in recent times. In the 1930`s there were believed to be 12,000 pairs, now there are only 4,000. This decline is believed to be linked to the use of pesticides and the use of second generation rodenticides. Also, the availability of nest sites is a major concern, as the old buildings that are used by Barn Owls are either being pulled down or renovated.

Re-establishing hay meadows, conserving areas of rough grassland rich in voles wherever possible, especially alongside watercourses, field edges and woods will help to ensure this species has sufficient feeding areas. The provision of nest boxes where `natural` sites have been removed is also critical.

Digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30