Tuesday, 21 June 2016

"In or out" for Nature?

The decision on whether we will stay in or leave the EU will be made in just a few days time during the referendum vote on the 23rd of June. In anything like this, people of course vote on what matters to them and how they see that things will impact them.

If may come as no surprise to you, but what really matters to me is the natural world and the negative impact that the enormous "world" population is having on it.

This blog is about  my concerns for British wildlife, habitats and global climate change if we decide as a country to leave. To prepare for this blog I ran a poll on twitter to see how everyone else felt about the impacts of the referendum on the natural world. I asked one simple question; "Will climate change legislation and nature protection laws be stronger in or out of Europe?" The results are below.

More than 200 people voted, and as you can see an overwhelming percentage feel that the natural world and environment would be better protected if we stayed in the EU.

Nearly all of our environmental laws are formed and backed up at EU level. According to the RSPB, the EU Nature Directives have provided the highest level of protection to vulnerable habitats and species for the past 30 years. And although they are being reviewed, they still offer strong protection.

If we decide to leave, will these laws become weaker? Weak to the point that it will be easier to get round laws/guidelines; for example climate targets, hunting laws, use of EU banned pesticides, raptor persecution, emissions etc.

During the last UK elections I blogged about my disappointment in the leaders debate, about how low down the political agenda the natural world is.  The trouble is that most decisions seem to be so short sighted. Take fracking for example. It's a quick fix to securing energy for a good few years, but what are the long term implications; would we still choose fracking if we were to #Think500YearsAhead. Maybe we would still have to due to all the short sighted decisions that have gone before.

My fear is that if we come out of the EU, the political priorities will all be about quick, short sighted wins. And where does that leave nature directives..........right at the back of the queue.  Take our bees for example. Back in July 2015 the UK government decided to suspend the EU ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees.  Bees are essential pollinators. One out of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by a pollinator; so why even consider using a neonicotinoid pesticide linked to serious harm in bees. Fortunately this year the temporary lifting of the ban was not granted, but who knows what will happen in the future.

The risks faced by our wildlife are growing every day, and the days are growing closer to the all important referendum. Our wildlife is under real pressure from building development and infrastructure, intensive farming and agriculture, also not to mention fisheries. This is not a problem the UK faces alone or in isolation. Migratory birds, insects and marine wildlife all cross borders; as does pollution. We need to tackle this together, as part of an agreed plan.  The risks are ever increasing and there is real urgency for international action.

All the trade and finance we seem to strive for amounts to nothing if we don't have the basic as a priority; a healthy planet.  We can only achieve a healthy planet by working together across the borders. But we are leaving it way to late to make the big, often hard decisions, needed to put things right.

I believe that climate change will be one of the biggest challenges faced by my generation. Climate change cannot be tackled as an individual; it needs joint plans, agreed action and a desire to do the right thing across all the borders.

In or out though, one thing is for certain, we all need to step up a gear in protecting our natural inheritance. We all need to #Think500YearsAhead.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Unofficial Hen Harrier Day Register

Hen Harrier Day 2016 is fast approaching. Events are taking place all across the country again this year as more and more people become aware of the plight of our Hen Harriers. 

Sometimes a number doesn't really mean anything, but when you can see a solid list of people that want to make a difference, I think that then you really start to see the growing strength and power for change that we can make.

To demonstrate the number of growing supporters, I am building an unofficial list/register of all the people and organisations that are proud to show their support.

So here begins a list of all the people supporting this year's Hen Harrier Day events. Tweet me, message me, email me (findlaywilde@gmail.com) or add a comment if you are supporting this years's events, and I will add your name or Twitter ID to the list below:


@WildeAboutBirds @HenryHenHarrier @HarleyWilde @BlanaidDenman @RaptorPersScot @natalieben @MarkAvery @birdman1066 @lorrybus @ev1e_miller @abby_millerx @raptorwatcher @Peak_HHDay @HHDaySouth @HHDayHighlands @DaveyManMcG @jazzy_jeff44 @KidsNorthWest @RuthTingay Nigel Wilde @ChrisGPackham  @vivthesetter @csdriver @craiglee86 @knitspincake @NatureBoyJack11 @ruthpeacey @NorfolkBea @RareBirdAlertUK @BlackLabrador10 @MancRockChick @GailtheFragle @WoodlandStrix @CymraesSwil @SaveOurSparrows @YoloBirder @McKenzie6593 @LdnPeregrines @exPWCO @Jon_T_R Iolo Williams @WildChild_Sco @GeorgiaLocock @Nature_Scotland @josiethebirder @Alison_H61  @Keelby_Wildlife @SRJennings25 @Portland_Nature @johndmccormick @CommonbyNature @carolinelufc  @Tonydotlufc Margaret Green @_robsheldon  @phhoward1 @marymaryslack @chocciechoccie @ecotricity @GreenBritCentre @ElecHighway @HelenTaylor_eco @Rosskites Margaret Adamson @tiffins11 @FaBPeregrines @HHDayLondon @ShepherdWells @ShefEnvironment @DouglasMcf1 @RSPB_Skydancer @CourtneyHickey2 @shaunkhickey @DerbysMossfool @Dovey1974 and family (Gill, Alice & Edward) @arborist2222 @charliemoores @PhilWWalton @birdersagainst @naturalistdara @nirsg @Greens4Animals @lumber_darren and Frances @gmarsh47 @zoe19920 @djd21 @fred_fearn @RoisinMcanulty @peterjohnhowe @heyjooode @AshleyWatts3 @sorriega @FrostyBirding @gingko74 @DerbysWildlife @angeenviro @kaitehelps @JoSmithDWT  @WildHils, @shepster55 @Birdwingeu @ellisethanfox @ellisethan @John_Ranson @FrankHeron2 @missmagpirate @aquasulis1998 @notsotweets

Monday, 6 June 2016

Is This The Year We Say Goodbye?

"The Hen Harrier goes extinct as a breeding birding in England."

Imagine waking up to that headline. How would that make you feel? Would you feel angry? Would you feel a sense of loss? Would you feel guilty that you didn't try and do more to save them?  I would feel all those things, but I would also feel cheated; cheated that one more species from my natural inheritance has been allowed to disappear.

And do you know what, I think that this year will be the one where we wake up to that headline.  RSPB's Martin Harper today published a blog giving an update on this year's breeding season, and it does not make good reading.  According to Martin's blog there have been "only a tiny handful of nesting attempts to date" and no confirmation of any successful breeding pairs in England.  The weather and low vole numbers would not have had the serious impact they are having if we had a healthy number of hen harriers to start with.

I find the hen harrier situation one of the most frustrating conservation challenges. The breeding habitat is there, but the on-going persecution of raptors by a small minority has brought us to this point. There are some people that think they are above the law and the evidence is clear to see; shot, poisoned and trapped raptors across the uplands.

I have written before about the first time I ever saw a hen harrier. It was a stunning male in North Wales. It was a misty morning high up in the moors. My eyes were adjusting to the grey scale colours when this ghostly bird soared effortlessly out through mist and I swear our eyes met for a moment. As quickly as it appeared, it blended back into the moorland; and from that moment I was hooked.  

Why should moments like that be taken away from us? Why should someone else, with their finger on a trigger, decide whether or not we get to see sky dancers soaring over the moors.

So are you angry? Have you had enough? Well then you need to do something. You need to stand up and say that you are not prepared to let such an iconic bird go extinct in our lifetime.

It is now 2 years since I made Harry to raise awareness about the plight of the hen harrier, but sadly I am watching the situation go from bad to worse, despite all the efforts of so many dedicated people. But you can't give up, you have to talk more and more about what is happening. You have to all pull together and speak up together.  

So please, please tell everyone you know about the plight of the hen harrier and come together at one of the forthcoming Hen Harrier Days taking place across the country. Talk to the people you know there and more importantly talk to the people you don't know. Find out as much information as you can and decide how you want to help going forwards.  I have learnt so much more about hen harriers and raptor persecution over the last 2 years. 

I will be at RSPB Rainham on Saturday 6th August and I will be giving a talk at the Peak District event on 7th August.

Don't be one of the people that thinks "I wish I'd done more".

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Operation Spoonbill

Annoyingly my teeth have been on a real go slow on coming out, so yesterday I had a minor operation to remove the remaining 5 of them. This inhibited me from taking part in any activity with a lot of action and movement needed, so sadly I could not go ringing today.

Instead I decided to go and do a bit of birding with my dad on the Wirral. We started at Leasowe overlooking the estuary, however the tide was miles out, which sadly meant the wading birds we were in search of were right out on the tide line, so way to far even for the scope. However we did get a nice close flyby of 2 Common Tern, which then started to fish in a small inlet close by.

That was all the action we got at Leasowe and as the tide would be the same all along the Wirral coast, we decided to drop in to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands.

When we arrived at the visitor center, we were greeted by good friend Dan Trottman who I have volunteered with at the Skydancer on the Dee events. It was great to have a catch up with him.

In the last couple of weeks there have been up to 4 Spoonbills located around the reserve, however they have been quite mobile and some days they have been all the way over at Burton Marsh.

Thankfully we manged to locate them resting up in a pine tree with Little Egrets; sometimes doing the odd circuit of the wood before settling back in the trees again. We managed to get great views of 3 of the birds. So did the Grey Heron just below them!

A lifer for me and my dad! And a rare bird in the North West. Whilst watching these magnificent waders, the air was filled with the song of Cettis Warbler, however sadly they didn't show, but nevertheless a great birding experience. 

As it was approaching time to leave this brilliant RSPB reserve, another bird made an appearance to finish off a superb day. When we arrived at the car park, literally right above our vehicle, there was a Spotted Flycatcher. The first I'd seen this year and a great bird to end the day.

Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Good Question 30 - You Cannot Be Serious!

It's quiz night Tuesday!

Tonight's challenge combines birds and one of my favourite sports, tennis.  So what you need to do is try and link a tennis player's name to a bird in some way. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

Billie Jean King Eider (Billie Jean King)
Boris Wood Pecker (Boris Becker)

So over to you. I will pick the four best ones tomorrow night and put them on a twitter poll to select the winner.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A "Swift" Visit to Frodsham Marsh

On Saturday my Grandma was coming over from North Wales, so we decided to show her around one of my favorite birding sites, Frodsham Marsh (she used to live in Frodsham). We arrived on the track along side No.6 tank opposite No.5 tank, where we were greeted by a very heavy burst of rain which lasted a few minutes before finally easing off. We noticed a couple of lone scopes of the embankment overlooking the tank and soon realised that my good friend Bill Morton and Alan Chambers were sheltering in the bushes from the torrential rain that had just passed.  They hadn't found much shelter though, as they were soaked!

High tide was midday. Now that the water level in No.6 tank has decreased a bit, we were hoping for some good wader action, as the high tide pushes the birds off the Mersey estuary. As soon as I set up my scope, I immediately got on to 2 stunning summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers with a mixed Dunlin and Ringed Plover flock.

They must have just dropped in as neither Bill nor Alan had picked them out earlier.  According to the BTO Bird Atlas, Curlew Sandpiper are most frequently reported while on autumn passage in July - October and are scarce in Spring, so it was fantastic to see them.

The heavy rain brought a few migrants down with it, as literally hundreds of swifts circled our heads as we were observing the tank.

A spectacular sight; infact you could stand less than a meter away from a buzzing swarm of mosquitoes and the swifts would feed practically above our heads.  You could literally feel the air move as the swooshed past.

We continued to scan the rest of the waders roosting on the tank, however sadly they didn't stay long due to an unexpected raptor flushing pretty much everything off the tank and into the air. This raptor was a stunning Short Eared Owl, quite a late bird for mid May. We only got brief views as it flew across the tank and was lost to view due to the tree cover, scattering the small flocks of waders.

Thankfully my Grandma got to see this amazing raptor as well, whilst she was watching 3 Avocets and a Lapwing which were keeping her entertained.

It was a while since I'd been to Frodsham Marsh and it was amazing to see how far the wind farm has come. 3 turbines were already up and the parts that make up a full turbine were already in place for some of the others. 21 are going up in total. There are of course mixed opinions on the turbines; that balance between the long term tackling of climate change and the immediate impact on the local eco-system.

After such a great visit yesterday, I went back again today. The Curlew Sandpipers were still present on No6 Tank and quite a few Swifts were still circling.

The drier weather brought out more of the warblers, with Sedge Warblers being heard most against everything else.

It was also great to see the Lapwing chicks progressing well.

If you've never been to Frodsham Marsh, you really should try and get there.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Moth May-nia

Last week, due to the warmer weather, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my first proper moth trapping session of the year in. It had been 23 degrees plus in the day and at least 17 degrees over the course of the evening, which is a great temperature for moth tapping. The overnight cloud cover made it even better, as the brightest light around was the moth trap, rather than the moon. 

The first moth in the trap that really caught my attention was this striking Chocolate Tip. I caught my first back in 2014, a lovely species.

Chocolate Tip

Certainly the largest moth of the session was the Poplar Hawk-moth (and the first Hawk-moth of the year). I am looking forward to elephants appearing soon though. Poplar Hawk-moths are quite common, but always great to study up close. So much power in those sturdy wings.

Poplar Hawk-moth

The highlight of the mothing session had to be this new species for the garden; the Mullein. Quite a big moth and highly distinctive.


The final moth, and probably most eye catching was another new species for me; the Sallow Kitten. Last year we caught a similar species from the same family, Poplar Kitten. Although very similar, look how much more wavy the line at the end of the black band of the Sallow Kitten is.

Sallow Kitten

Poplar Kitten from last year

A great session and I can't wait for what's to come. And if you are busy planting your gardens at the moment, remember to create those B-Lines and plant something for these important pollinators.