Saturday, 19 February 2011

Going East

This blog will be a bit quiet for a couple of weeks as I prepare to leave for India tomorrow.  There will be joining 6 others on a tour to see wildlife and take in a couple of the World Cup cricket matches.

We start at Tadoba National Park where we stand a good chance of seeing Tigers, Gaur (Indian Bison), Wild Dogs and Sloth Bear.  There are also many bird species and there is a slight chance I might at last catch up with wild Demoiselle Cranes.

We then move to Nagpur to watch Australia take on New Zealand.  After that we fly down to Bangliore for India v England where we will be part-time members of the Barmy Army.  After that we fly across to Kolkata.

From there we enter the mangrove forests and swamps of the Sundarbans.  Another stronghold of Tigers but also Riverine Dolphins and again many species of birds.

There will be many stories to tell on my return.

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Dishonesty of Songbird Survival

I wonder how many have caught up with the ironically named charity Songbird Survival.  They purport to be a conservation charity whose main objective is protecting "songbirds" by slaughtering as many crows, magpies etc as possible. They would also be happy to see birds of prey lose their legal protection.

As a conservationist I would concede that predators sometimes have to be discouraged or even controlled.  This would be done as part of the strategic management of particular species and after proper scientific back-up had been established.

Now the truth about this charity is that all the Trustees are a section of the farming and shooting fraternity and some of them very wealthy landowners. Not long ago they paid the BTO for a piece of research which they hoped would lead to proof that predators were reducing smaller species of birds and not I presume modern farming practises.  When the research predictably did not give them the answer they wanted, they promptly ignored it.

Now they have the audacity to launch a public appeal for £88,000 to examine the effect of corvid removal on farmland bird populations.  I think there are quite a few of us who could enlighten them on the outcomes now.  I repeat when managing for target species at least initially some legal predator control can be helpful.

What is more galling is that the Trustees could easily afford to pay for this research without asking the public.

I accept that this charity are entitled to their views but what annoys me so much is their blatant dishonesty.  They are hiding behind the welfare of songbirds not just to cull corvids which is perfectly legal, more to get the protection for birds of prey removed so they can once again carry out removal of these impressive species in order that there are more introduced Pheasants for them to slaughter.

If they called themselves The Corvid & Raptor Removal Trust I would have more respect for them even if I did find their views ridiculous.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


I talked a bit yesterday about my 2011 World Year List still standing at 141.  I have to confess I like lists not in a twitching way but just to amuse myself and motivate my birding.  Before modern technology I kept manual lists of all the holidays I had.  I also kept a British List and of course a Suffolk List.

Adding birds to a relevant list can be red letter days, and I still have almost emotional memories of adding birds like Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Little Curlew etc to my British List and more recently adding Emerald Toucanet (after missing it on 2 previous visits) and Oriental Pied Hornbill to my World List.  The latter were in my son Jeremy's garden in Brunei and were included on his list for that property.

In recent years and since the discovery of a wonderful website called Bubo Listing my listing had become quite feverish.  Bubo allows you to create lists online and the ability to update and manage them.  If you are competitive you can compere yourself to other birders' efforts.  You can create World Lists, Country Lists, County Lists, Site lists and even Garden Lists.  It is just a lot of fun and should not be taken too seriously.  It is better to undertake such a pastime for your own satisfaction and not really give a damn about what others might think.

On Bubo there is minimum of rules but if for instance if you want to create a British List then you will have to quote the date and site for any British Birds rarities.  For a World List you are better of using the IOC criteria because they have more splits hence a bigger list.  Fun isn't it?

Bubo Listing has certainly added fun to rainy days so why not give it a try?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Birds of the Year

Waking up the weather looked promising but not as good as the forecast predicted.  Anyway I decided to go out and try and add some more species to my Year List.

I started at Penclacwydd where I was successful in finding a Spoonbill ( year tick N0.1) standing asleep and motionless as they often do.  He did not move for 30 minutes and showed no intention of doing so.  A Greenshank was the only other bird of note here.

I moved on to Burry Port but a vehicle on the beach meant my visit was fruitless so I carried on to Kidwelly Quay.  Usual birds were obvious but 4 Goldeneye and a Great Crested Grebe together with a few Pintail caught my eye.  The Commissioners Bridge revealed a Green Sandpiper (year tick No.2) albeit backside only as it cowered under a muddy overhang.

On to Ferryside where at last I picked up the lone Avocet (year tick No.3) feeding on the far shore amongst hundreds of Oystercaychers.

Returning home via the Towy Valley I tried in vain to find the single Pink-footed Goose but I did locate 3 Whooper Swans at Felindre.  I stopped in Dryslwyn Car Park by the feeders and fluked a Treecreeper (year tick No.4) as well as watching Long-tailed Tits feeding on peanuts.

Year Lists may sound trivial but for me they motivate me to go out and look for as many birds as possible.  Total now on 141.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Early nesters

Driving to Carmarthen this morning and just as I crossed the River Cothi it was obvious how well advanced nesting Rooks are.  Not only are most of the nests renewed but birds appear to be sitting.  This is not unusual of course but perhaps a little amazing given the cold weather up until recently.

There are quite a number of records of Crossbills in Mid Wales at the moment and they too should be well into their nesting cycle.  This species needs to nest early so that the chicks hatch just as pine seeds become available.

Song Thrushes are now singing loudly each morning as are many of the tit family and it will only be a week or two now before we see Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs the first returning migrants from Africa.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Down to the sea again

We awoke to really dull, misty conditions but given the forecast decided to head for the coast.

We made our way to Ginst Point and as we crossed the grazing marshes we could pick out about 200 Lapwings and 50 Golden Plover.  Numbers of these species have dropped considerably since the cold snap.

Finally we reached the beach in glorious weather and set off heading back towards Pendine.  As usual at weekends there were hoards of dog walkers/emptiers and I assumed birds might be hard to find.  Walking far enough we did find 6 Ringed Plovers and a sizeable flock of mixed waders on the shoreline.  I managed to get reasonably close to scope the flock and discovered 50 Dunlin, 30 Sanderling, 30 Knot and 40 Grey Plover.

After a long slog back to the car we took in the Saturday papers and a picnic lunch before moving on to Pendine village and then walked out to Telpyn Point.  Numbers of birds on the sea were poor with just one Red-throated Diver, a single Great Crested Grebe and 30 Common Scoter.  Two Fulmars were prospecting the cliffs nearer to Amroth.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Feeding the birds with a difference

I was in our local Co-op shop a couple of days ago and could not help notice a chap in  front of me who chucked four large packets of minced beef on the counter. "Having a party"? quipped the girl at the till. "No" he replied "This is for the Buzzards and Kites - they find feeding difficult in these gales".

Wow! I thought all the effort to get people to care for our wildlife does get through.  What an amazing bloke going to some trouble and expense to help his birds.  I have no doubt he gets great pleasure from seeing these majestic birds of prey coming to his garden.  I stopped short of catching him up to ask where he lived and to beg a photograph opportunity.

I also reflected on the benefits of the various Red Kite feeding stations in Wales and the part they must be playing in helping these iconic birds in hard winters such as the recent spell.  It must be a very effective way of ensuring maximum survival in first winter birds which in turn has led to the burgeoning population in Wales.  This species is still spreading and has reached many areas outside its recent range.  Birds are now regularly seen in Pembrokeshire, the Carmarthenshire coast and on Gower.

Friday, 4 February 2011

On the Move

I have just been away overnight to give a talk to the Oxford RSPB Group.  As usual they made me very welcome and I enjoyed the evening immensely.

Leaving home yesterday morning I noticed at least 20 Red Kites gathering on a field which had just been sprayed with manure.  At this time Buzzards and Kites will congregate to take advantage of the many worms discarded in the process.  It makes for a spectacular sight.

Moving into England I stopped at Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean with Mandarin Ducks in mind.  I was fortunate to see two males both in display but they kept their distance so no photos.  Bird pictured taken at Slimbridge.  What is becoming very obvious in the Forest is the activities of Wild Boar.  There must be a lot of them now as I saw where these animals had dug up large patches of ground in several places.  At Speech House car park Chaffinches were feeding busily in the turned over ground.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Outside of Pembrokeshire the extraordinary efforts of volunteers on this exquisite island may have passed you by.  A year or two ago this important refuge for seabirds etc and home for many years to Ronald Lockley an extraordinary man of his time, came up for sale.  It had been leased for many years by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales and now there came a challenge to raise £750,000 to purchase and therefore save the site.

Pictured - Lockley's Cottege

This was achieved by grants and also by large sums of money contributed by Wildlife Trust members and in particular the Friends of the Islands.  The enormous committment of the latter group has not wavered. Many of them set about raising the funds for materials etc and set about restoring and repairing the many buildings on Skokholm.  When finished this will mean that people can once again visit the Island for the peace and tranquility that has meant so much to so many.

There is still much to be done and more funds required.  If would like to help by sponsoring some part of the work, becoming a Friend of the Islands or by just visiting in the future please contact The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales, The Nature Centre, Tondu, Bridgend, CF32 0EH.

Maybe it can be arranged for The Prime Minister David Cameron to visit Skokholm where he will discover that his Big Society has been working well on the Islands for many, many years and current activity demonstrates that particularly well.