Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Black-tailed Godwit at Campfield Scrape on 3rd July ... ringed at Montrose Basin on 28th Sept 2015

The Montrose Basin in Scotland is the most northerly regular wintering site for Black-tailed Godwit ...
one of a group of ten birds that I photographed at Campfield Scrape on the Cumbrian Solway on 3rd July was colour ringed at the Montrose Basin ...


... the bird had been seen on ten other occasions ... all at the Montrose Basin ... ( click on image to enlarge )...



Raymond Duncan, the ringer has provided some interesting information about the movements of these birds ...








Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Stop Killing Hen Harriers ... the message from Hen Harrier Day events up and down the land last weekend



The event at Loch Leven RSPB was opened by Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management, RSPB Scotland ... with good speeches also from Ian Thomson and Guy Shorrock , both stalwart RSPB workers in the Investigations departments ...



... Henry Hen Harrier looked on ...

... we then heard from Mairi Gougeon ( formerly Mairi Evans ) MSP  ... great to have a politician present ... and one who spoke up for wildlife ...

... we learned that the Scottish Parliament has instigated a series of Species Champions ... MSPs who take a special interest in promoting the well-being of vulnerable species ..

... and Mairi is the Hen Harrier Species Champion ! ...


Well done Mairi and well done the Scottish Parliament !

What a contrast with the shameful proceedings in Westminster Hall last winter when Mark Avery's petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting triggered a debate which was conducted with utter contempt ... the chairman opened the debate with flagrant bias towards Grouse Shooting while Therese Coffey rummaged in her handbag before delivering some gabbled closing remarks dismissing the 123 thousand strong petition out of hand ... this completely flew in the face of Natural Justice ...



The Boat of Garten Hen Harrier Day was opened by Mark Avery who spoke with his usual clarity and commitment ...



... again Ian Thomson ... visibly fired up ... and this time with a promise to reveal in his blog the inexplicable failure of the Scottish Crown Office to prosecute the gamekeeper filmed shooting a Hen Harrier ...


For me the most powerful presentation was by the redoubtable Ruth Tingay ... it focused on Wilful Blindness ...



Wilful Blindness ( willful is more American ) is where people choose not to see uncomfortable truths ( e.g. Saville, Rochdale, Rebekah Brooks ... and the rest ) ...

This Wilful Blindness ... she told us ... is operating around the illegal killing of Raptors ...

I had heard her speak on this same matter the day before ... a strong message worth hearing again ...


It was then the turn of Peter Argyle from the Cairngorm National Park Authority ... remember them ? ... remember those images of truck loads of dead Mountain Hares killed within the Park ?
He had the cut of a man defending an indefensible position ...

Harry Huyton , Director of OneKind was eloquent and impassioned and spoke of the right kind of partnerships that can be forged in order to help stop the killing ... the illegal killing of Hen Harriers ...







Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Book Review : Being a Beast by Charles Foster

This is one of the most remarkable books I've ever read ... it was suggested to me for a present about six months ago - I had a quick look and said no thanks ... a few months later a friend recommended it - I ignored that as well ... another friend sang its praises and lent it to me ... so maybe it was time to re-evaluate ...


The premise of the book is that the author wants to know what it is like to be a wild creature - a Badger, an Otter, a Fox, a Red Deer and a Swift ...

... fine so far .. but he decides to try to live the life of each one of these ... hmmm ...

This did not bode well ... but who was this person with the seemingly mad ( and not mad in a good way ) idea ... ?

Well , it turns out that he is a Fellow of one of the Oxford Colleges, has a PhD in medical law and ethics, is a veterinary surgeon and a barrister and has a prodigious list of publications to his name on a wide range of subjects including philosophy, the biology of the spiritual experience and the evolution of altruism ...

I've read a lot of mediocre nature writing ( and some frankly terrible stuff ) over the years and was half expecting this to be just one more in that same mold ...

... so, still not entirely convinced ... I gave it a go ... and was hooked ...

The writing is sharp  ... and it's funny ... 'funny' can be a dangerous thing to go for but this works ... and for a person with such a plethora of tangible talent he is remarkably self-effacing ...

I can get very tired of being told things by authors who think they have arrived at some particular 'truth' ... ( I remember Robert Bly having things to say about that ! ) but there is none of that ...

There is , on the other hand , a good deal of hard fact ...  and interesting stuff ... and some very subtle references where he feels no obligation to labour a point ...

Mostly though , it is an adventure, an exploration , a quest for knowing something which is ultimately unknowable ... but a fascinating and highly entertaining one at that ...

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Grasshopper Warbler at Geltsdale this morning ... singing ... and showing uncharacteristically well ...

My walk by Tindale Tarn was brightened by a juvenile sinensis Cormorant and Lapwing numbers of 150+ were good ... intermittent rain kept on coming ... then heading north past White Tortie a singing Grasshopper Warbler came within earshot ...

... scanning across the swathe of juncus seemed almost futile ... until ... there it was on a fence ...


... turning its head in typical style to give a confusingly ventriloquial effect ...



... there have been reports that this species sings better out in the open after rain ...




... this Red-listed species has done particularly well at Geltsdale where 57 pairs were present in 2011

... many parts of southern Britain have seen significant losses since the 1968 - 72 Atlas but northern parts of the country have fared better ...

... Cumbria seems to represent a microcosm of this situation ... and Geltsdale shows up as the largest area of gains ...

... the sonogram showing a constant range of frequency while changing in intensity with each turn of the head ...









Tuesday, 18 July 2017

More Med. Gulls ... they're on the move ... Workington & Hauxley NR ...

It so often happens that going in search of one particular species results in finding something else ... and perhaps something more interesting ...

... and so it was two days ago ... while looking for Roseate Terns at Hauxley, a juvenile Med. Gull showed up ... and it was colour-ringed !



... just time to read the ring ... and off it went ...




... 2X8H ... black characters on a Yellow ring made it rather predictably a British-ringed bird ...

... and today word came back that it had been ringed on 22nd June on Coquet Island by Chris Redfern ... one of three chicks in a nest ... 

... today at Workington a small group of adult Med.Gulls was visible from the pier ,near the outfall pipe ... then from the footpath more flew in ... there were four adults a first-summer and a lovely juvenile ... an age group I don't see too often ...


... the regular Workington Med. Gull was flying around and another adult was on the far side of the harbour .. a total of eight birds ... later in the day a colour-ringed adult Med. Gull was at Anthorn .. the ring was white with black characters ( probably French ) but flew off too soon to be read ...

... after contacting my long-standing and endlessly friendly, enthusiastic and prompt contact Andreas at Hamburg, I got updates on two other gulls ringed on the same day but arriving on opposites coastlines of northern England ...

AAEJ ... a returning bird to the Workington area ...

... and AAJR ... which favoured the Northumberland coast ...



... despite AAEJ having returned regularly to Workington, it has continued its autumn journey to winter in Iberia ...


... in my quest to discover the breeding season whereabouts of the Workington Med. Gull aka Stumpy I sent photos to Andreas ...


... we may yet discover where she goes ...



Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Workington Mediterranean Gull ( aka Stumpy ) is back ... for its ninth year ...

There were three Med. Gulls at Workington Harbour yesterday ... two adults and a second summer ... and all looking pristine with jet black hoods showing crisply in the sunshine and that clear air created by the northerly breeze ... and one of those was the regular wintering bird ...





... it was on 30th July 2009 that I first found this bird, then in first-summer plumage ...


... it had been ringed as a nestling at Kieldrecht, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium on 27th May 2008 ... and here it was 429 days later and 641 km from the ringing site, direction NW.

... it has been reported only twice at locations other than the Workington area ... once on 15th April 2010 when it was at Seaforth NR, Merseyside ...

... and then on 3rd July 2015 at Dawlish Warren, Devon ...

... this was 2593 days after it was ringed and 540 km away ...

... there are no reports of it during the breeding season ... perhaps it returns to its natal site ... but who knows ?   the reports of it in NW and SW England would certainly be consistent with that ...




... while Workington is a site that often hosts Med. Gulls numbering into double figures in early autumn, it is not a major wintering location ... some individuals with colour rings have passed through Workington in successive years before going on to spend the winter in Spain ...


Monday, 3 July 2017

Some early passage waders on the Solway ... Whimbrel & colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit

On the falling tide today four Whimbrel called as they flew in and fed at Port Carlisle ...


... associating sometimes with Redshank ...


... and also with several of the Common Sandpipers present ...


... one came in high ...



... before joining the others ...

... a Curlew came by uttering the characteristic three-note call of migrating birds ...



There was plenty of water in Campfield Scrape ... obviously benefitting the grassland behind where ten Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits were variously feeding and roosting ... one was colour-ringed ( details hopefully to follow ) ...



... among the Lapwings a single juvenile with its subtly scaled mantle and delicately patterned buff face pattern ...