Thursday, February 28, 2008

Schedule 4 de-listing Defra reply

I've received a reply from Defra re the de-listing of Peregrine and other species from Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. You may access the reply and my response here. It is not good news I'm afraid.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Green Withens restored

I've restored the link to Green Withens now Darrell's got the hang of the new agenda (more art, less swearing). Click here.

Moorland tramp on energy saving day with earthquake reference

Well that was an exciting night (leaning towards "with" territory here); apparently for I did not wake, all the pantiles on the roof shook for a good few seconds, scary.

Managed to bail out of work early to complete my last Atlas square, a bit late in the day but never mind. I decided there was time to tramp across the moor to the conifer plantation. This was a bit energetic to be honest and I arrived, 9 Red Grouse and rather hot and bothered at the trees after half an hour. But it was worth it as immediately I found singing Crossbill (will post video). This is a particularly lovely piece of the moor, lots of old heather, lots of pools and streams and the plantation is in serious neglect, many fallen over trees and half dead standing trees. Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed a few feet from me, startled me more than the earthquake, and was joined by its prospective partner for a chase around the trees. Goldcrest and Wren were in song, Coal Tit was evident. I possibly heard Reed Bunting distantly and briefly as well.

There was some evidence of game keeping activities, but the trap (for rats/stoats etc) was rather rusty but also some evidence of predator presence with a plucked grouse found at one point.

The tramp back was even more energetic, through older ling, with 9 Red Grouse (I guess different ones) encountered en route.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Biofuels aaaaaaaaaggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!

Biofuels are environmentally damaging and we will all be forced to use them via the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation that will be enacted in April this year. If you want to stop that happening write to Ruth Kelly, the Transport Minister asap. I've put a letter to Ruth Kelly here.

For more information and writing to Ruth Kelly via the RSPB automated letter writer (broken for me) click here.

A warning about bio diesel - below -3 degrees C it can be rather solid. If you want to save your fuel pump, pricey in diesel vehicles, avoid. Some diesel engines are not keen on bio-diesel e.g. the Peugot HDi turbo - I have been led to believe this engine will break if fed this stuff.

Happy motoring.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Atlas weekend

A weekend spent doing Atlas stuff at Ness Point and in the dale.

Ness Point was very quiet yesterday with just a few Gannets moving at sea of note. The visit was most useful for investigating seawatch places. The lowest place I can find is further towards Raindale, (John / Nick this looks quite useful to me, it gives very good views to the south and down to the beach / rocks below, so nothing can slide past unseen below the cliffs). This is in preparation for focusing more on the east/south side of Whitby this year. Velvet Scoter are still in evidence nearer the town with two reported from the pier (east I guess). A Hare and the two Roe Deer provided the most exciting moments of my morning.

A Woodcock flushed out of the bracken was the best bird of a rather blowy Atlas tromp around the organic farm and up to the plantation today. The noise of the wind prevented me confirming Crossbill, suspects seen fleetingly could not be heard. I'm now able to access much more of this tetrad thanks to the farmer who could not be more helpful (thanks Chris).

This afternoon I tramped across miles of fields to the moor edge for little ornithological reward.

Mols found a freshly dead Wood Mouse (nice hat Louise)

First frog spawn I've seen this year.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

P.c.carbo or P.c.sinensis that is the question

Since boldly suggesting that some of the cormorants at Scaling Dam might be P.c.sinensis I've done a bit of research. BBi and BWPi were not a lot of help, indeed the illustrations in BWP would lead one to a false conclusion, perhaps this is how these myths have been perpetuated. There is a useful article on the Paxton Gravel Pits website, here.

The source Ardea paper is here.

The angle of the gular patch is the only "good" criteria. You need to look at the diagrams in the Ardea article (also reproduced below). If the angle is less than or equal to 65 degrees its a P.c.carbo if the angle is between 66 and 72 degrees it is unidentifiable and if the angle is between 73 and 110 degrees its a P.c.sinensis. However, this isn't a great deal of use as there appear to be clines and UK is at the edge of each so our P.c.carbo tend to have a gular angle at the larger end of their range and our P.c.sinensis at the smaller end of their range. In any case in the field this feature is very difficult to judge. Indeed Julian Hughes, the author of the paper on the Paxton site, suggests that field identification is unreliable.

So there you have it - Badseawatcher's advice - they're Cormorants don't get excited about them, now what is that gull ......?

I've crudely coloured in the gular to make the diagrams a little easier to comprehend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New sounds

Sounds for cold still days - see the bottom of the side panel for a bit of Vini.
...on the other hand.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bad mistake frog

Here's the frog
... and here's the pond

The solid water did not appear to be suiting frog. I'd gone to check it again today as Louise had seen Grey Heron heading up there the other afternoon. No frog spawn, one rather stuck frog, one pond with solid top. No doubt the next warm days sans frost will turn it in to a heaving frog orgy.

Long-tailed Tit

A species I rarely see on feeders, actually I rarely see in or around the garden. However for the last two days this one has been enjoying the peanuts on both front and back feeders.

An afternoon trip to Saltwick Nab and Abbey Plain produced 4 Velvet Scoter, 80+ Common Scoter, 4 Eider, 34 Curlew, 60+ Redshank, Rock Pipit, 2 Stonechat and the usual common species. Apparently I dipped on Red-throated Diver and unidentified waders which joined the Curlew after I had left them feeding in their field according to the significant rarities of the afternoon, 3 birders.

There were hundreds and hundreds of gulls but none to confuse or wind up this gull-watcher having a better day. None to excite either.

Here's Egton Banks at dusk today. There were huge numbers of Jackdaws here, hard to estimate in the failing light but I reckoned at least 1,200.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gull confusion

I forgot a few further signs of spring from the 13th - Hedgehog poo on the lawn being the main one. I've been told about bats flying and hunting in the last few days as well.

A trip out to the neglected Scaling Dam found me looking at a confusing gull. I thought it was a 1st winter. It was big, with a heavy mostly black bill, pale headed with markings around the eye, it had a broad very black tail band with a white rump that was lightly marked with sparse brown flecks, there was no pale window in the wing and it lacked the distinctive chequered look of a GB-bG. There were GB-bGs nearby and they seemed larger, were distinctly chequered and colder plumaged. My bird was looking good for a Yellow-legged Gull, a 1st W. But hang on, the ends of the tertials are white, that's not right. Ok, so maybe it's one of those delayed 2nd winters, then the tertials can be white at the tip. Danger sign - I'm trying to make the gull fit the id not the id fit the gull.

The bird disappeared whilst I was distracted. At home I consulted Olsen and Larsson and had a look at pix on BirdGuides. I started to feel it could be a delayed 2nd winter Y-lG.

I returned to Scaling for the roost and found the gull quite quickly. It was with an adult GB-bG and was much smaller. I phoned MAB saying I'd got a possible but that I was still bothered by the tertials. Again whilst I was distracted the bird disappeared but this time I relocated it quite quickly. I headed for the hide and watched it dismembering a goose carcass and began to feel very uncomfortable about the possible id, this bird was behaving like a GB-bG. Bored with goose bones the gull swam over to the hide, and revealed itself to be a Great Black-backed Gull. Looking at the pix now I wonder how I thought it could be anything else. In my defence it was small, it lacked the distinctive cold plumage tones and chequered appearance and the tail and the bill led me astray. Bit of a lesson though. Still even Jonsson admits to having bad days, perhaps not that bad a day maybe?

Scaling had a Pochard, 8 Goldeneye, the usual dabbling ducks but in small numbers. I continue to fail to connect with the Water Pipit that has been seen intermittently since just before Xmas.

The Great Cormorants at Scaling are of interest. It might be expected that they are coastal birds drifting inland for a spot of easy fishing but I'm thinking that a proportion of them are sinensis these two candidates above look like prime suspects.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Heather (well, Ling actually) burning

The heather on the moors is burnt in early spring in carefully controlled fires. For wild birds there are pros and cons in relation to this management practice which is used to create the optimum habitat for Red Grouse. Many species of birds benefit like the grouse from the patchwork of different ages of heather that are created. The heather is burnt in irregular shapes with "wobbly" boundaries. Work has shown that most wild birds benefit from the increased invertebrate diversity from the increase in micro-habitats. The moor is also better protected from uncontrolled fire. However, there is a tendancy to remove the old heather completely and this removes the preferred nest sites of Merlin and Hen Harrier. On the North Yorks Moors Merlins have found alternative sites fairly easily. No Hen Harriers have bred for some years now.

7-spot Ladybird

A very early 7-spot Ladybird was found by one of Mols friends this morning. An early date. There was a queen bumblebee on the wing today as well. In the last few days, Stock Dove and Mistle Thrush are amongst species that have been singing.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


An Atlas visit to Kettleness this morning found plenty of Fulmars on the cliffs and zooming around.

Not much else of note other than a huge flock of duck/geese that went west miles out to sea. I viewed them from the railway path but in the haze I really couldn't get any sort of id.

There were also 70 or so Redwings, 9 Yellowhammers, 1 Guillemot, 1 Eider, 2 Tree Sparrow and 400 Starlings whilst a Peregrine caused the feral pigeon gang some consternation.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lobby Alec Salmond to stop the Lewis windfarm

Alex Salmond and the SNP are minded to refuse permission for the Lewis windfarm. Now is the moment to write to the First Minister and encourage him to confirm that decision. 82% of the islanders (Scotsman) agree with Mr Salmond but there are powerful lobbies desperately trying to keep this destructive and (most likely) anti-environmental project alive. There is a letter that you can adapt, and all the contact details are here.

Whilst windfarms appear to be environmentally friendly there are a huge range of issues, not least of which is that the disturbance of the moorland may release more CO2 than the windfarm might save. Each needs to be considered on its merits. Personally I reckon this particular development is not a good one.

Lobby Canon to add their voice - Stop the killing of whales in the southern oceans

Greenpeace are lobbying Canon to encourage them to add their voice to the anti-whaling campaign. Join this effort to stop whaling by clicking here. (You'll need to read the letter carefully as there is at least one mistake in it!)

My own letter to Canon is here (hopefully error free).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Proposed revision of Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The Department for the Environment (DEFRA) are proposing to revise Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. They intend to reduce the number of species listed from 46 to just 7. Crucially they intend to remove Peregrine from the list. Peregrine is highly susceptible to criminality, not only from the shooting lobby but also from some disreputable falconers. The species has a high monetary value. Please write to Joan Ruddock the minister of state responsible and ask her to reconsider. I have written a letter which you are welcome to use, preferably to adapt. Click here for the letter.

Joan Ruddock's email address is

It is important to include your name and address in the email even if you request reply by email.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Bit of snow and some birds

Ranged far and wide today despite the very frozen stuff all over the ground. I'd decided not to go to the coast, not wishing to get stuck down one of the lanes but by early afternoon, when I looked out that way from Borrowby, it was clear that I'd made a misjudgement as all the white stuff was inland and there seemed to be none up to a klick or so from the coast.

Star of the day was a very nice female Gos, precisely what I was looking for. A classic as well; heard Carrion Crow, then the Jackdaws and Rooks were up making a fuss, and there she was going like the clappers after 'em. An hour or so later and a Buzzard made an appearance, bit slow on the draw with the camera unfortunately as it drifted towards me and then drifted away again; angles were awkward but it just about revealed itself as Buteo buteo.

An Atlas square produced variety but nothing much more, well a lot of House Sparrows, so I headed for Scaling Dam, also an Atlas site but I'm saving it for next winter. Redshank x2, a Grey Heron (uncommon there) Stonechat x2, Pink-feet x2. Grouse footprints everywhere. I struggled around the back wading through snow drifts and avoiding drowning in unseen bogs but narrowly.

Worst moment - being driven up a very narrow, icy, untreated and snow surrounded lane the 4x4 coming at us didn't seem to register the large hunk of silver coloured metal in its path and just kept going at speed, my driver struggling to find reverse gear. The culprit did eventually stop, to reveal someone I knew, so waving arms about, gesticulating, shouting and generally behaving badly were off the menu.