Tuesday, 28 October 2008

World On the Move Live from Welney

Just got back from doing the live programme today, and I'm now off again, this time to Brixham, but for those of you that missed the programme today (world on the move, BBC Radio 4) , here's some pictures I took at Wildfowl Wetlands Trust, Welney Reserve. The sites and sounds of the Whooper Swans are amazing, you have got to witness this true spectacle. Thanks to Leigh Marshall the reserve manager at Welney, for giving such a knowledgeable insight to these amazing Swans. This trip I will not forget for long time, if ever. You can listen to the programme again by going to the world on the move website and use, listen again http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/worldonthemove/

I will update the blog with some more info when I'm back from Devon.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Return Of The Hornets

No they are not back, more keeping going. I did this video of them 25.10.08, they should be all dead, except for the Queens who should of course over winter in safety either in houses or holes in trees, then be ready to lay eggs the following spring. Just to re-emphasise what I say in the video, for all my life I have never witnessed so much activity of Hornets. There are apparently three nests in this one Somerset woodland, this is so good, that after such an appalling summer were even the Yellow Jackets (common wasps) have done so badly, that something so rare as the Hornet has come through this and increased its number its marvellous.
I never tire of watching them, and just sitting in front of the nest is a very special experience indeed. They remind me of something I call "passive power", this of course means they have the power and their venom is awesome yet they only use it as a last resort, were as by comparison the yellow jackets, that during the cooler autumn days will come to humans looking for food make mistakes through their sluggishness ands sting people. The Hornets don't do this they still try and feed on live prey, taking Flies, dragonflies and other such species. Almost keeping away from people. It is so strange that people who have already read my earlier bits on Hornets in this blog are so against them. I think we should have a big drive on education for this most magnificent of insects that in the end does a great job for people and at the same time increases bio-diversity by its presence. Long live the Hornets.

Apologise for the poor video quality all I can afford at the moment.

Special thanks to Dave Newton for pointing out the other nests in this one woodland.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

World On the Move "Hatched in the USA"

Well how many of you heard me on World On the Move BBC Radio 4 Tuesday, "you mean you missed it" Baa! well go and listen again http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/worldonthemove/reports/american-vagrants/
For my part in this weeks programme I was interviewing a man who had discovered a British first and that was the Alder Flycatcher, this relative of the spotted Flycatcher had flown all the way from the U.S.A to Cornwall in South West England. They say its been a great year for U.S.A birds in England, and of course many bird watchers have been flocking in to see species like, the American Buff Bellied Pipit, Red Eyed Viro, American Wigeon and most amazingly the American Nighthawk. I did a live piece from a location on the coast, about 1 mile from Lands End. That was intermixed with the interviews which was recorded the day before. I really do enjoy doing the live pieces, gets the adrenalin going, and allows for some good atmosphere and real creativity.
Have a listen to the programme and tell me what you think, oh and so you are all forewarned. I'm on next week reporting again for world on the move BBC Radio 4, so no excuses not to listen to it and do send me some feedback. Don't forget to go to the World On The Move website http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/worldonthemove/ and see whats going on.

Catch Up

Seems to have been a lot going on just recently. Last weekend I was in Norfolk for the Hawk and Owl Trust members conference and AGM. I spoke about the Community Owls Project (COP), also the Quantock and Mendip Long-eared owl bio-diversity projects, and lastly the Little owl release project that has had some really good following on this blog. The conference was extremely well organised, with a brilliant friendly atmosphere, so full credit to all the Hawk and Owl Trust people in Norfolk. The Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve near Fakenham was where the conference was based and the reserve and centre looked true models of professional conservation and education.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Taunton Libary Event 08/09/08

Today I did a stand up lecture in Taunton Library. I must say it was great to see so many people leave this lecture smiling. There is so much gloom and doom in the media at the moment with all the economic uncertainty etc. I did set myself an objective to see smiling faces leaving at the end, and I think it worked. Apparently there was a lot of people at this lecture which the organissers described as one of the best attended, which is good. My message as always in nature conservation is the "never say die" attitude. I went to a lecture recently concerning wildlife conservation in U.K, were the presenter was giving such a gloomy message you could almost see people in the audience, themselves giving up. No seriously everyone listen, there are some great things happening in this country and when you can pack out a Library hall in the middle of the day on a Thursday with the message of hope, and watch people going away inspired, and smiling, with a will of doing something about it. Then it ain't over its actually just beginning. I say this with proof, as so many of the people stayed behind afterwards to talk to me about how they could help, and also some land owners were there offering their hectares of land for me to visit, and advice them how to manage it better for wildlife.

My thanks to the organisers of this event at Taunton Library. I really did enjoy the whole session and the chats to everyone afterwards, and of course thanks must go to Somerset County Council as well.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

World On the Move BBC Radio 4 Series: Jays

The local woodlands are full of the sounds of Jays at the moment, with their characteristic almost electronic sounding call. This colorful member of the Crow family is suddenly much more numerous as it goes in search for nuts and berries. Its well worth a mention in context with the BBC Radio 4 series World On The Move, because U.K numbers are boosted at this time of the year by Jays from the European continent. I heard only yesterday from a colleague that early departure of Jays from northern Europe has been caused by some very dry conditions earlier on the Summer (well they were lucky), this though may have lead to early nuts failing, forcing Jays out and onto U.K shores earlier than normal. Jays in the UK feed on a variety of food from carrion to seed, nuts and Insects. They are very difficult to find when you have a Camera with you, however this one in local woods was very obliging. Unfortunately this picture does the Jay no justice at all, as I always think of this bird as so incredibly well marked for the family it belongs too. Very stunning bird when you see them really close up. Don't forget the programme goes out on BBC Radio 4 Tuesday at1100hrs. Or to listen again go to the World On The Move website. Sorry but as far as I'm aware Jays are not in the programme but certainly well worth a mention here.


Saturday, 4 October 2008

Eagle Owl's in Bristol

Does anyone love the gentle giant from the Owl World

This morning I did a Radio interview on BBC Radio Bristol, which confirmed the presences of an Eagle Owl in Bristol. Actually this Owl has not been around for a few weeks as reported, but in fact it has been around for at least 9 months or maybe longer. Many people have seen it, indeed few have tried to capture it, and failed. I have been receiving reports of this Owl which operates across Clifton and Leigh Woods, whilst at the same time I'm also receiving reports of another Eagle Owl in Downend, and additional sightings near Iron Acton in North Bristol. I would surmise from this that there are possibly two Eagle Owls operating within Bristol at present, and indeed that they are of captive origin. I say this as both Owls seem to be roosting close to people, yet both evade capture. Most people who keep this species in captivity would no doubt agree with me, that this description fits nicely with an Owl bred in an aviary, yet parent reared, and thankfully not hand reared. As I said on the interview I'm very fearful about this, as it will mask what might be going on in the north and the east of the UK. I really believe that there may be indeed some natural colonisation of the northern European race of Eagle Owl, Latin name Bubo bubo bubo currently taking place. Yet escapees or deliberate releases really don't help this species PR at all.

I have a personal view on the subject of Eagle Owls in the UK, and I must stress that this view is in no way a representative view of any Conservation group I work for or am Trustee or Patron.

My view is that all Eagle Owls currently breeding in the UK of the race Bubo bubo b, should be treated as a EU protected species. Individual Eagle Owls of any other race of Bubo and of therefore captive in origin, should indeed be re captured, and not allowed to establish in an environment they are not or had never been part of. I really do look forward to the day when Eagle Owls can be found on Mendip, Quantock hills or indeed the Somerset levels here in Somerset, I feel sure that this day will come. These are the habitats that will be suit them, rather than the city of Bristol. The question as to whether the Bristol Owls will be able feed? I think this is already answered, in that they are now self supporting so are finding food without obvious problem. They are most likely doing well on Brown Rats, however with them roosting so close to humans finding their pellets would be quite easy. As Alar Broberg the Swedish Eagle Owl expert said when he described this bird to me, "as a big and lazy", what he means is that the Eagle Owl takes what is numerous and does not want to look for trouble for itself by chasing rare species. In Yorkshire the televised pair on BBC 2 were feeding on Rabbits, whilst in other areas Rats are mentioned again, this is by no means is a complete picture of its diet or potential diet, but does reinforce that its just a predator, doing what predators do.
Seems to me in UK conservation groups at the moment there are those that love them, and those that hate them. Most of the love comes from the awe factor of this bird, and most of the hate comes from misinformation or lack of understanding about predators. These are my views.

As I said on Radio Bristol I'm pleased to take any Eagle Owl sightings the public have, my e mail is on this blog.

Little Owl Release Week Six. Latest observations

Here are the latest positions by calling and observation of the Little owls now 6 weeks after the release. My thanks once again to all the help from volunteers and local landowners who have helped collect this data. If you double click on the image, you will see a larger image. The V = Little owl heard calling, the O = Little owl observation. The white line denotes 1 kilometer. One of the Little owls appears to have a foot problem, how serious? We don't' know yet, however observations of it so far indicate its OK, meaning its feeding well, and flying very strongly. The weather the past week has returned to summer again, this of course means its cold, windy and wet. We are continuing to monitor at the release site, but they do appear to have abandoned this area, and so distribution is in full swing. Thanks for the e mails regarding telemetry and the pitfalls of using it within the Mendip terrain, as has been suggested maybe tracking with GPS is the way to go? Thanks again to all you Little owl fans, more will follow when we have the information.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

And finally the Lady arrives! BBC Radio 4 World On the Move

Painted Lady on Buddleia, Picture taken too quickly as I was rushing in awe

On the 29th September, one month later than 2007, and 2 months later than 2006. Finally the Lady from Africa made it to my garden, landing on what's left of the flowering Buddleia. I'm referring to the magnificent Painted Lady, that most delicate of Butterfly that has flown all the way from Africa to be with us here in England. A member of the Vanessa family which includes the another migrant Butterfly "The Red Admiral". What a glorious addition and so late in the season this Butterfly is to the garden. It always seems amazing to me that on such small wings such an insect can fly from Africa to England, and indeed beyond, as this Butterfly is one that is also found in Iceland. I'm sure everyone will agree that the Painted Lady goes far beyond the realms of bizarre and well into the boundary of total wonder and inspiration. Apparently they feed as they move, with food plants described from Nettle, Thistle and Burdock. I have seen them feeding on Ragwort. Invasions of the Painted Lady in England are well documented, as in 1948 and again 1952 were the word pest is used to describe the species.
Sadly there is no sign of the Lady's in the garden on the 30th as the rain and north winds have returned and even though its been sunny for October the 1st, they have all gone. Well just one day in the year of this fantastic Butterfly is better than no days at all. I hope everyone is tuning to BBC Radio 4 every Tuesday morning at 1100 hours. The BBC Radio 4 series World On The Move, which is looking in detail at migration right around the Earth, and autumn of course is a climax for the series. If you have missed a programme don't forget the World On The Move website, you can find me there as well, and occasionally popping up on the programme. This indeed is a great radio and one that could never be done on TV, if your into Natural History and not following this series your missing something big.More settled for this one as now 3-4 have arrived on the 29th Sept 08. These Pictures are a record, and not photographs (honest)