Monday, 5 March 2018



LAST week's  blast of  cold weather from the east brought an influx of fieldfares (such as the one above) to many gardens - especially if there were any berries left on shrubs and bushes or, better still, if apples or pears lay on the snowy lawns. By the start of this week, the winds had become southerlies and many of these handsome members of the thrush family will have taken full advantage of the changed conditions to migrate overnight back to Iceland and other Nordic countries where they breed.

Friday, 2 March 2018


Ringed plover - fuel spill threat to  nesting habitat
A MOTORIST who jeopardised fragile habitat by unlawfully testing  his  Land-Rover on a nature reserve got his come-uppance.

His vehicle got stuck in the in the sands off the South Walney Nature Reserve and will have to be retrieved (if that is possible). He  may also face prosecution.

The incident last Sunday prompted the Cumbria Wildlife Trust to issue a plea for  such individuals " to have more respect for our natural wild places".

Evidently the motorist, who has not been named, drove on to the nature reserve, across the protected beach and on to the sand in an area that is populated with seals and wading birds.

In doing so, he ignored ‘no entry’ signs and removed a log barrier to gain access. 

The reserve is protected under several conservation designations: it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area.

Said South Walney warden Sarah Dalrymple “It is illegal, dangerous and damaging to take cars on to the sands.

"There is damage to the vegetated shingle from the vehicle itself. Then there will be further damage from the vehicles that are going down to remove it.

"If it cannot be removed, there is serious risk of pollution from the petrol tank and oil as it rusts away - and the vehicle will potentially remain as eyesore for years."

She continued: I am appalled that some people think this is acceptable behaviour. The police are now dealing with the matter.”

The shingle beaches represent an unusual wildlife habitat and where an individual community of striking plants has developed over hundreds of years. Yellow horned-poppy, sea campion and biting stonecrop all grow here.

In spring and summer, oystercatchers and ringed plover nest, but they could be deterred by any leaking oil  or  petrol.                                                            

Sarah Dalrymple took this snap of the stranded vehicle

Sunday, 25 February 2018


Artist's impression of the Selhurst Park proposal
FOOTBALL grounds are not normally noted for providing sanctuary or nesting places for birds, but things could change at Selhurst Park - South London home of Premier League side Crystal Palace FC.

As part of proposed reconstruction of the man stand, there has been call for nestboxes to be installed for house sparrows - a species in decline in London as elsewhere.
Male house sparrow - species in decline

A report submitted by The Ecology Consultancy states: "It  is recommended that bird boxes suitable for declining species such as house sparrow should be installed on site.

"The inclusion of woodcrete bird boxes are recommended as they are available in a range of
designs, are  long  lasting  compared  to  wooden  boxes  and  insulate  occupants  from
extremes of temperature and condensation.

"House sparrow boxes should be located at least 3m above ground level on new/existing buildings out of direct sunlight but not obscured  by  dense  vegetation.

"The  boxes  should  be  cleaned  out  yearly  during  the winter months (September -February) and old boxes should be replaced or repaired as necessary.2

The recommendation will be considered by Croydon Borough Council as part of the process to determine whether planning permission should be granted.

If a decision  favourable to the club is made this spring, it is possible work on the scheme could start during the close season.

The club's nickname is The Eagles.

* See also:

Inside the ground - the stand pictured is earmarked for enlargement

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


Curlew - in decline across much of Britain


HOW can we halt wildlife degradation and enrich biodiversity in the UK?

Later in the year  this will be the  subject of a London  symposium to be  led by DEFRA executive Mark Stevenson.

Says the brochure: "Biodiversity is key to the survival of life on Earth. 

"It underpins the functioning of all ecosystems essential for human well-being, delivering a cultural, social and economic service that enriches our lives. 

"Yet, despite its fundamental importance, biodiversity continues to be lost with its deprivation compromising ecological sustainability.

"Published in 2016, the National Biodiversity Network’s  State of  Nature report, suggests that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world ranking 189th out of 218 countries.

"Additionally, out of the 8,000 species assessed in the report, 15per cent are recorded to be either extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain.

"Research by DEFRA  indicates only 38.5 per cent of Sites of Special Scientific Interest  were in a favourable condition in 2016, compared with 44 per cent in 2003."

The brochure continues: "In response to the issue, the government has altered its application and funding arrangements for the Community Stewardships Scheme, encouraging more environmentally-friendly land management practices to enhance the breeding and foraging opportunities for birds, pollinating insects and other wildlife. 

"As part of its Single Departmental Plan, DEFRA has committed £100-million into a range of projects to support the natural environment, including schemes to remediate contaminated land, restore important peatland habitats and increase woodland planting." 

Delegates from local authorities, environmental groups, third sector organisations and other key stakeholders will seek to identify priorities for achieving biodiversity and conservation targets. 

The events  will also enable all delegates to share examples of  best practice in protecting vital habitats and decreasing biodiversity loss in local areas.
Between them, they will be invited to:
  • Examine the impact of the new Community Stewardships Scheme in promoting and protecting biodiversity
  • Review the Biodiversity 2020 Strategy and discuss ways to boost Natural Capital 
  • Discuss the challenges posed by Brexit and how the UK can maintain equivalent environmental standards
  • Explore ways to increase public awareness and understanding of the impact of biodiversity loss and increase engagement in conservation projects
  • Review the State of Nature Report and examine measures that best protect wildlife and natural habitats across the UK
  • Consider Agri-Environment Schemes with flexibility to meet local and regional environmental needs
  • Develop methods for encouraging increased integration and collaboration between public bodies at the local level
  • Scrutinise the role of local authorities in supporting biodiversity projects and providing expertise for communities
  • Scrutinise  innovative financing instruments for developing new biodiversity projects
  • Share best practice in promoting and protecting biodiversity at the national and local levels 
The symposium  is being held at the Park Plaza Hotel at Westminster Bridge London on Thursday May 3.

More details from:

Thursday, 15 February 2018


Roger - fan of folk-rock (and Man U)

A BUMPER  turnout is in prospect for the Lincolnshire Bird Club’s annual meeting  at the Admiral Rodney Hotel in Horncastle on March 20.

The guest speaker will be Dr Roger Riddington, long-serving Editor of the authoritative British Birds magazine, who is coming back to his home county,
Lincolnshire, from the Shetlands where he and his family are based.

The son of a self-employed milk roundsman, Roger grew up and went to school in the Alford area where he discovered the joys and challenges of birdwatching while exploring the fields and wood around his home.

He was lucky to receive plenty of encouragement from an old schoolpal of his father, namely the late Ted Smith, driving force behind the founding of Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and many other nature-associated initiatives.

After impressive A-level results, Roger won a place at
Oxford University where his degree subject was Geography.

Following graduation, he was poised to take a job in
Cambridge with global accountancy firm Arthur Andersen, but decided, instead, to take a PhD second degree, researching movement and dispersal in great tits.

This proved to be the springboard for a career in natural sciences and ornithology which included four years as warden on
Fair Isle.

To this day, though he has travelled extensively,
Fair Isle remains his favourite birding location.

At the annual meeting, Roger will doubtless talk about his life and work as Editor (for the past 17 years) of British Birds which is  a five-days-a week job. He also contributes to the annual Shetland Bird Report.

Highlights of his career include unexpectedly encountering what was the third UK record of thick-billed warbler on Out Skerries on September 14, 2001.

Lowpoints include having his Zeiss Dialyt 10x40 binoculars, a 21st birthday present, and his Bushnell Spacemaster scope stolen in Seville at the end of the  first day of a 1989 holiday in Spain.

During his presentation, Roger may perhaps also reveal whether he has yet had the opportunity to realise a long-held ambition - to watch spoon-billed sandpipers in their breeding grounds on the Chukchi peninsula in Russia.

Off duty, he likes the music of Scottish folk-rock singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack, who also lives on Shetland, and books by the food writer, Nigel Slater.

As he confessed to fellow birder Keith Betton in an interview which was published in 2015 in the book Behind The Binoculars (co-authored by Mark Avery), Roger is a Manchester United fan.

The AGM starts at
7.30pm, and there is no admission charge.


Wednesday, 14 February 2018


THE impact of roads and motorways on birds and other wildlife will come under the spotlight at a forthcoming conference.
Although their verges can provide a habitat for voles and their predators, such as kestrels, highways can present a barrier to the movement and spread of wildlife by fragmenting habitats.
While the UK’s road network forms an essential part of the UK’s infrastructure, ideally it should work in harmony with environmental surroundings.
The  Local Authority Roads (Wildlife Protection) Bill 2016, passed its first parliamentary reading in July 2016, seeking to place a duty on local highways agencies and local transport authorities to make provisions for safeguarding wildlife on roads.
However, the bill has now been dropped by MPs, leaving an absence of central legislation around this issue and absolving local highway and transport authorities from a statutory responsibility to safeguard wildlife.
The forthcoming conference - entitled Protecting Wildlife on Local Highways - will provide an opportunity for: local and national wildlife authorities, highway agencies, environmental groups, third sector organisations and others key stakeholders to explore the issues.
Delegates will:
  • Scrutinise the future of Highway England’s Strategic Road Network for safeguarding wildlife 
  • Analyse solutions on how to prevent animal-vehicle collisions
  • Discuss measures for increasing habitats for local wildlife alongside highways
  • Consider ways of increasing funding for wildlife protection
  • Explore new methods of enforcing wildlife protection beside highways
  • Assess existing records surrounding animal-vehicle collisions and develop ways of improving data collection
  • Examine current green infrastructure developments such as animal over / underpasses
  • Share best practice on how best to educate the public of the dangers of animal-vehicle collisions, and the importance of wildlife and animal protection
The event will be held at the Grange Wellington Hotel in London on Thursday, May 17. More at:

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Authorities sort through the crates of drowned songbirds

SMUGGLERS have dumped 300 birds into the sea off Malaysia  while attempting to escape authorities.

All but three  of the birds drowned. They are believed to have been trapped  in various South-east Asian countries with the intention of subsequently selling them  in Indonesia.

Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency officers intercepted a boat carrying three Indonesians in waters just off the coastline of Peninsular Malaysia. 

In a statement, the MMEA said it believed the birds were smuggled over land from Vietnam to Thailand, thence into Malaysia, which served as a transit point before the birds were to be smuggled into Indonesia.

Authorities are working to identify the dead birds, most of which are thought to have been songbirds.

The MMEA has previously stopped bird smugglers moving their contraband both to and from

In April 2016, its officers found 100 oriental magpie-robins on a boat which was also ferrying illegal immigrants from

The previous year, it intercepted an Indonesian boat with 150 oriental magpie-robins headed for Malaysia, and, in 2013, it stopped an Indonesian national attempting to smuggle 10 cockatoos into Malaysia.                                                       
Male oriental magpie-robin
While the latest incident confirms the persistent illegal capture and smuggling of wild birds for trade in the region, it also raises questions about the source of birds to Indonesia where birdkeeping is a very popular hobby. There has long been  a huge amount of trafficking between the nation’s many islands. 

“Collaboration between countries is crucial to end this trade, or, across Asia, we will be left with silent forests,” says Kanitha Krishnasamy, acting regional director for the charity, Traffic (Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network).

Earlier this  year, authorities at the Lembar Port in West Lombok stopped a truck loaded with over 1,700 birds destined for Bali.                   
Brahminy kite
Among the birds were a Brahminy kite, a protected species, and 1,000-plus streaked weavers. 

The birds were packed in plastic crates and cardboard boxes and found on a lorry during a routine vehicle inspection at Lembar Port. Many were dead or in poor condition when found.

Male streaked weaver
Excessive trapping for the caged bird trade has been identified as one of the major threats facing songbirds in South-east Asia.

 Huge open markets selling millions of birds each year can be found throughout the region, but are particularly prominent in Indonesia, where keeping of illegally trapped wild birds is  widespread practice.

* Traffic's UK office is in Cambridge. Its website address is

Male oriental magpie-robin: Shantanu Kuveskar (via Wikimedia Commons) 
Brahminy kike (known as red-backed sea eagle in Australia: Jim Bendon/ snowman radio (via Wikimedia Commons)
Streaked weaver: Pkspks (via Wikimedia Commons)
Top photo: Courtesy MMEA