Thursday, 18 December 2014


Wind farm are no-go territory for most  gannets

TO what extent are birds threatened by the proliferation of offshore wind farms?

The BTO has this month released preliminary findings of a survey it carried out in partnership with the University of Highlands and Islands' Environmental Research Institute

The review found that more than 99 per cent of seabirds were likely to alter their flight paths in order to avoid collision.

However, BTO research ecologist Aonghais Cook, who led the study said “It is important not to get lulled into a false sense of security by these figures. 

“Whilst most may avoid turbines, collision may still be a significant risk at sites with large numbers of birds. 

“Furthermore, there are still a number of key gaps in knowledge for some vulnerable species.”

The review indicated species-specific differences in the way in which seabirds respond to wind farms. 

A significant proportion of gannets will avoid even entering a wind farm, but  gulls are much less cautious and may even be attracted to the sites as a result of the foraging opportunities they offer. 

Despite this, once inside the wind farms even gulls seem to show a strong avoidance of the turbine blades. 

The work was carried out on behalf of Marine Scotland Science.

Photo credit: Mmo iwdg via Wikipedia Commons


The bittern - benefiting from habitat creation initiatives

THE UK’s bittern population is now higher than at any time since the 1800s.

That’s according to an announcement this week by the RSPB which says the progress “demonstrates that it is possible to bring back species from the brink”.

Thanks to  funding from the EU, a range of organisations have participated in  numerous initiatives over the past 17 years to encourage these elusive  reedbed  birds.

In 1997, at the start of the EU’s bittern project, there were 11 reported  booming males at seven sites.

This year, there were 140 “boomers” across 61 sites.

Of these sites, 14 are current or former gravel pits, brick pits or open coal mines, demonstrating the important role restored quarries and similar sites can play in securing the long term future of bitterns and other wildlife.

RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk used to be the stronghold for this bird for many years. But with the effects of climate change such as loss of freshwater coastal wetlands in mind, conservationists realised that it would be better if a number of suitable habitats were available in areas that were safe from sea level rise, and spread across the country, to ensure the bittern’s future.

This year, the highest number of bitterns recorded was at at RSPB Ham Wall, inland marsh habitat in Somerset, where 20 birds were booming from the reeds.

Somerset now has England’s largest bittern population.

According to the RSPB,  action for bitterns has also benefited other reedbed species such as water voles, great white egrets and rare small dotted footman moths. 

Functioning reedbeds also provide free services for people, including water filtration and flood mitigation.

Says the charity’s Director of Conservation Martin Harper: "The bittern success story should give hope that it is possible to recover threatened species and that it makes sense to protect the laws that protect nature.”

It is thought  the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has played a role in supporting bitterns in the north of the county, but it is not mentioned in the RSPB statement. On the basis of the latest Lincolnshire Bird Report (2012), the species seems to be struggling to secure a breeding foothold.

The RSPB statement says: “Across the country many conservation groups and private landowners have worked together to bring bitterns back.

“These include, for example, the National Trust at Wicken Fen, Natural England at Shapwick Heath, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Potteric Carr plus  Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust.”

Photo credit: Andy Hay (courtesy of RSPB)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Corn bunting - numbers have plummeted

THE alarming decline in farmland birds shows no signs of abating, according to the BTO.
In a report published this week, it estimates numbers are now down by 45 per cent since 1970.
“Most of the decline occurred between the late 1970s and early 1990s,”it says. “This was largely due to rapid changes in farmland management. “
Worst affected are the corn bunting and the grey partridge which are both down by more than 90 per cent over the past 43 years.
Also in big trouble is the turtle dove and, to some extent, the greenfinch, a “generalist” species which has been badly hit by the disease, Trichomonosis.
The overall downward trend is bucked by the goldfinch which continues to increase.
Woodland birds are also suffering - 28 per cent down since 1970. - with grazing by increased numbers of deer thought to be a factor.
Summer visitors such as warblers have also been hit by increasingly unfavourable conditions on their migration to and from wintering grounds.

Willow tits - numbers are in freefall
 Among species particularly hard hit have been long-distance migrants such as wood warbler, spotted flycatcher and tree pipit, but residents such as lesser spotted woodpecker and willow tit have also become alarmingly scarce.
On the plus side, great spotted woodpecker, blackcap and long-tailed tit have shown marked increases
The BTO’s water and wetland indicators reveal increased numbers of species such as tufted duck and coots, which favour still or slow-moving water, but declines of species such a redshanks and lapwings which favour wet grassland or marshes.
Of coastal birds, the report states: “The indicator of 14 wholly marine species, was broadly stable between 1986 and the early 2000s but has declined since then and is now 24 per cent lower than the baseline in 1986.
“Although species such as guillemot continue to increase, there have been marked declines in species such as Arctic skua and kittiwake, in the case of the latter attributable to changes in sea temperature as a result of climate change.”

Photo credits:
Corn bunting: Sandra/snowmanradio via Wikipedia Commons
Willow tit:  Francis Franklin via Wikipedia Commons


Small pratincole (S.P.Pandey@SPOARvia Wikipedia Commons)

AN entertaining talk on the birds of the Indian state of Goa brought the curtain down on the Grimsby branch RSPB meetings for 2014.

The event at the Corpus Christ church hall in Cleethorpes  marked a  return visit for speaker Chris Galvin who, as well as being a keen birder, is a regional  sales manager for high-profile binoculars and 'scope company, Opticron. 

Chris, from Liverpool, is a keen Everton fan and might have preferred  to have been watching Sky TV's coverage of his side's 3-1 home win against against QPR . . . but the prior speaking commitment prevailed. 

He and wife Jeanette have several times visited Baga in Goa which is one of the world's best birding destinations.

He illustrated his lively presentation with his own stunning shots of scores of colourful species, but his talk was more than just a catalogue of sightings. He included in the mix plenty of  amusing anecdotes.

On one occasion, he and two fellow birders were photographing kingfishers when they detected a snake on the other side of the stream slithering at speed through the water towards them.

"I might be a big lad, but I can't half shift if I see a snake swimming towards me,"he chuckled. "I don't like snakes!" 

Before it made its move, Chris snatched a shot of the crittur which he later showed to a friend who is a vet and herpetologist. 

In fact, it was a rat snake and harmless to humans - but Chris didn't know that at the time.

Later in his talk, Chris revealed that while  pursuing a potential photo of an Indian spotted eagle, he dropped his  'scope on a concrete.surface. "It cost me £758 to repair," he lamented. "That eagle owes me!" 

The hotel where Chris and Jeanette  like to stay is the three-star Marinha  Dourada which overlooks two scenic lagoons.

But he was not averse to  rising at dawn to explore less wholesome places such as fetid swamps at one of which he was  delighted to glimpse - and photograph - a cinnamon bittern.

"It just goes to emphasise that even the seemingly most inhospitable places provide a habitat where certain species will eke out a living,"he said.

Among the species with which Chris seemed to have a special affinity was the slender-billed gull, but only in adult breeding plumage.

"It's got suck long, sexy red legs," he enthused. "Oh stop - I'm a long way from home!"

Goa, particularly the north, is also increasingly popular with Russian visitors, but he said he had not encountered any who were  birders.
Chestnut-headed bee-eater (JJ Harrison via Wikipedia Commons)

Among the species featured in Chris's talk were:
White-browsed wagtail 
White-cheeked barbet 
Small pratincole 
Chestnut bee-eater 
Indian robin 
Black-shouldered kite 
Black-capped kingfisher 
Pied kingfisher 
Collared kingfisher 
Indian roller 
Scarlet minivet 
Stork-billed kingfisher 
Ashy wood swallow 
Black kite 
Blue-eared kingfisher 
Pallas's gull 

Jungle owlet 
Spotted owlet 
Brown hawk owl 
Indian Scops owl 
Red-wattled plover 
Yellow-wattled plover 
Long-tailed shrike 
Bay-backed shrike 
Oriental magpie robin

Scarlet minivet ( JM Gard via Wikipedia Commons)
To see Chris in a different context, banging the drum for Opticron at a trade fair in the  USA, see:
* The Grimsby branch has received a letter of thanks from the RSPB for raising £1,521.88 during the year 2013-14.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


NATURAL England has provided clarification on the initiative that will lead to large-scale sea  buckthorn clearance on the foreshore at Seacroft, south of Skegness, early in 2015.

A spokesperson for its Lincolnshire Coast, Marshes and Marine Team says: "Natural England is funding through a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) a scheme that will provide some support to East Lindsey District Council towards the management of the scrub at Seacroft.  

"Sea buckthorn is an important source of food for the birds, but we are not so much planning to eradicate the species from the site as to moderate its encroachment.

"Seacroft is one of the units that forms part of Gibraltar Point Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is important  for the conservation of its habitat, fauna and its geomorphology.

"Regular  users will be aware  that the scrub on site is primarily from mature to over-mature strand and that sea buckthorn is a very encroaching plant which has been undermining the populations of other dune-loving species.

"In order to ensure a favourable balance with other plant species,  we have proposed the removal of 7.4ha of scrub populating the mobile dunes because sea buckthorn is a dune-fixing species and prevents the natural coastal geomorphology to occur.

"The level of scrub to be managed  will not impact on the birds as there will still be a vast amount of scrub to the south of the cleared area  for them to move to."

She continues; "East Lindsey District Council has been keen to undertaken the work and fulfil its  duty towards the SSSI management, promoting conservation and enhancement of the site for its future.

"This is habitat management on  a large scale which is very good news for nature conservation."

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


A LINCOLNSHIRE builder has been heavily fined for felling two protected trees within a conservation area.

Following an investigation by East Lindsey District Council, Terrence Batten of  Kirkby Hill, Old Bolingbroke, was found to have felled without permission a holly tree and a cypress tree that lined the boundary between the St Peter and St Paul Churchyard and his own building site, off Moat Lane, Old Bolingbroke.

Boston  magistrates Court imposed a fine of £12,000 and costs of £700 costs plus  a £1,200 victim surcharge.

The court heard that members of the public and nearby residents were distressed at the work carried out by the defendant and contacted the council to report the matter.

Following a site visit, Batten was invited to an interview under caution. Carrying out unauthorised works to protected trees is a criminal offence. 

He declined the invitation but the council decided there was sufficient evidence to prosecute and, in court, he  pleaded guilty to breaching Section 210 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

Speaking after the case, Cleethorpes man  Robert Taylor, who is ELDC's arboricultural officer, said: "In carrying out this work Mr Batten showed a complete disregard for the conservation area and the protection this affords trees within it. 

"The level of fine reflects that this was a serious breach of the law, causing harm to the character of the area and a great deal of distress to local people. 

"The council investigates all unauthorised work to protected trees. and this case demonstrates that we will take action where breaches of the law occur.

"Anyone planning to carry out work to trees that may be protected is encouraged to contact the council first for advice."

Trees within a conservation area are protected in the same way as those covered by a tree preservation order.

Before carrying out work to a conservation area tree, at least six weeks' notice must be given to the local authority.

Monday, 8 December 2014


 Lord Heseltine - lifelong bird enthusiast 

DURING a spectacular career in politics, Michael Heseltine occupied several of the most important positions in government - at various times holding the portfolios for Trade, for Environment and for Defence as well as serving as deputy prime minister.

Since stepping out of the national spotlight, the former MP for Henley has returned to the business world and oversees the fortunes  of a company which he was instrumental in founding in the early 1960s.

This is  the Haymarket Media Group which spans the world with its publishing and exhibition  interests in  music, healthcare, technology, football (it produces the Manchester United matchday programme) and much else.

Although he will be 83 on his next birthday in March, Lord Heseltine of Thenford - he was elevated to the peerage in  2001 -  is still active and enjoys contributing to  political debate,

Yet he has also  always found time to pursue a lifelong passion for birds -  both domesticated and wild.

His extensive library of bird books and  the paintings that hang on the walls of the family's grand home  on the Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire  border bear witness to all things avian.

This  enthusiasm  for all things feathered dates back to his early life in South Wales and his time as a pupil, first at the former Broughton Hall prep school, near Eccleshall in  Staffordshire, then  at  his public school, Shrewsbury.

The question-and-answer feature article below originally appeared in the birdkeepers'  publication. Cage and Aviary Birds.

What  do you think sparked your  boyhood interest in  birds and wildlife?

Growing up in Swansea, we lived in a house with a spacious well-planted garden that was full of birds all through the year. From an early age I enjoyed both watching them and listening to their  calls and songs. I have no doubt I also took inspiration from the  rugged beauty and sandy bays of the nearby Gower peninsula where I spent many happy times.

What about keeping  birds - how did that start?
I was fascinated by   a  public collection  at Brynmill Park near our family's home. It  contained monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and pheasants. It was managed by a friendly man called Charlie Moore who recognised my interest and let me have a pair of budgerigars from his own private collection.  I must have been about eight or nine at the time.

Did you keep the birds in a cage in the house?
No, there were some redundant potting sheds in the garden and I set about converting one of them to a flight.   
Did you have any breeding success?
Not until I had a second pair - then there was no stopping them, They bred like rabbits. At its peak, my flight contained up to 40 birds - greens, blues, lutinos and opalines.

Were you ever tempted to try your hand with other varieties?
For a time, I  had  canaries - mostly Borders but also one or two Norwich. I also kept a range of British species - for instance, bullfinches, goldfinches and greenfinches. For a while, when I was at school at Shrewsbury, I  also was allowed to keep birds in an old farm  shed in the grounds. Among them was a  jackdaw which I coaxed into becoming finger-tame

Did you encounter any management difficulties with the stock in your home flight?
I did have an infestation of a pest familiar to many birdkeepers, but I managed to eradicate it.  I wiped out the red mite!

 Did you ever exhibit any of your birds at  shows?
No, I never went down that route - I derived enough satisfaction just from watching and breeding them. 

Do you have a favourite bird - either domesticated or wild?
The bullfinch. The plumage of both sexes is superb, and it is a species with great personality.

Presumably when you were pursuing a career in business and politics,  birdkeeping would   have had to be put to one side?
Yes, but I returned to it when we bought our house in Thenford. One of the first things I did was to build an aviary along an outside  wall of the kitchen garden. For some years, we kept a collection of exotic waterfowl including mandarin and Carolina wood duck, plus red-breasted and Hawaiian ne-ne geese. We also had various pheasants such as  brown and white-eared.

Any problems with foxes or other predators?

No, but the  pheasants tended to attack one another. There was a  Reeves's pheasant which proved particularly aggressive - it singled me out as its main target. I swear it used to lie in wait for me!

Do you still have them?

No,  although i still have an aviary containing  parrakeets of various types, I have relinquished the pheasants and waterfowl. They were my last fling as an aviculturalist.

Why the parting of the ways?
My other passion, gardening, always  included an ambition, now fulfilled, to establish an arboretum.  It  has some 3,500 different varieties of trees and shrubs. Their wellbeing is not really compatible with the relentless waddlings  of scored  of webbed feet.

Did you ever find your interest in birds overlapping with your political career?
I was instrumental in framing and pushing through Parliament through the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act which has proved a major piece of legislation. The RSPB was one of the main consultees. I remember telling the society how much it was to their benefit  to have a Secretary of State fort the Environment who had a keen interest in birds. It was as if all their Christmases had come at once! One of the less welcome consequences of the Act was that it unleashed a population explosion of magpies.

And you think that's a bad thing?

I do really - I fear they have almost cleaned out many migrant songbirds that were once much more widespread than they are today.

Finally, as a minister, you travelled widely - did you get the chance for much overseas birdwatching?
One of my most unforgettable memories is of a visit to one of the Falklands Islands. It was carpeted with rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatross. One of the joys of birdwatching is that it is a hobby than can be enjoyed anywhere in the world. I have met  many like-minded bird enthusiasts at foreign embassies and the foreign commands of our armed services.

What more magnificent sight - a black-browed albatross skims the ocean wave


Lord Heseltine: Wikimedia Commons uploaded by January
Albatross: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 7 December 2014


Buckthorn in Cleethorpes coastal nature reserve - hard weather habitat for winter thrushes?

BUCKTHORN is to be cleared from an extensive area of beach between Skegness and Gibraltar Point.

East Lindsey District Council has been given the green light to carry out the work by Natural England.

Supported by  £42,290 of national funding, contractors will, starting next month,  remove as much as possible of the invasive buckthorn on 7.3 hectares of the outer dunes.

Any regrowth will be sprayed off in subsequent years. According to ELDC, the cleared dunes will rapidly be taken over by dune grasses.

The shape of the dunes will be maintained. and the Environment Agency is believed to be happy with the plans from a flood risk perspective.

Within a 10-year management plan, the council has agreed to manage other areas through periodic cutting and the removal of any non-native plants that have established a foothold. 

ELDC’s portfolio holder for the environment Coun Steve O’Dare says: “As the council is responsible for managing this area, it has a legal duty to protect and enhance the features of the site, which have sadly declined in recent decades because of increasing and dense scrub that shades out other sand dune plants. 

“Restoring it to typical grass covered dunes is a high priority for the Government’s nature conservation advisors, Natural England, and the council has to undertake the work that is planned to meet the Natural England requirements.” 

It remains to be seen what impact the works have on  winter thrushes, such as fieldfares and redwings, which feed on buckthorn berries.

The plant also provides a roosting habitat for migrating warblers and other songbirds.

Sunday, 30 November 2014


THERE are hopes that hawfinches, bramblings and redpolls might be among visitors to the new Longitude Wood on the outskirts of Grimsby.

A variety of trees, including hornbeams, were planted yesterday on a former 1950s landfill site almost  opposite St Michael’s Church in Great Coates.

The project is the brainchild of the John Harrison Foundation and the Woodland Trust, with assistance from other organisations such as the Rotary club and North East Lincolnshire Council.

In all, some 3,000 trees have been planted.

The work went ahead without the support of the two local NELC ward councillors who would have preferred a municipal-style children’s play area with conventional slides and swings.

Once the trees have become established, there will be a play area, but it will be in keeping with the surrounding environment.

As often at Grimsby-area community events, cadets were very much to the fore. 

I think that's just about straight - may it have a long and happy life!

It's all  hands to the turf     

The hope is that some, if not all, of the saplings will eventually reach the same height as the long-established tree in the background


 THE item below is extracted from the bulletin board of the Lincolnshire Bird Club website.

I have attended and enjoyed both the LBC annual guest lectures of the past two years - featuring Mark Avery and Stuart Butchart.

But both times I was struck by how few under-40s were present? In fact, quite a high number (including me) were over 60. As far as I could make out (though I may be wrong), there was not a single person aged under 20 in attendance in either year.

Why is this? Are today's young people not interested in birdwatching? Are we not doing enough to encourage them? If that is the case, the prospects for safeguarding the  birdlife of tomorrow don't appear too bright.

But maybe holding the event in the evening discourages attendance by young people.

In future years, might it be worth considering holding the same event on a Saturday afternoon to make it more accessible to people of all age groups?

For the responses see:

Why did two warblers fail to make the cut?
These two sister identification guides are useful for taking on holiday because of their slim pocket-size format.

Oddly, neither include any reference either to the yellow-browed warbler or Pallas’s leaf warbler.

What could be the reason for the omission? Did the authors just forget?

Thursday, 27 November 2014


THE former RAF control tower at Friskney, between Boston and Skegness, has this week failed to sell at auction.

It overlooks huge expanses of saltmarsh and  farm fields.

The building  may now be available privately on application to the agents.

Sunday, 23 November 2014


BIRD life should benefit from a new  community woodland to be planted on the edge of Grimsby.

To be located on the banks of the River Freshney in Great Coates, it  is the brainchild of  the John Harrison Foundation, the Woodland Trust and North East Lincolnshire Council.

The  Longitude Wood will help commemorate 300 years since John Harrison - a Grimsby-area man - made discoveries about longitude and latitude that proved  crucial in the development of maritime trade and exploration.

It is understood the project is proceeding objections from some residents and councillors who favoured development of the site with a skate park. 

Christina McGilligan-Fell, director of JHF, says: “This planting event is a wonderful opportunity to get children involved in the project from the very beginning, and we hope local schools will benefit from learning through their local landscape.” 

Her comment is endorsed by John Tucker, of the Woodland Trust, who stresses the importance of involving children because it encourages an appreciation of environmental values as they grow up. 

NELC  has designated an area of land for the planting, provided funding, and has agreed to maintain the woods. 

Support has also been forthcoming from Associated British Ports (who have also contributed to funding), local Rotarians and Grimsby in Bloom.

Future plans include picnic benches, sculptures and possibly a children’s play area.

In due course, Whitgift School pupils will plant bluebells, cowslips and other wildflowers.

It is hoped that there will be a big turnout of volunteers to help with the planting from 10am on Saturday November 29.

Friday, 21 November 2014


An important habitat where birds such as wigeon, redshank, jack snipe, twite and Lapland buntings are vulnerable to disturbance by dogs

DOG  is man's best friend!

Mostly, of course, they provide joyous and affectionate  companionship to their owners, both children and adults,  including the elderly who might otherwise be extremely lonely,

They are also precious for 101 other resaons - in industry, sport, medical  therapy (especially for the blind and for those with neurological conditions) and much else.

True, there are occasional cases when individual animals cause injury or even death to humans and livestock, but such incidents, invariably headline-making, are relatively few and far between.

But are there  now too many dogs in Britain?

Judging by the increasing numbers seen in public parks and on seaside beaches, the population has exploded over the past 15-20 years.

Especially for birders, this has caused a problem. Dogs are definitely  not birders' best friend. They generate disturbance.

Most birders will have many a tale to tell of  ground-dwelling feeders and breeders being flushed by  canines.

If a local authority creates a new wildlife reserve or "country park", sure as sure, it will soon be annexed as a favoured habitat for dog walkers.

Many of the birds will fly to pastures new. It would have been better if the "reserve" had never been created in the first place.

Among examples in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, is the resort's so-called  "country park" where one edge of the lake  which used to attract ringed plovers and common sandpipers has now been given a unique special status as . . .  "a dog swimming area".

What can be done about it? Probably nothing - except perhaps reintroduction of the old dog licence fee.

But this won't happen. It would be expensive to administer and politically unpopular.

And the  plain fact is that dogs give immense enjoyment  to  their owners - and there are far more of them than there are birders.

The extent of their devotion was underlined by the comment of one greyhound owner. "A house without dogs is worse than a house without windows."

Most dog owners are  good, kindly  people who  like to share the pleasure of their pets with others. But there a  few who are the opposite. They are  intolerant of anyone or anything that challenges the "rights" of them and their animals.

When an elderly  parish councillor in Ingoldmells, near Skegness, complained about the extent of fouling on the streets of his village, his comments were reported in a local newspaper, and faeces were soon being  shovelled through the letter box on to his doormat. Understandably, he and his wife were mortified.

During this month, the debate  about dogs has been reopened with a vengeance on the bulletin board of the Lincolnshire Bird Club  - specifically in relation to the RSPB's Tetney Marsh reserve, south of Cleethorpes, where dogs frequently run loose.

One contributor, an RSPB leader,  wrote: " The dog walkers are a permanent  pain who seem to think it is their right  totally to ignore the signs for dogs to be kept under close control and not clear up after them.

"The voluntary  wardens do a grand job within the budget constraints put upon them, and they deserve our wholehearted support.

"I personally  have been verbally abused many times after making a simple request about whether  they had  noticed the signs about dogs.

"Some throw balls into the marsh for their animals to retrieve.

"For them, it is great fun - the dogs really enjoy it.

"One woman even told me the ducks were  enjoying themselves, too,  dodging her  spaniel as if it was also good fun for the wildfowl.

"What an idiot!"

Here are  the comments of Peter Short who oversees the fortunes of the Tetney reserve on behalf of the RSPB: "In regards the usage of the site with people with dogs, we have tried many approaches to try and solve this.

"We have approached the Press before and had bits published, but we have also been on the receiving end of Press articles instigated by dog walkers that have claimed that the RSPB is stopping public access to an area that is there right to access and is a public footpath.

"Although the land is private and there is actually no public access,  the Press, as usual, covered it in an unsympathetic way, giving the impression that people could go where they wanted with dogs rather than actually that  they were trespassing.

"They even had a quote from a member of another conservation body who owned a dog who thought that we were out of line.

"Unfortunately the dog lobby is very strong and vocal, and, at times, the odd individual  can be very aggressive."

Peter Short continues: "Ideally we should like to solve the dog walking problem sensibly, and this is being tackled via the relevant authorities who have undertaken a disturbance study and are formulating recommendation of how to manage problems of disturbance.

"This may include introducing car park charges to some car parks or creating specific areas for dog walking with free car parking. There will be other approaches like the recently created Humber Hounds that are promoting responsible dog ownership along the estuary,  and I feel that this is very positive.

"Ideally we should be trying to educate the majority of dog owners and work with them, trying not to alienate them against the conservation cause, but this will take time."

Wise words, indeed,  from Peter Short, but more ideas are needed.

If anyone can suggest a solution, please write to your local MP.

Invariably ignored by dog walkers - one of the signs at the approach to the reserve

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


EVER wondered why starling form huge aerial flocks known as murmurations? Could understanding this spectacular phenomenon  help stop or slow their decline?

These are questions to which  researchers at the Society of Biology and the University of Gloucestershire hope to find at least some of the answers.

It has  been suggested that  murmurations occur because starlings gain safety in numbers, confusing potential predators such as birds of prey before settling down to roost.

Another theory is that they could be gathering to keep warm or to exchange information.

Starling numbers have declined alarmingly over the last few years. Since the mid-1970s, the UK population has fallen by 66 per cent. The species is now red-listed as a bird of high conservation concern. 

The cause of the  decline  is unknown.

 Dr Anne Goodenough, of the University of Gloucestershire, and her team will analyse the data to establish how location, weather, sunset time, and season affect the size, frequency and time of murmurations.

The public are invited to contribute to the survey via :

Sunday, 16 November 2014


The former RAF watchtower at Friskney  - it would surely make a great bird observatory

 TWO superb bird habitats have come on to the market.

The first is the control tower at the former RAF Wainfleet bombing range at Friskney, between Boston and Skegness.

It has expansive views across the saltmarsh and over  The Wash estuary across to Hunstanton in North Norfolk.

Where better to watch short-eared owls, marsh harriers, waders, wildfowl and passerines on the move?

The guide price is £300,000 - £350,000 when it goes under the hammer as lot 36 at an auction to be held by Bagshaw Residential  at Derby on Wednesday November 26:

For additional info, see also the report (including video footage) carried by the BBC on its  regional news programme, Look North, at:

The second location is an area of 4.7 acres which contains no fewer than eight ponds, some surrounded by reedbed.

It doesn't take much imagination to guess what sort of species it might host.

Offers in the region of £25,000 are being sought by  agents Fisher German who are thought to be selling the site, which is on the outskirts of Wainfleet,  on behalf of  the Environment Agency.

Perhaps, it might be snapped up by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust - it would surely be a shame if to were become home to an angling club.

For more details, enter  Wainfleet in the Property Search box at:

Main Property Image
Located on the remote outskirts of Wainfleet, this wildlife site is available for about £25,000