Thursday, May 31, 2012

Buzzard Response – part two

I really didn’t expect too much from my highlighting on this blog the Defra proposal to control Buzzards. Neither  did I anticipate a result from contacting my Member of Parliament, and probably not from signing an on-line petition. However, read the piece below from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph to see how we as individuals and as organised wildlife lovers can make a difference if we make our voices heard.

“The Department for the Environment (Defra) was offering nearly £400,000 to research the control of Buzzards around shooting estates, including removing nests and taking birds into captivity. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds led protests against the "scandalous" use of tax-payers' money. After less than a week, Richard Benyon, the Wildlife Minister, said the research project has been scrapped, although he was hopeful work could continue into alternative forms of control. “In the light of the public concerns expressed in recent days, I have decided to look at developing new research proposals on Buzzards," he said. "It is right that we make decisions on the basis of sound evidence and we do need to understand better the whole relationship between raptors, game birds and other livestock. I will collaborate with all the organisations that have an interest in this issue and will bring forward new proposals."

"The u-turn comes after Defra was also forced to back down over plans to sell forests and the Department for Communities watered down unpopular planning laws. It is a further embarrassment to David Cameron's beleaguered government after the u-turn over the pasty tax and gay marriage". 

"Buzzards, that are now the UK's most widespread bird of prey, mainly scavenge for dead rabbits and birds but will take young chicks and eggs. The shooting industry that releases millions of young pheasants into the countryside for shooting later in the year claim that the growing number of Buzzards is destroying business. Tim Bonner, Campaign Director for the Countryside Alliance, said the research should be going ahead as Buzzards are now a problem for shoots and songbirds."“The Countryside Alliance is bitterly disappointed by DEFRA’s u-turn on this sensible, proportionate, study into Buzzard control. While the breeding success of Buzzards in Britain over the last decade can be been welcomed by all, it has had an impact on other parts of the countryside that now needs proper consideration. Wild animal management is an essential part of the countryside that is largely misunderstood by those in towns, cities and, apparently, Whitehall. The bird charities have erupted in protest because it is their interest to oppose any raptor management programmes, but the truth is that many of them, including the RSPB, actively manage populations of corvids on their own estates. This study was explicitly non-lethal and right for the countryside as a whole. That the Government has chosen to ignore rural people in favour of a large and vocal special interest group shows ministers are now willing to give in to whoever shouts the loudest.”  

But Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said it was unacceptable for the Government to use public money to carry out unnecessary and unpopular research. “We’re pleased the Minister has listened to people’s concerns and acted in the public interest by cancelling this project. This is a strong decision, reflecting the strength of the nation’s desire to see Government protecting precious wildlife. The recovery of the Buzzard is being celebrated by the public after many decades of persecution. It is clear they don’t want their taxes being spent on removing Buzzards and the Government has to ensure that no bird of prey will be killed in the name of sport. We don’t want anything to distract Defra from the pressing task of saving our threatened wildlife. It should be putting its limited resources into areas such as preventing the extinction of Hen Harriers in England. Government-backed research has already concluded that illegal persecution is limiting the populations of Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier. The RSPB believes there are well-tried non-lethal solutions." 

Well said the RSPB and congratulations to the BTO for walking out from the so called discussions. Meanwhile the pathetic Countryside Alliance tries in desperation to add the "songbirds" red herring into the equation .

I think I'll go out birding tomorrow where hopefully I'll see a Buzzard or two and give them a cheery wave.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Changing Scene

Thanks to everyone who enjoyed and commented on yesterday’s Hoopoe post. There's’s time to catch up at

But as the old saying goes, “a change is as good as a rest”, so instead of birding or photography this morning I enjoyed a spot of mist netting at Out Rawcliffe. Now almost into June any new arrivals are drying up as the population of the plantation settles down in terms of numbers and resulting territories. 

It looks like warbler number similar to last season with 8/10 Whitethroat pairs, 6 pair of Willow Warbler and 3 pairs of Sedge Warblers; but this year there are 4 singing Blackcaps probably as a result of the plantation maturing in age and height. Blackcaps were first out of the net today, 2 roving and singing males almost together in the net whilst other species were vocal but remained near to sitting females. 

Total new birds ringed: 5 Chaffinch, 4 Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 1 Sedge Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler. Recaptures: 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Whitethroat. The five Chaffinch ringed were nestlings from the nest containing eggs found on 18th May, the nest now holding five young crammed into the tiny space. 

Monitoring nests through the Nest Record Scheme and ringing nestling birds collects data which help to identify species which may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage. Also, we know the exact age of the chick, the precise place of birth, and also the number of siblings.

Chaffinch nest

Chaffinch chick

The picture below shows the brood patch of a female Whitethroat, the prescence or otherwise a way of sexing birds when males and females of a species are identical or very similar.

Brood patch - female Whitethroat

male Whitethroat

Willow Warbler


Sedge Warbler

Today’s birding was as quiet as we might expect at the end of May: 1 Kestrel, 4 Yellowhammer, 1 Buzzard, 2 displaying Curlew, 2 Lapwing, 20+ Tree Sparrow, 2 Corn Bunting.

The forecast is more or less continuous rain for tomorrow but if the rain holds off or the sun comes out I’ll check out the Oystercatchers and Skylarks at Pilling.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lapwings and Hoopoes

Quiet again today although I did find another brood of two Lapwing chicks to ring  at Pilling. That's at least 8 pairs bred successfully this year. The ground is very dry at the moment which explains the dried mud on their tiny bills.

Lapwing chicks 

Finally, here are the Hoopoes pictures promised from the recent Menorca holiday.

The Hoopoe Upupa epops is found across Afro-Eurasia and is a bird noted for its distinctive crown of feathers. The Latin name Upupa epops is an onomatopoetic form which imitates the call of the bird, a trisyllabic "oop-oop-oop".


Hoopoes are fairly common in Menorca, although the species is quite shy, with a brief flight view or just the call the best indication one is around. They are not normally as tolerant to being observed as a pair I found near on the coast near the little town of Es Migjorn, Menorca during my recent holiday in early May. I would see one bird most days, either feeding itself or sometimes flying off with large food items, a sign that the bird was probably a male carrying food to a sitting female. Hoopoes nest in holes, normally trees or walls, so I hoped that soon I might find where the bird flew to.


The diet of the Hoopoe is mostly composed of insects, although small reptiles and frogs as well as some plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well. It is a solitary forager which typically feeds on the ground. Common diet items include crickets, locusts, beetles, earwigs, cicadas, ant lions, bugs and ants.

In the second week the same feeding bird seemed to switch to carrying off just small items of food, some of which it gleaned by searching the crevices of palm trees. By now I was fairly sure it was feeding tiny young and the female might also be more active, although as both sexes look the same I couldn’t be sure if I was watching one or two birds, although the crown feathers of the regular bird were well worn. 


Day 12 saw both bird birds feeding close together when I was able to distinguish the male and the female separately. The female had an almost unblemished, unworn crest. When I found the nest hole I could see that the male’s constant toing and froing at the hard concrete nest hole had probably worn his crest feathers, with the less active female able to retain her crown feathering. 

Hoopoe Nest Site


From the car I watched and photographed the birds around the nest site and their by now heavy feeding routine. At times the female stayed with the youngsters while the male passed food through the nest hole. In one of the pictures below the female’s bill can be seen accepting food from the male. At other times she appeared to show aggression towards her partner. 




 Food Pass

Female Hoopoe

Female Hoopoe

What a privilege to be able to see the Hoopoe’s breeding behaviour close to but what a shame I wasn’t there to see the young emerge from the nest. If ever you are in Menorca, Es Migjorn is a typical friendly small town with a number of good bars and cafes. You may bump into Paco who takes wonderful photographs of the Menorcan landscape, much better than mine. Take a look on his blog by clicking on "Paco" above.

 Es Migjorn

 Es Migjorn

To Es Migorn 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

News And Views

Nothing much to report today – the first Willow Warbler nest of the year with youngsters, plus a few oddities at Pilling after the easterly winds: a fresh in Chiffchaff, an unseasonal Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Lesser Redpoll at Pilling Water. 

Willow Warbler nest

To fill the gap I compiled a post with photographs from the recent Menorca holiday, both birds and views. 

It sounded like a good deal to me; drop Sue off In Ciutadella at the Friday market for shopping and browsing around the swanky shops while I drive up to Punta Nati for birding before the midday heat. Later we would meet up for a spot of lunch at our favourite café bar The Aurora in Placa D’Alfons. 

The tiny roadside Little Egret colony just outside the second city prospers despite the passing traffic, with this year large young out of the nest while the adults repaired the damage caused by constant comings and goings. There are Turtle Doves here too. 

Cattle Egret

Cattle  Egret

 Turtle Dove

The road to Punta Nati is single track, and so as to avoid scratching the hire car it’s best to remember the correct side of the road if something suddenly appears from the opposite direction. There’s constant song and calling from three similar sounding birds, Thekla Lark, Tawny Pipit and Short-toed Lark, actually finding each made more difficult by the birds’ colouration blending into the rock strewn landscape; unless that is they perch up alongside the road. 

Punta Nati, Menorca

Punta Nati, Menorca 

Short-toed Lark

Tawny Pipit

Thekla Lark

Like most of the thrush family the Blue Rock Thrushes here are shy, keeping their distance from visitors who mostly spend 15 minutes wandering about the lighthouse then head off to the delights of Ciutadella. In the first week of May we saw Wheatears and Whinchats, both species on their way to Northern Europe, not to mention thousands of Swifts and Swallows.

Blue Rock Thrush


Birds of prey up here in the north of the island: Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle, Red Kite and Kestrel. Depending upon recent rainfall levels there may be tiny pool of water here which often has an unusual Menorcan bird or two, last year Golden Plover, this year Ruff. 


Many years ago Ciutadella lost the crown of capital city of Menorca in favour of Mahon about 50 kilometres to the east where the harbour is bigger and more suitable for larger vessels, and in recent years cruise ships. We prefer magnificent Ciutadella any day, an intimate, working Spanish city where a labyrinth of tiny streets crowded with shops, restaurants and cafes buzz with the daily life of half the population of Menorca. 

Placa Pio, Ciutadella Cathedral

Placa Des Borns, Ciutadella

Placa Federico

The Aurora and Es Moli

Les Voltes, Ciutadella

Port De Ciutadella

Menorcan Lunch - Ensaimada and coffee

I hope everyone enjoyed today's trip to Menorca. More Birds soon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Buzzard Response – Sort Of

Another sunny morning for a walk at Pilling, and this is becoming a habit, but not necessarily a bad one when I catch up with Lapwing chicks. 

I relocated some of the pairs near Fluke Hall today where I reckon 4 or 5 pairs have reared young to add to the 2 pairs near Lane Ends. That’s an improvement on last year when it proved a struggle to find any chicks belonging to a species hanging on by a thread. I found six chicks, two broods of three each and all much the same size, about 4 or 5 days old I reckon. The old baseball cap came in handy as a holding pen while I ringed the chicks with mum watching overhead. 

Lapwing chick

Lapwing chicks


Not a lot else to report today: 1 Kestrel, 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Jay, 8/10 Skylark territories, 4 Redshank pairs, 3 Oystercatcher pairs. Just one Wheatear today so it looks like the late gang got their act together and flew north. 


One Buzzard over Fluke Hall again - look out mate you are about to become a victim of your own success.

I emailed my MP last night to complain about DEFRA’s plan to spend £375,000 of taxpayer’s money in looking how to reduce the impact of Buzzards on Pheasant shoots. I received a holding reply as follows:  

“While I am a supporter of field sports (including shooting) your points seem very credible. I shall ask the Minister on your behalf and get back to you. 
Ben Wallace MP Member of Parliament for Wyre and Preston North 
House of Commons London 
SW1A 0AA” 

I suggest that each and every nature lover/bird watcher should be similarly contacting their Member of Parliament to complain about this ridiculous plan so as to pressurise DEFRA to change or drop it..

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No Wheats, Menorca Instead.

No luck with the Lapwings or the Wheatears at Pilling today. The Lapwing chicks stayed in the muddy gullies where they can hide away as soon as the parents warn them. The Wheatears seemed wary of the trap and when I got a clear view of one of the males I saw it had a shiny ring - one of the birds I ringed two days ago. So it’s probably the same gang of Wheatears hanging about the sea wall and fattening up for the final push north. Other birds this morning: Buzzard, Reed Bunting, 2 Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Pied Wagtail. 

For today’s post and for the birders I’m posting bird pictures from the recent Menorca holiday. To satisfy the just Menorca fans out there I’ve included photographs of island life and the landscape. 

When we arrived on 28th April the marsh at Tirant was pretty much parched after some weeks of a dry spell. A wet spot in the centre of the marsh was just visible and where most species hung out, with Little Egrets, Purple and Grey Heron, Gadwall, Marsh Harrier, Squacco Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Little Grebe, Water Rail and Bee Eaters. Passerines included Woodchat Shrike, Corn Bunting, Tawny Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Whinchat, Stonechat and the inescapable but unseen Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler. 

A Whiskered Tern fed over the reeds for two days, moving between here and the pool of Es Prat. There’s a record but not very good shot of the tern below, as Whiskered Terns are both fast and very active feeders. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to photograph a Bittern which walked across the road in front of the car before disappearing into the reeds, a rare sighting in Menorca. Two sightings of Osprey here this year, fishing the open water and then feeding at the top of power pylons. During the last few days of the holiday up to 15 Wood Sandpipers graced the pools, unfortunately too distant to photograph. 

Whiskered Tern

Black-winged Stlit

Es Prat, Menorca

 Bee Eater

 Woodchat Shrike

Rural Scene - Menorca

One day I glimpsed a turtle as it submerged into a muddy puddle: back home I looked my picture up on Google and I believe it to be Menorcan Turtle/European Pond Turtle Emys orbicularis. This turtle is quite distinct from the land based Hermann's Tortoise Testudo hermanni which we saw on one occasion just up the road from the marsh and along the dry, dusty track leading to the Tirant headland. 

 Menorcan Turtle

Hermann's Tortoise

From the headland it’s possible to walk to the shore, dunes and stream below where more Bee Eaters hang out, with Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper on the water’s edge. Raptors near the headland proved to be a good number of Common Kestrels and Red Kites, with no Red-footed Falcon or Hobby this year, just a couple of fast-hovering Lesser Kestrels and the ever present Booted Eagles. 

Booted Eagle

Heading west the road from Tirant leads up to Cap De Cavallaria and yet another cup of coffee at a favourite chill-out spot. Why is it you never get a bad cup of coffee in Menorca?

Towards Cap De Cavalleria

 Cap De Cavalleria

More from Menorca or elsewhere soon on Another Bird Blog.
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