Is February the most annoying month?

The weather is horrible I hate and love February one day there can be sunshine and warmth enough to make us feel Spring has arrived the next can plunge us back into an arctic winter. Gamy wing the starling is still with us and I now wonder if it might become a permanent fixture. I should mention we have two other disabled avian residents Gamy leg a male blackbird who has a healed broken leg, he has been with us for at least three years and the year before last raised at least two broods. The third not quite right resident is Hoppy a Pheasant with a dodgy leg. There are a few signs of Spring the Dunnocks are chasing each other and flapping at each other. Pigeons are wing flapping, Wood peckers are drumming and the amount of song seams to increase daily. Saw a large Hare cross the field opposite the kitchen window this morning whilst making ...

Blog Post: Making bath bombs with Chris Packham

Hen Harrier Life Project Community Engagement Officer Aimée Nicholson reports on recent the LUSH summit   Since joining the Hen Harrier Life Project back in October of last year, I have spent many a happy day telling people about the wonderful birds we are working so hard to protect. Last Thursday was no different but there was a slight twist to this event; this time it was live streamed across the internet for the world to see. The event I attended was the LUSH Summit, a two-day event organised by the ethical cosmetics company, which showcased the causes that they support through the campaigns in their shops. The Hen Harrier Life Project is very lucky to be one of those causes and since 2015 the sales from the Skydancer bath bomb has raised over £100,000 to fund the purchase of satellite tags. Thanks to this support from Lush we are ab...

Blog Post: Introducing Aimée

New(ish) RSPB recruit Aimée Nicholson talks about her work as Community Engagement Officer in England for the Hen Harrier Life Project. I have been working for the Hen Harrier Life Project for a little while now so I thought it was about time I introduced myself to you all. My role involves working with communities in and around the Special Protection Areas in England that are designated to have breeding hen harriers living in them. These are the North Pennine Moors and the Forest of Bowland. This work involves school outreach sessions in primary and secondary schools, as well as working with game keeping students, giving community talks and attending country shows in the summer. The role has me travelling around a lot and last week took me across to the University of Cumbria in Ambleside where I was giving a seminar on hen harriers and t...

Raptor Persecution in the Forest of Bowland

The North West Raptor Group are making an appeal to combat the illegal killing of Peregrine Falcons in Lancashire's Forest of Bowland, situated in the North West of England. Classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it covers 808 square Kilometers of rural Lancashire and North Yorkshire. The Forest of Bowland is internationally important for its upland bird populations and under the Habitats Directive "Bowland Fells" are designated a Special Protection Area for specific birds of prey. The Forest of Bowland may be an SPA, but raptors like Hen Harrier and Peregrine Falcon receive no protection. In 2009 - 25 Peregrine territories in the Forest of Bowland were examined by the NWRG. 17 sites were occupied, 6 nests failed following the loss of eggs, chicks and adult birds. A total of 11 territories produced 24 fledged young. In 2...

Sparrowhawk wins a meal and a surprise visitor

Witnessed a Sparrowhawk take a Starling, I was outside changing the gas bottle when I heard a noise behind me, which sounded like a very muffled explosion. In the field behind me was a compact ball of Starlings the ball was much denser than the ball the form when moving around feeding and the sound was much louder. At first I only saw the Starlings and then a fraction of a second later I saw the Sparrowhawk swoop at the ball  from the right with its back to me looking like a fighter plane, part of the ball fragmented with a few Starlings peeling off from the group one in particular headed to the left as the main group headed to the right. The Sparrowhawk with a few twists and dives was immediately on the tail of this one Starling heading left. There was a few microseconds of move and counter move with eventually the Starling flying low ov...

Comment on Chilling out on winter roost watch duty in Bowland

There may be little or no nesting Hen Harriers or Peregrines in Bowland any more but I don't suppose that will bother the senior people in Natural England, DEFRA or the moor owners in the area, as it is all part of the masterplan for conserving Hen Harriers by removing them from the North. It is just a pity that NE have not told the Hen Harriers of the plan, because they will keep coming from the rest of the country to the Bowland killing fields. I trust the RSPB will keep satellite tagging them in Scotland and England to keep embarrassing the government and the Hawk and Owl Trust. ...

Cat portrait

Decided to have a go at drawing Cat's portrait using Derwent Studio coloured pencils, I just haven't used them for a long time and thought it would make a change from acrylic painting. I graphed Cat out as I was worried I'd lose my place with his markings. I've managed to make him look a lot sterner than he really is, he's a big softie - although the mice in the barn probably think differently....
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Blog Post: Chilling out on winter roost watch duty in Bowland

The RSPB’s Bowland Project Officer James Bray reports on the highs and lows of monitoring hen harrier winter roosts  I’m back home now with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire and I can reflect on a lovely evening sitting on top of a cold hill somewhere in the Forest of Bowland. In the background Ingleborough (a hill on the west side of the Yorkshire Dales National Park) was snow-capped and glowed beautiful shades of apricot and pink as the sun set, and to top it all off I picked up a lone hen harrier coming in to roost. The Forest of Bowland is probably best known for the healthy population of breeding hen harriers that used to breed here. This importance is recognised by national and international legal protection with the Bowland Fells, designated as a Special Protection Area for 13 pairs of hen harriers. The breeding popul...

Getting ready for Spring

Decided to revamp the pond before any frogs turned up. Last year we had a single male take up residence and over about a week, five lots of spawn appeared. So dug out the waders baled out some of the water into water butts along with some of the pond weed and algae. Then waded in and started digging, managed to deepen the centre by about a foot, so  now it is about one meter deep in the centre when full. I was hoping to add a liner but the pond was filling so fast I gave up on the idea. Not too worried as last summer I only had to top it up a few times though the level did fluctuate dramatically. Pond Also hard pruned a section of the boundary hedge amazingly this has added about one and a half meters to the wet meadow area.  Important to get this done before any nesting activity starts. The bird ringers visited us on Sunday and over a ...

Comment on Carroll – a Northumberland bird to the very end

I'd like to add my thanks the estate which reported the bird. Clearly there are estates which are prepared to act responsibly. If their voices could be heard in the organisations who represent estates, then perhaps we could start to get somewhere. It is so sad that the 2016 English reared harriers are having such a torrid time, but it makes it harder to conceal the truth. ...

Blog Post: Carroll – a Northumberland bird to the very end

RSPB Investigations Officer David Hunt reports on the death of Carroll, another satellite-tagged hen harrier Being tasked with monitoring the whereabouts of the RSPB’s English satellite-tagged hen harriers, you never know what drama might be lurking around the corner. Only in December, I had remarked to a colleague about how settled the English class of 2016 seemed to be in their respective wintering grounds. I clearly spoke too soon. Shortly after came the cessation of data in the North Pennines from Bonny, the RSPB Geltsdale bird now presumed to have died . And now unfortunately, Carroll, one of our young Northumberland females from 2016 has also died. The world of hen harrier conservation does certainly involve some low moments. Carroll was a Northumberland hen harrier through and through. One of two to fledge the nest on land managed...

Big Garden Birdwatch

Highest number seen in the garden at one time backbirds 4 Blue tit 5 Chaffinch 6 Coal tit 12 Dunnock 2 Great tit 4 Long-tailed tit 10 Robin 4 Starling 1 (this is the injured bird which looks to be getting better it can now fly up into the trees but the wing is still noticeably drooping) Also seen Nuthatch, Great spotted woodpecker and the ubiquitous Phesants and luckily two Buzzards flew through the woodland bordering the garden. Behind the house there is a flock of about 50 Starlings. Also early this morning saw a wagtail but could not tell which type. The Rabbits have started to venture into the garden to nibble on new shoots starting to emerge I will have to get out the chicken wire cylinders, to protect some of the more vulnerable plants. Have recently caught and dispatched a couple of rats who had moved into the barn presumably after s...
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Crowdfunding appeal for new raptor satellite tag project © R.P.U.K.

The campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime has launched a crowdfunding appeal to help support a new project to fit satellite tags to raptors in northern England, set to begin later this year. Satellite tagging has revolutionised efforts to detect raptor persecution crimes, and has also helped draw public attention to the illegal killing of raptors. The power of satellite-tagging was really first realised in 2009 when a young satellite-tagged golden eagle, ‘Alma’, was found dead on a grouse moor on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. She’d been poisoned. It’s highly unlikely her corpse would have been detected had she not been fitted with a satellite tag, which allowed investigators to pinpoint her body as she lay face down in a vast expanse of heather moorland. The resulting publicity about her death was phenomena...

Blog Post: Guest blog: Hen Harrier at RSPB Wallasea Island

  Andrew Armstrong is a wildlife photographer local to RSPB's Wallasea Wetlands reserve. Andrew’s stunning hen harrier photographs first came to our attention on Twitter where he posts under @drumon25. Impressed by his passion for the birds which clearly shines through his photography, we invited him to share what it feels like to capture these rare glimpses into the private life of one of our most spectacular birds of prey.  As a wildlife photographer I have been visiting RSPB Wallasea Island for three years, predominantly in the winter when the raptors congregate over the site. Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Peregrine, Merlin and especially Short Eared Owls show really well during the winter, making for wonderful photography opportunities. The real prize is getting the opportunity to watch, and hopefully photograph, the Hen Harriers as they...

Blog Post: From a bird found, to a bird lost

As far as positive starts to the New Year go; the news of the possible rediscovery of our missing 2014 female, Highlander, was a pretty fantastic way to kick off 2017. This was shortly followed by a phone call from a farmer in Cumbria who was only too delighted to tell me about the hen harriers roosting in his rushy fields. The palpable excitement and pride in his voice was a wonderful reminder of the power of these graceful birds to captivate and inspire – a welcome sign of hope for the future of hen harriers in our hillsides. Hen Harrier over rushy pasture. Photo: Lin Lyon For the most part, our remaining birds continue to fare well and seem to have settled down for the winter in their favoured roosts – Wendy on Ulva, just off the coast of Mull, Finn in Ayrshire, Carroll in Northumberland, DeeCee in the Cairngorms, and Harriet in the...

Return of the Lapwing

16th Jan on the way to Clitheroe saw a flock of about 60 Lapwing presumably on one of their reconnaissance  flights from the coast. 17th Jan the Great spotted woodpecker is drumming on the tin plate capping a telegraph pole. Raked all the leaves off the gravel meadow and gave it a quick mow to knock back some of the grass and rush and both to help reduce the fertility of the soil. ...

A talk prompts a rediscovery

Went to a talk on Cross hill and Salt Hill nature reserves Clitheroe by Phil Dykes. The rich diversity of wildflower species was an eye opener  and now a firm promise to myself to pay these two sites much more attention. The talk was hosted by Clitheroe Naturalists and there hopefully will be a guided walk lead by Phil in the summer. This sudden cold spell has made the feeders even busier. The wounded Starling is still with us and can fly a bit, it managed to get about 30cm off the ground today. Not sure if it is related to the cold weather but we haven’t seen any Starlings flying over the house for a few days. Also today saw a Buzzard in the Ash tree by the gate, this is the closest we have ever seen one to the garden. ...

Comment on Highlander lives?

Some good news for 2017. Thanks for confirming that the tag failure, if that's what it is, is thought to be within the expected failure rate. I, along with many others, am really hoping that the remaining tagged birds can survive to breed in 2017, and that raptors in general can look forward to a better 2017. ...

Blog Post: Highlander lives?

It’s a rare delight in the world of hen harriers to be able to start the New Year with some good news, but I am utterly astonished and elated to report that Highlander, a female hen harrier which fledged from United Utilities estate in the Forest of Bowland in 2014, and who suddenly and unexpectedly went missing in County Durham in April 2016, has possibly been found alive! Highlander and her sibling, Sky, just after having their satellite tags fitted, in Bowland, 2014. (Image: Jude Lane) To most people, Highlander is the eponymous lead character, played by Christopher Lambert, in the classic 1986 British-American action fantasy film, about an immortal Scottish swordsman on an epic quest. As our own Highlander was “adopted” by children from the local Brennand’s Endowed Primary School however, I’m going to hazard a guess it’s un...