Wednesday, 21 January 2015

They said what ...............

Well the last two days have been a bit of a storm in the great Hen Harrier debacle in the UK and now the Hawk and Owl Trust have dropped a ball as my father might say, but I must say something positive about the HOT and I ask you to re-think pulling the plug on supporting them just yet!

Firstly I will point out I am a HOT member and have been for a number of years so like a lot of people was shocked to read the response from their chairman Philip Merrick's in the comments section of Mark Avery's two blog posts on Brood management as a possible solution for the Hen Harrier - Grouse moor conflict.

My opinion on the subject is that brood management isn't the answer and like many people before me have said putting a stop to illegal killing and then working with the game shooting industry (if possible??) should be first on the agenda. On Mr Merrick's response although I don't know him I was very surprised to read a chairman of a well respected organisation was responding to such a sensitive subject in the comments section, if I was in Mr Merrick's position I would have sat back digested what has been said or asked and maybe discussed it with my fellow trustees then formulated a response possibly in the form of a guest blogger on Mark Avery's site. What Mr Merrick's has now done is cause a bit of a PR nightmare for the HOT, upset a lot of passionate raptor conservationists and maybe even a few people behind the scenes of the HOT. I hope it doesn't affect the membership numbers and here is why I won't be cancelling my subscription just yet.

I have just got in from spending a fantastic day out with one of their conservation officers Chris Sperring carrying out farm visits for the community nest box scheme he has developed as part of the HOT commitment to raptor conservation in the UK. During the day we traveled to several people who's land ranged from 10 acres to over 500 acres and showed interested in having a nest box on their land to support Barn owls, each piece of land varying in size and how far they are willing to go in habitat creation but all with one thing in common they love birds of prey.

This is where Chris and the HOT come in, the community nest box scheme is free to enter, the landowner visits are free and the box if the area is suitable is also free funded by the HOT and a small group of owl enthusiasts fund raising. Now Chris doesn't just turn up and look over the hedge and hand over a box, we went onto every patch of ground and showed the landowners evidence of field vole habitat including food stores and runs. The landowners were really fascinated and ask all sorts of questions about how Barn owls locate the voles and what else can they do. Habitat creation is discussed, field margins are implemented and passion for birds of prey is ignited. In the end hopefully the Barn owl and other wildlife will benefit and for me that's all that matters the birds, so that is why I'm not pulling the plug on my membership just yet!

I feel that Philip Merricks maybe jumped the gun or at least I hope he did I will wait with baited breath for a full response outlining the trusts real and current position on the Hen Harrier in the UK.

(The views on this are purely my own including any bad grammar!)

Monday, 19 January 2015

I'm back and its time to talk books first!

Hey everyone I've not fallen off the world although sometimes I see the news and think I need to get off this planet! Anyway enough about that, hopefully you are all well and enjoying birds of prey where ever you are.

So to get back into the swing of things I want to talk about books and in particular two of my favourite books which I rediscovered! These two books are by the same author Mike Tomkies, and they are titled On Wing and Wild Water and Golden Eagle Years but its been a few years since I read either so I pulled Golden Eagle years back off the shelf last week after stumbling onto the publishers website.

(Mike Tomkies latest book)

The publishers are Whittles Publishing and I just so happened to see that a new book was due out titled The Life of Buzzards by Dr Peter Dare, sadly I don't know anymore about the book as it hasn't been released but the reason I am so interested to read this book is because despite the Buzzard being the UK's most common bird of prey as far as I know there is only one detailed book on the species by Colin Tubbs. The other great thing about Whittles publishing is they obviously like to support birds of prey and the fantastic conservationists who have studied them you just have to check out the species covered including Roy Dennis and his Ospreys, Gordon Riddle and Kestrels, Don Scott with Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles by Dave Walker plus many more! The thing I love about all these books is they are all straight from the field notes of true champions for birds of prey, each one of the named authors above will have spent hours of their time learning about their chosen species and helping everyone learn about so much more about the lives of birds of prey.

This brings me back to Mike Tomkies and his work or at  least the books I have read about his work, Mike spent over 35 years studying wildlife and he is probably most famous for his work studying Golden Eagles in Scotland. Not only did he take photographs, film and detailed notes of elusive wildlife but his passion helps take you into the hide with him looking in at a Golden eaglet. If you are like me and at your happiest outside studying birds of prey then you need to take a look at Whittles Publishing and the books they publish!

A lot has been happening within the UK and birds of prey, persecution is still taking place with a Hen Harrier day taking place last year organised by Mark Avery and attended by Chris Packham and a group of hardy supporters in the pouring rain. There is still a war taking place though and I'm don't use the word war lightly between raptor conservationists and the shooting fraternity. Still a great blog to follow if your on the side of raptors is and another one which is evolving quickly is Birders against wildlife crime at and a fantastic resource for anyone out in the countryside. I will try and do a separate blog on them at a later date.

Monday, 7 April 2014

And still it goes on!

I'm not one for politics I lead a pretty laid back life with good morals but some things really get my goat, politicians being one! I'm not going to moan on about it here but by god I wish we could get someone in power who really gives a hoot about the environment and protecting it!

Sadly bird of prey persecution continues in the UK and to be honest its none stop really, maybe this is because we are becoming more aware and people/groups are making more noise about it but I definitely agree with the statement that what is found is only the tip of a very big iceberg!

I get regular updates and new flashes via e-mail and social media and within the last 7 days it has resulted in the updates of the 16 birds of prey found poisoned in Scotland, a buzzard from the Peak District found in a leg trap and a poisoned Peregrine falcon.

As always you can keep up to date with the latest raptor persecution in Britain check out

Else where in the world Chris Packham is raising awareness on the slaughter of thousands of birds in Malta during the migration. Interestingly we had a vet from Malta visit work to ask for advice on rehabilitation and furthering her contacts, she regularly has Marsh Harrier/Honey Buzzard and other bird species brought to her for treatment after being shot by Maltese hunters. I asked her if it was getting better out there and more importantly are the Maltese government actually doing anything and her opinion was that things had improved and the government and law enforcement in Malta were working hard to stop the slaughter. It will be interesting to see if Chris Packhams work out in Malta shows otherwise. A few years ago I did weigh up spending a week out in Malta during the migration helping monitor and police the migration of thousands of birds over Malta including many species of birds of prey but in the end part of me had to ask could I stand on a view point and watch a Honey Buzzard being shot out the sky in the distance? The answer was no I couldn't!

Find out about Chris Packhams work

My 2014 season has started monitoring wild birds of prey on my patches albeit slowly as I have a new team mate in the shape of an 8 week old Dachshund puppy who doesn't quite have the legs for a full day in the countryside yet. Early signs are that Tawny owls are having a good start to the year my faithful pair have 4 eggs and other pairs on territory. The Little owls that nested in the side of some aviaries at work are calling every afternoon and hopefully will take to one of the nest boxes I have put up for them. I feel I am behind on Ravens this year, I really need to pull my finger out and get up some trees to check nest sites. Buzzards are all in the usual places with new sites appearing and I had a lovely view of a male Goshawk in my local woods whilst out running the other evening on the side of the wood I haven't found them yet! Long eared owls are also on the cards this year with a nice evening spent in Wales with Steve Roberts locating sites which turned up one brief sighting of a male and a distant female nest calling. It will all kick off soon I love this time of year!

We've had a few sighting's of Red kites over the centre and that's another thing on the bucket list for this year, I must get down to a feeding station its been 10 years since I last visited Girgrin farm.

Ok I better go the puppy is trying to demolish a newspaper all over the lounge! I will write again soon sorry for the delay!!

Friday, 1 November 2013

4 months!!!!

Four bloody months it has taken me to write another blog post, I'm worse than my boss Jemima at updating my blog but I blame her for working me so hard!

I wanted to share some videos that I have found on Youtube, well one in particular and then the others are ones I have caught bits of but they are all on eagles so I hope you enjoy! The first one is on the White Tailed Eagle and I loved it. In fact it made me look into flight for Belarus it looked such a stunning country with amazing wildlife!

White Tailed Eagle video -

The rest below!

Philippine Eagle -

Bald Eagle -

Harpy Eagle -

And I know you eagle fans are secret owl lovers to so here is an Eagle owl video from the BBC


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Once in a blue moon and a blog post!

I should probably stop apologising now for my complete neglect of this blog, life is super hectic since I started the new job. The new job is going brilliantly though here at the ICBP with lots of exciting things on the horizon. BUT this blog is not about me but the birds so I must get back on track.

I really don't know where to start with this post as it has been so long since the last one a lot of things have been going on around the world relating to birds of prey and conservation. The breeding season is well under way in the UK and although I said I wouldn't mention myself again I am back out monitoring wild birds of prey with some fantastic new species on the list. I will do a report at the end of the breeding season! With the breeding season comes the webcams from all over the world, here in the UK the usual urban Peregrines will now have chicks fledging with Ospreys also being filmed again including the great Loch Lowes Osprey affectionately known as Lady back once again and breeding!!

Have a look at her attempts at

Meanwhile elsewhere in the UK raptor persecution continues to rear its very sinister and ugly head to th point where I really don't know where to start! As always one blog in particular stands head and shoulders above the rest in bringing the news to our attention

Possibly the shocker of the summer must go to Natural England though for the underhand grant of two licences to control Buzzards on a shooting estate and Chicken farm. This would have never come to light had it not been for a freedom of information application from the RSPB who must be applauded for this. Those of you new to this on going idiotics won't realise that the government had to do a U-turn on a proposal to look into lethal control methods of buzzards affecting games stock last year after public out cry. I will actually  write up a complete separate posting on this topic delving into more detail and personal opinion but the opening of canned worms can be found here

I actually have a facebook page fr this blog that as you can imagine has not been touched so I must start adding all the interesting stuff I read via e-mail or on various websites but if you want to find more stuff out take a look at the links page I have put up on the right hand side! I will also update the bird of the month page tonight with the help of the fantastic ARKive site , if you have a spare hour online and love the natural world then you have to take a look! I used this site the other day with a group of school children learning about bird of prey habitats, the video footage of Barn owls, Peregrines and Philippine Eagle had them mesmerised!

Finally before I go I must thank Allen Holmes again for letting me use his images they really are awesome have a look at his work

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


It won't let me upload pictures!!!!!! The laptop I am using that is because I am not part of the administration team so I have to find out how to change this with the boss who has the pass word! And I have some cool photos to show you!

Anyway do we think its going to be a bumper summer this year? Well I sure hope so because boy is it cold at work especially the biting wind which blows up the flying field. I wanted to go and check a Raven nest the other day back at home but the snow was 5 foot deep at the top of the overhang and I didn't fancy my chances even with a rope! It is a good job this bird chose to build the nest under a decent over hang otherwise it might have looked like the poor Peregrine at Nottingham Trent uni.

This image only worked as I borrowed it from a FB page! What a hardcore mother!

I feel for all the wildlife out there in these extreme weather conditions we have been having but one species that has appeared several times over the last month is the Barn owl. I tend to drive to work early morning and for the past month I've had 4-5 sightings of Barn owl in broad daylight which is a classic sign of the hardships of nature in winter. The Barn owl has had a roller coaster ride in the UK over the last 50 years or more and it is probably the most studied of our native owls with nest boxes schemes over large parts of the UK, fingers crossed this year proves to be a successful year to keep numbers on an upwards trend. As with any predator though their numbers are governed by their prey so the small mammal population will play a huge role in the outcome of the 2013 breeding season.

Barn Owl from my friend Allen Holmes.

Looking at the picture above I'm not sure a species of owl has stirred quite as much emotion in humans and folklore as the Barn owl has, as I type this I can hear the Barn owl in the aviary outside shrieking its very harsh call but they can also make snoring and hissing noises as well. It is actually the most cosmopolitan of all owls in the world only missing from the harsh arctic and antarctic regions and if you look at the classification of the Barn owl you will find owls as an order Strigiformes are split into Tytonidae which is the Barn and Bay owls alone with every other species of owl within the Strigidae. Enough of that banter this late in the evening!

Probably the first bird of prey that drew me into raptors playing a big part of my life but also what an important member of our countryside. An owl of the night with its shrieking and hissing call was often portrayed in earlier days as a creature of ill omen and bad luck even nailed to your door to ward off evil spirits. Little did they know that this bird was in fact the farmers best friend when it came to protecting his produce from rodents, the farms own pest control better than ugly modern plastic bait stations or a song bird slaying moggy!

Sadly the Barn owl now falls foul of our roads and I remember being told once that one in three Barn owl deaths are accounted for by our highways and after seeing them ghosting along the A49 to work this last month I can imagine this to be true. We keep our hedgerows trimmed down car height meaning Barn owls fly straight into the path of vehicles and also the best form of hunting habitat of rank, rough tussocky grassland is mainly found along our roads drawing Barn owl in. Lets start growing taller hedges landowners!

That being said this species is on the limit of its range here on the British Isles and when you factor in the fast pace of life and change this country has seen I think this species has done really well to survive. Along with the hard work of various individuals and conservation groups I think we can enjoy Barn owls in Britain for years to come and who wouldn't want to!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

3 months late!!!

Sorry for the massive lack of blogging I think it has been about 3 months since my last blog but life has been busy nonetheless birds of prey are still in the news. I have a new job however and I would like to include it a bit more in this blog as I'm sure readers will enjoy hearing about it. I will also aim to put pictures into post's as looking at other blogs by friends I have realised I don't use any and it is quite plain.

My new job is at the International Centre for Birds of Prey owned and ran by bird of prey authority Jemima Parry-Jones and her brilliant team of staff. I have to say I feel privileged to work at such and establishment the collection and knowledge is brilliant and hopefully I can bring something to the table.

Find out more at and come and visit me sometime!

Sadly birds of prey are still being persecuted in the UK I could probably write something different on it everyday for a year and their would still be a backlog of stories but I did read an interesting book based on mans relationship with predators titled Tooth and Claw. Not just including raptors but other predatory species past and present on the British Isles and mans relationship(s).

I've also been having a think about how I write this blog and I'm going to put a few more of my own view points and opinions instead of just news articles and links to websites and papers. Seeing as it is my blog I thought I should add a bit more of a personal opinion on all things raptor related.

Your probably all wondering where my pictures are for this blog but I'm on a new laptop so I will sort it for next time and upload a couple of some birds that I work with! I promise and I won't leave it for 3 months.

Right now I live next door to some vultures and eagle which is cool, I can constantly hear the screeching of one of the centres Barn owls from the owl aviaries and the squirrel that has moved in above me in the attic has just started scratching around!! Good job I'm a heavy sleeper!

Pictures to come tomorrow!!