Thursday, 27 December 2012

An invitation to join Terry Pickford bird watching in the Czech Republic May 2013

An invitation to join Terry Pickford bird watching in the Czech Republic May 2013.

The Czech Republic is one of the best-kept secrets in the birding world. Few British birdwatchers venture to this fascinating and friendly country to explore the mountains, extensive reed beds and thousands of fish ponds which are the habitat for many of Europe’s rarest breeding birds. With over 200 recorded breeding species and an unbelievable 405 recorded species to wet your appetite this is a birding paradise.
Saker Falcon, Obora image Dusan Boucny
Yet the Czech Republic is less than two hours’ flight away, accommodation is first- class and food and drink are still remarkably cheap and very enjoyable if you know where to go.
Terry Pickford, one of Britain’s foremost raptor experts with over 45 years experience has been leading small birding groups to Southern Bohemia and Moravia each May since 1995. Groups consist of seven people and under Terry’s expert leadership you will expect to tick off an average of 140 species. As expected raptors are very much on the menu, species include Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Saker Falcon, Honey Buzzard, Red and Black Kites, Hobby, Montagu’s Harrier, and on rare occasions Red-footed Falcon, Pallid Harrier and Lesser-spotted Eagle have been observed.
Imperial Eagle image by Dusan Boucny
In May 2013 Terry will lead the seven days of a two venue visit to the republic, the first four days beginning from the atmospheric old town of Trebon in Southern Bohemia. From this heavily forested region you will be invited to join Terry as he explores the internationally famous Trebonsko Biosphere reserve, where it is not uncommon to observe four or even five raptor species soaring above your head together.
The fabulous Trebonsko Biosphere Reserve
With more than 500 ponds each constructed in the Middle Ages, these extensive lakes surrounded by vast woodlands now support the largest population of White-tailed eagles in the republic, estimated to number at least twenty nesting pairs. There will also be great opportunities to see Scarlet Rosefinch, European Bee- eaters, Corncrake, Black Stork and a large variety of Woodpeckers before travelling along the Austrian Border to enjoy the last three days of your trip at your final venue in southern Moravia. Here your holiday will continue from the prestigious Hotel Hranicni Zamek, locally known as the Little Border Chateau , near the town of Lednice. Dinner each evening is taken in the hotel dinning room, bring your binoculars, with panoramic views over-looking one of the largest fish ponds in the region providing an unrivalled vista from your table. Look out for: Marsh Harrier, Hobby including many species of waterfowl: Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, Gadwall and Garganey plus rare or uncommon waders rarely seen in the UK. You are also likely to see the Roe deer, Eastern Hedgehog and Pine Marten crossing the lawn as evening encroaches. 
Montagu’s Harrier image by Dusan Boucny
Tucked away in an obscure corner of Southern Moravia, just 30 minutes from your hotel, along its border with Austria and Slovakia, you will visit ‘Obora’ one of the republic’s last flood planes regarded as an absolute gem by Gerard Gorman. At the southern tip of this unique region the Dyje and Morava rivers converge and the flood-plain between is a complex of riverine forests with old gnarled oaks, ashes and elms.
Purple Heron  image by Dusan Boucny
Obora is regarded as one of the most important habitats inside the republic for a variety of rare and threatened breeding species of raptors, including Imperial Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Saker Falcon. There is also a good selection of woodpeckers: Middle Spotted, Black, Grey-headed and Syrian; the Golden Oriol and Corncrake can be seen and heard also in good numbers here. You must also look out for both the Purple and Squacco heron along the river and pond edges.
White-tailed Eagle image by Dusan Boucny
If you would like to join Terry or require addition information before making any decision, please contact Terry Pickford by using the the following e-mail: before the middle of January 2013 to register your interest.
The visit begins from Manchester airport departing on Wednesday 22 May returning on the 29 May. Throughout the trip you will be staying in first class pension and hotel accommodation complete with en-suite facilities based upon a B/B arrangement. Travel will be by mini bus and throughot the visit Terry will be assisted by Jaroslav Simek one of the republic’s most experienced bird watchers and member of the Czech Republic’s Rare Breeding Bird Committee.
Trebon General Information
Trebon’s main square
Trebon is located on the bank of Lake Svet (World Pond) in the heart of the Trebonsko Protected Landscape Area, which has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The town square is dominated by the Old Town Hall, with its 31-meter tall observation tower. This square is encircled by burghers’ houses, featuring Renaissance and Baroque gables and a vaulted arcade. Trebon’s other historical monuments include a chateau with a park, an Augustinian monastery with St Giles’ Church, and the Schwarzenberg Vault, with a chapel where chamber music performances are held in the summer.
Svet Pond is a man made lake, used for fish farming and water recreation, constructed by the Rozmberk family’s regent in 1571. Rozmberk Instructional Trail, a 22 km marked interpretive cycling trail, begins at the dam on Svet Pond, just south of the old city center. Cesta Kolen Sveta, a 12 km hiking and cycling trail circles the pond itself. The Schwarzenberg Vault is a 19th century Neo-Gothic structure, built as a mausoleum for the Scwarzenberg family, located in its own park south of Svet Pond.
Cervené Blato (Red Marshland) Nature Reserve is located in the south-western part of the Trebonsko Protected Landscape Area. It was established in 1953 to protect the peat-bog, an Ice Age relict that preserves an unusual plant and insect community as well as many pairs of breeding Night jar.
Cervene Blato - Breeding haunt of Green Sandpiper

Lednice Region: information and characteristics of the town and Castle:
Lednice is situated on a flat bank of the River Thaya, which creates numerous picturesque shoulders, canals and ponds there. It is an important border town. Lednice is one of the most attractive and most visited places in the Czech Republic. Since the year 1996, this “Garden of Europe” is a part of the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The most attractive monument of the Lednice-Valtice historical complex is Lednice castle. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the romantic historical architecture. In the year 1632 the Lichtenstein family built the castle as their summer family residence. They also owned a nearby castle Valtice which was their main residence. Lednice castle was built in Italian style of villas and it became a Moravian pearl of a baroque architecture. 
Between these two castles Lednice and Valtice was created a beautiful park full of valuable historical objects. It was developed over three centuries. When you walk through the park, you can see a romatic ruin of John’s Castle, Hunting lodge built in classicism style, Temple of Apollo with the Doric portico; Pond mansion; Border Castle; Belvedere; a viewpiont Reistna Colonnade; Rendez-vous also called Temple of Diana; Three Graces; Aqueduct; Obelisk; Waterworks and Minaret. You can also see if you are lucky European Beaver, Night Heron and Great Reed Warbler as well as at least four species of woodpecker.
Czech Birdwatching-Image Gallery by Terry Pickford 
Hotel Reception: Little Border Chateau-Moravia
Dinning out: Southern Bohemia
Dinning in the old Castle Dungeon: Southern Bohemia
Little Border Chateau Dinning Room View over Pond
Long-eared owl: Photographed in Chateau Grounds 
 Short-eared Owl: Photographed in Local Graveyard
Sumava Mountains: Birding Group 2010
Sumava Mountains: Scarlet Rosefinch Habitat
Sumava Mountains: Scarlet Rosefinch
Sumava Mountains: Crested-tit
Sumava Mountains: Firecrest
Obora Flood Plain Moravia: Corncrake
White-tailed Eagle: Trebonsko: Southern Moravia
Trebonsko: Carp Production on a huge scale result, 20 breeding pairs White-tailed Eagles
Trebonsko: Eyries containing White-tailed Eagle triplets common
Moravia: Male Montagu Harrier image taken from Mini Bus
Moravia: Female Montagu Harrier captured from Mini Bus bringing nesting material
Moravia: Penduline Tit nest
Moravia: Penduline Tit
Southern Bohemia: Northern Merlin rare summer migrant from Russia, captured near Trebon
Trebonsko Reserve, Southern Bohemia: Jaroslav Simek ringing Bluethroat
Middle-spotted woodpecker, photographed in hotel grounds
Hawfinch photographed in hotel grounds
European Beeeater photographed in breeding colony just 20 Km from hotel

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Egg on my face!

I believe you have to laugh in life and most importantly be able to laugh at yourself! Well I had to laugh at myself the other day!

I love my running and I'm really fortunate to have some nice hill's with amazing scenery to run around. Not only is it good for health (apparently) I normally get some cracking views of wildlife especially birds of prey.

Sunday morning I decided to go for a run around and over my favourite hill, it was a lovely morning with blue skies and sunshine the sightings of buzzard and kestrel as I got to the hill. I decided to run round the bottom of the hill alongside some farm land before going up and over back to my car.

Now I'd like to say I'm good at identifying native birds of prey by sight and sound as I spend plenty of time in the field watching them but sometimes you get it wrong, or in this case embarrasingly wrong. As I ran round the path next to the fields I heard an alarm call from a bird of prey and my ears pricked up straight away.

I slowed down to a jog and looked over in what I thought was the direction of the noise and noticed a gnarly bare Oak tree then I heard the noise again. At first I thought Kestrel and scanned the tree for a visual, then the noise again but it was actually more hawk like. I had stopped running at this point and heard the alarm call of another bird straight after the hawks alarm call but still no visual.

The noise started again and I checked the fields but with no binoculars it would have been impossible to see a Sparrowhawk in the grass. What was also odd was a couple of crows were wandering about in the grass not paying the blindest notice to what sounded like a fight near them. Then the noise again exactly the same as the other few times and the penny dropped.

The noise was coming from the farm behind the Oak tree, and then it started again right on cue. It was a hawk and its prey but a recorded one on replay designed to keep birds off the livestock feed on the farm. How stupid did I feel, and not only that I was freezing cold stood their like a right plonker looking for a bird that was in fact a plastic box in a cow shed. Lesson learned!

I bet the crows had a laugh about it!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

What is the answer to Amur massacre?

Like everyone who has read the news about the Amur falcons in Nagaland I found it deeply distressing especially watching the video but how can this sort of thing be stopped.

I have thought about this over the last day or two and also read peoples responses to the actions going on in India. I feel when something very shocking and far from what I might except comes into the public eye we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

I weighed a few things up in my mind before I wrote this because as a westerner I don't have to worry about basic things that other countries/regions might not have. I bet like you reading this I hold birds of prey in a different light to these people so the video really shocks me to the core. This doesn't mean that I'm less appalled by the slaughter of Rhinos for ivory or the deforestation of our rainforests for palm oil but these are normally for the greed of man. In the case of the people hunting the Amur falcon I feel its more a case of surviving.

This is a very emotive thing that is happening and it would be very easy for me to dam and blast the people in the video, anything that involves cruelty to animals is shocking but what about the people who are carrying such a thing out, why are they doing it?

Despite the double dip recession, unemployment, cuts with councils I still feel in my country we are very priviledged. Despite supermarkets pulling the strings we can still eat out in the UK for as little as £10 for two in some pubs! But this wasn't about me standing on my soap box preaching about what we have.

I presume the people of Nagaland still work the land and live off very little, so when the oppourtunity to make some extra money comes along or harvest extra food they will take it with both hands. Isn't that what they are doing taking advantage of nature?

I have read the Amur falcon appears in Nagaland in its vast numbers between October/November before moving on with their migration, the locals of this region  must have noticed this and want to take advantage of this bounty of what they consider food or financial gain. Its man surving by whatever means and happens in so many guises.

This doesn't mean its neccessarily right and I believe the way of resolveing this involves two important things which are education and political lobbying. The support of the local government bodies needs to be behind any action plan and that plan needs to include educating the locals about what they are doing and how they can find alternatives. What is the point of taking away nets and policing the locals without offering support and alternative means of farming or earning a living.

This is just my opinion on what is a really sad situation for a stunning little falcon which makes the most amazing migration of any bird of prey. We as humans should use our intelligence and foresight to help and support each other before we start deciding the fate of the worlds wildlife.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Strong Stomach Needed!

Some news just dropped in which urgently needs sharing with all raptor enthusiasts. It makes for distressing reading and the photos are upsetting, but the message needs to be spread.

I'm sure if you follow this blog you will be aware of the hunting of birds including birds of prey on migration in Malta, sadly this still continues but I have just received this link showing the awful killing of thousands of Amur falcons on their mammoth migration.

I have been fortunate enough to see the amazing spectacle of thousands of these little falcons coming into an evening roost in Southern Africa. If something isn't done about the massacre taking place it might soon be all over.

Take a look at the link below there is also a video but it is especially graphic!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Standing up for Raptors!

In my last post I asked who is going to stand up for birds of prey in Britain. Well if the government are going to drag their feet it is pleasing to read that one group are doing all they can to halt the persecution of birds of prey in their area.

The North West Raptor Group has launched Operation Bowland Raptor Rescue with the aim of monitroring Peregrine nests which have seen a decline in productivity since some licences were removed from NWRG field workers. The operation aims to bring persecution of such birds to the public domain to highlight just what happens. If you have an interest in birds of prey and any relevant experience towards the operation you are asked to get in touch. More information can be found at

I wish the operation the best of luck!

Will it ever stop and who's going to really stand up for raptors?

Its amazing really what can happen in the space of a couple of months when you follow bird of prey persecution in Britain closely.

Maybe not surprising to some is the fact that birds of prey are still being persecuted, and proving this recently was the eventual news release about the suspicious death and movement of a Golden Eagle in Scotland. Movement you might ask, how does something move when it is dead? Well after no movement from the birds satellite transmitter for over 12 hours it then randomly moved in the middle of the night and found itself under a tree near a lay-by some 15km away. Diurnal birds of prey don't tend to move in darkness if your unsure. If that doesn't smell odd, I forget to mention both it legs were broken in a way very similar to that of a spring trap. Check out the full story here

More recently was the news of a Golden Eagle being found shot on a Grouse more in Dumfriesshire, the bird is still alive luckily and I'll keep you posted on its outcome. You can read more here

So with birds like the Golden Eagle being persecuted and many more including the now rare breeding Hen Harrier with possibly only one pair breeding in England this year, you might expect the government to take action. Sadly not yet in fact a backward step was taken when our environement minister Richard Benyon declined a complete ban on owning Carbofuran a known favourite for poisoning wildlife and birds of prey in particular. What makes this decision even more distasteful is the fact that Carbofuran has no legal use in our country, so why allow it to be legally owned ?????

The RSPB Birdcrime 2011 report has recently been released and it asks the government to finally stand up against wildlife crime and bird of prey persecution in particular. You can read it yourself here

You can also read the recent report released by the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the extent of willdife crime in the UK. Its a pretty damning report, maybe this will make the government take action?

So watch this space, hopefully not to long though for the sake of the birds of prey still out there trying to survive.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Bird of the month page updated!

 I had to pick the Eurasian Hobby after this years sighting of them! Make sure you check out the videos if nothing else!

You can find it on the right hand side of the blog!

I wish it was sunnier!

I have just been reading through and catching up on whats on the Raptor Politics site and also Raptor Persecution Scotland blog.

I read a piece on the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog relating to a game keepers diary which had made me thinking back to conversations I have had both recently and in the past relating to my passion, Birds of Prey. I wanted to share them with you in this post because although I'm a glass half full kind of guy when I read and hear things like this it brings me crashing back down to earth.

The RPS article which can be read here relates to a gamekeepers diary. It really doesn't make pleasant reading and as I read it further and the blatant illegal activities grew I thought this can't be true, can you be so stupid to write this stuff down? Yet maybe it is because I have read equally upsetting diaries from Victorian times and the game keepers gibbet is a not to distant memory. This made me think of some conversations I have had with people from all walks of life relating to raptors in the wild.

I have friends who shoot, the majority farmers as I'm from a farming background and I get told the odd story ludicrous story from a rough shoot one in particular that a Barn Owl got flushed over the guns and shot accidentally! Is that really a case of misidentification and if so they shouldn't be shooting or is it something more deep rooted that when man has a gun anything with tooth and claw should be shot dead to help the shoot? Needless to say I never got any further trying to find out if this story was just a pub tale.

I spoke to a farmer who is a good friend of my fathers and someone I respect. He also has links with an urban nesting pair of Peregrines which I had recently found out about. I mentioned I would like to see the pair one day and does anyone monitor their activities each year. His response surprised me when he said "I was hoping you could come and remove them as they make a right mess each year!" I quickly pointed out that they are Schedule 1 birds afforded the highest protection and he should be pleased to have them. He happily let me visit the site which was outside of the breeding season so no sign of the birds but it was an interesting site and also interesting to speak to the maintenance chap who said they were actually no problem at all. It was the pigeons who made the mess and the falcons regurlarly hunted them so they were more than welcome!

I have also had my fair share of run ins with gamekeepers and one local keeper in particular who I'm sure would eradicate me if he could. I have been in the same pub with him a couple of times and have mutual friends and on one of these meetings I plucked up the courage to ask if I could monitor the birds of prey within his woodland. The response I got was sharp, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to set foot in his woods and if I were ever to ring a bird of prey he would shoot it! Needless to say I never tresspass and wouldn't want to monitor birds within his woods for fear of letting him know where they are!

My final story was the most recent as it is on my patch that I montior and ring birds of prey on. I bumped into one of the chaps who runs a small rough shoot on the land who I get on well with, he mentioned he had seen a winged tagged buzzard and I explained my mentor had tagged the young from this year to montior dispersal. The next part of the conversation baffled me though! He asked if buzzards had bred in a small copse where they have a release pen, they hadn't so I told him this and he then told me he had been in their feeding the poults when a Buzzard flew up from the ground and into a tree. On closer inspection he found a dead poult but imagine how amazed I was when he said "I had my gun with me but I decided I couldn't shoot it"!!!! So not 5 minutes before we were talking about me closely monitoring the buzzard then he mentions contemplating shooting one! I pointed out that really wouldn't  be clever and it is a criminal offence that I would report immediately to both land owner and police if I heard or found this going on.

I have also read on a falconry forum the call from some members to cull Buzzard because of the effect they are having on their hunting trips and attacking their birds. I've also lost count of the amount of back garden bird feeders who have played hell with me about Sparrowhawks killing their little birds, my own Granma was the last one!

Maybe the extracts from the RPS gamekeeper diary are true then based on my experiences! But it just brings home that birds of prey are still under immense pressure from all walks of life! I believe anyone who comes across such stories needs to keep a calm head and explain things in a polite manner! Whether the authorities will back the persecution up is still to be seen!

Maybe it will be sunnier for some species of birds of prey soon  but education is the main key in my opinion!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Hobby Hunting with Ben & Holly!

I have just recently spent a fab few days at the ICBP helping out at their annual Falconry Weekend and as always Jemima made me feel very welcome as did the rest of the team and it all went very well!

I got to meet so great new people and also some old friends, I ran a little activity area for children as it was also International Vulture Awareness Day on the Saturday so we did lots of fun vulture related activities right outside Delectable the Griffon Vultures aviary! Make sure you visit the Owl evenning are due to begin!

Now I have heard several people at the ICBP talk about Hobby's flying over the centre and even that they breed nearby and it has always intrigued me. The Hobby (Falco subbuteo) is a small but long sharp winged falcon that is classed as a British bird of prey but not one that winters here, at this moment in time I imagine many British Hobbies will have started their migration back to Africa. The migration is based primarily on food supply and weather, the Hobby loving to hunt birds like Swallows and House Martins and Dragons flies and other bugs. Our warm weather wakes up the dragon flies and brings the Swallows and House Martins back to their breeding grounds along with the Hobby.

Hobbies have spread fairly well over the last 10 years or so from parts of Eastern UK across and up into the Midlands and North of England. My area of Cheshire has a few hotspots for seeing them especially when feeding and it is not unheard of to find a number of Hobbies hunting over the same area.

Whilst packing away some fencing with Ben after the ICBP event I heard a falcon(s) calling excitidly. It call didn't quite fit the call I am more use to of the Kestrel but sounded like a group of falcons which I put down to young birds with their parent(s). I thought could it be a family of Hobbies still around?

The next day I was in the horse paddock moving another fence and it was another fine sunny day when I heard the calling again, fast repetitive kew kew kew kew as if an adult was being greeted by hungry young beaks! I mentioned it to Ben a bit later on,  he had heard it the day before and sad as I am I played both the Kestrel and Hobby calls which I have on a phone app. He agreed that it sounded more like aHobby so we decided to go and see if we could get a visual.

I know Hobbies often use old crows nest which are usually on open ground in a tree like Oak. We heard the calling of what I thought was young birds but in the next field on and as we walked along a band of trees we got our first visual, four Hobbies playing and chasing each other above trees in the distance. We stopped under a tree and watched as the birds came in and out of view, sometimes the birds landed and one went up and into a large Oak and out again. An adult bird came in and the young started calling, rushing to meet the bird one youngster looked to receive a food item in mid air. Then the noise subsided and they vanished off over the woods. Ben seemed to get a couple of long distance shots with the camera and we made our way back to the centre.

That evening Holly wanted to see the Hobbies so we made our way across the the fields to the site where me and Ben had stopped. Sadly no sign of the birds this time but I walked a little closer to get a better look with my binoculars at the Oak presumed to be the nest site, sure enough a large stick nest could just be made out in the tree.

I read afterwards in Anthony Chapmans book The Hobby that the birds start to disperse from their breeding sites around 4 weeks later. It is important to point out that the species is protected by law and nest sites should not be appoached during the breeding season to avoid disturbance.

A real highlight for my summer sightings this year!

To find out more about such a stunning little falcon check out what Arkive have to say  

Monday, 6 August 2012

An important thing to sign Raptor fans!!

I just needed to share with you three links to some very important pages the first is a petition that you need to sign and is regarding the awful shooting of migrating birds over Malta. Many of these birds include Honey Buzzards, Marsh harrier and Osprey.

It just takes 2 minutes and they are nearly at their total of 5000!

If the above is a bit new to you don't worry BBC Radio 4 Nature have done a piece investigating the hunting in Malta.

Find it here at Raptor

And if you have a spare 30 minutes and follow the illegal persecution of raptors in the UK why not voice your concerns to the European Environmental Commission, the more sent through the more likely action will be taken don't leave it to someone else!

All of the above will surely only take you half an hour, surely thats better than watching Eastenders!


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Step away from the Olympics!

Well the Olympics is well underway and I have just been interrupted in starting this post by watching the fastest men in the world race 100 metres. Its all very exciting and makes me very proud to be British. Enough about that though as I'm sure you might have come here to get away from all the Olympic talk.

I must apologise if I post something below that I have posted in a previous edition, I have just sifted through my inbox and files and realised they are well over due a tidy up since my last post. Their is lots to pick through below from news in the field, new papers and a book to be released. Hopefully you will find something interesting or useful to read.

Firstly their have been some scientific papers that have dropped into my inbox from various sources, sadly I don't subscribe to the sites publishing the papers so only have access to the abstracts but you can find the links to these below.

The first one assesses the risk of extinction to the critically endangered Bonellis eagle in Italy -,VKOX,4BMHAI,2LTST,1

The next two are based on falcons, the first on vocalisations in Lanner Falcons and the second of the relationship between brood size and prey selection in Peregrine falcons in a specific region

When you open one of the above links if you look to the left hand side of the page you will also find other bird of prey related papers which might be of interest.

Next their is a couple of recent newsletters the first being from the Belize Raptor Research Institute showing the work they are doing and the Solitary Eagle nest and young they are monitoring. The second from the Neotropical Raptor Research Group which has a nice article from the Belize group but also further tropical raptor species news. - Belize Raptor Research Institute

The Green site announced in May the first Griffon nest recorded in recent decades on the Balkan Mountains, if you haven't seen this news you can read more here but you can keep right upto date with more receent news at

You can find an interesting story from the Peregrine Fund on their continued work to save the stunning Orange Breasted Falcons, sadly some birds they came across had bot fly infestation and you can find out more in this link make sure you also check out the rest of their news pages and why not sign up to their e-newsletter.

I have a few videos now for you to check out the first from Munir Virani working for the Peregrine Fund and trying to further highlight the plight of vultures in India and Africa;TEDNairobi

The next video is on the amazing Harpy Eagle, it isn't in English but that doesn't really matter as the footage is fantastic

The final video might help any budding raptor enthusiasts in identifying the Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard, its been produced by the BTO and if you look to the left of the screen you will find many more videos designed to help with bird ID including several raptors,VKOX,4BMHAI,2LTST,1

But if you really want to scrub up on your raptor identification then you need to head to something like the Batumi Raptor Count, in its 5th year it is holding a bird festival at the end of September

Finally a new book is due to be released in Sept/Nov based on the Boreal or Tengmalms owl, it always excites me when a specific in depth book is due to be released on any raptor species . You can find it here on Amazon to pre order

Hopefully something of interest in the above, I'm about to fall asleep faster than Usain Bolt can win the 100metres. Keep coming back as I'm currently compiling a piece on illegal vulture killings Muti in Africa.

Monday, 23 July 2012

I'm still alive and so is the blog!

I'm still alive and so is the blog!!!

But where have I been and what has been going on in the bird world? I have been busy continuing with my BTO bird ringing training with another season under my belt. I must admit a very wet season which has affected some species more than others, Sparrowhawks were thin on the ground this year.

Whats happening in the bird of prey world or what has been happening? Lets start on home soil here in the UK. The fight goes on between land owners/Gamekeepers and birds of prey in Britain, two stories which highlighted this were the government body DEFRA announcing the idea to implement a management plan for Common Buzzard and its effect on Game birds predominantly Pheasant. One of the management methods mentioned in the plan was the movement of birds and also the destruction of Buzzard nest sites! This caused a lot of disgruntled e-mails and responses  and a U-turn was swiftly pulled by DEFRA. My view on this is simple, despite the fact I lean towards birds of prey I have many friends who shoot including gamekeepers and they have backed my view up that Buzzards only have an impact for a very short period and then the Pheasant soon wise up and grow up. My other thought like many others is how can you manage a native species for a species which is introduced in its millions.

The other story came from Scotland and again highlights the sometimes fraught relationship between land owners and birds of prey. A Scottish sheep farmer claimed Golden Eagles were causing extreme pressure on her sheep farming with a pair killing £9000 of livestock. Again a simple mathmatical sum based on the price of lambs would show the pair would have to kill a ridiculous number of lambs, and why has no one got any evidence of Golden or White Tailed Eagles actively taking lambs? I'm not claiming it doesn't ever happen but and know hill farmers have it tough but maybe it needs further research.

You can find out more and keep up to date as always at and

If the kids have now broken up and your looking for something to do why not take them down to the International Centre of Birds of Prey as its still as great as ever with some of this years babies now out and in training. The new website is now live take a look

Over the next month I am going to try and do a few specific blogs on topics that have come up recently ranging from killing vultures for Muti medicine and my view on the state of raptors in Britain. I'll also blog the latest links to raptor papers I have had in my in box over the last 2 months so keep checking back.

Thanks for bearing with me!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Introducing a friend!

If some of you have been on my long list of websites on right hand column of the blog you might have come across a friend of mine and his website, if not then let me introduce you to him. Allen Holmes is a freelance wildlife photographer and artist but he does all this in his own time not as a profession. He is based in Rotherham and when he's not working shifts he's out around his local areas getting some cracking images of our natural world, he has also been known to travel a bit further than Rotherham!

I had the pleasure of meeting Allen in 2009 whilst taking part in a BBC production out in Africa, he's one of those unassuming guys that has one of the nicest sense of humours you will meet. He told some of the worst jokes I have heard but somehow made them funny! Thankfully his photography is top notch and when you see his artwork well it could bring tears to your eyes I think it is that good.

I bet you want to see some photos don't you! Sometime ago Allen sent me some images of raptors he had photographed on his outings so below I will share some with you.

There are several more of these and many other species on the his website, but more recently he was lucky enough to get his best shots of an Osprey and it was in his home town of Rotherham.

I got in touch with Roy Dennis and he informed me that this was a male bird rung in Contin, Easter Ross on July 15th 2009. The bird was identified by his blue leg ring.

Finally if you thought his photography was good I personally think I have saved the best till last from Allen, as an artist he is incredibly talented and below is an example!

 Now all I need to do is give you his webpage so you can enjoy his work as much as I do

(Please note all the above images are copyright to Allen Holmes Photography and must only be used with Allens Permission, please respect this!)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Beating the Buzzards???

I thought I would let the dust settle before I blogged about recent defra plans to find a solution between Common Buzzards Buteo buteo and Pheasants released for game shooting.

Firstly I attach a link via the raptor persecution scotland blog

If you have read that and everyone elses views then I have no doubt you will have made up your own minds and thoughts on the prospect of managing buzzards to help aid game shooting and a non native species but below my thoughts on the topic.

The majority of pieces I have read have jumped straight to the mention of destroying buzzard nests and potentially the birds themselves but I think we need to understand it from the start. What Defra have done is become the main sponsor of a study into the effects the Common Buzzard is having on Pheasants and the shooting industry and the first word that jumped out to me is SPONSOR.

Basically this means our government are stumping up the British taxpayers money thought to be in the region of £400,000 to pay for this study to be carried out. I for one think it is wrong for a government organisation to be spending a large amount of tax payers money on 1) a commercial enterprise(s) 2) Something that has very little effect on society. Surely if the shooting fraternity were so concerned about the subject their organisations would fund this, but then maybe they did the clever thing realising how soft our government organisations are .

Secondly what effects do buzzards really have on what is largely an unnatural managed enterprise? Their is no doubting that the population of buzzards have risen dramatically in the last 20 years but lets not forget that is because man and mainly the shooting industry pushed this bird into very small pockets of Britain. If this was a celebrity we would be so proud of how well they have bounced back, but when we attach the same emotions to nature things get misunderstood. The buzzard is a survivor like any other wild animal and pheasants make up part of its food chain, can you blame it when it is thought 40million game birds are released each year. I have spoken to several game shooters and gamekeepers over the years and they tend to fall into two catergories, those who are dead against any thing other than a clients gun taking one of their birds and those who realise that predators are part of the bigger picture and if protected must be accepted.

I accept that shooting is part of our rural heritage, brings in large amounts of money and provides jobs within rural communities and can have positive effects on conservation and biodiversity but I can't accept that this allows them to decide when we can intefere with another species biodiversity. People can argue that we need to address the balance but how can that be used when 40million non-native species are released.

Now as for the management techniques that Defra have suggested I think the only one worth looking at is adding more cover for game birds, I sometimes wonder what some keepers do to protect their game legally, I know of one keeper who waits for his birds to feed for 20 or so minutes, he admits buzzards will kill his poults but he only really has an issue for the first couple of weeks then the game soon gets wise. Survival of the fittest surely and I'm sure shooting parties want the best sport meaning the fittest birds. Removal of Buzzards will never work as birds would just repopulate as the food supply will remain the same. Culling birds won't work again as the same above will happen and how many buzzards would need to be culled, surely we would be stepping back 20 years and would it stop just their, how many raptors might get persecuted by mistake?

Back in 1981 we came up with laws to protect our wildlife so should we really be bending these to suit the needs of commercial activities? Especially as this government announced they would  be the greenest to date! The only way I see this being resolved is if we respect our natural wildlife and work together to protect everyones interests! Trying to man handle nature will never work!

Sunday, 20 May 2012


I didn't realise how time consuming maintaining a blog would be and I must apologise for my lack of blogging. The world of birds of prey is still very active especially as here in the UK most birds of prey with be incubating eggs or rearing young. The Ospreys have returned breeding and that includes the amazing Lady of Loch Lowes possibly the oldest breeding Osprey!

Web cams and tracking has never been more popular with the chance to view a whole host of birds of prey on nest sites and also follow the journeys the birds take. You can find some of these web cams in the website links page just scroll down.

Bird of prey persecution is still a problem in the UK and this has included another Goshawk being targetted and English Hen Harriers presumed to be down to one breeding pair. Sadly in my opinion when the perpetraitors are caught the sentences they are given are little deterrant. So we could see the first extinction of a breeding bird in England for some time!

Some new websites being added to the website links page are listed below - The Barn owl conservation network - Welsh Kite Trust -  Predatory bird monitoring scheme -Simon Kings Wildlife Whisperer site - Save the falcons

I'm hoping to update the bird of the month page and also add some new stuff to the site including a video page with some ID tips. I am also in the process of setting up a new fund for birds of prey to raise money for a variety of different conservation projects globally with an interactive map to help you see where money will be going! Also I will be announcing my first bird of prey related fundraising challenge, its going to be a tough one! Watch this space for the webpage coming soon!

In the mean time why not get yourself down to and see their birds up close and personal, they are about to celebrate their 45th birthday! Congratulations Jemima and the team!

Friday, 16 March 2012

The blog is still ALIVE!

Where have I been? its March already!!!

Well I saw in the new year with friends and family, moved house for the first time, put up numerous new houses for birds of prey in my area and went to South Africa and saw lots of amazing birds of prey!

I have lots of stuff to blog about as birds of prey have never been that far from the news! Sadly I don't have internet at my new flat yet and work doesn't allow access to blogs on the work network so I am currently pirate blogging!

I will be bringing you all this stuff to you in the next week through my pirate blogging! In the mean time enjoy this new website below for some awesome webcams including Peregrine and Barn Owl

Have you signed the e-petition for birds of prey yet as well, if not they need your support it only takes 2 minutes to sign!

More coming soon!

Keep following.