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.