Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's all been set-aside.

EU commissioners have abolished the 19 year old agreement that 10% of land on every arable farm is to be left fallow. In the past it has been as high as 15%. This year though they have set the rate to 0% in order for farmers to be able to produce more grain to offset recent poor harvests, as well as increasing food prices. The decision has been purely economic.

Although some set-aside could be maintained through the Countryside Stewardship scheme it is unlikely to be on the scale of set-aside, and is unlikely to be in force for next spring - thus forcing many farmers in to ploughing up fallow areas in order to make a living.

The impact on bird life, as well as insects, butterflies and small mammals, is likely to give rise to, at the very least, a halting of all recent increases in some species but, as is more likely, it will reverse trends, increasing the demise of already struggling species.

The RSPB is fearful of all of its work on Stone Curlews being reversed, and the BTO targets Skylark, Yellowhammer and Linnets as species most likely to be immediately affected. Obviously all farmland birds are likely to suffer in the long-term.

Image: Copyright Mike Buckland (

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Migration Mapping Tool

This might interest some of you - a European-scale Migration Mapping Tool developed by the BTO on behalf of Euring; and also in association with DEFRA in response to the recent avian influenza outbreak. Because it has AI as its driving factor it is mainly concerned with ducks and geese but the 21 species so far listed also includes Lapwing, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit. For the species listed it gives maps and data regarding the major migration routes of these species across Europe - something of obvious importance if AI reappears. A Britain and Ireland Mapping Tool has also now been completed but has yet to go live. The map shows the cyclic movement of (some) Tufted Duck from Britain to northern and mid Spain

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Power of the BBC

A heavy plug otherwise events will pass it by. The BBC's AutumnWatch has flexed its muscle to the extent that it has upsurped the usual NW Bird Fair weekend, forcing it to an earlier date. So, instead of being at the beginning of November the fair it is now just three weeks away being held on the weekend of 13-14th October. I have yet to see it advertised more widely.
The fair, now called a festival, is a modest affair but does serve the purpose of bringing all the local birding organisations, and individuals, together in one place - usually for much chatting and drinking of coffee! From a BTO (and Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society) point of view we will be pushing both the BTO national and the L&CFS local breeding and winter Atlases. Additionally it is hoped that the L&CFS will be in a position to offer pre-publication prices on the delayed release of the "Avifauna of Lancashire" (now due early next year). I'll be present on the Saturday so hope to see many of your there.
The logo is giving A Rocha a plug; an unassuming christian conservation organisation that does much good work (ringing birds at several sites in europe amongst other things) without the need to be brash about its existance.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

See them now before they've gone.

What do Egyptian vulture, Greater Spotted Eagle and Red-breasted Goose have in common? They are all bird species found in Europe that are either ‘endangered’ (very high risk of extinction – the vulture and goose) or ‘vulnerable’ (high risk of extinction – the eagle) according to the ‘Red List’.

Today the World Conservation Union (IUCN) published its 2007 Red List of Threatened Species. There are now 41,415 species (from all taxa) on the List, of which 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction; up from 16,118 last year. The total number of extinct (never to be seen again) species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation. Alarmingly one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants from the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.

See: for more information.

The Mersey Gateway (new Runcorn Bridge to you and me)

The new timetable:
Nov 2007 - results of consultation published.
Early 2008 - submission of planning application.
Summer 2008 - Halton BC to give formal response to planning application.
Winter 2008 - Likely public enquiry.
Late 2009 - Results of public enquiry.
2011 - Building work starts.
2014 - Mersey Gateway opens (closely followed by toll booths).
All looks very simple and straight forward. I wonder what odds you could get on it opening in 2014 (and on budget).

Longest non-stop migratory flight

A female satellite-tagged Bar-tailed Godwit, know as E7, recently landed in New Zealand after taking just a week to fly 11,500km from Alaska to New Zealand. Unlike seabirds, which feed and rest on long journeys, godwits just keep on going - a case of 'are we nearly there yet?'
E7 set her first world record on her way north when she flew 10,200km (6,340 miles) to Yalu Jiang in China apparently non-stop. She then flew a further 3,000 miles to the godwit breeding grounds in Alaska. Now, after her journey back, she has set another non-stop record of 7,150 miles.
Notes on the whole project can be found at:
Next year they hope to repeat it again - this time using longer lasting trackers on more birds.

For previous post on this bird see:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

British Birds interactive

In December of 2006 I was asked if I would be interested in purchasing a DVD of British Birds representing 100 years of its existence. ‘Depends how much’ I said, about £100 came the reply. I thought about it for a little while, not long in effect, and said ‘Yes’.

Now, said DVD is available, and yes I have purchased a copy (at the subscribers offer price of £75). Currently I’m thinking it’s probably the best £75 I’ve spent on any birding product. The use I’ve made of it thus fair has been extremely rewarding and interesting and every time I access it I still feel the same. Today I’ve just received my first upgrade of enhancements and, to be honest, a few fixes (to problems I had not come across I must admit).

The price is due to creep closer to the £100 mark inbetween now and the end of the year so, if you have a bit of cash to spare, or want that self promised early Christmas present I’d recommend it. Given that British Birds by subscription is now £48 /year how could you not see this as an investment?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Some good news for midge infested Scotland

The success of a wild bird in Scotland despite declining numbers in the rest of Europe has mystified experts.

RSPB Scotland said it was delighted but puzzled by breeding figures for the red-throated diver.

The rarer black-throated diver is also on the increase, possibly thanks to the anchoring of man-made rafts in lochs.

A survey of divers by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) found the two species had increased in the UK by 16 and 34% in the last 12 years.

Both have declined in Europe and the black-throated diver was last week made a conservation priority by the UK Government because of the declines elsewhere.

In Scotland, its numbers rose from 187 pairs in 1994 to 217 pairs in 2006.

Credit (so I dont get sued): Very thing pinched from the bbc news website