Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Half of British population thinks countryside is boring

...according to a OnePoll survey of 3000 adults. The adults were asked for their views and knowledge of the British countryside. A third of respondents said they had never even considered visiting the British countryside.
Their answers also revealed that one in 10 adults could not identify a sheep, 44% could not spot an oak tree and 83% did not know what a bluebell looked like. When they were shown a picture of a stag, 12% of adults identified it incorrectly as a reindeer.
And they probably think that milk comes from a supermarket!
One part of my rejoices because it means I will have to share the countryside with less people, but another part says how sad - many of these individuals are missing what is potentially the most enriching experiences of their lives.
Original article at: http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2009/03/30/114941/half-of-british-population-thinks-countryside-is-boring.html

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The results from the 30th Big Garden Birdwatch were released this morning, with a surprising finding. Having jumped 88% from last year's count Long-tailed Tit has leapt into the Top Ten (admittedly only at 10 but there nevertheless).
Reasons for this increase are suggested as being an adaptation to garden feeding - nuts and seeds rather than insects - as well as two reasonable recent breeding seasons permitting maximum numbers of juveniles to survive year on year.
Although there have been changes since the survey began - woodpigeon and collared dove increasing dramatically - this years results confirm the continuing decline of both House Sparrow and Starling.
Full results can be found at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/results/

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eric Simms, DFC, 1921-2009

Naturalist, ornithologist, author and conservationist.
I first came across Simm's work via his sound recordings, and it wasn't long before I was sufficiently interested in his life to get hold of a copy of his 'small' autobiography 'Birds of the Air'. Since then he has always been one of those individuals I have admired.
Via a subscription to a book club in my youth I aquired British Thrushes (New Naturalist), and received a copy of Woodland Birds (New Naturalist) as a school prize for a Sixth Form project on oak trees. Much, much, later I managed to win a copy of British Warblers (New Naturalist) via eBay - although British Larks, Pipits and Wagtails (New Naturalist) still evades me. Are you following? Simm's has been the most prolific author of texts for New Naturalist which, given their high standards, speaks volumes for the man.
Other texts I have of Eric's are The Public Life of the Street Pigeon, Birds of Town and Suburb, Bird Migrants and the Natural History of Birds, and have two copies of Birds of Town and Village.
He made quite an impression on me - he'll be missed.


Picture taken from The Times article.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The new Lancs Wildlife Trust site of Brockholes (Wetland and Woodland Nature Reserve), just off J31 of the M61 at Preston, received a major boost yesterday with £8M of North-West Regional Development Agency money being secured in order to help build the visitor centre.
See: http://www.lancswt.org.uk/PDFs/gettinginvolved/brockholes/Vision%20for%20Brockholes%20-%20updated%2015%20November%202006.pdf for more details of its future development.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cheshire Rookeries

Following on from their successful breeding and winter atlas, Cheshire & Wirral Ornithological Society are undertakng a county wide Rookery survey. Most known Rookeries have been allocated a counter but, as with all things, some small sites may have been missed. If you see any Rookeries in the county assume nothing - take a grid reference, count the number of occupied nests, note the date and send it in. If you'd like to add more value note the size of the colony (metres long /wide), the number and type of tree involved and the surrounding habitat.
This time of year they are easy to spot - I have five sites this morning just driving part of the A49
Picture by 'littlemithi'

Sea eagle

Apparently English Nature wish to introduce White-tailed eagles into Norfolk - with a decision expected this year. Not all have greeted this proposal with glee. The Countryside Restoration Trust point out that eagles breed only 125 miles away at Oostvaardersplassen (The Netherlands) and, if conditions were suitable in Norfolk self colonisation would occur naturally.
The price of the reintroduction is costed at £600,000 and, the Trust say, this money could be better spent elsewhere. Frankly, on this point, I agree with them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

If it's not Atlas it's BBS (and WBBS)

Irrespective of Atlas demands work must continue as usual, and now is the time I send out all of the necessary paperwork to fieldworkers who undertake the annual task of Breeding Bird Survey work (as well as other annual surveys). Many fieldworkers are year-on-year regulars which, heart-felt thanks, makes my work considerably easier.

Within Merseyside there are 42 BBS plots and two WBBS. So far 22 BBS plots and both WBBS plots have been taken by volunteers, meaning that there are some still unallocated. Of these six are considered uncoverable - either because the random selection process has put them 'at sea' or they are currently places volunteers have no wish to go to in the early mornings!!

Once I have allocated all plots to existing and newly presenting volunteers I will post the remainder here, in the hope that you may like to adopt one.

The Heronries census, all colonies to the north of Liverpool, is usually undertaken by ringers and WeBS counts, usually but not always undertaken at coastal sites, has its own network of volunteers.

Atlas, Atlas and more Atlas.

Well, it's that time of year and all Atlas organisers are motivating their volunteers for the start of the new breeding season. In line with this they are all producing their respective newsletters informing fieldworkers of the results to date. Obviously I have the Lancs and North Merseyside one (see: http://www.lacfs.org.uk/Documents/Atlas_Newsletter_March_2009.pdf), and also the one covering the breeding Atlas work of north Wales (see: http://www.northwalesbirdatlas.co.uk/Forms/BTO%20Atlas%20Newsletter%202%20Spring%202009.pdf).

At a local level our statistics to date are: over 400 contributing observers who have undertaken >200 TTV's. From the first winter period we have 28k TTV records, with 25k records from the first breeding season. When you add in Roving Recorder records it brings us to in excess of 100k records from one full season of field work.
On the ground this equates to coverage of 41% of winter tetrads and 31% coverage of breeding season tetrads. With 77% of tetrads allocated this means, on paper, we are on course as it stands to cover 75% of the county. For a local Atlas at tetrad level this is promising. Obviously next year we will push to get volunteers to fill gaps and push us towards that desired 100% coverage. That said there are gaps appearing now - St Helens, Bowland and areas of south Liverpool. So, if you can, consider offering yourself up to cover these areas.

A big thank you to all those who have contributed to date, or are about to contribute for the first time this year.