Evening everyone, the reserve continues to be in the midst of cold snaps and milder, wetter weather but sightings of wildlife have remained excellent over the past week. So without further ado…
A festive bittern. Photo credit: Andy Hay
With the wetter weather, bittern sightings have become a little less frequent in recent days. Sightings have reduced due to deeper water levels on the reserve meaning there are more places within the reedbed for bitterns to fish; they do not have to prowl across the reedbed edge as much as they have been. Lower and Causeway hide remain the best place to sight bitterns and this pool has lots to offer in terms of other wildlife such as otters, waders and wildfowl. The island opposite Causeway Hide is currently a good spot to see the elegant greenshank and there is often a little grebe fishing in this area too.
Photo credit: Mike Malpass
Lower hide has been the prime location to spot fishing otters. The pool has also been excellent for:
Currently the Grisedale and Tim Jackson hides are a prime area for wildfowl. Look and listen for wigeon here too and if you have a keen eye, you should be able to spot some snipe hunkered down in the grass and reed cuttings in front of the hides.
Foraging water rail are continuing to show well in a variety of locations including Causeway, Grisedale and Lilian’s hides. I would also recommend checking out the dyke that runs parallel to the path towards Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides and the Skytower as places to spot these often elusive birds. Great white egret continue to be sighted fairly frequently in different locations including the coastal pools.
Water rail. Photo credit: Mike Malpass
Our marsh harriers are currently very active and have been sighted daily (including today) across the reserve. The Skytower is a favourite place of mine to spot them. The juveniles are often seen flying and sparring together and the male can normally be seen around the Grisedale Pool area. I watched him from Grisedale Hide on Wednesday 12 December as he flushed the wildfowl from the pool, he looked to be scoping them out to find a potential dinner and it was interesting to see the juveniles watching him. Perhaps it won’t be too long until I see them purposefully flushing the birds too!
Allen and Eric Morecambe pools have been fantastic for waders, wildfowl and raptors for the past week. Wednesday 12 saw a marsh harrier and peregrine stir up trouble on the Eric Morecambe Pool and there have also been frequent sightings of merlin here too. There are excellent numbers of wigeon across the saltmarsh, there have been no recent sightings of the drake American wigeon, it could still be there but perhaps it has moved into a new area… Other wildfowl to look out for include:
Waders to spot include:
Of course, our kingfisher remains present here too. A top tip for visitors – visit the coastal pools in the morning as the lighting is much more productive to sighting and identifying birds.
Our other rarity, the great grey shrike has also not been sighted recently but again we are unsure on whether the bird has moved on or remains in the area.
One final note is that starling murmurations have yet to start. There are over 80,000 starlings roosting in the local area (not on the reserve) but they are just going to roost at this moment in time. We will of course send word out when the starlings begin murmurating. Until next time folks!
UPDATE: Peregrines in the Forest of Bowland finally brought down by prejudice and misguided politics
Update 26-03-2016 : The list gets longer
Based upon information received last night, we are currently investigating claims sent to us by a concerned Bowland raptor worker that our list of sites was missing 3 peregrine territories he believes are also abandoned. We have now checked out one of these sites and the information has proved valid. Any subsequent additional abandoned sites we are able to verify will be added in RED to our existing list. Any sites discovered to have been reoccupied this season will be changed to GREEN.
We would like to think our treatment of wildlife has improved since 1947 when the first recorded pair of breeding Peregrine falcons located in the Forest of Bowland were shot and their clutch of 4 eggs destroyed by estate gamekeepers. The reality is the situation today on England’s moorland uplands where red grouse are shot is now much worse than it was all those years ago. Throughout a majority of these moorland areas, peregrines and hen harriers are becoming more conspicuous each season by their almost total absence from these regions..
In the spring of 2009 seventeen occupied peregrine territories were recorded by licensed members of the North West Raptor Group in the Forest of Bowland. One year later, in 2010 Natural England, (the Government’s Wildlife Advisor on the Natural Environment) with-held licences which they had previously issued permitting the group to monitor and protect peregrines, including several other threatened raptor species for over thirty five years; just 4 years later fifteen of these historic territories had been found abandoned resulting in the disappearance of the adult falcons..
In 2014 taking into account the unprecedented disappearance of so many Peregrines in such a short time frame from one moorland region, Terry Pickford a founder member of the NWRG (1967) appealed Natural England’s decision asking them to reinstate his license, they refused. The 3 reasons provided by Natural England for their decision were as ridiculous as they were illogical, read below..
- Terry was advised other licence holders had been appointed to cover this region. (Terry had worked in Bowland since 1975 protecting peregrines
- Terry’s presence would cause unnecessary disturbance to nests. (What nests, by this time the peregrine was almost extinct in Bowland?
- Issuing Terry with license would cause duplication of nest visits. (How could anyone duplicate visits to nests that no longer existed?
Based upon valid arguments contained in Terry Pickford’s licence reinstatement request, amongst other facts, he highlighted that Peregrines and a high number of their nests were being destroyed at an unprecedented rate on estates in Bowland; who’s interests were Natural England really trying to protect by refusing to reinstate his Bowland licence we might ask?
Putting Natural England’s decision into perspective it is important to point out Terry Pickford has held a BTO class ‘A’ ringing permit since 1986 authorising him to ring nestlings at the nests of the 6 schedule 1 raptor species listed in the table below. He currently holds a scientific disturbance licence for Peregrine (Cumbria Only), Goshawk (Lancashire and Cumbria), Red Kite (South Cumbria & Lancashire), Osprey (Cumbria & Lancashire), Barn Owl, Golden Eagle (Scotland). Natural England for some curious reason refuse to issue a Peregrine licence for use in Bowland to any member of the NWRG where persecution is widespread, but on the other hand are happy to support his licence for use in Cumbria where persecution is very low.
- Hen Harrier
- Red Kite
- Golden Eagle (Scotland)
Taking into account what has taken place in Bowland since 2010, there can no longer be any doubt it was not the Peregrines or their nests Natural England were concerned about saving. Natural England in reaching their decision refusing to reinstate the license of an extremely experienced and conscientious field worker chose instead to ignore the systematic extermination of a protected species taking place in the Forest of Bowland. In our view this was a misguided attempt to prevent the embarrassment of estates by covering up the illegal killing of Peregrines and the destruction of historic nest sites taking place with impunity. Keeping Terry Pickford together with the rest of the membership of the NWRG out of Bowland, would in some people’s warped opinion conveniently keep this important criminal activity from becoming public knowledge.
Just in case you are one of the sceptics, we have added details of twenty one Peregrine territories below, which are known to have been abandoned inside the boundary of the Forest of Bowland since 2010. You may feel these desertions are coincidental, but you would be wrong. An RSPB spokesperson writing in the Lancashire Life in 2014 explained these losses, details which were never published within the annual RSPB Crime Report Figures as even suspicious, were the result of climate change and the lack of suitable prey, plus possibly some persecution. Well the RSPB would know because they are paid to protect raptors inside the Forest of Bowland.
Trough Bank, (3 alternate sites abandoned)
Burn Fell (3 alternate sites abandoned)
Lythe Fell, (3 alternate sites abandoned)
Langden Head, (2 alternate sites abandoned)
Brennand Fell, (3 alternate sites abandoned)
Bleadale, (3 alternate sites abandoned)
Burnslack Fell, (1 site recorded, used once before being abandoned)
- Hareden, (1 site recorded, found abandoned 20th March 2016)
- Grindleton Fell. (1 site recorded containing 2 chicks. 1 chick shot. 2nd chick observed on wing one mile from nest) Shoot closed down. No charges brought following police investigation into actions of tenant gamekeeper.
Threaphaw Fell, (Nesting Ledge Destroyed)
Marshaw Fell, (1 site Nesting Ledge Destroyed, 2 additional sites abandoned)
Hawthornthwaite Fell, (3 additional sites abandoned)
Catshaw Greave, ( site abandoned, traps and grit trays placed close to nests)
Foxdale Beck, (3 alternate sites each abandoned)
Mallowdale Pike, (In 2010, 2 nestlings disappeared, site abandoned ever since)
Tarnbrook Fell, (Nesting Ledge Destroyed prior to 2010)
- Grizedale Fell, (Nesting site on ground burnt out)
- Luddock Fell, (Nesting site on ground burnt out)
- Bleasdale Moor, (Clutch of 3 eggs disappeared within one day of nest being located 2015, site now abandoned)
- Greenbank Fell, (3 additional sites abandoned)(Clutches of Eggs disappeared, 2006, 2007, also in 2013, 14. (Site abandoned since single male peregrine disappeared in 2015.)
- Cloughton Quarry, Nesting ledge destroyed 2015, suspected clutch of eggs disappeared in 2014. ( Site found abandoned March 2016)
- Birket Fell, (Nesting Ledge destroyed in 2010/11 site abandoned)