We counted. This is our fifteenth time in Menorca. And yes, Menorca is that special. But it does get less quiet, much busier and more popular each year, and that’s why this may be our last.We left Joanne in charge of the house; well she is over 21. The…
The Safari apologises for the lack of recent updates, inexcusable we know but we have been away for a week in a rather windy southern Scotland. But before we get over the border we’ve been on a few other safaris loser to home doing our best to add to o…
Hello bloggers, we’ve had a busy week here at Leighton Moss with lots of fantastic wildlife sightings to delight visitors old and young.
I’ll start this blog off with the key wildlife highlight this week – a red kite sighting. The red kite was seen on Saturday 9 February and flew South over the reserve, last seen from Tim Jackson Hide. This was fantastic to see, as red kites are not common in the Lancashire area. Known for its reddish-brown body, deeply forked tail and angled wings, the red kite is another beautiful raptor which we nearly lost to extinction. The red kite has since greatly benefited from reintroduction programmes and now holds a green conservation status in the UK.
Male red kite. Photo credit: Chris Gomersall.
Next on the agenda is our starlings. They have certainly been giving our staff, volunteers and visitors the runabout in terms of where they are going to roost! At the moment their chosen place seems to be Barrow Scout Fields. Sunday 10 February saw an excellent mumuration over Barrow Scout Fields with an estimated 100,000 starlings present. The sound the often-huge flock creates as they come into roost can be likened to sea waves breaking. Add the rolling black waves of the starlings and it makes for a very surreal, impressive spectacle to witness. If you cannot get down to the coastal Pools, the Skytower is also an excellent place to watch the show.
Moving on, there have been daily otter sightings from Causeway and/or Lower Hide. The mother otter has shown very well and has frequently treated visitors to successful hunting spectacles and all three cubs continue to do well.
Bittern sightings remain excellent from Causeway and/or Lower Hide. As I have highlighted before, the reedbed channel on the right-hand side of the Causeway Hide has lent itself excellently to sightings of not only bittern but snipe and water rail. Snipe can frequently be seen in front of the other hides on the reserve. In particular Lilian’s Hide, where one visitor counted 30! The water rail down on the path towards Tim Jackson and Grisedale Hide remains in its not-so-elusive state with almost-daily sightings occurring. Listen out for their pig-like squeal calling out from the reedbed, particularly along the Causeway path.
Bearded tits have also been seen and heard in the reedbed this week. Do keep in mind that the birds are residents of Leighton Moss all year so while not guaranteed, you may get some fantastic sightings out of gritting season. One lucky photographer took some excellent shots of a male bearded tit in the reeds, which he has posted on the Leighton Moss Facebook group. Around this time of year is when the bearded tits are scouting for potential nest sites, so this suggests there are many more sightings to be had in the near future!
With the recent work in front of Lilian’s Hide, a number of wildfowl and waders have taken advantage of the new loafing site. In addition, stonechats (males and females) have been seen searching for food in the freshly-cut area. This was a first for me and wow! What a handsome fellow the male stonechat is!
Causeway Pool has also been host to a variety of wildfowl including up to ten goldeneye (some of which have been seen breeding) and large flotillas of tufted duck. A less-frequent visitor has been the occasional whooper swan, a beautiful addition to our resident group of mute swans. Look out for little grebes in front of Causeway Hide, their small size and whinnying trill make for a distinctive, albeit compact bird.
Male goldeneye. Photo credit: Zul Bhatia.
Speaking of Grisedale Hide, this has been an excellent location to sight our marsh harriers. There are at least five of these wonderful raptors on-site and they are also very vocal at the moment so do listen and look for them.
Down on the saltmarsh pools is business as usual. There is an excellent variety wildfowl including goosander, red-breasted merganser, shelduck and hundreds of wigeon. Waders to look out for include lapwing, oystercathcer, redshank, and greenshank. We have also had frequent kingfisher sightings from here (often Allen Hide) and the odd great white egret.
That rounds up our recent sightings this week folks. Until next time.
Naomi. Visitor Experience Intern.
I’m back from Menorca with a few photos and tales to tell. Click the pics for more sunny days from the Gem of The Mediterranean, 4th – 18th May 2018. This was our fourteenth visit to this the most beautiful and carefree of the Balearic Islands. P…
As the much publicised Hen Harrier Day, organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime, fast approaches it seems ludicrous that in this enlightened age we continue to have major concerns about the welfare of wild birds of prey in the UK.
The RSPB continue…
Don’t forget – “click the pics” for a trip to sunny Menorca.
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)
The M40 corridor north between Beaconsfield and Oxford is renowned for its large population of Red Kites and I often marvel at their sight whenever I travel along the route. On several occasions I’ve pulled off the M40 and travelled up the A40 giving me chance to pull over and observe them at closer quarters.