Oh oh!

I went out for a drive last week and saw a couple of red kites.  They are fantastic birds aren’t they?

If you remember I set myself the target of seeing red kites on 200 days of 2012 – and enjoying the moment each time.  I am falling short so far – I’m heading for c150 days at the current rate but that is still an awful lot of kite pleasure.

When I got home I saw that the RSPB and Herts police had issued a press release about two poisoned red kites in Hertfordshire.  One of them was found hanging, dead, in a tree at Pegsdon Hills Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve – and I’ve been there, so I thought that was interesting.  But the other had been found nearby in a place called Hexton in January – I couldn’t place Hexton so I looked it up on the web.  I thought I might have been birdwatching there so I entered ‘hexton herts birds’ into a well-known search engine and up popped a shoot.

I was just about to move on when I noticed two familiar names on the same web page: Snilesworth and Glenogil.

This is why Snilesworth is familiar to me and this is why Glenogil is a familiar name.


Bits and bits

Good luck to Jonny  Rankin and team in seeing as many species as possible today in Norfolk.  Looks like it will be a fine day and so my guess of 121 species looks on the low side.  I’ll give Jonny and team £1 for every species above 121 that they see –  the money goes to RSPB projects in Norfolk and Indonesia.  I think I might be looking for £30+ down the back of the sofa.  How about you?

I saw a lovely drake garganey at Stanwick Lakes yesterday and heard two nightingales on my survey square too.  There were a few orange tip butterflies in the air as well.  That was a good morning.

I haven’t seen a hobby yet this year – I normally would have done.

I thought Thursday’s episode of Planet Earth Live was really pretty good – I think they have settled own a bit.  I’ll be watching again tonight.

Here are a couple of new blogs which I’ve read; MYKY speaks and Nick Self: conservation in Wiltshire, England and I’ll keep an eye on them in future as well as giving a plug to my daughter’s blog which I enjoy reading and you might too.

I’m reading a really interesting book about how Americans cut down most of the native longleaf pine forest in the late 19th century – I hadn’t known much about it at all.

What has its anniversary on 15 May – on Tuesday?  Do you know?

The sun is shining so I’m going out to enjoy it – and I hope you do too.






Guest Blog – Big Bird Race by Jonny Rankin


About me

Based in Bury St Edmunds Suffolk, I have a number of interests but I am always content to be out birding, which is usually every day walking my dog Fender.  I do a lot of birding in Suffolk Breck but of course go further afield too.


Firstly many thanks for the opportunity to introduce the Big Bird Race to your readers, I am keen to tell as many audiences as possible about the day.

I notice from your Another world record coming up? post the differing comments on Bird Racing from your readers; Steve doesn’t like them owing to the carbon emissions (but then he was also broadly unhappy in his post!) whilst Chris hit the nail on the head ‘… birds remain, for me, the thing above all things’. I loved this comment and I think it offers a great introduction to why three friends and myself are doing the Big Bird Race on Sunday.

We generally do ‘a big day’ each May, starting locally and working up to the north Norfolk coast but we have never gone for the full 24 hours and nor have we prepared so much in advance. This year the principle difference is we are doing it for not just ourselves but for the RSPB and two of their campaigns.

We chose the Harapan Rainforest project to support as it has more global implications but are also very proud to be supporting the freshly launched Operation Turtle Dove campaign. All four of us consider Turtle Dove a ‘day maker’ and after reading about the problems Turtle Dove face cross-continent on migration and the resulting decline we are delighted to be supporting this operation.

Whilst the carbon emissions are a negative – I can make little excuse for them  – the drive to do something exciting to support these RSPB campaigns far outweighs this negative. As we already have and hope to have more per-species sponsors we will travel to encounter as many as possible – albeit within East Anglia!

As such feel free to visit the JustGiving page or even leave a per-species pledge via the comments section below – we are extremely proud of our fund raising to date and hope the big day will excite others too.

As Chris said birds remain for all four of us, the thing above all things.


Comment from Mark: Good luck to Jonny and friends on seeing lots of birds tomorrow and raising lots of money for these two good causes.

Last weekend the ‘Bird Race’ which helped launch the Wales Coast Path, which simply added up species seen by any observers from the Coastal Path through the day,  logged up a total of 140 species including a dotterel as the first bird and including red-rumped swallow and smew from the RSPB Newport Wetlands nature reserve (how many people in the UK have seen those two species on the same day before, I wonder?).  The best analysed, most perfectly assessed and long-agonised guess at the total was…mine, of 139.

The weather looks fine for Sunday in East Anglia and my guess at Jonny’s total is 121 species – this time I’ll be miles away.


In my backyard

Recently the Daily Telegraph reported on windfarm developments in the county where I live – Northamptonshire.  Apparently we are going to become the windfarm capital of the UK although the Telegraph only mentions 53 turbines and suggests the country (presumably England in this case) is considering applications for only 94 in total.  That doesn’t sound like very many to me.

, via Wikimedia Commons”]I can already see 10 turbines from my house – in the distance – and those 10 turbines do tend to dominate the landscape a little as it’s surprising from how many different places one can see them.  But, as I’ve said before, I don’t mind them at all.  Indeed, I rather like them.

Would another 50 turbines being built in my county of residence upset me? Not much really – provided that they are making a real contribution to replacing more-polluting fossil fuels.

On landscape grounds I object much more strongly to the massive and ugly boxes that have sprung up locally which are storage and distribution centres.  You can see these along the A45 east of Wellingborough where they assault the eye and block what was a lovely view down into the Nene Valley, by the A45 in Raunds and further along the same road towards Peterborough where it crosses the A14 at Thrapston (and there are others).  In landscape terms I’d accept a few turbines in return for each of these boxes that disapeared if such a trade were possible.

I recognise all the place names in the Telegraph article.  I really have thought about the impact of these turbines on the local landscape.  In some cases turbines might certainly detract from the view but that might well be a price that we all have to pay to get a greener energy mix.  In an article I wrote in The Field some time ago I suggested that anyone who objected to a windfarm development should have to disclose their own carbon footprint.  It was said with my tongue in my cheek but I wonder whether those who object to this type of development are doing their bit for reducing their own climate footprint? Or whether they have any plan at all for reducing the future impacts of climate change? or whether they even believe there is a problem?

It’s vaguely interesting that it is the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, who has one of the applications to build turbines on his land but the general point is that these plans are not imposed on us by government they are the wishes of local people.  Some local land owners see an opportunity to make money by putting up wind turbines and those local people clearly see the benefits (perhaps largely to themselves) of turbine construction in their local landscape as being a good thing.  I don’t remember hearing the CLA or NFU being very outspoken about wind turbines and, of course, it will usually be their members who benefit most from their building.

I remember talking to a local farmer about his shelved plans to build a turbine or two on his land – there was an outcry from his neighbours in his small village and he decided to drop the plans as it all became too much of a hassle.  When we talk about local people’s views there are always likely to be two local sides to every  issue rather than just one and I think that we might discover that in how the new planning regime plays out.

The need for wind turbines is driven by global and national, not just local, issues – climate change and energy security. And the impacts of wind turbines are bound to be uneven geographically and affect different people differently even locally.  The resolution of those conflicts is the role of energy policy, planning policy, transport policy and of competing political philosophies.  Are you involved in politics – you should be?



Wuthering Moors 15

Defra, as Natural England, say that they need more time to answer my questions.

I don’t accept that they do.

But it would obviously be rather strange if after all this time, and extra time, I don’t get some very detailed and full answers to my questions.