UK Bird News January 2012

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Cash Boost for Bowling Green Marsh Devon

Cash Boost for Bowling Green Marsh Devon

Thanks to money from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through Pennon Environmental Fund, the RSPB has been able give a facelift to visitor facilities at its popular Bowling Green Marsh Nature Reserve in Topsham, Devon.

The nature reserve, home to thousands of waterbirds in the winter months, attracts wildlife enthusiasts from across the UK.

Sally Mills, RSPB Site manager said: “The money from Pennon has enabled us to really update our visitor facilities, for which we are very grateful.

“The installation of the new disabled parking space has been well received and it is excellent to see that it is very well used. There is hardly a time I go down to the reserve and not see a Blue Badge holder using the space.

“And now that the reserve has got better links to the national cycleway we’ve installed new and splendid looking bicycle racks in the shape of lapwings.

“In addition we also have several new signs that guide people around and provide information on the estuary and its wildlife. Pennon Environmental Fund also paid for a new path to the viewing platform over the River Clyst – this means visitors no longer get wet feet during the winter! And on the platform itself, the rough surfacing has been replaced with recycled plastic giving a very durable, maintenance free and non-slip surface.”

Viridor Credits, via Pennon Environmental Fund, are also providing funds to invest in the RSPB’s neighbouring Exminster Marshes nature reserve. Here there are plans to install a new viewing screen, bicycle racks and signage which like Bowling Green Marsh will greatly enhance the reserve and improve the visitor experience.

Viridor Credits was established in 2001 to distribute money from landfill taxes generated by landfill operator Viridor. The landfill tax is levied on landfill operators for every tonne of waste put into landfill in a bid to encourage higher levels of recycling and waste prevention. Landfill operators are able to use a percentage of the Landfill Tax to provide funding for environmental bodies, such as Viridor Credits, who can then distribute these funds to qualifying local community projects across the UK. In the ten years of its existence, Viridor Credits has distributed £70million to projects like these.

Lisa Nelson is the General Manager of Viridor Credits said: “Protecting our natural environment is becoming increasingly important, and providing facilities that enable everyone to enjoy our beautiful surroundings is just the sort of community project that the Landfill Communities Fund can support.”

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this Weekend

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this Weekend

Big Garden Birdwatch is fun, free, really easy, and only takes an hour. You can do your birdwatch wherever you like - at home, in your local park, or do it as part of a group at one of our events near you. You can also chat about the world's biggest bird survey in our friendly community group.

Click here to take part

First Annual Scottish Birdfair

First Annual Scottish Birdfair

The Scottish Birdfair has something for everyone – from the most dedicated birders, to garden birdwatchers and those with a more general interest in wildlife.
The event will take place over two days in marquees on the west lawn of the striking Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh. Over 5000 visitors will have the chance to shop from 60 wildlife related trade stands – ensuring you can get your hands on the latest birding technology, clothing, holidays, optics, literature, art work and much more.

Throughout each day there will be a wide range of informative talks, fun packed children’s activities, guided walks and special workshops, with live music on Saturday evening. There will also be plenty to entertain the taste buds too with excellent locally sourced foods, not to mention the opportunity to sample some of Scotland’s finest whisky and beer.
Look out for some famous faces at the event too, and don’t miss the book signings and special events.
We really hope you enjoy the Scottish Birdfair – please sign up for updates so we can keep you up to speed with developments or get in touch if you want to talk to one of the team.

The Scottish Birdfair Team.
Click here to find out more

Swans and geese flood into Insh Marshes

Swans and geese flood into Insh Marshes

RSPB Scotland is reporting record numbers of whooper swans and greylag geese at its Insh Marshes reserve in Strathspey.

RSPB warden Pete Moore said: “In my twelve years at Insh Marshes I have never counted so many of these species. In the last couple of days we have recorded 211 whooper swans (right) and no fewer than 1,138 greylag geese. That’s an awfully large number of birds!

“This winter has been very good for wildfowl generally with unusually high numbers of other species such as white-fronted geese and bean geese visiting the area. It may be due to a succession of easterly weather fronts moving through. Whatever the cause it is a real treat for birdwatchers.”

Pete added: “The marshes are looking magnificent today with clear views from our Lookout viewing facility across Strathspey to the Monadhliath mountains beyond. Combine that with the evocative wild sound of wild swans and geese and you have a wonderful experience of the natural world at its best. It’s a pity that you can’t bottle it!”

Thames airport plan bad for business, people and wildlife

Thames airport plan bad for business, people and wildlife

The RSPB has warned the Government against including a Thames Estuary airport in an upcoming consultation on the future of aviation.

David Cameron is set to announce an official consultation which will include plans for an airport hub in the Estuary, a haven for hundreds of thousands of wildfowl and wading birds.

As well as destroying this vital habitat, experts believe an airport here would be at high risk of bird strike, with very serious flight-safety implications.
No economic argument

RSPB Conservation Director Martin Harper, said: “There is no economic argument for destroying a vital habitat for thousands of wetland birds. We would be horrified if this act of environmental vandalism goes ahead simply to suit a short-termist approach to the economic mess we are in.

“We cannot build our way out of recession in this way. Concreting over our natural environment and pumping more carbon into our atmosphere is no way to invest in the long term sustainable future of our country.

“The last Government produced a white paper which looked at this idea and it concluded that it would be bad for business, bad for wildlife and bad for air safety. This Government now risks wasting public money in order to reach the same conclusion.
Jewell in our natural crown

“The Estuary is not a wasteland waiting to be developed for the benefit of London, it is a jewel in our natural crown and is only there as a result of years of campaigning from local residents and conservationists.

“George Osborne has already made it clear that he feels environmental regulation protecting our most valuable wildlife sites is a brake on business. Weakening those rules would give environmentally destructive proposals like this an easy ride. After facing huge public opposition in response to proposed forestry sell-offs and the reform of England’s planning system, is the Government ready for a third major public uproar?”
Pic: Dunlin Omar Runolfsson

Record breaking year for farmland bird survey

Record breaking year for farmland bird survey

With golden orioles and golden eagles identified, records broken and thousands of skylarks (right) recorded - 2011 was another eventful year for the RSPB’s Volunteer & Farmer Alliance.

The annual results for the scheme, which sees volunteers carrying out free bird surveys for farmers across the UK, are in. They paint a picture of birds thriving on many wildlife-friendly farms across our countryside as well as increasing demand from farmers for advice on how to help them.
Last year the scheme saw nearly 750 surveys carried out with more than 100 species recorded across the UK. A farm in Lincolnshire set a new record with an amazing 85 species spotted in one survey, including breeding avocets.
On the Devon coast one volunteer was lucky enough to glimpse a golden oriole – one of Britain’s rarest birds – while a survey on a farm in Kent recorded 61 species including quail, ring ouzel and spotted flycatcher.
Nine out of ten farms in East Anglia and the Midlands recorded skylarks while starlings were the most sighted species in Northern England and yellowhammers in the South West. Grey partridges cropped up on more than half of farms in Northern England and cuckoos were found on more than 40 per cent of South East farms. Turtle doves were a rare sight for surveyors with just 14 per cent of farms in the species’ stronghold in East Anglia recording the birds.
In Scotland an average of 30 species per farm were recorded on the 140 farms surveyed. These included golden eagles, hen harriers and black grouse.
In Wales the average number of species per farm was 40 with highlights including a massive flock of hundreds of house sparrows, goldfinches, greenfinches and linnets over a well managed hay meadow.
In Northern Ireland a red kite was recorded by our volunteers for the first time. The average number of bird species per farm this year was 30, and the largest number of species recorded on a single farm was 50.
Richard Winspear, senior RSPB agriculture advisor, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance with more and more farmers learning about the wildlife on their farms thanks to an army of dedicated amateur experts.
“These volunteers get up at the crack of dawn to carry out these surveys and do an amazing job. Every farmer gets a map of their farm showing where each species is breeding which they can use to plan conservation measures.
“It’s great to hear all the stories we get back from our volunteers which over the past year have included encounters with some rare and spectacular birds like golden eagle, quail and even a golden oriole.

“But the most heartening thing is to see the enthusiasm farmers show for the wildlife on their land. With vital information from surveys like these and the right advice and support through the agri-environment schemes, they can make a real difference for farmland birds.
“This is a very popular service and we get a lot of requests from farmers, so much so that in some areas we are oversubscribed. Farmers have benefitted from this free service for a number of years however it does require investment and in these austere times we are looking to see how we can continue to support it into the future.”
The Volunteer & Farmer Alliance has been running since 1999. More than 6,000 farms have been surveyed since the project began. This has involved over 107,500 hours - more than 12 years - of volunteer support.
Since 2010 it has been supported by funding from the EU Life+ Programme. For more information, to sign up for a survey, or to volunteer to carry out surveys, visit the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance webpage at

Ghostly birds from the Arctic flock to Scotland

Ghostly birds from the Arctic flock to Scotland

RSPB Scotland is reporting a major influx of Iceland and glaucous gulls to the west coast of Scotland. Over 100 birds have been recorded in Argyll alone with many more being seen in the Western Isles and Orkney and Shetland.

RSPB conservation officer Martin Scott who is based in Stornoway said: “These are beautiful ghostly birds with a suitably frosty appearance given that they have come down from the Arctic. The two species concerned are very similar although the glaucous gull is generally larger than the Iceland gull.

“ Unlike our resident herring gulls, the two Arctic species don’t have any black on the wing tips – that’s useful for identification purposes. Many of the birds seem to be juveniles and have a beautifully patterned delicate plumage when seen close to.
“Unusually we are seeing more Iceland gulls than glaucous gulls this year. I imagine the recent windy weather must be having an effect and is pushing the birds into Scottish waters from the Atlantic. Good places to see them are harbours, particularly where there are fishing boats. Stornoway is proving a great place to find them at the moment but judging by reports the birds are being seen all around the Scottish coast. They are well worth looking out for!”

Both Iceland and glaucous gulls visit Scotland every winter, but not usually in such high numbers. As well as around the coast, they can also be spotted inland, including places such as Strathclyde Loch.
Pic: Iceland Gull Omar Runolfsson

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2012 |  UK Bird News January 2012

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