Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Super Species Outfoxed?

Here is my recent Focusing on Wildlife article with my views on the latest negative Red Fox media reports...

When I was a child growing up in the countryside my favorite animal was undoubtedly the Red Fox. My inspiration was started by the cartoon program Animals of Farthings Wood from a young age and my love grew from there. The Red Fox is classed a super species because that one species has successfully colonized every continent apart from Antarctica and South America and like all successful predators it is superbly versatile and adaptable to survive in the different environments. I still remember my first sighting of a Fox in the car with my Dad on the way down a narrow farm lane to drop me at my friends house and as we arrived Dad went inside to tell the family about the Fox encounter with huge enthusiasm like it would be the farmers best news they would receive that week, month or year. Having parents who loved animals was a huge help in making my decisions and enthusing me. I still remember all those arguments through out my school days with pro-fox hunt kids. We also did a two week election debate in Ms Henry's year eight English class regarding everyone's views on fox hunting and I was president of the anti-hunt group. I cant remember the results on the classroom debate but I am sure I dominated it!

Going back to the present day and it is urban foxes which are causing a stir throughout the nation. A story arose in the national papers regarding an urban fox which had reportedly walked into a families house and attacked a six month old baby removing a finger and causing facial damage. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21399709

 I am personally not convinced by the story, I think it has got more holes than a block of Swiss cheese and am looking into other possibilities. First of all the story which was actually printed, that the irresponsible parents left all there doors open on a cold winters evening and a hungry fox entered the house targeting the unattended baby. This would be an incredibly rare event meaning an incident which does not happen very often like getting struck by lightning or getting electrocuted by a toaster. It could be referred to as a freak accident and very unfortunate for the family involved.  

Fox captured by Andrew Jake http://500px.com/andrewjake

The other possibility is that the fox was used as a scape goat to cover up the true incident that took place. Domestic dogs kill one human a week in the USA alone and in the UK there are thousands of hospital emissions for dog bites every year with one in three domestic dog owners having been bittern by their pet. and it is a frequent occurrence that would normally only fill a few column inches in a national UK paper. Passing the blame to those 'evil' 'vermin' urban foxes would be an easy option to protect your pet from been put down.

It could just be a big political stunt to brainwash the nation to get a few more desperate votes to increase chances to legalize the hunt again in the future so those 'dog lovers' can jolly the countryside and get pleasure out of tracking and torturing our wild dog super species. A simple and effective way to turn people against an animal. Mayor of London Boris Johnson who enjoys killing animals calls for a cull saying urban foxes are a pest. The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph has always publicly supported blood sports and are famous for over-exaggerated and controversial stories regarding wildlife. They have referred to Fox's as dangerous, evil, savage and brutal killers. Karl Pilkington must be sick of flying into their offices and shouting Bu***hit!


A few days later another story appeared in the Daily Mail telling the story of a teenager who got attacked by an urban fox while out jogging. Again another tactical stunt with rumors that the family run a 'vermin' pest control business in London. Of course it would never get highlighted that urban foxes do an excellent job controlling the Rat populations in towns and cities but that would mean having to say something positive. Paying all that money on trapping and poison when Foxes do it all for free. 

Vermin is a derogatory word used to describe something that is a pest causing damage and destruction to other interests...but that's enough of talking about the Daily Mail now.
By the end of the week a proper news headline appeared in the papers about a meteorite striking the earth and injuring 900 people in Russia. Surprisingly urban foxes did not get the blame for that one. Would it be the worst thing in the world if the next meteorite to hit earth landed on the Daily Mails HQ offices? That would be a good way to control our real vermin problem.                   

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Peaks and Troughs like a displaying Goshawk

A high pressure system the last couple of days brought a great opportunity to be out in the field day and night. Bird song and display is getting going with all activity increasing as the breeding season is nearing closer and already underway for some species.

Sunday 17th and an early start to head out to Northumberland to look for Goshawk displaying. Myself, Dad and Guy picked out a nice vantage point and were treated to a raptor fest starting with 3 Buzzards and a Kestrel then minutes later the chattering of a Goshawk which seemed to trigger three birds into flight performing display sky dives. Another bird seen getting mobbed by a small raptor Sparrowhawk or Merlin but disappeared too soon. It wasn't to end there as I picked up a Male Hen Harrier in the scope! what a morning session...thanks very much Dad.

A break in the afternoon to watch Leeds loose (another normal weekend) then it was up Gdale valley with Dad and the dogs to see what was going on. The highlights were a good count of Ravens, 3 Hares which we nearly ran over (Hare today gone tomorrow!) A Tawny Owl fly by and a booing male Long-eared Owl.

Had a quick plate of fodder before I headed out east back to Northumberland to keep Cain company while he shot another time lapse sequence for his dark sky project. Headed to Gilsland Spa to consentrate on Crammel Lin waterfall with a nice 50% moon crescent on our backs. Cain gave me a couple of pointers to improve my astrophotography and I managed this result of the falls. The moon dropped just after one oclock which should give the time lapse a nice effect. Saturn appeared to the east shortly after as we viewed it in the scope and it just looked like a planet with ears...as Galileo described it. Job done at 4ish after a good night shift and I seen a Tawny owl and a stunning Badger on the way home.

Another interesting thing that happened on the way home was driving through Narworth Crossing which is a famous haunted location in the area and I had my heaters on red hot and the car was like a sauna and when I passed over the crossing the car went chilly cold in temperature for a couple of seconds. I thought it was a bit strange and was fully aware of the famous train crash which happened in the early 1900s killing a lot of young families which apparently can still be heard in the woods. Now I dont believe in any that drivel as it seems ghosts only came into fashion in the 18th centrury...how come you never see caveman ghosts or dinosaur ghosts? Anyway thought it was worth mentioning. here is the link to the hauntings of Narworth...http://suite101.com/a/ghosts-naworth-level-crossing            

Crammel Lin waterfall...Gilsland Spa

HB! Cain the Hollywell Birder...He miss spelled it a few times but got it right eventually

Spelling out GWW on long exposure...
The following day with glorious sunshine continuing I decided to head south to Penrith and onto the our national park. Waxwing was the first port of call outside the restaurant establishment of... Mcdonalds. They have been seen feeding on the mass berries on a couple of Cotoneaster trees and after looking for half an hour and getting slightly stressed with the traffic noise pollution and general hustle and bustle, I heard the high pitched trill as the birds landed on top of a Birch and all the stress went away immediately...what a bird. As I watched them and photographed them I heard the Gulls been disturbed overhead and I looked up and there was a Red Kite soaring right above my head. No wing tags to be seen but a nice record as a good few miles from the recent release site.

I moved on west to Keswick to look for displaying raptors either side of Bass Lake. Bought my usual sausage, fish and chips from the town and took them up to the raptor view point where I got Ravens and a female peregrine with prey in her talons (Wood Pigeon). A Pair of Buzzards and then just like London buses...a male Goshawk showing over the woodland! 

I dropped down to Powter How wood where I seen a Red Squirrel on route and as I parked up I possibly heard a Green Woodpecker briefly but not counting it. Headed down Lake side with a good number of duck showing from the hide. 50 plus Wigeon, 30 Goldeneye, 40 plus Tufties, 6 Goosander, 8 Teal, 6 Little Grebes. I really enjoyed watching the courtship behavior between three Goldeneye right by the hide with the drake doing strong displays and the two females acknowledged him before a lot of splashing and interacting took place. As I was walking back out the hide I heard a Water Rail calling from the thick scrub and Willows which was a great finish to the day which was topped off my a magic sunset looking back from the A66 on my way home. 

Drake Goldeneye leading on two females...
Waxwing in Penrith

Black and white of Bassanthwaite lake...Goldeneye in the foreground

Red Kite over Penrith....No wing tags seen

"You Beauty...Time to reel her in"

Sunet from the A66 on the way home...

Thanks for looking...

Saturday, 16 February 2013

10 ways to be a wildlife warrior

My latest article published on Focusing on Wildlife...http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/ten-ways-to-be-a-wildlife-warrior/

Here is 10 ways to contribute to your native wildlife...

- Enthuse others - Make an effort to encourage other people to take an interest or increase their interest in the natural world. Whether you are watching Peregrines in the lake district with fell walkers passing by or you are watching a Kingfisher on a river tributary in an urban area with a passage of dog walkers, let them know what is on show and give them the choice to take an interest.

One wildlife encounter or an interesting fact can inspire someone for a lifetime...I am very fortunate to work with wildlife and people on the isle of Mull and enthusing passengers about wildlife is the most rewarding thing I have ever done

- Volunteer at a nature reserve - Helping out at your local nature reserve or conservation organization can be very rewarding in a number of ways. As well as contributing to the improvement of the habitat for your native wildlife you are in the great outdoors working with like minded people surrounded by wilderness. Meeting new people and learning new skills and knowledge.

Talking Plankton...Andy Tait has voluntry helped Sea Life Surveys on Mull for over 20 years working with the people and through his video media work...a true wildlife

 - Wildlife Tourism - Simply going to a location to see species is promoting wildlife through the value of tourism. Whether you are staying in accommodation, buying fuel or popping into an internet cafe to check the latest GWW updates you are contributing to an economy and when wildlife is related it is normally a rural area which is more greatly appreciated. Just remember to tell anyone that asks that your here for the wildlife!

- Join a conservation organization - Conservation organisations are reliant on the 'people power' factor with all their work made possible through generous donations by wildlife lovers. The organization RSPB was formed in 1889 through some passionate women who were disgusted by the trade in wild bird plumes as a fashion accessory in the late Victorian era. Those great ladies did so much for wildlife with the RSPB now with over a million members, continuing their vital work with such recent success stories like the re-introduction of Red Kites and WT eagle which were so heavily shot to national extinction in those dark days of the Victorian times. Join organizations like RSPB, Wildlife Trust, WWT and World Owl Trust. 

- Campaign Petitions - Sadly with the increasing  threat of wildlife and habitat in the 21st century means there is always conservation related petitions to sign. It has been proven in the past when large numbers come together and fight for the cause it makes a difference. The insanely proposed Buzzard cull in 2012 was quickly scrapped because of public outrage. Also the proposed ludicrous sale of public woodland in England was stopped in 2010 because of public voices of concern. So don't just shy away from them, get involved and make a difference.

- Write to your local MP - Similar to petition campaigns this is an opportunity to make your voice heard and let leaders know how you feel about the current state of wildlife affairs. You will feel great once you have done it and when you see a wildlife species you admire or a natural landscape that takes your breath away, you will be reminded about what you are fighting for.

- Photography - Seeing images of wildlife and their natural environment can be incredibly powerful. If you do wildlife photography and are wondering how to promote your images then how about starting by creating prints and offering to display them voluntarily in public places like doctors / dental surgery, public library, outdoor recreational stores, pubs and bars. Areas where a large number of people will be present meaning a greater audience appreciating your work and also increasing the chance to inspire people through the images. Giving them as gifts to people is another way to publicize your work and also promote wildlife. mounted and framed prints are cheap and affordable with canvas prints more expensive but can be more appealing. It is hugely rewarding to know other people take pleasure out of your work and a bonus to encourage other people to take an interest. You will feel great either way! 

Fulmar in flight - Wildlife images can drive a love for wildlife

- Social Media and Blogging - The internet is a very powerful tool, if used correctly you can get your message to a very large audience. One way is blogging all your wildlife encounters, stories and photography. The old fashioned way was to write it all in a diary and keep it to yourself but now you can share it with the world! Social media sites are an excellent way to promote your writing and blogging and also a great way to share your photography and target potential wildlife enthusiasts to your hundreds and if your very popular thousands of followers. 

- Eyes of the countryside - Whenever you are out in the field watching wildlife you are naturally helping to protect them by monitoring their safety and and if there is any possible intrusion of species. In terms of wildlife crime it does not stop day or night so being out in wild areas at any time can help save wildlife. If you encounter any suspicious human behavior don't approach them just contact the police and your local wildlife crime officer.

eyes of the wilderness...Andy Mcgreevy and Danny Naisbitt scanning for Eagles in Moidart

- Create a Wild Garden - A large percentage of the population are privileged to have their very own nature reserve to manage it in any way they want. Unfortunately a vast majority like to have a short tight pristine croquet lawn. A bit of length too the grass can promote wild flowers, invertebrates and small rodents so you can have Crickets instead of Croquet! Creating a pond can provide a whole new ecosystem that can support frogs, newts, toads, dragonfly nymphs and a whole host of aquatic invertebrates and plants. Added features like leaf litter and a log piles provide extra habitat, food and shelter for a huge array of animals. A self-made nest box taking up residence will give you a heart warming feeling. Of course providing habitat to species lower down in the chain encourages predators into the Frey as well so you might be lucky enough to get a species like a Sparrowhawk or a Tawny Owl hunting in your rich wild reserve. Now that's a garden to be proud of!

Ten ways you can start helping wildlife or improve your contribution...I know I will be striving to get better all the time.


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Winter mode on Gdale...

Overnight snow made for a nice opportunity to experience Gdale in winter mode. Capturing some different photos as well as looking for tracks and signs in the fresh covering. I started in the Birch woodland cleaning out a few boxes ready for the season to come. Checking the ponds conditions as well with amphibians starting to move now. Roe Deer tracks in the woodland and also found Stoat and Badger tracks further up the valley. Checked out a couple of small crags on the hillside and found a Kestrel roost site with up to a hundred pellets piled up. Took a few with me and going to break them down to check on prey remains. A couple of Buzzards patrolling the valley and I am still amazed at the colouration on their under wings when you get the light reflecting off the snow upon to them.  

The top 20 most popular articles in 2012 were released by Focusing on Wildlife and my Eagle Owl article made it to 13th place out of over 1500 released last year. http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/most-popular-and-widely-read-wildlife-articles-from-2012/

Two WT Eagles have been poisoned in Ireland making a total of 26 killed from the release program...disgusting.

The important badger cull e-petition...keep on fighting http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

Heavy Snow up Gdale...Slow shutter and flash used to capture
falling snow flakes

Woodland pond looking in good shape ready for another breeding season...

Birch woodland in stunning winter mode...
Looking up the valley...Stone dykes are very photogenic...especially
with a covering of snow on top!
Guy Broomes photo of a Short-eared Owl while out birding with dad in the east...

A game of golf a few days later as the snow retreated very quickly with a wet mild spell. Golf courses provide good habitat for wildlife as they need rough wild areas to create hazards for the competing players. A Nuthatch singing and GS Woodpecker drumming were the highlights along with a small flock of Siskin in flight. When I got back home I found two Black Grouse, a cock and hen feeding in the traditional lekking field.


Unbelievable footage captured this week off the coast of Norway...Orcas, Humpbacks and Fin whales feeding hard...shoddy driving from the skipper though as he drove right into the middle of the feeding...causing disturbance and also increasing the risk of all on board the small RIB. 

Cheers 8-)

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Solway, Owling and Astrophotography

Dad and I went to the Solway on Tuesday with strong south westerlies the days previous we thought it would be worth checking out. We started at the bus shelter at Bowness to scan the flooded and slack water for a spell. GC Grebes in small numbers, Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveller, Teal, Shelduck and Mallard. Pinkies and Barnies overhead as well. Redshank and Oystercatchers working the shoreline. 

We moved onto the shallow pools roadside at Campfield where we seen 4-5 Grey Plover and a good lot of Bar-Tailed Godwits. Groups of Dunlin and Knot constantly lifting from a probable near by raptor unseen by our selves. We bumped into Clive and the three of us headed down to the hide.

The first species of interest was Teal in large number of 1400. Not much happening until a burst of activity starting with the all the Teal lifting in unison as we scanned for predators....a couple of minutes later they were up again and a male Peregrine was seen coming in from the left. A Little Egret appeared from the Solway to shelter in the shallows and half a dozen Pintail flew in  as well. The last highlight was a female Merlin appearing meters from the hide before heading west.
Geltsdale Star trail compiling 40 images to capture motion of the stars
A rare clear spell of weather on Friday night excited me to get out and take advantage. Low winds as well made for increased chance of hearing vocal Owls. I had planned a few locations in advance with good composition for shooting the night sky so I headed up the valley to those spots. Tawny owls calling in the woodland on route and a Short-eared owl flew past my torch light further up and a distant screeching Barn Owl coming from the north as I was up the fell. Did good with the owl prowl getting 3 out of a possible 6 species in the area. 

While focusing on the night sky and doing astrophotography I am always attempting to learn new consolations and individual stars. A few faint shooting stars seen and a couple of satellites before the strong moon crescent appearing just before midnight soaked up a lot of the stars on show.  

A lone Ash up at the greens on a very atmospheric night
Sunshine on Saturday and a trip to the seaside to Siloth links for a round of golf. As it was great light I took the camera to get a few action shots. A few Linnets flushed out of the rough grass as I was looking for my stray balls. Male and female Kestrel hunting as well which was the closest I got to a birdie all day!

Thanks for looking...