Sunday, 23 August 2015

Hangry* birds – don’t forget to fill up those feeders

Maghull Starling - Emma Hartley

*Adjective - (Humorous) irritable as a result of feeling hungry - Collins English Dictionary

An RSPB member was served up a treat of her own after snapping a flock of hungry juvenile starlings on her bird table demanding more food after being treated to a mid-morning snack. 

Emma Hartley, who managed to rustle up some extra treats for her adoring crowd in her garden in Maghull, Merseyside, said: “I’d only just got back to the kitchen after topping up the bird table and feeders when the flock of juvenile starlings swooped down to tuck into their mid-morning treat. The food couldn’t have lasted more than a couple of minutes before they’d finished and were squabbling amongst themselves demanding more!

“Luckily I quickly managed to find a bit of dried fruit and some leftover cheese, which needless to say went down a treat.”

Despite remaining the second most spotted bird in the 2015 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, sightings of starlings in  gardens has declined by 80 per cent since 1979 and are UK ‘red listed’; meaning that they are of highest conservation concern.

Ben Andrew, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: “Starlings are very bold and boisterous birds, one that most people will have spotted in their gardens or in an outdoor space. It may therefore come as a surprise to know that starlings have declined quite significantly over the past 30 years.

Hangry Starling

“Leaving out a suitable supply of food and water will not only help starlings and their young prepare for the cold months, but will also help many of our other favourite garden birds.”

Despite it being mid-August, birds in and around our gardens, including favourite like robins and blackbirds, are still incubating eggs, feeding chicks in the nest or have vulnerable just-fledged chicks that can’t yet fly properly. With some birds nesting up until the end of August, it’s important that garden clearance is delayed until September at the earliest.

Birds will appreciate a variety of food all year round, but fatty food will be especially helpful. For example, fat balls, or homemade bird cakes made with lard and packed with seeds, fruit or dried mealworms are great treats to put out in your garden. Kitchen scraps will work well, and a good recipe for feeding birds might include chopped fat from unsalted meat, cheese, dried fruit, and pastry.  

The RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign is aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond to support a number of different species or building a home for a hedgehog.

To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit:

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Not the Bird fair, but there were massive birds of prey! Southport flower show

Shreks garden

Popped into Southport flower show on friday. Not a bad day out although the entrance price is a little steep at  £20, especially as they wanted another £3 for programme guide!, they didn't get it.

Muddy Boots / Clare's Gardens for Queenscourt Hospice
Chinese theme in floral marquee

Unlike chelsea etc not many show gardens, but had floral marquees, and stalls selling plants, promotioning bees etc.

No Monty but Joe Swift was in attendance.
Joe Swift & BBC radio Lancashire

Very well attended despite the monsoon that arrived about one o'clock off the Irish sea, fortunatley lots of places to take shelter, especially for the visitors in shorts and sandles and the pac a mac stall did a roaring trade.! I had the foresight to take my water proof walking jacket, still got drowned, but the fabric dried quick.

The events arena has some heart warming shows:  Indian runner duck display team and  their sheepdog herders. 
For those concerned, ducks seem well cared for, happy to perform, can't say!?
Meg the herder

And  the dogs  agility show. Many mutts making star performances
Fearless labradoodle

And naturally I was in awe of the eagles and vultures being flown by Ben Potter
Ben and Stellers sea eagle
Lift off


Can't resist showing of these beaks

Steller's sea eagle
White tailed eagle
Bald eagle

Love garden art, couldn't fit em in my pocket! Made from teak tree roots - amazing- animal elegance
Horses- life size

Superb stag


There was a bandstand, where male voice choirs, brass bands, swing bands and singers serenaded the crowds throughout the day Singing in the rain! And two clowns Sonny and Rainbow
Sonny & Rainbow, making light of the pouring rain

Now i've just got to find  places for all the plants I bought, and finish a few home made treats I brought  back with me, mmmh.

Laura :-)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Bravo, the Bee team come to Cumbria

Member of the B team

On Friday 7 August Rhodie, Ann, Chris Melia and myself started out at the crack of 08:30hrs and headed North up the M6 to see the quite rare Bee Eaters who had made their nest in the bank of a sand quarry near Carlisle. We arrived at the quarry after 10am to find that there were about 20 other cars there already.
Fortunately the other week, the quarry workers had reported seeing unusual colourful birds that were flying in and out of a nesting hole in the face of the quarry bank.

They called the RSPB who identified the birds as Bee Eaters and was quite a rare site to see.
The quarry owners kindly allowed the RSPB members to have access onto their land to be able to enjoy the rare sighting.

A small donation was collected by the organisation to help funds for future projects.
We followed the fenced path around the quarry to a vantage position where we could see the birds flying in and out of the nest hole and without disturbing them.
The nest was on the other side of the quarry, quite a few hundred meters away but was quite visible with scopes and binoculars.

Bee eater

We didn't have to wait long before there was one perched on a fence post above the nesting hole and actually eating a Bee.
Apparently there had been two pairs of Bee Eaters but one nest had unfortunately failed.

Red Legged Partridge

While waiting for the birds to return from foraging for food, some Red Legged Partridges appeared on the top of the bank.
Sadly it was very overcast and grey morning, so all the birds beautiful plumage didn't really stand out.

From there, and not to waste a 300 mile round trip, we called in at Leighton Moss on the way back, which was quite, due to the time of year but was rewarded by seeing some nice Emperor Dragonflies
and a bonus of a Dog Otter swimming a feeding on eels.

Otter - Leighton Moss

After a few hours there we made our way back down the M6 and called into the Preston Dock to see the Ring billed Gull and again we found it with ease, as there were quite a few people who had scopes trained on it and could point it out to us.
Ring billed gull

So all in all, it was a very good and productive days spotting.

Red Footed Wonder ... and were not talking footie!

Red footed falcon

Country park maptp Mapaption
On the 6 August Rhodie and I went to Chatterley Whitfield Heritage Country Park near Stoke on Trent, to see the Red footed Falcon.

Like most recent and popular sightings, when we arrived there, there were a clump of birders there scanning the area for the Falcon.

Police warning - your on camera
We noticed a few police notices tied to the fence, warning people from refraining from feeding and attempting to net the bird and that it was a protected species. Which was quite disturbing to see that people would actually try and capture any wild bird.

We didn't have to wait long before one of them beckoned us to join him further along the road, as he had spotted the bird on a fence post overlooking the side gardens of the ex colliery museum.

It was a sweet looking juvenile and wasn't perturbed by the onlookers one bit and occasionally flew down onto the grass picking up worms and slugs then back onto the fence post to eat them.

At one time a Kestrel joined it on a couple of posts further away and both seemed quite at ease with each other even though encroaching on each other's territory.

We didn't stay all that long as it was a good and easy sighting .... always nice to see nature that close up .

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Standing up for Hen Harriers as the Inglorious 12th approaches


A momentous weekend is over and all the RSPB Liverpool group members should be proud of the Harrier twelve who stood, shouted and were counted supporting the Hen Harrier day in the peak district.
At the Palace 
I should say weekend really, as it’s  the second  Hen harrier day and it's  evolving. It actually started on Saturday at 6.30pm - Hen Harrier Eve, in the high peak room of Buxton's Palace Hotel. 300 tickets were sold, 290 turned up and I was one of them.
There followed 2 hrs of speeches, conversation, videos and Chris Packham roaring.  Mark Avery presented and introduced the evening.
First up was  Susan Cross and Gordon MacLellan, who gave us a snippet from  an  Arthurian story  of  Sir Gawain and the green knight, Gawain set out in search  of the green knight at the green chapel, and his journey  took him to the  Peak District - to put the local home of the Hen Harrier in context.(I admit a little complicated to follow at times, Olde English speak)
By the way I found a section in the pearl poet's account of St Gawain's journey a little closer to home, didn’t speak well of our patch!

“till he neared the neighborhood of North Wales,
held all the isles of Anglesey on his left
and reached the river where its headlands rose
high near Holyhead, and held on across
through the Forest of Wirral. Few or none lived there
whom God could love, or a good-hearted man.
And he asked often, of all whom he met
if they could give him news of a green knight
or how he could get to the Green Chapel.

Followed by a speech from Mike Clarke, RSPB CEO, supporting the Hen harrier day (he came on Sunday as well with quite a few staff)  enforcing the RSPB’s determination to fight Hen Harrier persecution  and remarking on it’s battles with the’ You forgot the birds’ group ,batting against criticism, slurs and lies. His presence  was applauded as the RSPB have been seen by some as sitting on the fence a little.

Mark Cocker 
Mark Cocker, Buxton-born author, then stood up and gave a very interesting talk on birds of prey and are relationships with them. Culturally respected, symbols of prestige, worship, strength and loyalty.   For example in history eagles and vultures were revered by the ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and Syrians, to the American emblem, St Johns eagle on the pulpit of your local church, native American headdresses, to the more sinister luftwaffe symbol. And now demonised, nuisance to grouse moor owners, killers of ...mmmh  (

Next up Mark cocker again , this time  in conversation with  Turner Prize winner 2004 Jeremy Deller.
World famous - A good day for cyclists
Remember ‘A good day for cyclists’ the enormous ringtail Hen Harrier mural, clutching a blood-red Range Rover in its talons. Deller a cyclist in London, fed up of being barged off roads by so called 'Chelsea Tractors, so he had a wee dig at the Range Rover driving fraternity. The hen harrier? Something to do with a certain member of  royalty and Chelsea tractor driver who allegedly shot 2 Hen Harriers over the Sandringham Estate, Norfolk in 2007. 

Monarchs of the Glen -Jeremy Deller
Another controversial image by Deller which includes a Hen Harrier entitled Monarchs of the Glen (Richard Benyon MP has an unexpected meeting on his grouse moor with some raptors)

Jeremy then indulged in a spot of fundraising, selling signed stamps for the audience to purchase-  raised nearly 650 quid for Birders against Wildlife Crime!!
Findley Wilde shows off  his Deller print

Findley Wilde followed with his video ‘mash-up’ showing the construction of his stone effect grouse butt which was on stage and reappeared in the quarry the following day. Findley is certainly going to be one to watch!

Another producer , another video, this time a video ‘mash-up’ of Henry’s travels around the UK composed by, Phil Walton.(
 ) You may have been following his progress on
Chris Packham
Last on was Chris Packham - the Lion of Goyt.
Another rousing, inspirational speech, starting with how he got into birds when young and linked this into the millions of birds that have disappeared from our countryside since then.
He referenced the usefulness of social media - google and twitter. 118 million pages on the recent killing of ’Cecil the lion’ one of Zimbabwe's most loved reserve lions.  Hen harrier day 2015   had 239, 000 pages but it will grow and hen harriers will become a focus for that.


 “People are tired of animal life being wasted and particularly when that life is becoming increasingly rare”
“‘Killing hen harriers is illegal. We are not here to voice our opinion; we are here to ask for the law of the land to be upheld so that this persecution stops”
“The type of shooting practised here developed in Edwardian times and they still want to do that”.
“Shooting for conservation is an oxymoronic lie”
“Just like the hen harrier, Cecil was a symbol of something far greater, Cecil became a symbol of the fact the world has become intolerant of this sort of wastage of our wildlife”
“We're not going away because we're right”
“Lets cut the crap, shall we; those birds were shot, poisoned and trapped”
“I came here last year as a man, this year I came here with the rage of a lion, if you kill 5 more, you’re taking on a tyrannosaur”
Crowds gather at the quarry

Next day I was in the Goyt Valley  with the rest of the team. Sunday morning 9th August with, I guess 500 other folk.
We weren’t really alone in our quest though,  there were others as Hen Harrier events up and down the country. Down south in Dorset at the RSPB reserve at Arne 130 people attended their event. At RSPB Saltholme in Cleveland, 70 attended  and were treated to a talk by David Lindo
Tayside team
At Loch Turret Andrea Hudspeth (Our Terry was there)  reported ‘Hen Harrier Day Tayside went off without a hitch and was attended by around 70 harrier fans from far and wide across Scotland. Despite the wet weather, our spirits were not dampened.’

In Dunsop Bridge, Forest of Bowland 90 or so people came to the day. Interesting- Terry Pickford  believes the supporters mood is changing  wanting  more radical action, catalysed after the disappearance of the 5 male hen harriers, and may now be willing next year  to  disrupt a grouse shoot!

It was a warm sunny day, and rather than the sodden 570, we were more likely to be sunburnt and sadly  cursed by biting insects that devoured those unfortunate party members in shorts!

Along the River Goyt,  packhorse bridge
The Goyt valley walk along the river is beautiful, however further up the slopes a large area of burnt, cut moorland was clearly visible, an ugly patchwork, on a spectacular vista, a pertinent reminder of another reason why we were there - the damage that is inflicted on our natural environment in the name of management.
Scarred moorland above Goyt quarry

We came with our friends, our colleagues, our families, our banners and even our dogs (poodles were popular!) and most importantly our hearts and voices.
And we listened and applauded

We owed Henry a group hug, what a star

RSPB's Jeff  Knott.

“The more you try to silence us, the louder our voice will become, we will not rest until hen harriers fly free over England’s uplands again, and we will never ever give up”

Mark Avery

 “2000 pairs of these birds missing from our land this is awful- the more that the public know about driven grouse shooting, the more  the public will question it’s very existence.

 Jo Smith , CEO Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

“We want to see these magnificent birds back here in their rightful home, dancing in the sky”

Chris Packham

Hen Harrier day review
That bloke Packham gets in on the act

Mark Avery and our mate Tim Melling

Colin Wells from RSPB Burton Mere & RSPB Liverpool members

Mike Clarke and RSPB team

Tomorrow is penned the glorious 12th,  and according to the weather forecast for Derbyshire it promises to be that. However I don’t see it being a delightful or enjoyable day for the birds that are about to be slaughtered in their thousands. There is no glory or honour in what these people do.
As a wildlife lover and birdwatcher I cannot fathom how you can feel pleasure by killing hundreds of innocent, unthreatening creatures in the name of sport, oh what fun.

Latest news from RSPB Scotland reports that Annie one of the Langholme Harriers met her end, she certainly got her gun
"Post-mortem confirms hen harrier found dead on grouse moor was shot, we're appealing for info:  

Our day has gone, but the fight continues, we will not stand idly by, our song is true and we’ll win through.


At the tea rooms, cat and fiddle, celebratory  tea and cake - of course!