Monday, 18 December 2017

Festive fun with the RSPB on the Dee

A Winterscape  Burton Mere

With the Christmas countdown well underway, get into the festive spirit at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve. For those wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of the high streets, a visit to Burton Mere Wetlands is the perfect way to unwind this winter.
Dan Trotman, Visitor Experience Manager at the RSPB Dee Estuary reserve said: “The reserve is at its busiest in winter, playing host to tens of thousands of wetland birds visiting from the far north – just like Father Christmas!
“Not only are the large flocks a sight to behold, winter is also the best time of year to see birds of prey, with marsh harriers, peregrines and merlins regularly hunting the flocks. All of this can be enjoyed beside our pellet stove with a mince pie and a hot drink in our cosy Reception Hide.”
The site offers plenty for families to do this festive season, with a free seasonal quiz to follow around the nature trails. Wildlife Explorer backpacks are available to hire daily for £3, complete with binoculars and other nature detective equipment, and there’s even a den building area in the woodland to make a shelter from the chillier weather.
Dan added: “The recent cold snap transformed the reserve into a picturesque winter wonderland, so it’s the perfect place for a bracing walk to work off those Christmas indulgences.”
Burton Mere Wetlands is open every day except Christmas Day, 9.30am-4.30pm, with an early close of 3pm on Christmas Eve and a late opening of 10.30am on Boxing Day.
For the more adventurous visitor, a High Tide Raptor Watch event is taking place at the wilder part of the Dee Estuary reserve – Parkgate.. Visitors have the chance to see the rare phenomenon of the water covering the whole marsh, reaching the sea wall. As well as closer views of thousands of ducks, geese and waders as they are forced upstream by the rising tide, visitors may also spot rare hen harriers in search of mice and voles that are flushed from the grasses.
The High Tide Raptor Watch takes place on Thursday 4 January from 10.30am-1.30pm and is free of charge, but donations are welcomed on the day. No booking is required but for further information check out the website, call the reserve on 0151 3538478 or email

Friday, 1 December 2017

How much would you miss birdsong? More than just a tweet

The Messenger, promotional poster

Last Sunday RSPB Liverpool screened the stunning and thought provoking film ‘The Messenger’ by SongbirdSOS productions.

RSPB Information stands outside Screen 3

Fifty four people attended our event and judging by the post screening reaction it had obviously achieved its aim.

The film is visually stunning and took us to far flung places such as Indonesia, Canada and France. This film was hard hitting and we couldn’t help be moved by  the issues it raised; at times maddening and upsetting such as the French man illegally  catching and eating ortolan buntings, the Indonesian bird markets, and the hundreds of migrating birds flying into high raise windows. Towards the end of the film we were treated to the sight of an expanding circle of 2,100 dead birds laid out on a museum floor, a strong image bringing tears to your eyes.
But this film wasn’t just made to shock, it showed some amazing people, monitoring birds and fighting back, from the man who turns out Manhattan’s 911 memorial lights (, and the CABS activists combating the  illegal killing or trapping of European birds   (
But there was a glimmer of hope for the future, as we observed Canadian children at the Royal Ontario museum tip toeing around and asking questions about all the dead birds on the floor? We must nurture their interest and educate our future generations.

After the film an informal discussion gave the audience a chance to let off steam, empathise and ask what you we can do to help birds.
Audience discussion on Indonesia. Ged Gorman

Maureen wins a the first raffle prize

Here’s a link to watch the Q & A session:
Some initial suggestions:
1. Install ultra violet window alert stencils at home and at work – available at various UK bird food supplier websites.
2. Campaign, sign the petitions, write letters, fundraise and if you can afford it donate…. Support the RSPB Love Nature,    RSPB Operation Turtle Dove   or   RSPB            Birds without Borders and BirdLife International
3. Buy bird-friendly coffee - Bird & Wild Coffee  Partnered with RSPB to give 6% of all sales to RSPB to help protect our birds, wildlife and nature in the UK, whilst protecting migrating birds at coffee origins

4. Cats - Put a bell on your cat's quick release mechanism collar and keep your cat indoors when birds are most vulnerable: at least an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise, especially during March-July and December-January, and also after bad weather, such as rain or a cold spell, to allow birds to come out and feed.

Raffle - lots of Bird &Wild Coffee prizes

It is hoped that our group will be able to bring this film to our members at an indoor event screening in the near future and more importantly be able to contribute in some way to help tackle the issues this film raises.
Here’s a link to watch the trailer:
Every DVD comes with a FREE bag of bird friendly-coffee from Bird& wild plus a promo code for future purchases. Bird & wild is on a mission to help protect migrating birds. Every bag of Bird & Wild coffee sold helps the RSPB, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre and the Fair-trade Foundation.
Here’s a link to the Bird & Wild shop:

A warning from the past: in 1957 Mao Tse-tung’s set about a campaign against tree sparrows that were eating the nation’s grain, subsequently hundreds of millions of sparrows were killed.  Achieving this aim contributed to a catastrophic ecological disaster which led to 30 million people dying of starvation.  We ignore this lesson at our peril, whether it is birds, bees, other wildlife or the planet’s natural resources. 

The Messsenger promotional poster
RSPB Liverpool

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

We're busy watching birdlife, all of the weekend through.

Starling Murmuration

A busy weekend started with a day out at WWT Martin Mere’s birdwatching festival. A diminutive fair compared to Rutland, more  intimate and confining, and  giving  some of our local organisations  a chance to sell their services like
More holiday providers were there
The event was well attended on both days, and I bumped into several friends out of our group during the course of the day.
If you had the time, there were some interesting talks on through the weekend and I know others have attended them, perhaps they’ll share their experiences. I opted for the Nick Baker guided walk, swan feed and starling murmuration viewing, oh and a spot of duck feeding, well you have to….
The Nick Baker (who had to leave Dartmoor at 3am to get to Martin Mere in time that morning!) walk was laid back and informative. Martin mere’s reserve manager Tom Clare adding additional narrative about the reserve along the way. It was surprising to hear that Nick hadn’t visited before, and you got the impression he was quite impressed by what it had to offer.
Nick Baker walk
If you were thinking this would just be a guided bird walk you’d be wrong; Nick chatted about all kinds of stuff including ivy leaf mining insects, the importance of holly to winter invertebrates and leaving damaged fallen trees were they fall, giving it the chance of regeneration such as the properties of willows. Reminiscing of laying on the floor whilst watching a crane fly being dissected by ants, climbing a favourite tree to watch badgers as a youngster and how this interest saved him during a particularly low period in his young life. We enjoyed laughing at the rats in the Janet Keir hide!! And seeing a kingfisher fishing from the Gladstone hide.
We wondered at the sight and sounds of pink foot skeins overhead and awkward whooper swan landing on the mere, more comical when there ice. More topical chat about birds seen on the reserves; like the incoming Scandinavian thrushes, redwings and fieldfares and putting apples out for them in your garden. Admiring the ruff on the mere and telling the different between godwits.
Video clip from his talk:
The swan feed was mainly a shelduck fest in front of the discovery hide, despite there being 15,000 pink footed geese and 1660 Whooper swans on site, always good to see the scrum with its accompanying cacophony. Pintail, teal, mallard, redshank, wigeon, ruff, godwits joined the throng.
Ruff & black tailed godwit

The starling murmuration is bringing in bigger crowds by the day, 50,000 starlings swirling about, great to see them closer to home than Sunbiggin, It’s certainly a good year to see the spectacle, as there’s one in Frodsham as well.

It was a beautiful sunny still day on Sunday, the perfect day for our group’s field trip to RSPB Hesketh out marsh; this is an exposed sight and can be quite unpleasant in winter, so we were fortunate for once with the weather. Unfortunately the peace and quiet was disturbed by the repetitive recall of gunfire from the local clay pigeon shoot behind the reserve; at least no wildfowl were being shot.

Twittering and moving through the hawthorn hedges we could see tree sparrows, linnets, goldfinches, long tailed tits, robin, blackbirds, fieldfare, redwing, song thrush and chaffinch. Pheasant, wood pigeon and a lapwing favoured the harvested sprout fields.  
On the marsh whistling wigeon outnumbered everything, others present included shelduck, teal, mallard, shoveler, a grey heron and a couple of paddling little egrets.  A couple of Whooper swan families numbering 10 individuals where on the back pools. 

A peregrine sat in a distant tree, later to be seen diving and   having an aerial scrap with a crow, whilst up to five marsh harriers were skimming the embankments below. A green wing tag which told us one of the female harriers had come from Norfolk, tagged by the North West Norfolk ringing group with hawk and owl trust.
Injured sparrowhawk
Other raptors included a kestrel hovering over the back fields and an injured female sparrowhawk; looking very sorry for herself, huddled close to the fence line, not so far away a shelduck carcass lay partially plucked on the mud bank. We can only surmise what might have happened to both birds

Scanning another pool two greenshank, their white plumage shining out alongside commoner redshank. A sprinkling of dunlin was present with black tailed godwits and a distant grey plover on a rear mudflat.
Sheep unperplexed as a flock fed alongside and over the footpath
A grey wagtail and several meadow pipits, foraged by the puddles on the path alongside the marsh edge.
Further along the path we found a ‘dopping’? of 11 female - goosanders, with two goldeneye and two great crested grebes.  We eventually found a single Spotted Redshank on the walk back, its long thin confirming its identity.Sporadic flocks of pink footed geese flew over heading in the direction of marshside, which is where we headed next.
The Marshside visitor centre was bustling with birders, so we decamped to Nel's hide to finish our trip. Sadly no dowicher had lingered but we were treated to additional sightings of snipe, gadwall and common gull.

Not a bad weekend at all.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Coming to a screen near you,.....How much would you miss birdsong? An invitation from RSPB Liverpool

Messenger promotion image

Heads up all members and bird friends.

RSPB Liverpool  are happy to announce that we are hosting a screening of a stunning and thought provoking film called The Messenger.  To be screened at the Picturehouse @ FACT cinema in Liverpool on Sunday 26 November 1pm . Rated PG, running time 90 minutes. 

All ticket holders will be entered into a raffle on the day including some goodie bags from the bird friendly coffee producers

After the screening all viewers are welcome to join the group in the cafe for an informal ‘ornithological social’  for anyone who wants to talk about the film, the issues it raises and more generally to find out  about the  RSPB’s activities in the area etc.

Tickets  available now from fact:

 Picturehouses - Cinema information for Picturehouse At Fact

Box office Number : 0871 902 5737

The Messenger is an essential film for anyone who cares about the environment and nature and full of insights and revelations for all audiences. It explores mankind’s deep-seated connection to songbirds and the devastating impact humans have had on bird species, from urbanisation, climate change and pesticides. 

Filmed across three continents The Messenger extends us a ‘birds’-eye view’ to offer fresh glimpses into epic migratory journeys while chronicling the struggle of songbirds worldwide to survive in turbulent environmental conditions. As scientists, activists and bird enthusiasts investigate this phenomenon, amazing secrets of the bird world come to light for the first time while beautiful slow motion photography illustrates the power and beauty of these delicate winged creatures.

The Messenger leaves viewers with a profound appreciation for the billions of birds with whom we share our communities and our planet – and with hope for our collective ability to turn the tide.  

Here’s a link to watch the trailer:

Messenger promotion image

Mark Avery (ex RSPB Conservation Director) : The Messenger is about the threats faced by songbirds – not just in the US and Canada but also in Europe and elsewhere.
It’s a good film and non-birders will probably find it just as compelling as those who, like me, sat through it with a self-generated commentary in their heads of bird names as different species appeared in view or in song.
There are some beautiful, and pretty much unique, images of birds in flight (taken in wind tunnels) and a lot of them in the wild too.  It is a vivid reminder of the fact that birds really are simply stunning – visually, vocally and because of the feats of migration they accomplish.
But life is tough for birds. The film started with issues and impacts such as collisions with buildings – probably a bigger issue in the US than in Europe (?) – but it moved on through trapping to the bigger issues of pesticides, land use and climate change. A lot of ground to cover (just like a migratory bird) but the film brought it home.
Hope to see you all there.....

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Report reveals continued persecution of birds of prey in Lancashire

Shot Hen Harrier Rowan - RSPB Images

·         RSPB’s Birdcrime report reveals a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016.
·         Despite this, there were no prosecutions for these persecution offences, the first time this has happened in 30 years.
·         Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to see birds of prey in the UK but has serious consequences for their populations.
·         The RSPB is calling for police and other enforcing authorities to make full use of all existing powers to protect birds of prey as well as the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting to ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably.
Without urgent action some of UK’s birds of prey face a bleak future after the latest Birdcrime report revealed 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.
Birdcrime 2016 – the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK – revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.
The report revealed that close to two-thirds (53) of the confirmed incidents took place in England. In Lancashire confirmed incidents included a shot peregrine, a shot kestrel and an illegally trapped peregrine.
People in Lancashire and across the UK have been robbed of the chance to see these spectacular birds because of these illegal incidents, yet there wasn’t a single prosecution related to them – the first time this has happened in 30 years.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Birds of prey bring our skies to life. There is nothing like seeing a diving peregrine or a skydancing hen harrier. The sights of these spectacular birds are something we should all be able to enjoy, unfortunately illegal activity is robbing us of this and preventing them from flourishing. There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being put into action. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle the illegal killing to protect our raptors for future generations to enjoy.”
Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without raptors. A Natural England report revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that persecution of hen harriers – associated with driven grouse moors - was the main factor limiting their recovery in England 
The RSPB believes the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would help tackle the ongoing illegal persecution that occurs on these grouse moors. This would also help tackle the wider problems of intensive management of ‘big bag’ driven grouse shooting, like the draining of and burning on fragile peat bogsA fair set of rules in the form of a licensing system could help ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably and introduce the option of restricting or removing a licence in response to the most serious offences, for example where staff on an estate have been convicted of illegally killing birds of prey.
The RSPB welcomes a recent announcement by Scottish Government that will see an independent panel established to review options for regulation of grouse shooting and to look at the economic and environmental costs and benefits of the industry.
Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “This latest Birdcrime report continues to highlight that in the UK we have a major issue with birds of prey being deliberately and illegally killed, despite having full legal protection. This type of crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier, and we must see a change in attitude and more effective law enforcement to protect these birds for years to come.”
For the full copy of Birdcrime 2016 report summarising the extent of illegal persecution offences against birds of prey in the UK, visit

  Birdcrime is a unique publication. It is the only centralized source of incident data for wild bird crime in the UK. The RSPB does not record all categories of wild bird crime. Instead we focus on recording crimes that affect the conservation status of species, such as bird of prey persecution and threats to rare breeding birds.
UK breakdown of the 81 confirmed raptor persecution incidents:
·         40 confirmed shooting incidents
·         22 confirmed poison abuse incidents
·         15 confirmed trapping incidents
·         3 confirmed other persecution incidents
·         1 confirmed nest destruction incident

Country breakdown of 81 confirmed raptor persecution incidents:
·         England 53 confirmed incidents (65%)
·         Wales 13 confirmed incidents (16%)
·         Scotland 9 confirmed incidents (11%)
·         Northern Ireland 6 confirmed incidents (7%)

A future for the Hen Harrier in England? A report by Natural England:

  All birds of prey have been protected since the 1954 Protection of Birds Act (except for the sparrowhawk which received protection in 1961).
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the primary legislation which protects animals, plants and certain habitats in the  UK. Under the act all wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected.
 Reporting a wildlife crime:

Crimes against wildlife should be reported to the local police via the 101 number. Crimes against wild birds can also be reported to the RSPB online or by calling the RSPB. 

If you have any sensitive information about the illegal killing of birds of prey, please report it by calling the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636. Calls to this number are not recorded and will be treated in the strictest confidence.