Monday, 7 April 2014

Last call for North East Wildlife Photography competition

There's still enough time to enter the North East Wildlife Photography Competition 2014 which has attracted a line-up of impressive judges including Ross Hutchinson ITV Weatherman and Sam Lee, folk singer and keen wildlife photographer.

Durham, Tees Valley and Northumberland Wildlife Trusts have again joined forces with the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN) and the Great North Museum: Hancock in the hope that keen snappers will showcase the best of the region’s wildlife. 

Last year people of all ages and abilities entered 1,500 photos of this region's amazing wildlife and left experts highly impressed by the quality of their pictures.

Sam Lee said: “I am really honoured to be squinting my photographer’s eye over the glorious images of the natural world for this competition. As a onetime photographer, who has decided to document the world around him through music,  it is a great thrill to be getting back in touch with my visual training and see the world through the eyes and lenses of the talent across the North East.”

Nestlé which has worked with Northumberland Wildlife Trust on the planting of butterfly meadows at its factory in Fawdon is the main sponsor, with prizes being donated by Opticron, Newcastle College, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watching Magazine, Digitalab, Going Digital North East, Kielder Water and Forest Park, Naturetrek, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours, Speyside Wildlife, Vine House Farm and West Country Wildlife Photography Centre.

This year, there are six competition categories to enter, with each category winner and runner-up receiving a great prize and an overall winner being selected from one of these categories for the main prize of £250. 

  • Wildlife portraits - photos that capture the character, essence or traits of a species
  • Wildlife in action - photos that capture wildlife behaviour and action 
  • Wildlife in the landscape - photos that show wildlife in its habitat, landscape or setting
  • Botanical: photos of plants, fungi and lichen 
  • Young person’s - photos of wildlife or plants taken by anyone aged 16 or under 
  • Art in nature - photos of flora and fauna that are composed for artistic effect
Entry is free and open to everyone, but photographs must have been taken in the North East.  The closing date for entries is midnight, Monday 5 May 2014.  The winners will be announced at an award ceremony to be held on Thursday 3 July, and will be displayed at the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle before going on tour around the region.

For details of how to submit your entry (online or by post) plus full terms and conditions visit or write to: Steve Ashton, North East Wildlife Photography Competition, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Margrove Heritage Centre, Boosebeck, Saltburn, TS12 3BZ. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Latest BTO Wetland Bird Survey goes live!

Waterbirds in the UK 2011/12, the latest report of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), has been published. Search the interactive online interface to find latest information on the status of the UK's waterbirds and the wetlands used by them. With a new colour report providing a summary of the results and other waterbird related stories, the new style 'WeBS annual report' provides an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in waterbirds in the UK and beyond.

Friday, 10 January 2014

AFRICAN BIRD CLUB: 20th Anniversary Meeting

AFRICAN BIRD CLUB: 20th Anniversary Meeting

Following its launch from small beginnings in 1994, the African Bird Club has grown its activities significantly and last year alone it spent over £30,000 on bird conservation initiatives in Africa – bringing the total to date up to almost £170,000 across 170 projects in 32 countries.

As it celebrates its 20th Anniversary a special meeting is being held at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 12th April. Doors to the prestigious Flett Theatre open at 1015 hrs. Admission is free to ABC members, and non-members are invited to make a donation.

Speakers include Achilles Byaruhanga from Uganda looking at the The State of Africa’s Birds and how we need to save them. Roger Safford will outline recent discoveries on the Birds of the Malagasy region. World-renowned lecturer and author Tim Birkhead will talk about Weaver birds and Honeyguides, and how promiscuity is widespread amongst these families in Africa. David Pearson will look back on four decades of intensive bird ringing at Ngulia in Kenya and Jim Reynolds will be “Terning” back the clock to look at lessons learned from 20 years of fieldwork on Ascension Island.

In particular ABC would like to see as many of its Founder Members as possible on the day – and no doubt there will be a few celebrations in at least one pub in South Kensington!

More details at

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Butterfly Conservation 'Match Pot Appeal'

Butterfly Conservation are asking for your help to transform the fortunes of in their Match Pot appeal.

A tax on landfill operators was introduced in 1996 to encourage recycling and waste reduction, with the money raised from this allocated to environmental projects.

In order to be eligible, Butterfly Conservation must contribute 10% of the total amount required for the work they want to do to save threatened butterflies and moths.

As such, Butterfly Conservation needs your help to secure landfill funds so that they can expand their landscape-scale projects. Every pound donated to the Match Pot Appeal unlocks £10 from the Landfill Communities Fund.

Please visit the donations page by clicking on the Butterfly Conservation logo below to contribute:

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Golden Eagle found poisoned in the Angus Glens

RSPB Scotland yesterday condemned those responsible for the killing of a satellite-tagged Golden Eagle, found poisoned on the hills above Glen Lethnot in Angus. The bird was discovered after Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, who was monitoring the eagle's movements, became suspicious when the satellite signal remained static for several days. He immediately alerted the police and RSPB Scotland investigations staff who later visited the area, which is intensively managed for grouse shooting, and a search of the moor allowed the recovery of the dead bird.

 The eagle's movement's prior to its discovery poisoned.

Tests carried out by the Scottish Government laboratory of Science and Advice for Scottish agriculture confirmed that the bird had been poisoned. The eagle, named "Fearnan", was ringed as a chick in a nest near Loch Tay in Perthshire in June 2011 and had spent much of its life in Badenoch, before moving to the Angus glens in early November. Just three weeks later, it had been poisoned.

The poisoned Golden Eagle © RSPB Investigations Team

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: "This appalling incident involving a species recently voted as the nation's favourite bird, marks a dreadful end to the Year of Natural Scotland. We have recently submitted a petition to the Scottish Government, asking for the Golden Eaggle to be officially designated as the national bird of Scotland. Incidents such as this show very clearly why this iconic bird needs not just our recognition, but also greater protection. We sincerely hope that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice and would encourage those with information to come forward."

In the past five and a half years, another four eagles, a Red Kite and seven Buzzards have been shot, poisoned or trapped on sporting estates situated in the Angus Glens. In January 2013, the nest tree of a pair of White-tailed Eagles was felled. No-one has been prosecuted for any of these offences.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB, fitting the satellite tag harness onto the eaglet prior to stitching and glueing the harness bands to establish a good fit (© Keith Brockie)

Mr Housden added: "I will be asking the environment spokesperson of all the parties in the Scottish Parliament to take cross-party action to stiffen the penalties for those convicted of such offences and to look again at the regulation of sport shooting. The current state of affairs is simply unacceptable."

A recent report by RSPB Scotland revealed that a significant number of incidents of illegal killing of birds of prey took place in areas managed for driven grouse shooting.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thoughts on the Baikal Teal in Lancashire

Following the report of a drake Baikal Teal at Marshside RSPB, Lancashire yesterday an image subsequently emerged via social media. The digiscoped image from the finder appeared to show a drake with an unusual face pattern, lacking the black vertical line running from below the eye to the chin.

Initial internet searches failed to find any comparable images of drake Baikal Teal with this vertical line absent, and this aligned with news that a hybrid had been seen the previous week resulted in the incorrect conclusion that this individual was one and the same and of hybrid origin.

Later yesterday evening an image was circulated apparently showing a drake Baikal Teal from Japan that did not show the black vertical line (see here).  We did some further digging however and located the original image and additional images taken the same day of this presumed 1st-winter drake in Japan that clearly show it did have the black vertical line albeit a narrow one (see here). In addition communication with the observer of last week's hybrid pointed to a different second individual being involved.

In order to try and clarify the identification and establish whether drake Baikal Teal can ever lack this black line we emailed various individuals for comment. Our first response came this morning from Peter Kennerley, who has extensive experience of Asian duck. Peter made the following comments:

"In my personal experience drake Baikal Teal would always show this vertical line...However it is variable in width, on some narrow, others broad"

"...the lack of a black bar on the face isn't a hybrid character (but could be the result of inbreeding from a captive population?)"

Further comments from ex-BBRC chairman Colin Bradshaw provided a plausible suggestion that may explain the absence of the black line commenting thus

"It not only lacks the dark bridle but also the black triangular patch below the eye that this extends from. What I am not clear is whether the bridle feathers are grown in black tipped white and then the white tip abrades off [quite likely I would think].  In that case this white bridle would be a short-lived but common transient feature of all males. However if they grow in black straight away then it wouldn’t."

After further searching an image taken in Japan in December (see here) and another image of a captive bird here may provide further evidence in support of Colin's comments as both individuals have a faint dark line appearing, perhaps as the paler feather tips abrade.

This all points away from my original thoughts that the facial pattern was as a result of hybrid origin and it will be interesting to see, if this individual lingers, whether the face pattern changes in the coming weeks or the line remains absent. Proving its origin however is a whole different ball game!

A short video from Crossens Marsh was made available (via Youtube) by Pete Hines this evening.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Hand-reared Spoon-billed Sandpipers seen in Thailand and China

One of this year's hand-reared Spoon-billed Sandpiper has been seen for the first time in the wild, more than 8,000km from where it was released. Twenty-five of the critically endangered birds have been raised over two years by an Anglo-Russia conservation team on the Russian tundra, before being released to join their wild-born counterparts in migrating to South-East Asia. Until now, it was unknown whether any would be seen until they returned to Russia to breed aged two years, but this month one has been observed on the coast near Bangkok (Thailand), and another in southern China.

 Hand-reared juvenile Spoon-billed Sandpiper (photo © Roland Digby/WWT)

WWT Head of Species Conservation Department, Baz Hughes said: "This is really exciting news! We now know that Spoon-billed Sandpipers, raised by our avicultural staff on the Russian tundra, can migrate with their wild counterparts to wintering areas a quarter of the way around the globe."

Conservationists take eggs from wild Spoon-billed Sandpiper nests, prompting the parent birds to lay a further clutch. The hand-reared chicks are safe from predators and, with the wild-raised chicks from the second clutch, it increases the total number of birds fledging by up to ten times.

Mr Suchart Daengphayon from the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand saw the sandpiper at Samut Maneerat on 7th November. The hand-reared birds are all marked with small white plastic leg flags - marking birds allows them to be identified later and helps reveal information about their movements and behaviour.

Christoph Zöckler, Coordinator of the East Asian- Australasian Flyway Partnership's Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force said: "We've learnt an enormous amount about the sandpipers' movements over the last few years but there are big gaps. While we still don't know all the places they stop over on migration, we can't protect them or address any threats they face there."

Wader expert Nigel Clark from the British Trust for Ornithology added: "Marking Spoonies tells us many things. Studies in the early 2000s gave us some understanding of what was going wrong - not enough young were returning to breed. By marking birds now, we will be able to tell if what we are doing to conserve them is working."

Surviving predators on the breeding grounds is the first in a series of perils that have claimed most of the species. Coastal wetlands along their migration route have been reclaimed, leaving the birds without sanctuary or food, and illegal trapping in nets is widespread. Incredibly, within a week, a second hand-reared Spoon-billed Sandpiper was spotted by Jonathan Martinez of the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society at Fucheng, in southern China. He also reported a vast number of illegal nets on the 500km coast north of Fucheng, which the bird had evidently avoided on its southward migration.

Dr Rob Sheldon, RSPB's Head of International Species Recovery, said "Just when we thought we'd solved the problem of illegal hunting in Bangladesh and Myanmar, it now appears that trapping of waders is a widespread problem in China too. BirdLife International and its new partner, the Chinese Ornithological Society, will be working hard to address this serious issue in future."

Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Chair of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force said: "The plight of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper has rallied extraordinary levels of support from all around the world. But conservation is costly and the Spoony needs this support to continue if it is to survive. We, as conservationists, are looking at every opportunity to focus our limited funds where they will make a difference."

Guidance on reporting Spoon-billed Sandpiper sightings is available from the East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force. To follow the progress of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation breeding programme visit