Wednesday, 31 January 2018

January ends

Rain at first the brighter, 6°, light to mod WSW.

A Little Egret out at Lollingdon near Amwell Spring and the Lapwing flock present, around 200 strong.

20+ Yellowhammer around the hill today.

Approx. 30 Lesser Blackback Gull and c100 Black-headed Gull present in the same field.

A lot more Gulls present distantly in fields out towards Aston.

Good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing present and quite widespread and a flock of 60+ Goldfinch out at Little Lollingdon.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

From slaughter to spectacle - education inspires locals to love Amur Falcon

Back in November 2012 I blogged an article about Amur Falcons being slaughtered in their thousands in a good news story for this enigmatic Falcon.

The following article courtesy of Birdlife International.

Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of migrating Amur Falcons were being slaughtered annually in northeast India. Today, they are celebrated.

Eco-clubs give locals a new appreciation of the Amur Falcon © Thangam Velusamy / Shutterstock

By Alex Dale

Amur Falcons Falco amurensis are incredible long-distance migrants. During their travels from their breeding grounds in north-east Asia, hundreds of thousands of them cross the Indian Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean to their wintering grounds in southern Africa. However, in November 2012, an estimated 100,000 falcons didn’t make it past Nagaland, a state in north-east India. They were trapped, slaughtered or taken to local markets alive and sold as fresh food.

The shocking news spread quickly across the world thanks to a video put together by the campaigning organisation Conservation India. The video showed how local hunters were using huge nylon nets across the Amur Falcon’s forest roosting sites, capturing them indiscriminately in enormous quantities. The appalling scale of the killing prompted the Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India) to contact the Indian Minister for Environment and Forests and the Chief Minister of Nagaland.

Amur Falcons are trapped in nets like these no more © Conservation India

Simultaneously, BirdLife set up an emergency fund to help BNHS coordinate a series of actions in order to halt the massacre. Many BirdLife Partners such as BirdLife South Africa and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) also lent their voice to the campaign and received international support. The then-Minister for the Environment Jayanthi Natarajan personally intervened, which led to the destruction of nets and to the release of some of the captive falcons that were still alive.

The tragedy was stopped that year, but BNHS needed to put steps in place to ensure that future crises would be prevented. Supported by the emergency appeal, BNHS coordinated a widespread programme of action, working with Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust. Field teams were established to monitor Amur Falcons at their roosting sites and to directly intervene to prevent the atrocities from happening ever again. Locals were employed to patrol the Doyang Reservoir, one of the largest roosting sites for the Amurs. The Government’s Forest Department also joined the patrolling team, who acted as conservation ambassadors within the local community.

The falcons were trapped, slaughtered or taken to local markets alive and sold as fresh food.

After a process of consultation, BNHS decided to focus on natural history education as a means of advocacy. Several eco-clubs were set up, using a unique model. Local adults from Doyang, Pangti, Asha and Sungro villages were trained and employed as teachers, and young students between the ages of eight and 17 years were given free environmental education. The aim was to teach children about the wonders of bird migration and the importance of keeping certain wild bird populations intact. To this day, BNHS also runs eco-clubs independently in Jalukie, Lilien, Bongkolong and Ahthibung villages in Nagaland, resulting in more than 500 students being tutored.

BNHS is also supporting natural history outreach and advocacy in Manipur through the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN). The Amur Falcon dance festivals held in that state are the first of their kind. As a result, Tamenglong in Manipur, which sees a very large congregation of birds every year, has also passed a resolution to stop hunting Amur Falcons through their village council.

Scenes from a dance festival held to raise awareness of the Amur Falcon’s plight © Neha Sinha

Tackling the underlying causes of illegal killing in communities is no easy feat. Yet the following year, Amur Falcons were granted safe passage through north-east India, thanks to the joint action of locals, government and NGOs. As attitudes changed in the space of a single year, not a single Amur Falcon was trapped during and since the 2013 winter migration. The hundreds of thousands of Amur Falcons that visited the Doyang Reservoir that year were finally able to do so in peace.

“We have not told the locals what to do. Through education and skill development they decided to give up hunting.”

“We have come a very long way from working in a state which has no conservation history to trying to advocate for wildlife in a sensitive manner, without hurting local sentiment”, says Neha Sinha, Advocacy and Policy Officer, BNHS, and Principle Investigator of the Amur Falcon Project. “One of the reasons we decided to impart natural history education is because education itself is empowering. We have not told the locals what to do. We have shown them Amur Falcon migration maps, falcon biology and stories, and inspired an absolute dedication to the community’s education and skill development, and they decided to give up hunting. For this, we have the community to thank.”

Not a single Amur Falcon was trapped during the 2013 winter migration

Pangti, the largest hunting village in the area, recently declared a total ban on airguns – a very significant development as it was a common hunting method. Furthermore, the village council put a seasonal ban on all wild bird hunting, fulfilling another one of BNHS’ project goals in the area.

Locals have been exemplary in giving up their hunting practices. Today the Doyang Reservoir is recognised as a stopover for up to a million Amur Falcons every year, a spectacle that all locals, from government officials to former hunters, can all enjoy together.

This article is brought to you by the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

We are grateful to the many BirdLife donors who have supported this action and, in particular, Per Undeland, through the BirdLife Fund for the Conservation of Threatened Indian Birds.

Monday, 29 January 2018

A quiet day

Overcast with several rain Showers, 10°, light WNW.

Not a lot showing on a rather wet and grey day.

A Sparrowhawk flushed on the hill and a flock of Chaffinch and Yellowhammer present.

A Little Egret feeding out in one of the fields and the usual Gulls present. Plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing moving about but little else of note.

Friday, 26 January 2018


Sunny spells then clouding up early p.m., 8°, light N.

A walk out to the Lees and the Long Dyke 
4 Stonechat along the Dyke and 5 Reed Bunting.

2 Raven, 1 calling from a pylon and another flew towards Cholsey Hill. A Kingfisher along Cholsey Brook and good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing around and 2 Jay seen and a Tawny Owl heard.

Mammals: Roe Deer.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Egrets still around

Mainly sunny with increasing cloud, 8°, light SSW.

More rain yesterday has left the ground even soggier and heavier going than before.

4 Little Egret still present with 2 out in Lollingdon and 2 more out towards Aston Tirrold along with a Grey Heron.

Approx. 320 Lapwing Present and the usual Gulls on the flooded areas and still good numbers of Thrushes around.

During one of the sunny periods there were 4 Buzzard and 6 Red Kite thermalling over the playing field before gaining height and moving off in different directions and the “tail-less” Red Kite seen briefly over the garden beforehand.

A Kestrel out at Little Lollingdon.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Little Egrets

Variable sun and cloud, 8°, light to mod WNW.

Much better weather today after the week ends wind, rain, snow and sleet.

2 Little Egret inadvertently flushed from the brook on the way out to Lollingdon. They landed briefly in an adjacent field before flying off east.

15 minutes later I found 2 more distantly at the back end of a flooded filed, thinking how did they get in front of me without me seeing them?

An hour plus later I was coming off the hill when I noticed 4 Little Egret flying west about a kilometre from me and they landed in a flood area in one of the fields. I made my way down and across the fields but by the time I arrived they had moved on.

The flooded field out at Lollingdon hosted a flock of approx. 200 Lapwing today, with c80 Black-headed Gull and 40’ish Lesser Blackback Gull.

Lots of thrushes still around scattered throughout the area and a Kingfisher also noted, both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk seen near the Millennium Wood.

Mammals: Roe Deer.

Some Winter Aconites and Snowdrops in flower now.

4 Little Egret

 Winter Aconites

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Garden stuff

Rain, 3°, light NE.

A poor day weather wise……..rather wet.

A second Brambling in a garden near Waterloo close today with this one being a female bird. Per Mike Amphlett.

The garden has been very busy today with at least a dozen Blackbird, 6 assorted Mallard, 3 Moorhen, 6 Wood Pigeon, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Collared Dove, 12 Chaffinch, 4 Greenfinch, 8 Goldfinch, 12 House Sparrow, 3 Robin, 1 Wren, 2 Dunnock, several Blue Tit and Great Tit, 8 Long-tailed Tit, 2+ Coal Tit, 2 Nuthatch and a Treecreeper.

Friday, 19 January 2018

On the Hill

A sunny day but chilly, 5°, light WSW.

A walk out to the hill today, a small flock of 33 Lapwing on the floods along with c80 Lesser Blackback Gull and 100+ Black-headed Gull and a single Herring Gull.

2 Raven flew along the hill and headed of west and a single Pied Wagtail on the hill.

Good numbers of Fieldfare scattered around various fields and several mobile flocks of Redwing, also c30 Song Thrush, 80+ Blackbird and 5 Mistle Thrush.

2 Nuthatch, 3 Coal Tit and c10 Long-tailed Tit in the garden.

A flock of c10 Siskin along Caps Lane. Per TW.

Mammals: Roe Deer.

Fish: 3 Brown Trout in Cholsey Brook near the Bullshole.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Bunk Line & Green Lane

A few sunny periods, 5°, light W.

An afternoon walk along the Bunk Line and Green Lane………..was heading for Bow Bridge but left it too late.

Not a great deal out there………………a Long-tailed Tit flock with a Goldcrest accompanying them and a few Blackbird and Song Thrush along the hedgerows. A Flock of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling feeding and a Mistle Thrush in song.

A Kestrel noted and the “Tail-less” Red Kite seen soaring distantly over the village with a couple of others.

100+ Black-headed Gull around the Cholsey treatment works and a few Pied Wagtail.

Mammals: Roe Deer.