Sunday 25 January 2015

Kent Harvest Mouse Survey

Yesterday I went on a harvest mouse survey course at Wildwood. The survey is an ambitious one trying to cover all 1,100 land based tetrads in Kent to survey for harvest mouse. A day spent with Steve Kirk and several other folks all learning from Steve and intent on understanding about harvest mouse ecology and then getting some experience looking for their nests in the outdoors near Wildwood.
We spread out along the road side to check suitable habitat for any nests. 

The group gather as the first nest is found.
Measurements of the nest are taken. There is so little data and research performed on harvest mice and it is hoped that those participating in the survey can contribute to understanding mnoe about the habits of harvest mice.

Friday 24 October 2014

Right then

Well 2014 is approaching the winter and i've hardly been that active on my blog. My big news for the year is that after around 183 days of being unemployed I managed to secure a new role as an assistant ecologist for Lloyd Bore down in Canterbury and i'm loving it. This afternoon it was getting to grips with the details of performing an ecological appraisal, just brilliant. This job feels like an extension of my hobby and interest than what I have been used to in the past, what a feeling.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Longfield Chalk Bank

This small Kent Wildlife Trust reserve close to my front door held a surprise this afternoon in the first marbled white butterflies that I have seen there. In all at least 4 were flying around in the pre thunderstorm gloom along with about 30 ringlets, 6 meadow browns, 4 large skippers and a couple of small skippers. Quite a few 6-spot burnets were also on the wing.

 Large skipper feeding on thistle.

 Marbled white
Male small skipper on scabious

There was also one small pyramidal orchid which was tricky to see within the chalk grassland.

Last weekend was the Longfield festival and it was a pity that the rubbish aftermath cleanup had not extend to the chalk bank reserve which is directly adjacent to the footbal pitch that the festival is held on. Needless to say the football pitch had been carefully picked clean of rubbish whilst the chalk bank reserve was still littered. I do get very fed up with the neglect that some of the locals seem to have for this fantastic small pocket of chalk grassland we have on our doorstep.
litter and broken tree branches :-((

Whilst i'm in the mood to moan, i'm getting very fed up with the folks that decide to mow an area of grassland opposite a KWT roadside nature reserve that holds 2 species of orchid and other wild flowers. Last year the roadside verge was mowed and trashed with equipment left on it whilst railway bridge repairs were carried out. It was even driven over. This year the verge has been mowed twice, cutting down the pyramidal orchids that had tried to flower since the first mowing as for the bee orchids, I have seen none now for two years and they are the best examples of bee orchid I have seen in Kent, if they are given a chance to flower, grrrrrrrrr!

The KWT roadside reserve with 459 pyramidal orchids opposite the devastated grass verge below.

Needless to say I have complained to the folks responsible for the grass verge cutting.

Friday 23 May 2014

Local Checkup

A quick look at the local Kent Wildlife Trust roadside nature reserve, the grass verge opposite and the Rectory Meadow nature reserve for emerging or emerged orchids resulted in not seeing that many. In fact I only found three man orchids on a site where in the recent past I have found up to 70.

Still after a bit of searching I did find what I think are some emerging man orchids so maybe the majority are yet to appear, fingers crossed.

On the opposite side of the road to the KWT roadside nature reserve is a grass verge which last year was damaged and used as a storage area for equipment used to repair a railway bridge. The grass verge is home to some of the best bee orchids I have seen in Kent so I'll be checking as regularly as I can to see if any have survived.

Here is a taster of what the actual plants can look like. The first year I found them I had one plant with eight flowers on it.


Had a great week in Norfolk recently, focusing on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves of Holme Dunes and Cley. In all the time i've been birding i've never visited Holme Dunes but what a gem of a reserve.

I've never seen so may wall butterflies in one place.
Green hairstreaks were also on the wing.
A light swallow movement of birds heading west in small groups occured over 4 days with the daily counts in excess of 400.
At Cley the sedge warblers were in full song, blasting out from the reed beds.
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitor centre at Cley is fantastic and does a brilliant cream tea, the view over the reserve is incredible and has to be one of the best views in the country from any cafe.

North Norfolk is still a superb place to see brown hare and I had one field with 15 of these lovely animals.
Lisa and I walked from Stiffkey to Wells-next-the-sea along the coastal path and a surprise find was this red kite drifting north over the salt marsh. Typically by the time I had got my camera ready it had started to drift across the sun.
We also had a spoonbill flying east and then a second red kite not showing the secondary moult on the return leg of the walk.
The cattle in the Cley Eye field provided early morning cuteness whilst looking for blue-headed wagtails.

Darland Banks

A very enjoyable day at Darland banks yesterday. The man orchids are out in 1,000's and plenty of variety to see amongst them. Adonis, common and small blue on the wing with some very close encounters with small blues as they seemed to like resting on my rucksack, which itself was blue!

Friday 2 May 2014

April Round Up

Blimey it has been a busy and very enjoyable month for me and in a way unexpected. I managed to secure some survey work performing two breeding bird surveys on a zero hours contract basis for an ecological consultancy. Brilliant!

My 32+ years of birding experience is paying off and earning me some money as well as allowing me to learn and gain valuable industry experience including understanding a standard for the report writing.

I've also been able to get involved in great crested newt and reptile surveys which is an added and very welcome bonus.

I attended a one day ROLO heath and safety course and passed the test at the end of the day, which is one part of allowing me to then get a suitable CSCS card for entering construction sites as part of ecological work.

The voluntary American mink surveys have continued for Kent Wildlife Trust and hopefully i'll be able to get involved in their water vole surveys later in the year.

So who knows what May might bring my way, fingers crossed more survey work and experience.

Malta Massacre On Migration

Inspired by Chris Packham's video diary of the illegal slaughter of migratory birds in Malta I sent an e-mail on April 22nd to my south east MEP's who are:

Sharon Bowles MEP, Marta Andreasen MEP, Nigel Farage MEP, Peter Skinner MEP, Richard Ashworth MEP, Keith Taylor MEP

I decided to tailor my e-mail to ensure that it was received by them as I had read that using a prepared e-mail script may be treated as spam.

On May 1st, I received the following response from Catherine Bearder.

Dear Mr Young,

Thank you for your email about the appalling hunting of wild birds in Malta.

As a committed animal welfare campaigner, President of the Green Lib Dems and member of the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, I share your concerns and have done so for many years.

In anticipation of the spring hunting season, I along with 32 other Euro MPs jointly lobbied the European Commission to ensure that the Commission took enforcement action against this continued breach of the European Union's Birds Directive.  This supported BirdLife International's call for action.

Europe's rich diversity of over 500 wild bird species has been facing severe threats for a long time.  The EU Birds Directive was adopted unanimously by the Member States as a response to increasing concern about the decline in Europe's wild bird populations resulting from pollution and loss of habitats, amongst other issues.  The purpose of the Directive is to protect migratory birds from being hunted during the crucial spring stage of their life cycle.

Malta is currently the only Member State to still have a recreational spring hunting season and this is achieved by a derogation and exception from the Directive.  However, it is clear Malta is not even abiding by their exception, let alone the full Directive.

This campaign has now been stepped up and is getting increased publicly in the UK thanks to BBC Radio 4 and the presenter Chris Packman.  I requested an urgent meeting with the Commissioner for the Environment, and followed up that request with a letter signed by 43 other Euro MPs.

The Commission is taking action against Malta following the killing of migrating birds, particularly in defence of turtle doves and quail birds.
The magnitude of penalties possible under Maltese legislation has doubled over the past few years and they are setting up a specialised Wildlife Crime Unit.  However, much more action needs to be taken urgently.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.  If re-elected, I look forward to continuing to work closely with BirdLife Malta and other groups to stamp out this barbaric targeting of turtle doves and quail birds.  I know that the rest of the Lib Dem team are also committed to this.

This is one of the many environmental issues I have campaigned on since being elected five years ago, if you would like me to keep you updated on this and similar issues please let me know.  I hope this response is helpful and reassuring, please feel free to contact me again about this or any other European matter.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Bearder MEP

Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament for the South East of England Constituency Office
27 Park End Street
+44 1865 249838

March Round Up

Here we are at the end of March, my last day as an I.T. Manager working for Barclays Bank is over and now that i'm home it feels odd knowing that i'm no longer employed and the rest of my life is ahead of me. My transition in becoming part of the world of ecology has taken a positive turn though in that i've managed to secure some bird survey work for a consultancy based in Essex and an update of progress there will hopefully be in April.

So what has been happening in March? Well it is difficult to believe that March has come to an end already. I put my name down to volunteer for the Kent Wildlife Trust and have got involved in helping them monitor for American Mink in the North Kent Marshes. The Trust are placing around 50 mink rafts at various sites in the marshes and I helped to build and locate 5 of them in coldharbour marshes just north of Sittingbourne. The raft is made of recycled plastics and within the tunnel is placed a basket containing a sponge and clay on top. The basket fits into a hole in the plastic allowing it to sit in the water where the sponge absorbs water which then keeps the clay moist. A mink being inquisitive is likely to inspect the tunnel and leave its footprints in the clay.

My first mink raft deployed and god bless all who sail in her! Don't like the colour of that water though, yuk!
 The knot of choice to keep the raft in place is the bowline, a tricky knot to tie.
After a mornings raft deploying I moved onto Elmley, no longer an RSPB reserve but still looking fantastic all the same. I saw at least 6 hares along the track up to the old farmhouse which holds many a good memory for me as I used to help out with the WEBS counts here and quite often sat in the kitchen enjoying a cuppa before heading out for the count.

March was a very dry month with plenty of sunny days which brought out quite a few bumblebees and butterflies. This site near to Darenth was alive with early queen bumblebee species, mainly Bombus terrestris or buff-tailed bumblebee who were actively looking for nest sites in the rough grass habitat which is ideal for them.
Lisa and I also visited Whalefest which is held in Brighton and is the cetacean equivalent of birdfair although much smaller but in years to come could be as big.
This lady, all the way from Canada, was wandering around in a dress of plastic bags to demonstrate the number of plastic bags used by 1 shopper in a year, none of which will bio-degrade.

One of the main themes for this year's Whalefest was cetaceans in captivity and a display of crosses, one for each cetacean that has died in captivity, provided a stark representation of the terrible and unnecessary loss.
 Back to the mink rafts two weeks later to check for footprints and you can just about make out what look like water vole footprints in the clay from this raft. No mink footprints were found which is good but not definite proof that they are not in the area.