September Sightings

Saturday, Sept 9.  I took a railway excursion, ending up back on the coast at Folkestone. Rail travel I believe, is a fine way of seeing cross-sections of our landscape. On the outward journey north, I saw what were presumably, two hot-spots of ash die-back disease – one just north of Battle and a very noticeable area at and around Wadhurst station.  Added to this from time to time were instances of alder alongside watercourses, dead from Phytophthora.  Upon reaching Tonbridge station, I was greeted on Platform 3 by a large black and white cat sprawled across the platform grooming itself and not caring a jot about the comings and goings of people and trains.  By its persona, I can only assume it owns the station and answers to the name Sapphie!

See  http://www.kentonline.co.uk/tonbridge/news/station-cat-stars-in-railway-38942/

Folkestone harbour, has changed a lot from when I visited it once about 20 years ago.  A lot of money is being spent on transforming the redundant harbour into a public space with restaurants and bars and a pleasant walk along the long breakwater.  100 years on from WW1, I couldn’t help but think from time to time about the many troops that must have passed by the same scenes that I was seeing today.  The little shops and cafes down The Old High Street were enjoyable too.  A nice spot for a few hours ramble.  Continuing the theme of trees, I saw the two healthiest horse chestnuts for years, perhaps rather out on a limb and with the prevailing wind having a long fetch over the sea, they are protected from attack.

                                                                                                                                            I noticed that on the south-facing slopes of the North Downs overlooking the town that much of the chalk grassland was being engulfed by scrub.  What a pity…

Sunday, Sept 18.  Walked to Bishopstone Tidemills where there is much evidence of the archaeological digging being carried out unearthing the remains of the now ‘lost’ village.  I found the evidence of William Catt’s huge greenhouse intriguing with what I assume are heating pipes?

Monday, Sept 19.  Beautiful sunny day again.  Sat on the near deserted beach and watched lagoons formed by a low shingle ridge, flood on the high tide, these being patrolled by turnstones looking for food – especially washed-up mussels.  There have been numbers of large white and Vanessa butterflies along the beach of late, blown by the NE breeze or, are they possibly looking to migrate south??

 

All work, no pay: the plight of young conservationists

I consider myself extremely lucky, indeed very privileged to have spent almost my whole working life involved with wildlife and landscape conservation: Working in spectacular surroundings; saving or re-creating precious habitats; the buzz of telling other people about the view around them; working with animals (well, most of the time!).  Yes there have been the downsides – office work, getting wet and muddy, clearing up other people’s mess and livestock having other ideas about where to be!  But hey, most occupations have their downsides!  Reading this article has really reinforced just how lucky I was back in the 1970’s to have got into this profession and what for much of my life, has been a charmed career.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/17/all-work-no-pay-the-plight-of-young-conservationists?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet

All work, no pay: the plight of young conservationists. Continue reading

Shocking Slaughter of American Horses

Came across this shocking story today which to put in a nutshell, is a government department being unconstitutional and rounding-up and probably leading to slaughtering of thousands of wild horses, just so that greedy ranchers get more grazing!

https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/media/house-appropriations-committee-issues-death-warrant-92000-american-wild-horses

Bill Will Send Them to Slaughter Against the Will of the American People.

Washington, DC (July 18, 2017).  Today the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee stripped language from the Department of Interior’s 2018 budged that federally prohibits the slaughter of America’s federally protected wild horse and burro herds.

The amendment, put forth by by Republican Chris Stewart (R-UT) and passed by a voice vote, allows for the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros that Interior Department bureaucrats deem to be surplus. The removal of the protections would result in wild herds across the West being slaughtered on a mass scale. Captured wild horses and burros in government holding facilities would also be subject to being killed en masse.

Suzanne Roy, executive director of The American Wild Horse Campaign, the nation’s leading wild horse advocacy organization, issued a strong statement condemning the Committee’s vote.

“Let’s be clear: House Appropriations Committee members just signed a death warrant for America’s mustangs and it will lead to the wholesale destruction of these irreplaceable national treasures,” Ms. Roy said. “The Stewart amendment is a slaughter amendment, and its proponents are trying to hide that fact from the American people.”

“We will hold these Members of Congress to account for this public deception and unacceptable assault on our wild mustangs,” Ms. Roy said.

Recent public opinion polls and previous polls consistently show that 80% of Americans support protecting wild horses and burros from slaughter, and the vast majority support the use of humane birth control rather than slaughter to manage our nation’s wild horse herds.

The bill now moves onto the full House for a vote. The Senate is expected to take up the issue after the August recess.

 

About the American Wild Horse Campaign

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) (formerly known as the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.

News From ‘British Wildlife,’ June 2017

Ballast-Water Reform.  An international agreement on ballast-water, water which is taken on by ships for stability and when discharged, often on the other side of the world releasing invasive species, causing huge problems for local marine wildlife.  As of September 8th, all discharged ballast-water will have to be treated beforehand.

Shrinking Shorelines.  The UK National Ecosystem Assessment estimates coastal habitat has decreased by 16% since 1945.  In England, this has amounted to a loss of some 13,000 hectares with only 800 hectares created or restored.

Pesticides and Profitability.  New research from France has found that reduction of pesticide does not necessarily result in reduced crop yields and profitability.  The study looked at 946 non-organic arable commercial farms showing contrasting levels of pesticide use and covering a wide range of production situations in France.  It was estimated that, on 59% of farms nationally, total pesticide use could be reduced by 42% without any negative effects.  France hopes by 2025 to cut pesticide use by 50%. The UK has no plans to reduce overall pesticide use.

 

Green Groups and MPs Calling for Amendments to the Repeal Bill

http://www.ciwem.org/green-groups-and-mps-are-calling-for-an-amendment-to-the-repeal-bill/

July 7 2017.  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management,  (CIWEM).

 

Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.

Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK

The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.

The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.

Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.

“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.

“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.

“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”

The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.

The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.

Amendments.  The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:

(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—

(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or

(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or

(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.

(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—

(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,

(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,

(c) enforcement of legal requirements,

(d) setting standards or targets,

(e) co-ordinating action,

(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.

(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—

(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and

(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.

(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—

(a) the European Commission;

(b) the European Environment Agency;

(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and

(d) the European Court of Auditors.

(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.

 

This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.

July Sightings

July 4.  Flock of about 20 oystercatchers perched on one of the reefs that run out here and there along the beach at St.Leonards this afternoon.

July 8.  Trained to Brighton…  Beautiful show of hollyhocks at Berwick station, real cottage flowers!  Scrub is still being allowed to increase in area at a number of locations along the Firle Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This is one of SE England’s major landscape features and if attitudes, government grants, and funding for Natural England staff do not change before too long, this majestic view will be lost to future generations.    In a field near Firle, saw windrows of straw from an early combined crop of cereal.    People who criticise on aesthetic grounds the Rampion wind farm some 10 miles seaward of Brighton, should turn their gaze 90 degrees and consider the factory chimney (aka i-360 attraction), parked on Brighton’s promenade!    Evening withdrawal of some evening train services meant I was stuck on Lewes station for about an hour from 8-45pm but I was rewarded by one of Nature’s spectacles.  I became aware of lots of jackdaw chatter emanating some 200m away in trees in Southover Road.  Over the next hour, wave upon wave of jackdaws came in low over the station from the south-east, many beginning to chatter on their final approach to their companions already settled amongst the crowns of the tall trees. I was left wondering how they all managed to fit into the the available space. Home at 22-45!

July 9.  Sensible dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!  Why sit on baking-hot pebbles when you can lay on cool, damp ones or even better, in the water!

July 14.  Buff-tailed bumble bees bottoms-up on artichokes on my allotment.

July 19.  during the evening, I counted some 20-24 swifts over the centre of St.Leonards.  Another couple of weeks and I guess they’ll have largely departed south.

Longevity Records for Birds in Britain & Ireland

https://app.bto.org/ring/countyrec/results2014/longevity.htm#9920

I abstracted these selected records of the age of birds from a more extensive list.  Some surprising ages revealed!

The records listed below are for longevity records reported as BTO ring recoveries up to the end of 2014.  The elapsed time in years, represents a minimum age, especially for birds ringed as adults.

Mute Swan 29,  Mallard 20,  Heron 23,  Kestrel 15,  Herring Gull 32 (oh dear!),           Wood Pidgeon 17,  Blue Tit 10,  Chiffchaff 7,  Wren 7,  Starling 17,  Blackbird  14,     House Sparrow 12.

Thoughts on Farming and Rivers

June 17.  A dear friend of mine went for a walk out from Alfriston today, in the heart of the South Downs and through the Cuckmere Valley.  He was commenting on the “crops gently swaying in the breeze. How lucky we are to have such diligent farmers growing our fine food.”  I don’t know about diligent, they and the agro-chemical industry have certainly messed-up the once wonderful balance that used to exist between farming and wildlife.

There is a middle way of doing things, note The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project is based at Loddington in Leicestershire – (https://www.gwct.org.uk/allerton/about-the-allerton-project/ )  Or the RSPB’s Hope Farm, a 181-hectare (450-acre) arable farm in Cambridgeshire (https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/farming/hopefarm/the_farm.aspx )  The government and public opinion just need to encourage and finance farming post Brexit along that route.

Yellowhammer RSPB

He wrote on: “The Cuckmere river is in a state, either side of white bridge it can’t be more than 6′ [feet] wide, strangled with weed & silt!”  Man interferes with rivers at his peril – note all the Environment Agency schemes across the country reinstating river’s natural features and their courses, back to how they naturally once were in various places across the country. So maybe as it’s not built over, its time to consider breaching the Cuckmere’s banks and let the river re-connect with its floodplain?

June Sightings

June 5th.  At breakfast time, noticed a very large ship going down Channel.  It proved to be the MSC Zoe (which with several sister ships) is one of the largest container ships in the world (as of August 2015), it being the third of a series of ships built by the Mediterranean Shipping Company.  She takes her name from the four year old granddaughter of Gianluigi Aponte, the Mediterranean Shipping Company president and chief executive.

MSC Zoe was constructed by Daewoo in South Korea for $140m.  The ship’s particulars are: at a length of 395 metres and has a draft of 16 metres.  She has a capacity of 19,224 TEU (containers) and a deadweight of 199,272 DWT.  The vessel’s massive main engine is a two-stroke MAN B&W 11S90ME-C diesel engine, which has a height of 15.5 m (51 ft), a length of 25 m (82 ft) and a breadth of 11 m (36 ft).  The engine has a maximum continuous rating of 62.5 MW (83,800 hp) at 82.2 rpm and a normal continuous rating of 56.25 MW (75,430 hp) at 79.4 rpm.  Her single five-blade propeller has blade lengths of 10.5 m (34 ft) producing a service speed of 22.8 kn (42.2 km/h; 26.2 mph)

By Hummelhummel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42056503

June 6.  In view of last night’s un-seasonal gale, I have added a Page* setting-out the Beaufort Scale, the universally accepted scale for wind speed.  In mid-Channel at about 8-9am this morning, it reached Severe Gale force.  Nowadays – even in tv/radio weather forecasts, the term ‘gale’ or ‘storm’ are often misused, so here’s the correct calibration!  *Scroll back to the top of the ‘Reflections’ blog screen and click on Beaufort Wind Scale.  The sea has been wild all day with 2-3 metre waves breaking on the beaches; even by the evening, the wind speed was still registering in the region of Force 7 – ‘Near Gale,’ very un-seasonal for June!

June 11.  There was very good visibility tonight out into the Channel where the cruise liner Arcadia, was slowly passing west along the Sussex coast on passage to Southampton, when I noticed a cluster of lights and orange glow on the very far horizon.  On doing a simple exercise or two on Google Earth, it would seem to be Boulogne, some 45 miles to the south-east!

Today, a 350 tonne transformer was transported by road from Shoreham to Ninfield, see link  https://sussex.police.uk/news/drone-footage-captures-abnormal-load-journey-through-east-sussex/

June 13.  After an apparent absence of about a week due to the un-seasonal windy weather, swifts have returned this morning to hawk insects high above St.Leonards old town. These enigmatic birds have been one of my favourite birds since early childhood.

RSPB image

Late afternoon on the 13th and one Hastings Arrows that’s never going to find its destination!  The engine compartment and almost the whole of interior of the bus being gutted.

June 18.  My strawberries now in full production on the wonderful Marina Allotments!  I came across this thought prvoking quote while on Twitter: “For every kilogram of vegetables you grow yourself, you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms…”

Noticed this colony of relatively large digger wasps under the attractive stone flagstones in Pevensey Road.

June 19.  Heatwave.  These  fella’s have the right idea while working in the heat!

While picking another dish-full of strawberries this evening, I heard an approaching bird call and immediately thought I know what’s making that call.  On looking up, a pale-looking ring-necked parakeet flew over, did a circuit nearby and then disappeared towards neighbouring housing.  A summer escape or from a feral colony nearby?