Friday, 17 October 2014

Reply from Glenis Willmott MEP (Labour) - Karmenu Vella

17 October 2014

Dear Stewart,

Thank you for your email regarding the nomination of Karmenu Vella as Commissioner-designate for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Let me assure you that I share your concerns on this matter. Labour MEPs have for some time been pushing the European Commission to take action on illegal bird hunting in several Mediterranean countries and to ensure the Maltese Government is fully enforcing the provisions of the Birds Directive. Earlier this year I submitted a written question to the Commission regarding illegal bird hunting; I have also co-signed a number of letters with BirdLife Malta, calling on the Commission to take urgent action on Malta's decision to open spring and autumn hunting seasons. I was pleased that the Maltese government recently decided to abandon plans to allow finch-trapping to go ahead, a practice which was originally out-lawed in Malta as part of the country's EU Accession Agreement. However, I believe the European Commission needs to do much more if we are to save endangered species from being hunted to extinction.

Labour MEPs were therefore extremely surprised when the Maltese Commissioner was nominated for this position, with responsibility for biodiversity and overseeing a possible revision of the Birds and Habitats Directives. I can assure you that this issue was raised during the scrutiny hearing in the European Parliament's Environment committee. If you would like to watch the hearing, a video is available here:

The EU, although falling short of where it should be, is a world-leader when it comes to environmental and wildlife protection. It would be very short-sighted if the proposed Commission were to row back on some of the protections in place.

However, if confirmed as Commissioner, Mr Vella will not be representing the interests of Malta, but the interests of the European Union as a whole. I was pleased to hear Mr Vellaemphasise this in his hearing and reiterate that he condemns illegal hunting and will work to enforce the provisions of the Birds Directive across Europe. However, as part of his portfolio, Mr Vella has been tasked with carrying out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. I can assure you that Labour MEPs will follow any revision of these Directives very closely and we will work hard to ensure that there is no watering down of vital environmental and wildlife protection.

I hope you have found this information useful but if you have further questions on this, or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes

Glenis Willmott MEP

Friday, 10 October 2014

Reply from Andrew Lewer - Appointment of Karmenu Vella

Here is the reply from Andrew Lewer (Conservative Spokesman for Culture, Education and Regional Development) about the concerns of the appointment of Karmenu Vella as  commissioner-designate for the Environment, Maritime Affairs & Fisheries.

Still no reply from Labour? 

Dear constituent,

Many thanks for your email to Andrew Lewer MBE MEP regarding your opposition to the appointment of Karmenu Vella as commissioner-designate for the Environment, Maritime Affairs & Fisheries.

During his opening comments Mr Vella denied any involvement in bird hunting or trapping as well as condemning any illegal hunting. He also explained that he was not here as a Commissioner for Malta and that he expected each and every Member State to implement all the directives. He stated that abuse of the Birds Directive, Habitats Directive or any other directive would not be tolerated in any form and reaffirmed that he was not there to defend Malta.

He agreed that the Birds and Habitats Directives were the cornerstone to safeguard European ecosystems and biodiversity but explained that the Birds Directive was adopted 35 years ago and has not been reviewed since. Mr Vella later proposed an ‘in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives’ aimed at maintaining and, where necessary, improving the protection for our ecosystems and vulnerable species.

He reiterated his opposition to bird hunting when highlighting his past experience as Minister for Tourism in Malta. He explained how tourism constitutes roughly one third of the Maltese economy and that, as a consequence, it depended 100% on the environment. He continued that, as the UK is the number one tourist market in Malta and that the majority of complaints surrounding Maltese finch trapping and bird hunting come from British citizens, when people talked to him about the lack of controls they were “preaching to the converted”. He added that he would not defend anyone with regard to violating any directives.

Andrew himself does not sit on either of the committees involved in Mr Vella’s hearing and so was unable to put a question to Mr Vella himself or approve or reject Mr Vella’s candidacy as commissioner-designate. However, one of Andrew’s ECR colleagues, Mark Demesmaeker, asked for clarification regarding Mr Vella’s stance on the Birds and Habitats Directives and how poor Malta’s record is when it comes to implementing the Directives. He received the following response:

“With regard to the Birds Directive, I will repeat again that, if we agree to review them, obviously there is no idea to deregulate or to demote them. We are not revising, but we are only reviewing. But again, we will have time to discuss this in more detail.”

Other ECR members raised their concerns surrounding Mr Vella’s policies on water management, air pollution and reducing ammonia emissions.

The ENVI coordinators overall conclusion was that the lack of reference to sustainable development in the mission letter of Vice-President Katainen and to the full implementation of the objectives of the 7th Environment Action Programme raised in the letter to President-elect Juncker continued to raise concerns. Although it provided some useful clarifications, the reply by the President-elect was not considered fully satisfactory.

As for Mr Vella’s adequacy for the position, the coordinators felt that he had the necessary professional and political experience to master the challenges the position of a Member of the European Commission bring with it.

In spite of some lack of details in his replies, Mr Vella demonstrated that he had a sufficient grasp of the main issues inherent in the portfolio. He also committed to defending Community interest when dealing with Member States. He showed the intention and need to familiarise himself more with subjects falling within his remit as well as a positive attitude towards the environmental agenda and readiness to cooperate with Parliament.

The general outcome of the hearing was that the Commissioner-designate gave a positive impression of his aptitude to be a member of the College of Commissioners and to carry out the specific tasks assigned to him. In this context, however, coordinators expressed a strong recommendation that a higher profile should be given to environmental sustainability in the work of the future Commission by including this in the title and the portfolio of VP Katainen and that full implementation of the 7th EAP shall be an explicit task in the mission of Commissioner-designate Vella. It is crucial that a clear commitment be made on these matters prior to the plenary vote.

Those members of the ECR group on the Fisheries and Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committees collectively decided to neither endorse nor oppose Mr Vella’s appointment as commissioner.

I hope this information clarifies the current situation and helps ease any fears you may have surrounding Mr Vella’s appointment.



Intern to Andrew Lewer MBE MEP
Conservative Spokesman for Culture, Education and Regional Development
European Parliament Brussels

WIB 05M067

Monday, 29 September 2014

Reply from Margot Parker (UKIP) MEP as regards to Karmenu Vella

Dear Stewart,

Thank you so much for your letter.

The point UKIP always emphasizes, is the level of undemocratic processes here in the European Parliament.
We as members of this parliament cannot vote against 1 particular commissioner since the voting is en bloc.
This means the whole committee would have to be voted against.
Given the fact that this is very unlikely to happen, I am afraid there is nothing we can do with regards to Mr. Karmenu Vella.

I regret I cannot give you any better news.

With kindest regards,

Margot Parker MEP
UKIP East Midlands Region

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Digital evidence poses a threat to our sport

When i started reading this article I thought the movement against wildlife crime had found a supporter, Ian Grindy wrote about seeing a Youtube clip of a gamekeeper beating two Buzzards to death and how the Images were worse than a computer virus. Then I read on and got the impression that the concern was more for the moorland managers being more careful, in the age of camera phones and social media, not to get caught. I also think that it carries a tone of worry, a worry on their part that they have to change their ways or as he puts it 'we will reach a tipping point'.

What do you think?

In an age of video sharing and social media, raptor persecution — and digital evidence of it — pose a threat to our sport
Writes Ian Grindy
Two buzzards found after being beaten to death in 2013 Credit: RSPB

I have been asked by the Shooting Times to remove their article because of copyright.

Follow link to read here.

Monday, 25 August 2014

An evening ringing Swallows

As autumn started to take a grip I was beginning to think that we were not going to get to do a swallow roost this year. The weather had not been favorable at all, too windy, raining or both, however on the 20th I got the call from Ray Knock that things were looking good for that evening. I finished work at 5 so had to go home and grab a bite to eat before leaving for The Avenue.

The mist nets along the edge of reedbeds
We arrived at 18:15 and set up the nets along the far side of the reedbed where the swallows flew in to roost. It’s then a waiting game, this gives us a chance to relax and enjoy the other birds on site. A few Reed Warblers are still around but the best spot of the night was a Kingfisher perched over on the far bank. One or two swallows started to arrive around 19:00 along with 3 Swifts and around 20-30 House Martin but by 20:00 there were c500 swallows now flying around catching the last meal of the day.
A Swift overhead

What a superb event this is as the birds twitter and fly around your head, sometimes as close as a couple of feet. It was a perfect sunset too which made it all the better.
Swallows waiting to go to roost

At 20:30 we made our way round to the nets hoping for a good haul, Ray likes to call it sheet music. We weren't disappointed as the nets were full to bursting. As the light was fading we quickly got the birds processed to cause as little amount of stress as possible, we aged the birds and took wing measurements for the juveniles with additional information for the adults such as sex, weight, fat & muscle scores.
105 birds were done in total with 101 juveniles and 4 adults. One of the juveniles was a recovery that had been ringed 15km away on the 1st of July in Sheffield. We finished around 10pm and it was getting a little chilly, it has been past midnight before leaving in previous years when more birds have been caught.

A ring is put on a young bird

The large proportion of young birds is normal but remains a mystery to us, are other adults still feeding young in nests or do a few adults stay to show the juveniles the best roosting places on route? It could of course just be that not many adults are making the return journey and have perished. We have in the past done up to 3 evenings in a week and never re-trap birds from earlier, out of c500 birds we can do as many as 300 within that week. This means that the roost is made up of different birds every night, we are a short stop off on migration. The figures remain the same even to the end of the roost.  

One of the best parts of ringing swallows is the release, these birds are quite happy to sit on your finger for a while until confident enough to pop back into the reeds.
A young bird sits calmly on the hand

I have in the past gone on to site the day after doing a ringing session to see birds leave the reedbeds, as the sun came up I never saw any birds at all, they must leave while it is still dark.Your thoughts go towards the long journey that they have in front of them, up to 200 miles per day until reaching South Africa. What a bird.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The 1st Hen Harrier Day 10th August 2014

The 1st Hen Harrier Day 10th August 2014

As I was driving towards Derwent Dam I was hoping the weathermen had made a mistake and there was to be no rain. I pulled up around 07:50, in one of the free car parks as I’m tight like that, and was pleased that is wasn’t raining. I put on my waterproofs any way as I think deep down that I knew the heavens would open in the not too distant future. My second thought was, would the weather put people off and the number of attendees be disappointing?
View from the Car park

I met up with some friends from the Derbyshire Wildlife trust (DWT) and we made our way to the meeting point where the more frivolous drivers had parked. More familiar faces started to appear as more protesters arrived and before we knew it cars were having to turn back and find alternative places to park.

At 09:40 the call to arms came and we all made our way down to the dam, it was truly a wonderful sight as a mass of protesters brollies formed a bulging river of colour. This made a nice change to the usual sea of green & brown that is always popular with birders (including myself).
A river of colour

 By the time we all settled in front of the dam everyone was soaked, but no one was complaining. We were all here for one reason and the weather could not dampen our spirits. Mark Avery, who had helped organize this event along with Birders Against Wildlife Crime, called everyone forward to start proceedings.

The people gather

 Mark talked about the reasons he had wanted to create an event to highlight the persecution of our Hen Harriers. He reminded us of how a group of people in 1932 held a mass protest on Kinder to end restrictions of access for the common people to the uplands of The Peak District. All in the crowd were inspired by what Mark had to say. 
Mark Avery talks to the masses

He then handed over to Chris Packham who delivered a passionate speech that was spoken with clear frustration in his voice.
Chris Packham

A huge cheer was heard when Owen Paterson was referred to as the ex-Secretary for the environment, and a round of applause was given to the current shadow minister Barry Gardiner. He was welcomed into the fold of the ‘Green blob’, he later tweeted ‘he was proud to be part on the Green Blob’.
A young man named Findley Wilde was then invited along with his brother Harley to take centre stage and talk about his 6ft model Hen Harrier and what had inspired him to build it. An example to us all he is certainly the future of conservation. (You can read his Blog here).
Chris acknowledges Findley Wilde

Chris then used the example of the Marsh Harrier to highlight that with the right will a species can make a recovery.
Chris Packham inspires the crowd

He then had a pop at the shooting fraternity, ‘we’ve tried to trust you to work with us, but you have failed us. Sort out the bad apples in your barrel, otherwise we’re gunning for you, and we will win!’. This was greeted with the loudest cheer of the day from every one present, well almost. The wildlife NGO’s were mentioned too, having failed to do enough to bring this issue to the forefront while numbers of Hen Harriers are still falling. An olive branch was offered to all people involved, noting that if we all work together and compromise we can all prosper.
The speech ended with a quote from Ghandi, ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust with Chris, Mark & Findley

After the speeches had ended Findley’ Hen Harrier became the main attraction as all of the organisations present used it as a great focal point for photographs, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Hawk & Owl Trust, BAWC and others will hopefully get some great publicity from the event to push the issue forward.
I hope that the momentum gained from this event can now be maintained and more ideas, to keep the plight of our birds of prey in the forefront of people’s minds, will follow . My worries earlier about number were unfounded as around 570 protesters turned up, and everyone’s spirit was high at all times, like minded birders and nature lovers had all come together to load our gun and point it directly at the law breakers that are murdering our birds.

More details of Mark Avery’ petition for the banning of Driven grouse shooting, which has over 19,000 signitures can be found here. I was originally not against Grouse shooting but as I have learned more about this industry, and that's what it is,  it's plain to see that most that are involved have no respect for the environment or the natural world. Hen Harriers like other predators are not welcome anywhere near their moors, there is too much money involved and they won't tolerate any creature that eats into their profits.
Marks Blog covers all aspects of conservation and is definitely worth a read, it’s also probably the best place to keep up to date with the Hen Harrier protest. (find Marks Blog Here)
My Selfie with Chris

Very pleased to get a Selfie with findley

The #sodden570 have inspired me to do more and I am very proud to be counted as one of them.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

My Thoughts about Bird of Prey persecution.

My Thoughts about Bird of Prey persecution.
First I should say that I don't consider myself an expert or particularly knowledgeable in these matters. These are just my thoughts as someone who knows right from wrong where the welfare of other living creatures are concerned. As a long time birdwatcher & nature lover the idea that some of this countries most beautiful and iconic bird species are murdered to increase profit is abhorrent.
I can’t understand why any one gets a kick from shooting any living creature for pleasure, however I don’t really blame the shooters themselves for the problem with raptor persecution. We are all different and live by different values, they turn up and pay their money for a days shooting. I know that not every one cares for the natural world and some people are oblivious to what goes on around them.
Some land owners, and I emphasize some, with their instructions to their gamekeepers are the ones that should hang their heads in shame. To put profit before the very environment that provides them with their wealth is very short sighted and greedy. These birds are part of this ecosystem and should be allowed to live a natural life. So what if some of Grouse and Pheasant are taken by these birds, that’s the natural world and how it works. I wonder how many shooters would get a thrill from seeing a Hen Harrier or a Peregrine whilst out on the moors, a fair few I’m sure.
Would an increase in predator numbers make shooting harder? I don’t know but if it does then surely that should make it more of a challenge for these ‘brave’ marksmen.
I will be at Derwent Dam on the 10th of August to show my support for this campaign against the bad practices carried out by the guilty landowners. After becoming very disillusioned with the RSPB in recent years I'm glad they have added their voice to this movement and I am so pleased that the Wildlife Trust has shown its support too, I can now wear my Derbyshire Wildlife Trust volunteer T-shirt with pride.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ladybower Wood bird box success (2014)

 A view over Ladybower Wood

Upland Oakwood in the Peak District is a rare habitat and I am lucky enough to be able to monitor the nest boxes in the Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts Ladybower site. This SSSI site has over 75 species of lichen recorded but it’s the Bird life that excites me.

Early Spring in Ladybower Wood

The first time I visited this site it totally blew me away, it is a magical place with stunted Oaks, Silver birch & Rowan. Large grit-stone boulders lye abandoned between the trees and are covered in thick moss and lichens of all colours. Early mornings bring an extra level of beauty that is normally created by special effects teams in fantasy movies, a low floating mist rolls over the rocks and beams of sunlight penetrate the canopy and light up the woodland floor. Bird song completes this picture and quickly makes you forget the steep climb and aching limbs that you’ve suffered to get here. CurlewWillow WarblerTree Pipit & Spotted Flycatcher are just some of the members of this harmonious choir.
Curlew on moorland that looks over Ladybower
Make your way to the top dry stone walled boundary and you look out over gorgeous Peak District moorland where you can see Red GrouseMeadow Pipit Kestrel. Turn around 180° and a vista that takes some beating makes the climb worth it, the light shimmers off Ladybower Reservoir where a valley thick with trees rises from its shoreline & the sound of calling Cuckoo puts the cherry firmly on top of this bird watching cake.
Kestrel hovers above the moorland

As with all woodlands the best way to watch birds is to find a comfortable spot and wait, if you have the patience to sit for a hour or so most birds will pass over or near you as they move through the trees in search of food.
Juvenile Blackbird

A very young Wren recently fledged

This was my 5th year ringing pullus in the 50+ boxes we have on site. 4 species of bird use these artificial tree holes which are Blue Tit, Great Tit, Pied Flycatcher & Redstart.

The Redstarts arrive back from north Africa in early April and the males will quickly establish territories using a short almost melodious rattle of a song. Great views are possible with this bird as they are not shy and will come quite close, listen out for a short repeated call to help locate them. The male has got to be one of our most beautiful birds with slate grey crown, nape & mantle, jet black face, coverts & primaries & a crimson red breast & flanks to put a Robin to shame. Then the rusty red tail that gives this most dandy bird its name ('start' being an old word for tail).

Male Redstart

Male Redstart sings to attract a mate

Typical box

We have had 2 successful boxes this year, (only one in previous years) with 6 eggs laid in one and 7 in the second. After an incubation of around two weeks both clutches hatched with different levels of success, there were 2 infertile eggs in the first box but all 7 made it from the second box.

7 Redstart eggs, note moss & sheeps wool.

Redstart Distribution Map from BTO Atlas

Mid April brings another visitor from Africa and the clear crisp song of the Pied Flycatcher. This is the bird I always really look forward to seeing when I come here, the stunning male dressed in black & white stands out among the trees whereas the female with her drab brown plumage is much harder to spot.
Female Pied Flycatcher brings in food for young

Male Pied Flycatcher checks on young family

Male Pied Flycatcher

This species is more successful here with 5 boxes used this year (3 to 4 is more common). Clutch sizes were good with 7,7,6,6 & 7 sky blue eggs laid. Hatching numbers were good too with only 1 egg failing to hatch. Both male & female will incubate with the female taking on most of the responsibility as males can sometimes practice bigamy by taking on a second partner. This means the mother has to work extra hard to feed the young, lucky for them that this spring has been ideal and there are lots of insects and small caterpillars around.

Pied Flycatcher eggs, note no green vegetation in the nest

Pied Flycatcher Distribution Map from BTO Atlas

10 days later I returned to check on the young birds and ring them if they had grown sufficiently. It gave me great pleasure to discover that all chicks were now well grown and healthy, they were also the perfect size to ring so I got to work ringing all 32 Pied Flycatcher and 11 Redstart pullus.
Female Pied Flycatcher sat on eggs

Young Redstarts at around 10 days old

Both these birds have suffered in recent years leading to them being placed on the Amber list of birds. In the 1990's numbers of Pied Flycatcher pullus ringed was almost 25,000, this has plummeted to just over 8,000 in 2013 (BTO ringing total), Redstarts have dropped too with numbers of pullus ringed down from around 2,000 to just over 1,200 (BTO ringing totals) in the same period. This is Probably a result of there being fewer ringers finding nest sites and the decline in visiting birds breeding. This means that our 43 young birds are very important and hopefully with a bit of luck and some good weather a good percentage can survive the trip back to Africa and return next year to breed here again.

Blue Tit & Great Tit success is down a little this year, brood sizes are up to 7.67 & 8.00 respectively but fewer boxes were used than in previous years, this could have benefited the Pieds & Redstarts with less competition for food.

Blue Tit eggs

Adult bird sat on eggs
Almost ready for fledging

Great Tit Eggs, large variety of nesting materials 
Same season but different materials used

This Great Tit has had a wonderfully successful season

Every year I ring in Ladybower Wood I feel very privileged to have these very close encounters with all of these birds, including the Blue & Great Tits. All birds are special to me and playing my part in providing nest sites and the monitoring of the boxes gives me great pleasure. Some ringers say ringing is about data and the process should not be enjoyed, but i'll never understand that attitude, how could I not thoroughly enjoy this very personal contact with some of our wonderful wildlife. I get to watch these young birds grow from egg to fledge, and help protect them at the same time. 2014 also gave me the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Iolo Wiiliams  in Ladybower Wood as Iolo and his film crew came to film our Pied Flycatcher & Redstarts. 

Other birds you could see in and around Ladybower wood include Cuckoo which have been here in great numbers this year, with 4 singing males heard and seen in the wood. I have seen Hawfinch here for the first time, Spotted Flycatchers are around in abundance and Woodcock take flight from the leaf litter. Tree Pipits singing from the edge of the reserve are another treat along with more common species like Nuthatch, Treecreeeper, Siskin, Chaffinch, Common Buzzard, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat & Great Spotted Woodpecker.

One worry this year is that I’ve not heard Wood Warbler for the first time in 5 years. Hopefully it's just bad luck on my part and they are around but I have just not heard their distinctive song. I will visit again on the 10th of August after supporting Hen Harrier Day which takes place just around the corner to check all pullus have fledged and clean out the boxes. I'll keep my fingers crossed they have arrived albeit a little late.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Bempton Cliffs & Blacktoft Sands (6th May 2014)

The busy cliffs at Bempton
It wasn’t until waking up this morning that I decided to make the 2 hour trip to Bempton. I try to go at least once a year but last year left it too late and missed most of the birds. So, determined not to make the same mistake this year I set off with Ron in tow to see some new birds for this years list.

We arrived at around 11 o’clock and to my disappointment we were greeted with a cool reception at the visitors centre, there were at least 6 RSPB employees just outside the centre and not one greeted us with a smile or a hello. A girl inside was much better as were all the volunteers out on the reserve that were manning the viewing points. I hate to mention this but felt I had to get it out of my system.
Tree Sparrow

Now that’s out of the way lets get back to what we came here for. The first bird we saw was Tree Sparrow, it always gives me great pleasure to watch these delightful birds, around the reserve they are very comfortable around people and you can get some great views and witness some interesting behaviour very close to hand. As we walked toward the 1st viewing point we saw Guillemot & Kittiwakes, they were perched on the cliff faces desperately trying to hold onto their tiny territory.
 Gannet were soaring along the cliff edge, their size and wingspan amazes me every time I see them, a great bird to watch. From the viewpoint I picked out Razorbill and a Bridled Guillemot again clinging to the rock face. 15 minutes of scanning the rafts of sea birds I finally managed to pick out a single Puffin sat drifting on the water. As we moved around the reserve people were saying how they had not seen any Puffin; the volunteers confirmed that not many had arrived back at the cliffs.

I then I heard a sound I’d not heard before, well not at least in real life. I recognised it from hours of listening to bird song on the CD in the car; the books refer to the sound as the jangling of keys and it’s not a bad description. Sat on a barb wire fence was a Corn Bunting, a lifer for me, and not just one. Along the stretch of fencing were around 5 -6 birds all singing into the wind, Skylark joined in and the sound of this duet filled the air and was wonderful to hear.

We stopped for lunch where we watched Kittiwake tearing grass from the cliff tops and then we visited the west side of the reserve where we saw out first Fulmar soaring around on the updraughts without a wing beat. A large patch of bare earth was being used by the Kittiwake to collect mud; this was mixed with the grass collected earlier to make their nest site, a neat cup is formed on a cliff edge to make life safer and more comfortable. 2 eggs will be laid and young raised in this small precarious home. Rock/Feral Pigeon were flying around in large numbers which attracted the attention of a Peregrine. Ron, my self and around ten other very excited birdwatchers enjoyed some fantastic views of this bird as it flew back and forth along the cliff top. Climbing up we knew it had selected a target, it turned and plummeted back toward the cliffs, all manner of birds were flushed in panic as it locked on its prey. Luckily for the selected meal the Peregrine missed but it was a fantastic thing to witness.

We then left Bempton Cliffs and headed for Blacktoft sands where we hoped to see one particular bird. After spending a short time in Singleton and Townend Hides where we had some great views of Marsh Harrier and Pochard we moved onto and settled down In the Marshland Hide.

Here we watched our target bird, the Avocet.

There wasn't a great number of birds but boy are they beautiful with their clearly defined black and white bodies, very delicate upturned bills and blue legs. In 1893 the Avocet was declared extinct in Britain, however in 1941 the Avocet recolonised when coastal marshlands were flooded in East Anglia as a defence against possible invasion by the Germans. We now have around 1,500 breeding pairs in the UK, these numbers are boosted by around 4,500 visitors that over winter with us. I was watching one of these pairs preparing a nest, just a simple scrape in the mud and a few twigs right on the edge of the shoreline on a small island.

This island had around 10 breeding pairs of Black-headed Gulls too and I was surprised that the Gulls weren't more aggressive toward the Avocets but seemed to tolerate them. I wish I had more time to watch but it was getting late and it had been a long day, I still had a 1 ½ hour drive home so chose to reluctantly leave.