Malta – massacre on Migration. A message from Chris Packham

Chris Packham

“For many years I have lobbied the UK’s bird charities to campaign to raise awareness about the slaughter of migrant birds on Malta. I have equally tried to stimulate television programme makers to cover the issue – both without success – a sad reflection of our complacent and risk adverse times.

“Well, I’ve finally run out of patience and together with three colleagues and the support of Birdlife Malta this spring I will be making a nightly video diary of the days events on the island which will be posted on . . .

YouTube at 9.00 PM (UK time)
between the
21st and 26th of April 2014

Our mission is to generate a wider awareness of this heinous practice with frank and factual reports from the frontline where our much loved migrant birds are being shot in huge numbers. It will not be pretty, the species killed include many UK favourites and rarities and the hunters are infamous for being confrontational and violent. I don’t care, this is not a holiday, it’s an attempt to bring this forgotten issue to a wider public attention and then to offer a couple of ways the viewers can actually do something to effect positive change.

Please try to watch our broadcasts and please publicise them as widely as possible. I believe that people will be truly horrified when they see what happens on Malta to ‘our birds’, I believe they care and they will do something to change it.

Thank you

Chris Packham”

Find out more background to this issue here:

Enough with feeding the ducks.

Bread in Langstone Millpond
Bread in Langstone Millpond

Look, we have to talk about this feeding the birds lark. I know the RSPB tell you to do it, and the WWT make it a tourist attraction in itself.  But neither of them would have any truck with feeding white bread to ducks.  Continue reading Enough with feeding the ducks.

Why are there no really big insects any more? Blame birds.

It’s no secret that 300 million years ago, the largest insects were a lot bigger than they are now. The largest known insect that ever lived is an ancient griffenfly Meganeuropsis permiana. This creature belongs to the extinct order of griffinflies (Protodonata) – related to dragonflies –  and measured an impressive 71cm across, larger than most birds. There were a variety of other megainsects in prehistoric times, but these days, the biggest ones are considerably smaller. So what happened?

One fact which is widely considered to be relevant is the limitation of insect respiration. As insects don’t have lungs like us vertebrates, they rely upon oxygen entering their body through many tiny tubes. They can help it on its way with various tricks but in essence, if the tube is too long the oxygen can’t get down it far enough. So an insect that got too big would soon run out of oxygen and find it difficult to fly or run. So how did those huge ancient insects get around that limit? The answer is that they didn’t. In Permian times the atmosphere was more than 30 percent oxygen, compared with 21 percent today. So insects had more oxygen available, and could grow larger.

Continue reading Why are there no really big insects any more? Blame birds.

Should we pay £375,000 to poke buzzards out of their nests?

Something’s gone badly wrong at the Greenest Government Ever. To say I’ve been profoundly disappointed at the environmental performance of the Coalition – in comparison to its glowing promises – is only the start of it. But at least, up until now, it has only been the traditional environmentalist’s bogeyman the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has been the boo-hiss villain happy to deride current protection of wildlife and landscapes as a “ridiculous cost” on business.

Buzzard (c) Lisa Lawley

Now the foes of our native biodiversity are expanding their reach. They are optimistic enough to be openly at work through DEFRA – traditionally the department that is responsible for nature reserves, protected landscapes, biodiversity, and protected species as well as farming, food and fishing. A modest DEFRA proposal for a research project on birds of prey has caused an extraordinary backlash of criticism from a wide range of respected voices throughout the conservation field. Having read it, I can understand why. The project is not large, but the implications are. And as far as I can see there are two possible explanations, neither of which give me any comfort. Either those who proposed this idea have an alarmingly poor understanding of the role and relative importance of native species versus introduced ones; or they don’t, but are confident enough to believe that any resistance to the proposal can be safely disregarded. Continue reading Should we pay £375,000 to poke buzzards out of their nests?

The RSPB wants you to water your lawn until it is ‘green and lush’

There’s some surprising advice in the RSPB’s latest press release, “Water your wildlife”. In an otherwise unremarkable bit of seasonal filler they exhort us to put out water for the birds this summer – a good idea, if you like birds.

Sprinkler © Florian

But for some reason this particular press release goes further than the usually canonical advice on ‘birds and water’, and ‘lawns and wildlife’ on the RSPB’s own website, despite appearing to be at least partly based upon it. Continue reading The RSPB wants you to water your lawn until it is ‘green and lush’

The lucky bustards

Way back in 2005 The Ranger blogged about an unexpected sighting of a flying Great Bustard (Otis tarda)seen over the Channel. It was one of what was then a few reintroduced birds which were at a secret location on Salisbury Plain.

A big bird © Portland Bird observatory

Since then the Great Bustards have been doing pretty well – with quite a bit of help. In 2007 wild Great Bustards bred in England for the first time since 1832. Now they have a great website, too, to explain a bit more about the world’s largest flying birds and the ongoing project to reintroduce them to Salisbury Plain. So, just how big is a Great Bustard? Continue reading The lucky bustards

Big gliders over Culver Down

What a splendid Indian Summer we’re enjoying. The Ranger managed to persuade junior rangers Bill and Jack that going for a walk in the countryside was an unavoidable consequence of the sun shining – and after Jack said piteously ‘Oh Dad do we have to go geocaching again?’ agreed that this would just be a gentle stroll with the prospect of an ice-cream at the end of it. For a real relaxing time I always try to visit somewhere I’m not responsible for, usually this means the National Trust. And so it proved again when we set off for a walk up Redcliff onto Culver Down – one of my favourite walks ever.

Redcliff, Isle of Wight

Continue reading Big gliders over Culver Down

The Telegraph confuses rare flowers with buttonholes

Oh deary deary. I’ve tried to hold off, really, I have. I’ve been stifling back a really moany post about newspapers’ punctuation and italicisation of scientific names. Really, it’s for my own good. It wouldn’t show me at my best. But while all my attention is on the errant capitals another one sneaks up in the Telegraph today – and this time it’s a corker.

Carnations story, The Telegraph

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent: The summer mix of sunshine and rain has helped some of Britain’s rarest wild flowers make an unexpected return to the countryside, claims charity. Perfect weather conditions for plants in recent months have seen a number of the UK’s native species, including carnations and ferns, brought back from the brink of extinction.

Continue reading The Telegraph confuses rare flowers with buttonholes

House sparrows are not pests

The cheeky house sparrow has undergone a drastic population decline in the UK during the last 25 years. In the east of England, for example, there has been a startling fall in numbers of 90% since 1970. Since 2003 the sparrow has been Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List (high conservation concern).

House sparrow on the pest control UK website

Continue reading House sparrows are not pests