You lucky Bustard!

A remarkable story from just over the water at Portland. You’ll no doubt be well aware of the Great Bustard reintroductions on Salisbury Plain. You weren’t? Well,whatever. They’re the biggest flying birds in the world. Imagine the consternation and excitement last week when one of these flying fortresses was seen cruising in off the English Channel towards Dorset, and furthermore, turned out to be one of the releasees, presumed lost! A big bird You can even see the wing tags that they put on the released birds. Read the full tale at the Portland Bird observatory site. What a heart-warming tale!

Northern Ireland Environment & Heritage Service

I’ve just updated this page. It was so old it had got fur on it – even saying ‘we expect things to change in 1998’. This is the web equivalent of finding a tin of pilchards in the back of the cupboard marked 2/6. However, I’ve updated it as best I can. I’ve tried before but the problem, as you might see from the ranger’s feeble protestations on the page, is that it’s far from clear exactly what this body actually does, and from what I hear it’s not much clearer if you work there. They seem to be a combination of the functions of English Nature, the Environment Agency, the Countryside Agency, and quite a few other English institutions. What’s better still, the websites always seem to be a bit behind the latest reorganisation. So if you live in NI and know the answers, we’re just waiting to be told. Go on. Please!

Bird Flu – hype or horror?

What a panic about bird flu. Yes, it’s worrying but the possibility of an influenza pandemic is hardly new. I do worry, though, about the tacit threat which may be building against wild and migrating birds. People really do seem to worry about these things -be it badgers, rats, mice, flies and now birds. They think that ‘someone’ ought to do ‘something’ about them. But frankly, they can’t. these creatures are wild, and they do what they like. Nobody owns them, nobody controls them, and they never have. The idea of a natural world which has its own laws and way of life seems odd to some of us who are more used to an urban environment where everything is owned and managed by someone -and, perhaps more sinisterly, where everything that goes wrong is somebody’s fault, and they can then be sued, hoorah! By the way, here’s the offical advice:

There is a small possibility that some wild birds may be affected by the highly pathogenic form of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in the UK this autumn and winter. If you come across a suspicious die-off of wild birds please: Do not touch them. Contact Defra on 08459 335577 immediately (wherever you are in the UK).

Introducing: Notes from a Wildlife Garden

Eight years ago, one of the most popular features on the early Naturenet was The Urban Gardener, written by Ruth D’Alessandro. Her column is archived here, and server logs show it is has remained well-read even after all these years. So it is with great pleasure that The Ranger is able to reintroduce Ruth with a new regular column on a similar theme – this time, to be presented on The Ranger’s Blog. So, without further ado, Ruth writes: Notes From A Wildlife Garden Greetings! The Urban Gardener has evolved into the Sub-Rural Gardener following an eight-year absence (authorially, never spiritually) from Naturenet, two children, three funerals, two house sales and a move to the edge of the rolling North Downs. Not quite rural (the Ranger would call it suburbia) but in no way urban either, our new place came with an established wildlife garden along with a vegetable patch the size of our old and beloved London allotment.

The Wildlife Gardener

This south-facing Garden of Earthy Delights also contains a 170-year-old oak tree with a fish-free pond fed by a natural spring beneath it, both thriving in perfect symbiosis, two apple trees, mixed hedgerows, a ramshackle greenhouse and shed and plants grown specifically by the previous owner (a moth enthusiast) to attract moths, butterflies and other insects and birds. The place is A Project. The house is perfectly serviceable, although a study in various hues of beige, but that can wait. Veg needs to be grown, a cottage garden established, a children’s garden complete with tallest sunflower and biggest pumpkin competitions to be dug as well as maintenance of all the feed plants for many species of creature. The Wildlife Garden will be a study in trial and error, and each month on the Wildlife Garden Blog I’ll lay bare our successes and failures and hopefully encourage you to do some wildlife gardening of your own, however small your plot. Of course, I’ll welcome any comments and suggestions, and may well be asking for solutions to problems we encounter! Nothing can be planned, nature resists planning, so anything could happen! (Going to snow tomorrow!) Anyway, I’ve kicked off my return to Naturenet with an exposé of the dastardly goings-on around my bird table. See Doing Bird for Ruth’s first post.