Friday, January 18, 2013

The Undercoverts of Birding 2: Bulldogs and Barn Owls

Years ago apparently people genuinely wondered where swallows went in winter, with some believing that they might have gone to the bottom of ponds.  Today some may similarly wonder where chavs go in winter.  Those tattooed vest-wearing numskulls that infest our town centres and country parks in summer, but are noticeably absent in winter.  Where do they go?  Well I know, they stay at Chester’s Hotel* in Skegness, opposite The Pier. 

I booked it online as a base for this month’s winter bird survey of East Lincolnshire.  It boasted wi-fi (it has, but it doesn’t work), breakfast (yes, but its not included, you have to pay extra), and it made no mention of the multitude of chavs actually living in the place, courtesy of the council.  Every other room has a family of them ensconced within, complete with a shoal of children and the obligatory bull terrier or bulldog.  When one barks they all follow suit, and then when the dogs join in too its hell!  I cannot remember previously staying in a hotel where there was a dog in every room.  I may as well, and might have had more peace, if I had lain a sleeping bag down in a boarding kennels.  The parents all had a crafty plan to stop the kids making a noise in the rooms though, let them play in the corridors and landings, all of them, together.  Someone remind me again how lucky I am to ‘get paid for watching birds’.

Talking of which I did see a beauty today.  Walking along a verge a barn owl lofted over the hedge right by me.  It flew almost over my head, a few feet to my left.  I stopped and stared, it was just gone noon and quite an early sighting.  We made clear eye contact and then it veered away but what a brilliant moment.  It almost balances out a stay at Hotel Chavsters on its own, but may need some help from other sightings too I feel.

Incidentally a quick Ragwatch diversion is relevant here.  The Daily Excess carried some interesting statistics today.  One was that David Attenborough’s seminal Blue Planet series has been seen by 500 million people in 245 countries.  Its very inspiring that a natural history programme should be so popular, but other stats were decidedly depressing.  That the human world population increases by 132 million people every year was a stark one.  Flooding the planet with our kind is ecological suicide, and as supposedly the most intelligent species we will surely realise this.  A look round the hotel and a glance in The Pier though and I am not so sure.  I can only take solace in yet another quote from the Daily Excess, one from Abraham Lincoln:  “The best thing about the future is that it happens one day at a time”.  Great words Abe, I wonder if he ever stopped at The Chesters?

'What a Great Idea', yeah but I've got a better one!
*name changed

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bird's Eggs and Goldfish

An 'obsessed' bird’s egg collector came under suspicion of the West Yorkshire Police last year.  After monitoring his behaviour the National Wildlife Crimes Unit was called in.  They and officials from the RSPB searched the man’s home and found around a thousand eggs, one of the largest collections discovered in recent years.  The haul included many owls, raptors, rare British breeders like spoonbills, declining species such as tree sparrows, and a range of seabirds from Flamborough Head. 

For taking these eggs the full force of the law was brought down upon the miscreant this week.  He was tried and convicted in court, and fined the princely sum of, er, absolutely nothing!  His lawyer argued that a harsh sentence could cause him to lose his home and job, so magistrates instead gave him a two-year conditional discharge.  The condition is of course that he realises he has been a very naughty boy and must not do it again.

Meanwhile another criminal’s two year probation has just ended.  Joan Higgins is a 68 year old pensioner from Manchester who runs a small pet shop.  In 2010 she was caught red-handed by a council official selling a £1 goldfish to a 15-year old boy.  Apparently since 2006 only someone over 16 can buy a goldfish.  
Mrs Higgins was duly tried, convicted, and fined £1000, given a seven week curfew and fitted with an electronic tag.  She can now reflect that she could have avoided all that if only she had indulged in a more innocent activity, like stealing rare bird’s eggs.
Kirklees Court, staffed by eejits

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ragwatch 1: Newts In The News

I have noticed that from both sides of the political chasm our daily rags are spouting the most inaccurate tosh about the environment.  One such this week from The Daily Telelaugh about newts was the best so far.  They are all at it though, The Indirrelevant, The Garbageian, The Daily Fail, Daily Excess, they’re all at it.  I will begin to highlight the choicest nonsense here under the title ‘Ragwatch’.

So first up is that classic snippet from The Daily Telelaugh.  Under the title ‘No Newts Is Good News’ we were told that great-crested newts are holding up the construction of a new shopping centre in York, featuring a Marks & Spencer and a John Lewis store.  Under protection laws”, we are told, “each one of the newts must be rehomed before work can begin”!

The inference is obvious, that newts are unimportant, the building of a new supermarket is a far more important thing, and the world would be a better place if there were indeed ‘No Newts’.  This is a matter of opinion, that is theirs while mine is that there are quite enough supermarkets around already.  What is unforgiveable though is the ludicrous claim that every single newt must be accounted for and rehoused before work can begin. 

If a development cannot be altered to incorporate the pond in question into the design, some mitigation is required.  This includes exclusion fences and pond creation to trap as many newts as possible for translocation to another suitable site. This does not need to be particularly large, and therefore several can often be incorporated or created close to the development site as part of its landscaping plan.  Not every newt will be caught, but enough will be so that the population survives.  The developer must bear the cost of this work of course, but it is necessary to adhere to several laws like the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and most are happy to be seen exhibiting their green credentials.  Without such laws more wildlife would likely disappear under digger and dumper wheels.

What seems to be irking The Daily Telelaugh is that the contractors could start now, but the inconsiderate newts are currently hibernating from the winter weather that would otherwise kill them.  It will be a few months before translocation can begin.  In the meantime I am sure there is a TESCO, Nisa, Spar, ASDA, etc, etc, nearby to ensure local people do not starve to death, and somewhere else they can buy a pair of trousers.