Archive for the 'Cetaceans' Category

31
Dec
22

Happy New Year

Well, the end of 22 is just about upon us and 2023 is about to open its doors. It’s been a more relaxed year here on the North Norfolk coast with restrictions fading into memory and life returning to somewhat like normal.

Throughout 2022 there have been several low points. Leaving Scillies in October the day after the Blackburnian Warbler turned up was one. Visiting Manchester and seeing the amount of litter both in the city centre and surrounding countryside was another; seeing such disregard for the environment was not just disappointing, but stomach churning.

Thankfully there have been some outstanding high points; including several ‘firsts’ for me. Eleonora’s Falcon, Cape Gull, Glanville Fritillary and Late Spider Orchid being a few examples.

Episodes with Broomrape, Bee Eaters and Little Buntings were entertaining and far reaching.

Despite foreign travel being shunned by Tania and me until next year we’ve had a number of trips here at home and tours have been UK wide. Scotland appeared on the agenda four times with Dumfriesshire, Sutherland and the Spey Valley twice. Scillies was visited twice with Spring and Autumn breaks. There were also tours to Knepp in West Sussex and the East coast including the Farne Islands. A very successful trip to Cumbria was enjoyed for its butterflies and dragonflies. We had a personal trip to the Isle of Wight which was very productive. A short trip to Kent with Tania and Tony took some topping; the range of Orchids we found coupled with time watching an Eleonora’s Falcon would take some beating. By a hair’s breadth however my moment of the year was in October on the island of Tresco. The day I spent with Tania photographing a Swainson’s Thrush was for me just the biz!

It’s been a long time since I have seen this diminutive, subtly marked species, so well. Seeing American Thrushes in the Americas is wonderful. Seeing one in the UK is always a thrill; but actually spending an extended period of time with one at close range was just exhilarating.

We are both looking forward to the New Year and what it brings, and hope you are too. Happy New Year from us both.

05
Oct
22

The Eroding of Wildlife Protection within the UK

Like many others I was appalled at some of the press articles last week outlining changes the government were proposing. I was prompted to write the following letter to my MP Duncan Baker. Duncan has helped Tania and I out on a couple of occasions previously and has forced through decisions and prompted action which have helped us personally. His reply is also published below which makes for an interesting read.

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Dear Mr Baker,

You have helped me in the past and I am once again looking to you to help me again.

I am a Wildlife Tour operator based in your constituency in Norfolk. I am writing to express my concerns over recent government announcements that I believe, as do many environmental organisations, will significantly reverse the UK’s ambitions for nature recovery over the coming decade.

Our wild flora and fauna are in a perilous state, as a result of decades of agricultural intensification, increased development (houses, roads, railways, extractive industries) and more insidious threats such as air and water pollution, unsustainable land use practices in the uplands (over-grazing, burning, plantation forestry), the spread of invasive non-native species and, in recent decades, climate change.

The government’s plans to revoke hundreds of laws that protect wild places and standards for water quality, pollution and the use of pesticides will make matters worse, as will the implementation of new planning infrastructure which threatens to weaken vital protections for habitats and wildlife. I am also concerned that the proposed review of the long-awaited Environmental Land Management schemes – which would reward farmers for restoring nature, preventing pollution and climate-proofing their business – will lead to reduced ambition and consequently financial support for activities that help combat both the nature and climate crises.

As well as meeting hundreds of like minded people during my employment I also work for and am active as a trustee within several charities; most notably the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society.  Through scientific surveys the Society is able to provide decision-makers (conservationists, land managers, policy-makers) and academics with the evidence they need to make sensible decisions about our county’s wildlife – without a healthy wild flora many species dependent on wild plants will suffer. The current trends for much of our flora and fauna amounts to nothing less than a doomsday prediction.

If we are to reverse these declines then we will need a government that is committed to protecting and enhancing our nation’s wildlife, not one that is prepared to relax laws that protect wildlife and remove funding of schemes that will help restore and recover what we have lost. I strongly recommend that the government sticks to its original commitments to reverse biodiversity loss and recover nature for future generations to enjoy.

You must recognise Duncan that the restoration of a thriving wildlife infrastructure within our county and country is paramount to the continuance of life as we know it for us all.

Please be a voice to act against the proposed changes.

Best regards

Carl Chapman

Wildlife Tours and Education

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Dear Carl, 

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about protecting the environment. I’m so sorry this is not a fully bespoke response. I have been so busy last week with final preparations for the London Marathon which I completed on Sunday, that I am just getting round to read all the emails I’ve received and provide a response.

It has been a real privilege to again raise well over £30,000 for 26 local charities and nearly £75,000 over two years for 40 different local charities from what all started as a hobby in lockdown. Once more I’ve been able to donate £1000 for each mile I completed and £5000 on mile 26 to help refugees in Norfolk still unable to return home. Indeed, today is the 6 month anniversary of the Ukrainian family arriving, Anna and Sviatik who are still happily living with my family.

As you likely know, protecting the environment, especially our wonderful wildlife and beautiful countryside here in North Norfolk, is incredibly important to me.

I want to entirely reassure your concerns. Claims that this government is rowing back on our commitments to farming reform or nature are wholly untrue. As you may be aware, I am a huge advocate for the environment. I currently sit on the Environmental Audit Select Committee and as such always champion the environment, as this is a matter that I feel incredibly strongly about.

The statement from DEFRA making this very clear is here:

https://deframedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/09/26/government-reiterates-commitment-to-environmental-protections/

I have brought forward many inquiries into embodied carbon for buildings, plastic pollution and the upkeep of biodiversity through my select committee work. In addition, no one in Parliament has done more to stop the trenching through our countryside from the cable corridors from the wind turbines. All in order to protect nature.
I have also discussed throughout the Environment Bill in 2021 the importance of putting the environment at the heart of the government’s decision making, with legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality and waste efficiency.

It’s clear to me you also care deeply about the environment, and I note you raise several important topics in your email. I will happily discuss them with you and cover the questions you ask.

Firstly, to be absolutely clear, I do not want to see any backtracking on key environmental protections. We have made great progress over the past few years, as well as delivered ambitious commitments and targets. Rest assured I am determined we continue this trajectory and have seen nothing to date that makes me think we won’t.

I appreciate that you have concerns over the possible impact investment zones will have on the environment. However, I have to say, I see no immediate cause for unease. Investment zones will promote growth and unlock housing by lowering taxes and liberalising our planning frameworks to foster rapid development and investment across the UK. It is not an either/or in my mind – we can achieve growth without harming the environment – we will work towards both.

Secondly, regarding the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), I understand and appreciate your concern here. I also appreciate the Government is having to find a balance between some very big and complex issues – namely, boosting the environment, supporting farmers, and furthering domestic food security. As a result, I have heard the Government is reviewing our farming regulations and will comment on this in due course. We of course need food security whilst enabling our farmers continue to be custodians for our countryside. This is all the review appears to be.

Naturally, like you, I will be playing close attention, and will voice my views when appropriate. In the meantime, I will certainly endeavour to convey your strength of feeling and resolute support for ELMS to ministerial colleagues at DEFRA. I hope this can reassure you somewhat.

Thirdly, I certainly will do everything I can to protect and enhance nature at home. I hope my actions and commitments I’ve made thus far can reassure you of this. From sitting on the Environmental Audit Select Committee and the Net-Zero APPG, to working on legislation to increase biodiversity, I have consistently sought to create a better greener country. It is an essential part of my being MP for North Norfolk and will not stop.

COP15 will provide a fantastic opportunity to further not just a greener country but a greener world. I am therefore pleased to see the Government has already committed to playing a leading role in developing an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Rest assured, the UK will continue to push for global ambitious targets.

Many thanks again for taking the time to contact me. I do hope my response is useful and adequately answers your questions. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can clarify anything.

Yours sincerely,

Duncan Baker MP
Member of Parliament for North Norfolk

01
Aug
22

For the love of Dolphins

Sailing through the Summer Isles off Ullapool last month we were on a glass mirror sea passing rocky outcrops punctuated with Arctic Terns. Young were pestering parents for their next meal … nothing in nature varies in that respect. As we pulled into a sea cave a Common Sandpiper fell from one of the ledges and proclaimed its objections to us being there with a diagnostic call and fluttering flight.

Moving further out from the coast the skipper sighted dolphins ahead. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by playful, accommodating and very very beautiful Common Dolphins.

They are not there, then they are, then they are gone again. They bow ride and leap from the water. They watch you from under crystal clear water as they swim alongside. There’s something quite enigmatic and mysterious about Common Dolphins. I just love them.

24
Jul
22

National Whale and Dolphin Watch

Next Saturday 30th July Tania and I will be holding our annual Sea Watch Foundation National Whale and Dolphin Watch. We will be at Weybourne (NR25 7AH) 100m East of the beach car park from 9am to 4pm – everyone is welcome to come and help spot cetaceans. Bring along binoculars and some small change for the car park.

11
Jun
22

Ceta!

Coming back from Scillies the Common Dolphins were up to their usual antics. So wonderfully active these cetaceans.

31
Dec
21

Happy New Year

This year has been a strange one. A year of two halves and contrasts. The first half, once again like 2020, became a period of sedentary incapability. Tours and trips had to be cancelled. Unpicking the arrangements with boat operators and hotels is never easy. Indeed, sadly some of them financially went to ‘the wall’ as their business slumped.

I always said that because of the way I run the business, and my financial affairs, WT&E would front out anything thrown at it no matter how long the lockdown, without the help of government handouts. Little did I know that the business levels in the second half of the year would bounce back so strongly and so quickly.

Guests were keen to get back into the countryside and I couldn’t blame them, having been isolated and restricted for so long. However, safety of guests was paramount. Local day tours were conducted by guests following in their own vehicle and longer tours when we shared a vehicle were carried out against a background of testing by both guests and me. As a consequence, we had some good local tours and some effortlessly successful tours away.

A good relationship this year with ‘Wild Ken Hill’ and involvement in a small way with some of the good things they are trying to do there was very pleasing. Long may their rewilding and regenerative agricultural development continue.

Still no trips abroad. I feel it would be foolish to commit to these yet. To do so in the current environment is inviting difficulty and potential unnecessary expense. Maybe in 2023. The wilds of Australia, North and South America will all still be there; as will the Atlantic Islands. All on our agenda.

A single new bird for me during the course of the year was the Syke’s Warbler on Blakeney Point in September. The supporting cast of other birds, dragonflies, butterflies and cetaceans were many, but perhaps the pick of the crop was the Sei Whale in the Firth of Forth.

The accompanying photo I took of a Sanderling last week, a bird renowned for running up and down beaches, perhaps summarises the year; a lot of backwards and forwards.

All in all a good year. 2022 promises even more. I hope above all hope the coming year gives you your needs and desires. Happy New Year.

23
Sep
21

Arrivals

As we sat at the top of the beach waiting for cetaceans that never arrived this week, Tania and I were pleased to see some new arrivals.

Signposting the end of good weather Winter visitors are perhaps given a mixed welcome, but when they come still dressed in their summer garb they are a delight. Four Red-throated Divers, maybe fresh in from Scottish Lochs, were fishing just beyond the surf. How could I not get the camera out?

22
Jul
21

Brows and blows

After a busy few months Tania and I wanted to get away for a few days. So we made a plan. First stop Bempton to see the Black-browed Albatross. I’d seen the Sula Sgeir bird a decade or more ago but how could you say no to an Albatross in British waters. You just ‘have’ to go and see it. They are the bees knees of seabirds. A thought not shared by the Gannets who didn’t take to their larger cousin at all. He ousted a few off the cliffs to crash land among them. Tania had great views of the bird as she looked down on the bird circling below her.

First part of the plan completed we thought we’d carry on North and visit Kinghorn. Now this is the second time this year I’ve called at this pretty village just over the Forth from Edinburgh. I paid a visit at the end of May. The idea then was to see if the guests on the UK Mammal Tour could add Sei Whale to their lists. Despite it’s rarity in UK waters there had been one kicking around in the Firth of Forth for a few weeks. Sadly it wasn’t to be as the whale didn’t play ball. However, Tania and I thought it would be worth a revisit this week as the Sei Whale was still being seen with some regularity. It took some time, but eventually the third largest animal on the planet graced us with a ‘swim-past’. In fact two; once going up river and then a second as it returned East. Thanks to Ronnie Mackie for his invaluable help and great company in seeking out this addition to our British mammal list. The last time I saw one of these creatures it was amid the clear waters of a Chilean Fjord on the day Tania and I first met; a long way from a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland.

02
Jun
21

Whale Whispering

Just finished the penultimate day of our UK mammal tour. We went whale whispering to the East of the Isle of Staffa. Managed to call up three separate Minkes feeding in what was obviously a food rich area.

17
Apr
21

Bones of contention

I’ve been trying desperately to complete the final part of research for my book: ‘Cetaceans of Norfolk’. I’m now coming to the conclusion of writing up notes into a coherent volume which has taken me the best part of 9 years to complete.

I have been visiting quite a few parts of Norfolk over the last few days, some of which I’d not visited before, to photograph and measure whale bones. Some bones were used as arches some as fenders and others as fence or gateposts. Given whale bones are loaded with oil they last a long time; several hundred years longer than wood when partly buried in the earth. Given this is a resource that is no longer available the county has a decreasing number on show but there are still a few scattered through the county in gardens and farms. They are part of our heritage. I feel they needed to be audited and recorded, so as part of the book there’s a chapter dedicated to whale bones within the county.

I visited one rather remote farm yesterday. On the approach track was a large display of Primroses the like of which I have never seen before. I’d spoken to the lady occupier on the telephone so she was expecting me when I visited. I was quite taken a back as to how derelict the farm looked. The lady was extremely old and her health had obviously suffered of late. However, she was helpful in guiding me through the very overgrown garden to where the bones lay flat among the brambles. I took photographs, measurements, thanked the lady and left.

When I was little we had two farms in the family. I know how much effort is needed to upkeep farm land and farm buildings. It saddened me greatly that such a wonderful lady was living in what could be described as a near dilapidated house and garden. I guess it was the contrast between the beauty of the approach track and the semi derelict farm buildings and garden that took me by surprise. As I sat in the car writing up my notes, I felt quite sad that poor health and circumstance was limiting what the lady could do to upkeep what had obviously been at one time a thriving, living farm. However, I looked up and a face at one of the windows of an outbuilding brought a smile to my face.




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