Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife

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

31
Dec
20

Goodbye 2020

It’s always difficult to give the best wildlife moment of any year. Usually because there are so many to choose from. 2020 has been made no less easy due to there being less travel and fewer occasions when wildlife has presented itself. A pauper’s choice? Maybe, but we forged a few worthwhile memories.

The year opened with a Black necked Grebe within photographing distance at Holkham. The only one we saw all year. The Eastern Yellow Wagtail continued to present itself on an inland muck pile throughout January and was more photographable for the habituality developed by the proximity to its steady stream of admirers.

Ever since a raw February day in 1991, almost 30 years ago, when I first distantly saw an American Bittern in a ditch on the outskirts of Blackpool, I have dreamed of finding my own. I’d have preferred finding it at Cley or Titchwell but I guess the Everglades will have to do. We watched an individual as it stalked its way through a reedbed in Florida. The best thing about it was it was close. So close we could have touched it. My guests always say to me the best things they see when they are out with me are the birds and animals they see well. They are right.

Many other delights presented themselves in Florida and a small selection of photographs is included here.

As the year went on a few good birds presented themselves in Spring. Perhaps the pick of them was the Blyth’s Reed Warblers splattered about the East coast. We were lucky to have very good views of one in North Walsham.

Heath Fritillary Butterflies and White legged Damselflies to the South in June were a welcome break from local walks here in West Runton.

In July I saw my first comet with a tail. I couldn’t get enough of it. Another wonder of the natural world marked off the bucket list.

Southern Migrant Hawkers in West Norfolk gave me a good opportunity to study the species. We stopped and watched them for a full day. I’m sure they will become more frequent in future but getting so close to them at Thompson Common will live long in the memory.

It took two trips north to see the Lammergeier. I was pleased to see it despite not getting the front row stall seat views others obtained, but that didn’t make it any the less exciting. I hope to see more Bearded Vultures within Spain during 2022.

Silver spotted Skippers and Adonis Blues were on the menu in high summer and as October dawned a Hoopoe gave excellent views, again on an inland muck-pile, in Norfolk. Can you see a trend developing here?

On Scillies this year, as always, it was a treat; but one bird stands out for me as being particularly close and obliging. It’s not rare, but still special to see on this side of the Atlantic. A Pec Sand on Tresco gave itself to us. It has been a few years since I’ve had one that has been so confiding.

A ‘first’ is always memorable and in October, between tours, an Eastern Rufous Bush-Chat made landfall on a muddy saltmarsh a few miles down the road. We watched it along with others as it fed and spread its tail within the suaeda. Much more satisfying however was the Pallas’ Warbler not but a few hundred metres away that picked insects from the underside of sycamore leaves like a miniature trapezist right in front of our faces.

November was all local. A corking Desert Wheatear and a Lesser Yellowlegs that had no fear were both within walking distance of one another. It looks like the opening months of 2021 will also need to be local. However this wont be forever.

I’m looking forward to what 2021 will bring.

18
Aug
20

The Best British Butterfly … Probably

Arguably the smartest British Butterfly is the Silver Spotted Skipper. Why? Well firstly its identify is beyond doubt when seen; its livery is as distinctive as they come. It is beautiful. It’s a diminutive butterfly full of character; tempting the photographer low to the ground and then before the shutter can be released they skip away in erratic flight. You can almost hear them laugh.

Supposedly a grassland species we saw swarms flying high into Blackthorn bushes this week. What’s all that about?

Come along and join us on a new tour to see these delightful little characters next year on the 12th August. See here https://www.wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk/tours/special-day-tours/

 

17
May
20

Rainbow

With the relaxation of restrictions we went a little further for our shopping this last week. We went to Morissons’ in Fakenham rather than Cromer. A  few more miles but we feel it cleaner and more organised. Something that now could be said to seriously matter.

I was surprised to see we were practically the only people wearing masks and given this is supposed to protect other people rather than yourself (regardless if you believe that or not) it perhaps shows the selfishness of people. This feeling was reinforced by how reluctant people were to keep to the 2m distancing rule. Maybe they thought the easing of restrictions meant it was the beginning of the end. I feel it’s just the end of the beginning and we have a long way to go. Whichever which way, I am decidedly uncomfortable going to supermarkets. I feel uneasy given outside hospitals these spaces are perhaps the ‘petri dishes’ for contraction. Maybe it’s just me.

Anyways, I thought I would publish this photo taken in the Indian Ocean taken a few years ago. I was sailing out of Marissa in Sri Lanka on my way to hopefully find Blue Whales, when we passed a fishing Dhow topped with brightly dressed fishermen backed by a rainbow on a sea boiling with fish . Rainbows are supposed to symbolise hope. It was just a moment I thought to capture. A moment of colour. A moment of hope. The end of the beginning. I hope all my customers and followers are well and continue to be so.

23
Apr
20

Bits and Pieces

A few bits and pieces seen during the lockdown exercise walks in and around West Runton within the first half of April.

Quite a number of Stonechat wintered locally. Slowly numbers dwindled away in March/April as they moved back to their breeding areas

Thanks to Andy at Northrepps giving us ‘the shout’ a group of Cranes were picked up as they did their usual spring jaunt along the North Norfolk coast.

I’ve been surprised at the number of Red Kites seen on the coast this spring. I usually spend much of April each year in Scotland so never have a real chance of seeing these wonderful raptors on home turf

Wheatears are a wonderful hearald of Spring. Numbers got to around 17 in a single field on at least one day.

Given the lack of people around Foxes have been taking advantage and coming out more during the day. As a consequence we’ve found at least two dens we didn’t know where there.

Skylarks have been everywhere this April. Starting to pair and nest, fling North out to sea and coasting along the clifftops.

There have been four resident Kestrels entertaining us. This male was particularly bold.

We had up to eight Ring Ouzels in one field during the peak of passage

Several Green Woodpeckers around the village

Blackcap are now back in good numbers

Chiffchaff singing everywhere but few Willow Warblers at the moment

Lots of local Linnet but also a continuous movement east in the first few weeks of April

19
Apr
20

Guardian

Just you try and steal my eggs!

07
Jul
19

Dragons in the air and Dragons at our feet

In Dorset at the moment leading the ‘Birds and Wildlife of the Jurassic Coast’ Tour.

This Wall Lizard was caught unawares as it ran out from underneath our feet; posing beautifully for photographs. Other dragons have been flying around us as we walked over the heaths with great views of Keeled Skimmers among many others.

Lots of butterflies, and I mean lots; including Lulworth Skippers. Orchids are having a good year here with Musk Orchid being at the top of our list on the tour for sure. Moths yesterday were seen in droves with good views of both large and small Elephant Hawkmoths, Privet Hawkmoth, Hummingbird Hawkmoths with Scarlet and Jersey Tigers putting in an appearance. Even the sea got in on the act and gave us a pod of 30 Bottlenose Dolphins to celebrate our arrival.

Birds haven’t disappointed either with Dartford Warblers and an evening visit to a local heath giving great views of five Nightjar around us in the air together.

Next years tour is already open for bookings. Full itinerary is available at https://www.wildlifetoursandeducation.co.uk/app/download/11123950/Itinerary+-+Birds++Wildlife+of+the+Jurassic+Coast+2020.pdf.

 

03
Jul
19

Studs

Walking from a melody of Blackcaps staccatoed with Chiffchaff and soft Bullfinch wheezes, the song changed to enticing Woodlarks and grating Dartfords.

There was still a chill in the air on the coast with just the hint of a sea fret. Further inland the temperature was ten degrees higher. Here on the heath it smelt of honeysuckle and gorse. A sort of sweet coconut heady mix. The purple drifts of heather were eye catching.

It didn’t take me long to find the first Silver Studded Blue Butterfly. Then another … and another. Despite the low cloud the sun was fighting to break through. Each time it did butterflies rose from the heather. All, apart from a hasty passing Painted lady, were Silver Studs.

Photographing these beauties is never easy. They stay low. Scrambling about on all fours our legs were soon scratched and bleeding from the piercing gorse. Why did I wear shorts? As we watched them perch on the purple flowers of the heather they stroked their hind wings against one another; as if rubbing their hands at finding such a wonderful source of nectar.

08
Jun
19

More Otters

Some good sightings of otters on recent tours. This individual was extremely curious of passers-by.

28
May
19

Bittern in flight

No wonder Bitterns died out; just look at the drumsticks on that!




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