UK Bird News June 2017

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Large numbers of a protected species killed on Bowland grouse moor

Large numbers of a protected species killed on Bowland grouse moor

The RSPB has learned that large numbers of protected birds are being killed on a grouse moor in Lancashire.

A RSPB staff member working in the Bowland area discovered two estate workers shooting nesting lesser black-backed gulls - on a grouse moor managed by the Abbeystead Estate - leaving their chicks to be either killed by dogs or left to starve.

Lesser blacked-backed gulls have been nesting on the moors of Lancashire for more than 80 years. The recovering colony in Bowland is one of the most important in the UK and is protected under British and European law, having once been in excess of 20,000 pairs. Lesser blacked-backed gulls are declining across the UK and the RSPB is becoming increasingly worried about their future in the UK.

This species can only be legally culled if they pose a threat to human health, risk spreading disease or are having a negative effect on other species of conservation concern. The RSPB understands Natural England - the government agency for responsible for protecting the countryside – granted consent for the cull. But while the nature conservation organisation has repeatedly asked Natural England for scientific evidence which would justify a cull, none has been forthcoming.

Although the RSPB has yet to see the full details of the consent, it has reason to believe that the landowner may have breached both the letter and the spirit of the agreement, and is calling on Natural England to investigate the matter urgently.

Graham Jones, RSPB Conservation Area Manager for North West England, said: “We are devastated that this cull of a protected species has been taking place, apparently without any justification.

“Although it may occasionally be necessary to cull a small number of large gulls for conservation and health reasons, there is absolutely no evidence to support it in this case.

“We want Natural England to tell us why they think the gulls at Bowland met the legal criteria for a cull and also want them look into whether the terms of an already flawed agreement have been broken.

“Bowland should be a safe place for this declining species and Natural England should be focussing on helping the colony’s recovery.”

“We believe the only reason these protected birds are being killed is simply to satisfy the requirements resulting from the ongoing unsustainable approach to grouse moor management.”

Read more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/releases/443792-conservationists-alarmed-by-killing-of-protected-birds#qztVQeOq1hTswD5v.99

Spoonbills breed at Fairburn Ings

• Spoonbills seen nesting at RSPB Fairburn Ings, near Leeds, a first for Yorkshire.
• The rare bird hasn’t nested regularly in the UK since the 1700s. However, sightings of the bird have increased along the east coast of England and East Anglia in recent years.
• The increase in activity on UK shores is thought to be down to the drying out of their traditional nesting sites in southern and Eastern Europe.

The spoonbill – one of Britain’s rarest breeding birds – has continued to break new boundaries after a pair nested for the first time in Yorkshire at RSPB Fairburn Ings.

Usually found in southern and Eastern Europe, spoonbills are unforgettable looking. Standing at close to three foot tall, these white heron-like birds with black legs and an enormous spoon-shaped bill haven’t nested regularly in the UK since the 1700s.

However, in recent years spoonbills have been returning to Britain in small numbers and slowly expanding their range north. Sightings of the bird have increased along the east coast of England and one breeding colony has been established in East Anglia.

Darren Starkley, Senior Site Manager at RSPB Fairburn Ings, said: “To see the long spatulate bill and gangling legs of a spoonbill in the UK is a magnificent sight, but to have a pair successfully nest one our site is extra special. We have occasional spoonbill sightings at Fairburn Ings – some travelling from as far as the Netherlands and Spain – but none have successfully nested before, and never on an RSPB site. This success is really down to the hard work of the staff and volunteers at Fairburn helping these species adapt to the changing environment.”

As spoonbills are so rare, and are specially protected species in the UK, their breeding success at Fairburn Ings has been kept a secret – until now. The increase in activity on UK shores has been linked to the drying out of their traditional nesting sites, due to climate change, forcing them to look further afield for suitable places to make their home.

David Morris, Senior Reserves Ecologist at the RSPB, said: “The weird and wonderful spoonbill looks like something you’d see on safari in Africa or on a cruise of the Nile – not on the outskirts of Leeds. But these magnificent birds have made Yorkshire their home and we’re absolutely delighted that the hard work at Fairburn Ings is paying off. We hope this is the start of a successful future for this bird in Britain.”

This new colony in Yorkshire represents a wider trend for wader birds moving north in search of more suitable habitat to make a home. As seen on BBC Springwatch, great white egrets, cattle egrets and black-winged stills have all established colonies in the UK as a result of climate change impacting their European nesting sites.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2017 |  UK Bird News June 2017

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