Nature alert

So far more then half a million people have responded to a consultation showing that they want to save nature in Europe. If you haven’t already, you still have until tomorrow evening to do so.

Right now the vital laws which protect our precious wildlife and nature risk being undermined by the European Commission.


With such a response from both individuals and charities lets hope someone listens. You can add your voice and find out more by clicking here.



Book Review: Undiscovered Owls

When I was younger I remember having a fascination for owls, as for most species. I remember visiting one of my local patches and seeing a tawny owl there almost every time. I was amazed by the bird, I always thought how different it was to other birds with that mysterious but magical look about it. Along with its character and ability to make its presence so different. I also remember sitting in the back seat whilst driving down country lanes near where I live with my head hanging out looking up into the trees. Quite often we’d see little owls down this same stretch.

Obviously I still admire them as much as I did when I was younger. I often see a tawny owl or the occasional little owl on my local patch or when I’m out and about and much further afield.

A few months back I was asked to give a talk at an event that a friend of mine, Emily Joachim, was running down in Bath. It was a day of ‘Be a Zoologist’ workshops and I gave a talk. Emily is a really passionate conservationist and zoologist who specialises in British Owls. It was great to speak to Emily about the work she does and how enthusiastic she is, you can read more about this on her new website/blog on Little Owls by clicking here.

As you’ll see from my title the book is called Undiscovered Owls (for a very good reason) and is by Magnus Robb and The Sound Approach. The book focuses on species within Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It includes 4 CDs with an impressive 327 sound recordings, and is filled with beautiful illustrations from the Swedish artist Hakin Delin.

When this book was first sent out to me I was very excited. I’d read about it online and I know how fantastic The Sound Approaches books are. My first impressions were that it was very smart and slick looking, detailed and professional. After having a brief look through I was eager to start reading it, listen to the sounds and look at everything else that accompanies the text. Also I was particularly fascinated by the owl displayed on the front cover, Omani Owl, and the story behind that bird which I later went onto read.

The book is set into nine different chapters with each one including different species belonging to a genuses. Then, about each species there are sound recordings of the species with superb descriptions of the sound, interesting sonagrams, a variety of stories from their adventures and experiences, bucket loads of information and facts, and beautiful photos, art work and diagrams. A true insight into each species and with all this detail you can’t help but be gripped!

The CDs which accompany the book also make a great twist. They are very good and I found myself excited to read through to the next sonogram, listen to the tape and have a real experience of how the voice works. The quality of the sounds are perfect too and having the CDs like this was different. However the whole book was very different but very good and definitely unique.

A lot of things stood out for me in the book. Firstly, as I mentioned before the Omani Owl. The excitement of this part of the book all added to that idea of ‘Undiscovered Owls’. The new species was completely new to science and discovered in a remote mountain range in Oman.  Whilst they were out searching for Pallid Scops Owl they heard an unfamiliar owl. Within a few minutes they recorded three different calls of the owl, at this point there was the exciting possibility but it wasn’t until a month later until it was spotted.

I found the story of this discovery very intriguing along with other species in the book including the Turkish Fish owl which they recorded but is a very rare species.

Even if you’re not interested in owls I’m pretty sure you would still enjoy this book. Also, if like me you’re a big fan of British wildlife, as I mentioned before it includes owls of Europe, so there’s species like barn owls, tawny owls, little owls, long eared owls and a few more.

If you haven’t guessed, I thought this book was fantastic and really enjoyed reading it. You can get your own copy here –



SHOUT! (Malta’s Referendum)

Yesterday was a strange day. When I went to bed on Saturday night, I was very pleased after watching some badgers at a local sett, wondering what I’d get on my trail camera and curious into what the result of the vote in Malta about spring hunting would be. For some reason it seemed obvious to me that they’d vote ‘NO’ for many different reasons. For example the terrible consequences it has on the decline of many birds, whether it’s in Malta or wherever the bird is migrating to, the other wildlife affected, the fact that forests have been wiped out or maybe the fact that Malta seems to be referred to as the place with this disgusting slaughter of birds. The list of reasons voting ‘NO’ is endless.

I was up nice and early yesterday morning to collect my camera, eager to see what I had filmed and wandering if the cubs had appeared yet. I was very pleased with the footage. Unfortunately no cubs just yet but they shouldn’t be long now.

After looking through all my footage I refused to get ready to go out before I found out the result of the vote for the spring hunting in Malta. I sat patiently at my laptop screen. Refreshing every minute or so on Twitter and reading through all the articles that were published. It was very tense as I think, along with many others, that ending the slaughter of birds in Malta is essential.

Malta is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the natural place for exhausted birds to rest as they make their long migrations between Africa and Europe. These birds are an easy target for the 10,000 bird hunters that occupy the countryside of Malta and each year countless birds are shot out of the sky in spring and autumn. Spring hunting is especially damaging to wild birds because these are the birds which have survived the winter in Africa and are flying back to Europe to nest and provide the next generation of birds.

The spring hunting of quail and turtle dove is an activity which is banned across Europe but still remains in Malta.  According to the hunter’s own report, 4,131 turtle dove and 637 quail were shot during the spring season of 2014.

The turtle dove has become increasingly rare following rapid population declines. The species is now included on the Red List of conservation concern meaning there are concerns that the species could become extinct in the UK within a decade. That’s just in the UK. There has been a 70% decline of these birds since the 1970s. One of the reasons because of this is due to hunting. They also hunt the birds during the Autumn but this doesn’t have as much impact as during the spring as then they are travelling to breed. Hunting these birds on their way to breeding grounds results in not only one bird dying but their offspring too.

Furthermore, a bird will reproduce every year, say for at least five years and hence the number of unborn chicks is multiplied. This results in the destruction of a whole generation. For example, if 4,131 birds were shot dead last Spring alone.  So, say each bird raised five young over five years, excluding the fact the birds will be male and female and turtle doves also have  problems with breeding due to habitat and food loss, that’s 20,655 unborn chicks over five years just from the birds shot in the 2014 spring hunting season. It is estimated that only 14,000 pairs breed in the UK every year. Now if you compare them figures it’s pretty obvious that the Spring hunting is having a massive impact on the decline of turtle doves, not just in the UK but for the species as a whole.

Then when the birds are travelling back for the Winter, away from Europe, the birds that did survive and their offspring could be shot anyway. They have no chance.

But turtle doves aren’t the only species that’s suffering. As I stated before, the spring hunting is targeted at turtle doves and quail. Common quail are also in decline. But, as well as shooting these birds, many Maltese hunters also use the spring hunting as an opportunity to target rare and protected species of birds that breed in Europe, such as Pallid Harriers, Cuckoos and Bee-eaters. The hunters like to pretend that the problems with shooting birds is only affecting Malta but this isn’t the case. Many of the birds targeted by hunters are the subject of big international conservation projects to increase their numbers where they breed. Other bird species are in fact not breeding in Malta simply because they are either being killed or because they are scared away by the continuous shooting.  Along with this, sound pollution also disturbs other animal species that breed in the spring.

I hope you can see that the spring slaughter of thousands of migrating birds is disgusting. How hunters can go out and shoot down migrating birds, which don’t even belong to Malta, and get pleasure from that along with knowing that not only turtle doves and quail are in rapid decline but so are many of the other birds they shoot which fly over. If this doesn’t stop then we will see birds becoming extinct.

Malta made the wrong decision yesterday morning. The spring hunting will go on. The persecution of birds which are becoming missing from European countries will continue. For me, along with many others, this was terrible news. The hunters really have no idea. When will they realise what they are doing and stop. I hope that this happens before it becomes too late. I’ve never seen a turtle dove yet the hunters in Malta may see a flock go over during the spring hunting season and shoot them all dead with no guilt or understanding whatsoever.

However it isn’t all bad news. People in Malta do want this slaughter to end. The margin of victory was tiny – 50.44% to 49.56%.

This isn’t the end though. Fantastic charities and organisations made this referendum happen and they won’t give up. They’ve got this far and we won’t give up either. Two of these charities are SHout and BirdLife Malta.

If you would like to help or get involved you can

  • Write to your local MEP and ask them to support this urgent call for action to stop spring hunting in Malta – click here
  • Share the word about the campaigns of SHout and BirdLife Malta. Perhaps on Facebook or Twitter, with the hash tag #stopspringhunting
  • Join BirdLife Malta and support their work for birds and nature in the Maltese Islands.

Whilst on Twitter and reading the articles about the referendum in Malta yesterday morning it was fantastic to see so much support, especially from fellow young people. However I did see some comments about boycotting Malta. I don’t think boycotting Malta is the answer. Yes we are angry, so am I but we need to use our anger wisely and turn it into a positive energy. As you can see a lot of people in Malta are against the spring hunting and they have some fantastic charities against it too. It doesn’t help that the Government in Malta are pro the hunting. I think the best option is to work with them and help where we can. By making ourselves heard, shouting above the noise and not giving up, we will win.