May, 2010

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South East

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  • Blonde joggers seek crow bar

    I've mentioned my fondness for crows before.

    These birds are proving less than popular among blonde women joggers in one Greenwich park. It seems an angry crow is predominantly targeting this one group of park users, dive bombing them as they jog round the paths.

    Crows, including jays and magpies, have the ability to remember things, which allows them to discover how to create and use tools to get to food and suchlike. Their memories also allow them to make other links, such as blonde hair and jogging.

    We all know that birds get territorial around the breeding season, but that doesn’t explain the behaviour of the Eltham crow. A better explanation is that a blonde woman out jogging, maybe after watching Hitchcock’s classic horror movie, The Birds, found a crow in her path and, fearing attack, threw water at it or kicked out her foot towards it. Now “traumatised” by this experience, this crow is now living proof of ‘what comes around, goes around’. Fearing a similar experience, it now favours pre-emptive strikes against any blonde jogger.. and occasional non-blonde jogger.. passing through its patch.

    The tale may be comical to some, but not for those dived upon, who now in turn, could develop a hatred of all crows, and could similarly pick-on a whole species because of the actions of an individual bird, motivated by a careless gesture of a blonde jogger. I wonder if this is how author Camille Paglia came up with the story of The birds in the first place? [Update: nmahieu is quite right. It was Daphne du Naurier - Camille Paglia wrote a book about the film and that's what's on my bookshelf - misleading me with it's familiarity, thanks for pointing this out and please do keep the comments coming.]

    As I’ve told the tale, it’s an example of how a small act can snowball. Which is exactly what we’re hoping will happen with our Letter to the Future campaign. I know, I know, it is a cheesy link. In my defence, it’s the Friday ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend; so what do you expect?

    Bees, albatrosses and Sumatran tigers are just three of the species we're actively conservingMore than 213,000 people have signed and we need that figure to go higher to prove to the Government that there is strong public support for safeguarding our life support system.

    On June 22, Chancellor George Osbourne will set out the coalition Government’s stall, showing their spending plans for the coming administration. Tackling the economic crisis is a must, but not at the expense of the environment. Short-term fixes will result in bigger bills later. We need intelligent and thought through spending to create a better future for people and wildlife.

    Find out more about what the RSPB is doing to save wildlife and places at our Date with Nature on Hampstead Heath all this half-term week. There’s a good chance of seeing a kingfisher, and on Tuesday, an opportunity to see a common blogger, my good self.

    Join us on the Heath to sign our Letter to the Future and pledge your support for an intelligent budget. If you’ve already signed, ask your MP to join you. We collectively elected them to represent us, so let them know what you want.

  • Wild about what's missing

    Where are my swifts.

    I'm seeing them wherever I go, but the ones that normally play in the sky over my house are simply absent.

    I know we've a bit of a crisis looming with swifts, and that plans are afoot to try to resolve it... but where are my swifts.

    With upheaval in the workplace, relationship breakdowns around me, global financial meltdowns and political uncertainty, I need the stability and familiarity of swifts scooting over my head and the calm sound of birdsong to keep me sane. It's amazing what you miss when it's no longer there. I haven't got house sparrows.I haven't got starlings. What if I no longer have swifts? At what point should I start to keep a list of the things vanishing from my life?

    I shouldn't let it get me down. After all, we have purple herons at Dungeness, blue tits in my nest box, peregrine falcons across Greater London, you can see four peregrine chicks on our London webcam. There's lots to celebrate and I'm hoping I'll soon discover more as people submit entries to the new competition we're launching with London Underground.Enter our competition and please do pass on the details to friends, colleagues, strangers, schools and post details to friends online.

    Life between the lines is a photo and project competition. If you know of any individual or group doing things for wildlife, like a school creating an edible garden, a community composting scheme or any Londoners creating a mini-woodland, then do urge them to enter. We're also looking for inspiring wildlife photographs. Visit the competition pages to find out more.

    We've lots going on in London this summer, from the BBC London Wild Day Out in Alexandra Palace Park, Date with Nature events on Hampsted Heath and in Regent's Park plus our annual Peregrine Watch on the southbank outside the front of the Tate Modern. Last year we had a mini flock of starlings at the Tate. Make sure you join us to find out if they're still there; if not, feel free to join me in a wild tirade about loss.

    If you want to go wild on-line, let off steam by signing our Letter to the Future. 200,000 other folks have already signed it.. but this is where people power really has an impact. Add you name to help us make it our biggest petition ever.

  • pre flight chicks

    Not quite chocks away but ... Yes the season of peregrine chicks is upon us and soon London's skies will be full of these magnificent creatures swooping and diving and testing their flying skills.

    Sadly not all of London's peregrines successfuly bred this year. Eggs were washed out on one nest and vanished from another site, but Scotland Yard's Wildlife Crime Officers are looking into that. The Tate Modern peregrines have hatched their eggs and the pair that roost on the Palace of Westmister have FOUR chicks, which you can see via our webcam. London's peregrines were a week or so later in hatching than last year and later than those on Chichester's cathedral.

    I should warn you that it can get a tad gory at mealtimes but this is real nature, not the stuff that comes wrapped in sugar-pink tissue paper, sitting on a satin cushion.

    I've had several conversations with people this week about swifts. Many have arrived back in London, but those that have danced over the rooftops of my east end street for the past few years are still missing. It's a worrying time as bad weather and a lack of food between here and their wintering grounds in Africa have been taking a toll; anecdotally. Swifts need nooks and crannies in buildings to lay their eggs and breed and that's what they do when they migrate back here each year. Do look at our swift survey pages if you want to help swifts survive futre years. The info you send us will help direct where we focus our conservation efforts... that's why it's important to find out where swifts aren't as well as where they are.. that sounds like a Donald Rumsfeld quote.Rainham's modern visitor centre - energy, water and light efficient with views to die for and a cafe to help you on your way with delicious homemade calorie rich cakes, scrummy bacon sandwiches and lots more.

    On a wider theme, the conflict between draught-proofing your home to reduce heat loss (linked to energy use) and caring for wildlife throws up a unique conflict. It's not just swifts. House sparrows too like to nest in the gaps in the structure of our homes. The good news is that you can do something about climate change and save wildlife too. If you know where a nest hole is, you can build an internal box around the entrance. If the hole can't be left open, you can install a swift or a sparow box as close to the original nest site as possible. Cavity wall insulation is generally OK as birds don't normally penetrate that deep into house strructures. There's always an exception to the rule though.. so check before carying out any work. There's another thing you can do for wildlife from the comfort of your chair and it won't cost a thing, sign our Letter to the Future.. better still join us to ensure there's cash to save our dwindling global species.

    Right now you can see noisy marsh frogs, watervoles and a variety of birds at Rainham Marshes and our Rye Meads reserve offers breathtaking views of kingfishers, flitting back and forth to their nest to feed their chicks. We'll have stands at both the  BBC's Wild Day Out at Alexandra Palace Gardens and Camden Green Fair coming up over the weekend of the 5 and 6 June.