July, 2011

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  • Kestrel family favours industrial chic

    Brett on top of the silo, next to the box with a kestrel seen high in the sky to the left of the box.The top of a concrete silo alongside one of Europe's busiest motorways is not everyone's ideal home, but these industrial chic surroundings are heaven to a family of kestrels.

    Brett Erwin, a plant supervisor working for Lafarge [supplying concrete to the Highways Agency project, widening the M25 at junction 29] first saw and recognised the birds. Calling upon schoolboy memories and experience of a previous job in forestry, he knocked up a wooden nest box and sought his employers permission to fix it to the concrete silo.

    The birds moved in and promply laid six eggs, which have now all hatched successfully. Brett bought a £20 webcam so he and colleagues could watch the nest from their site cabin when not working; and it's kept them all entranced. "I was really excited when I saw the kestrels using the box", said Brett. "Once the nesting season's over, we'll move the box to a nearby tree so they've got a home when our silo's removed."

    Work's nearing completion, on time for the increased traffic expected around east London for the 2012 Olympics.

    The site's closed to the public and drivers are warned not to look out for the birds hovering alongside the motorway while driving. You can see kestrels at our Rainham Marsh nature reserve just a junction down (come off at J30 and head towards the A13 to London, come off at the next junction for Purfleet) from the widening works.

    The nesting kestrels haven't interfered with work on the widening or on site, but it's a great example of a major contruction project working with nature.

    Kestrels eat small mammals, bugs and occassionally other birds. The nest is close to a series of water ditches and fields, and Brett told me their webcam footage shows their main diet is mice and voles.

    Kestrels are small falcons and if you're in London anytime from 16 July through to 11 September, we'll have powerful telescopes available to see peregrine falcons at the Tate Modern on the southbank. Our trailer will be next to the Millennium footbridge from Noon until 7 pm every day.

  • EC Rider

    You are looking so good! Ladies and gentlemen. Let's ride.

    Thank you to everyone who wrote to EC President Jose Manuel Barroso. 11,500 people took time out let him and his EC colleagues know what they thought about plans to cut environmental funding from the Common Agriculture Policy, revealed by the RSPB just over a week ago.

    Don't yawn. Admittedly the CAP is legislation wrapped in verbage so dense it should be used to shield nuclear reactors, but it is an important mechanism that will help us reach the target of not losing wildlife by the year 2020. Strange then that the people who signed agreements setting the 2020 targets then try to scupper it with a swift witdrawal of funding with no consultation.

    Diplomats and journalists agree that it was those letters people like you sent to Mr Barroso that halted the funding axe mid-swing. We should celebrate our success.

    As usual, this major leap forward, where Londoners and countryfolk came together with a single voice was a vast leap forward, it is just a small step-up in the climb towards 2020. It seems the budget was saved, but not increased to a level where it keeps up with the game, so funding in real-terms has shrunk. Nature will once again limp towards 2020 wondering how many species will see 2021.

    Don't despair. We're trying to untangle the true meaning or the agreement, discover and fix the loopholes and will then be stepping up action once again, urging to MP's here to help us sow seeds in Brussels that will allow the CAP to take root, blossom and bear fruit.