Tag Archives: birds

Sunday Photo Magazine — 11/30/2014

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Photography awards raise wildlife awareness

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Fox Glance by Samuel Morris

There’s still time to enter the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2014, which aim to raise awareness about British wildlife and celebrate our national heritage.

Winners and commended entrants will have their work showcased in a touring exhibition and stunning book. The awards will be presented by TV presenter Chris Packham, who said: “Anything that raises the public’s awareness of the importance to conserve and protect British wildlife is very close to my heart, and these awards afford a spectacular insight into the habitat and behaviour of our British wildlife.”

Entry is free for young people and the first prize is £5,000. The competition is open until midnight on Saturday, 3 May, and the winners will be announced in September.

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Pic by George Karbus, last year’s overall winner.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

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Pic: RSPB

More than half a million people are expected to be watching their garden birds the weekend (25-26 January), for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

It’s the biggest wildlife survey in the world and this year participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too, including deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Also new for 2014, is the RSPB’s LIVE bird counter, making it even easier to take part. The counter can be accessed from the RSPB website and doesn’t even need to be downloaded – simply take your laptop, tablet or smartphone to the window, enter the birds you see as you see them, while the clock counts down your hour.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says: ”Winter has felt more like autumn for many of us and this could have a significant impact on the number of birds in our gardens.

“Birds come into gardens for food when they can’t find it in the wider countryside but if insects and berries continue to be available long into winter, numbers visiting gardens may be down. The Big Garden Birdwatch will be really interesting this year and will be a good indication of just how much the weather affects their behaviour.

“The key thing for the RSPB is that even if you feel you don’t have as many birds in your garden compared to normal, we still desperately need your results. We will be able to compare results to other mild winter years and compare regional trends, so if you don’t see many birds, we still need to know, it’s really useful information.

“The more people that take part, the greater our understanding of the threats and the solutions will be.”

Starlings hit an all time low in the 2013 Birdwatch with their numbers sinking by a further 16 per cent from 2012. Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 percent in gardens compared to 2012, whilst numbers of bullfinches and dunnocks were down by 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

The data gathered on the mammal and amphibian species will be shared with conservation partners so they can add it to their own records and will be used to help the RSPB tailor its advice on giving nature a home so people can help their wild visitors nest, feed and breed successfully.

To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time of the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local outside space at anyone time. They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online or in the post.

Participants don’t have to actually count the other species like hedgehogs and frogs during the birdwatch hour; just tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year.

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Wildlife-friendly gardens worth more to homebuyers

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A new survey has revealed that two-thirds of housebuyers would consider paying more for a wildlife-friendly garden.

The research found that seven out of 10 people in the UK would consider paying extra for a property that has a wildlife-friendly garden. The RSPB and the property website Rightmove asked 1,548 people a series of questions relating to gardens and garden wildlife.

In answer to the question ‘would you pay more for a house with a wildlife friendly garden?’ 14% of people surveyed answered ‘yes, definitely’, another 14% answered ‘probably’ and 39% said ‘maybe’.

Of those surveyed, seven out of 10 (69%) described the area in which they live as either urban or suburban; more than half (56%) have children; and more than nine out of 10 (93%) said they were happy when they saw wildlife in their garden.

The survey was carried out to get an insight into people’s knowledge and interest in UK garden wildlife following the launch of the RSPB’s new campaign, Giving Nature a Home, which aims to help tackle the crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.

The charity is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces and hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

Sarah Houghton, RSPB campaign manager, said: “Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for things like starlings, toads, hedgehogs and butterflies, so we want to persuade people to give nature a home where they live – it could really help make a difference.”

Things to do during wild gardens week

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As it’s Wild About Gardens Week,  here are some practical ways that the RHA recommend to enhance your garden for wildlife, from feeding birds to building ponds. Get into the habit of doing these things and you’ll make a big difference to the wildlife you will find in your garden.

  • Plant a tree – they are important for attracting wildlife because they produce large amounts of nectar at blossom time.  They also attract mini-beasts that make their home in the bark, and birds come hunting them for food.
  • Make a log shelter – dead wood is both home and food for various beetle grubs and many tiny creatures that make a tasty snack for birds, hedgehogs and frogs. You can get logs from  tree surgeons or firewood dealers.
  • Build a bug mansion which will attract insects and other creatures into your garden. You can make the basic framework out of five wooden pallets, and you can fill the gaps with dead wood, straw, hay, dry leaves and holes for toads and bees.
  • Put in a pond – it will attract wildlife with amazing speed, including birds, amphibians, insects and mammals you might never see otherwise.
  • Build a compost café – it will reduce landfill, enrich your soil and attract wildlife. All you need is waste organic material, air and water. Or you should be able to get one from local councils, as many now offer compost bins at reduced prices in a bid to reduce landfill.

 

House sparrow numbers stabilise

Country Diary : Two male house sparrows

Pic: Alamy / The Guardian

There was some good news last week when new figures from the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey revealed that the decline in house sparrow numbers appears to have levelled off.

Populations of house sparrows across the UK have fallen from about 12 million pairs in the 1970s to between 6 and 7 million pairs today, with a greater reduction in urban and rural areas than in suburban ones.

But the latest data from the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch, a citizen science survey in which birdwatchers and householders monitor gardens across the country throughout the year, suggests that the decline in gardens has stabilised since 2009.

Figures from the trust show that in 1995, the proportion of gardens reporting one or more house sparrows was about 80%. This fell steadily to 60% in 2009, and has remained at the same rate since.

“It’s too soon to say that they are increasing but the decline has definitely levelled off since 2009 and hopefully this means they’ll start to increase again,” said Clare Simm, BTO’s Garden BirdWatch development officer.

The house sparrow is a “red-listed”conservation species which has been in long-term decline, particularly in urban environments. Its populations across Britain have been hit by a loss of nesting sites and food sources, especially insects to feed their young.

In rural areas, changes in farming practices are thought to have affected house sparrows. But in urban and suburban areas the causes have been more complex, with everything from cats to air pollution and pesticides being blamed.

The BTO has recommended five simple measures for gardeners to encourage house sparrows:

• Let an area of your garden go wild to encourage insects.

• Plants like hawthorn and ivy provide thick vegetation for sparrows to hide in.

• Provide them with a home, using either a house sparrow terrace or nest boxes near the eaves of your property.

• Feed them with a suitable seed mix that includes large grains.

• Regularly clean your feeding stations to prevent disease.