Tag Archives: RSPCA

Big Garden Birdwatch results

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Pic: RSPCA

Almost half a million people took part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and discovered some interesting changes among our most popular garden birds, with some species creeping up the rankings.

It’s all change in the top 10, with blue tits in their highest position since the Big Garden Birdwatch began, at number two. The previous occupiers of the second spot, blackbirds, have dropped to number four.

Goldfinches have climbed another place since last year, and now perch at number seven. The robin, which has been as high as number seven in the past 10 years, has dropped back to number 10. And for the first time ever, the great spotted woodpecker has squeezed in at number 20.

Scientists believe that the weather has played a role in the ups and downs in this year’s top 10, as many of the birds were recorded in lower numbers in gardens due to the mild conditions.

Some species, such as blue tits, were likely to be more reliant on food provided in gardens than others, such as blackbirds, which could easily find their favoured foods like worms and insects in the countryside.

Just 10 years ago, goldfinches were in 14th position, but scientists believe that the increase in people providing food like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise to number seven.

Overall, numbers of species such as blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings may appear to have dropped in our gardens since last year. But in many cases this is not because these populations are in decline, but because these species don’t need to come into our gardens during mild winters due to there being plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside.

However the continuing declines of some species are of greater concern. Numbers of starlings and song thrushes have dropped by an alarming 84 and 81 per cent respectively since the Birdwatch began in 1979.

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as the declines appear to have slowed, and it remains the most commonly-seen bird in our gardens. However, it remains on the red list as we have still lost 62 per cent since 1979.

Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch organiser, says: “2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild, and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.

“They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality. The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming months because more survived the mild winter.”

 

Badger cull now under way amid protests

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Pic: PA

The  badger cull is now under way in England despite protests. About 5,000 badgers are expected to be killed in controlled shootings over six weeks in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Farmers and the Government say the cull is necessary to tackle bovine TB,  but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective. They want the emphasis to be on vaccines and tighter on-farm and cattle movement measures. The RSPCA said it was “saddened”, while anti-cull campaigners turned out in large numbers at the pilot sites  to protest against what they call “inhumane” action. It is understood the cull in Gloucestershire will start later this week.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: “The Government’s divisive badger cull will cost more than it saves and will spread bovine TB in the short-term as badgers are disturbed by shooting.

“We need a science-led policy to manage cattle movements better and a vaccine to tackle TB in cattle. Ministers should listen to the scientists and drop this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife.”

Campaigners call for ban on seabird killer

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This pair of guillemots were casualties of pollution by PIB. Pic: RSPB

Three leading wildlife organisations have joined together to call for the ban on the discharge of polyisobutene (PIB), which has killed hundreds of seabirds.

The disaster of hundreds of seabirds dying along England’s southern coast because of marine pollution has prompted the RSPB, the RSPCA and The Wildlife Trust to write to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, alerting him to the growing threat.

The three charities are urging the minister to take a lead in driving an international reclassification of the man-made substance to prohibit the discharge of PIB at sea. PIB renders seabirds helpless, restricting their mobility and preventing them from feeding as the chemical coats their plumage. There have have been two pollution incidents involving PIB along the South Coast this year, and at least three others around European coasts in recent years.

The chemical is used in the manufacture of a range of products including lubricants to football bladders, chewing gum to cling film, and it is also used to control the thickness of oils.

It can be legal to discharge PIB when ships wash out their tanks at sea, but these permissions are based on tests carried out under laboratory conditions and no consideration is taken of what happens when the chemical meets sea water, beyond whether the substance floats or sinks.

In the sea, however, the polyisobutene transforms into a glue-like, ‘waxy’ formation, coating the feathers of birds, preventing them from diving and finding food.  Alec Taylor, the RSPB’s marine policy officer, said: “This material is a killer which has claimed the lives of thousands of seabirds, causing many to suffer a lingering death.  It cannot be right that it is legal to release it in any quantity into our seas.”

The three wildlife charities are calling on the Minister to write to the International Maritime Organisation to request a review of PIB’s hazard status under the Marpol Convention, which states it is legal to discharge PIB when a vessel’s tanks are flushed at sea. The campaigning group 38 Degrees has also launched an e-action urging the government to take action.

Struggle to save stricken seabirds continues

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The mystery substance found on hundreds of seabirds washed up on the south coast is a “mixture of refined mineral oils”, says the Environment Agency.

Wildlife experts have warned many more birds could be affected by the waxy substance. Hundreds of birds were found on beaches from Sussex to Cornwall on Thursday. Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Every effort is being made to identify the cause of this problem. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping the seabirds affected and it’s thanks to their efforts that many have been cleaned up and now have a chance of survival.”

The total rescue count so far is 162 alive and rescued, but 200 are dead, including a juvenile puffin, a fulmar and 3 razorbills. It is thought the substance may have been dumped into the English Channel by a ship. Most birds have been found in Dorset but others are appearing in Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall.

Rescue bid for seabirds covered by “glue-like wax”

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Hundreds of seabirds have been washed up along the south coast of England between Dorset and Cornwall, covered in a waxy, glue-like substance.

The RSPB and RSPCA have launched a rescue operation today after more than 100 birds, mainly guillemots, were washed ashore. Many were found at Chesil Cove near Weymouth, but others are appearing up to 200 miles away in Cornwall, some of them already dead.

The RSPCA said the birds were “not responding well” to the cleaning techniques, normally used to remove oil. Dorset Wildlife Trust has urged people not to attempt to rescue any washed up birds but to alert the RSPCA.

Government to delay badger cull until next year

Government plans to cull thousands of badgers have been delayed until next summer amid growing concern about the cost and effectiveness of the controversial scheme.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the cull in the south-west of England would have to be delayed because a new survey revealed there were twice as many badgers as previously thought, making the cull too expensive. Farmers felt they could not kill enough badgers before the animals start going underground for the winter. Recent bad weather was also blamed for hampering preparations.

Mr Paterson insisted that the Government was still committed to reducing badger numbers, but said the “optimal time” for the cull had passed. The announcement was welcomed by  many leading scientists, who have expressed severe doubts about whether the cull would successfully stop the spread of bovine TB. Lord John Krebs, the architect of a  10-year badger culling trial, called it “mindless” and signed a letter with 31 other eminent scientists demanding the Government reconsider its plan.

Anti-cull campaigners believe the cull is inhumane because the method of shooting could cause suffering to many thousands of badgers. They have called for a vaccination programme along with increased levels of testing. An e-petition, launched by the Queen guitarist Brian May, as part of the Team Badger campaign, attracted more than 160,00 signatures.

RSPCA Chief Executive, Gavin Grant, said the fight to stop the cull would continue and legal challenges were being drafted. “We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans,” he said.