Friday 31 October 2014

The State of UK Birds 2013

Here's a bit more from Mark Avery on the current state of UK birds : Mark Avery Blog

Sunday 26 October 2014

Corvo 2014

So that's the end of another Corvo season for me. My ten year anniversary on the island. What a difference a decade makes- I could hardly leave the guest  house due to knee problems and didn't find a single bird. However great to see so many people taking up the batons and gave me a chance to sort out some improvements for our projects on the Azores (Azores Nature). Here's some pics from the birding season:

Vincent Legrand Photo Album

Monday 20 October 2014

Blackpoll Warbler and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Blackpoll Warbler
 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Blackpoll Warbler (another shot of bird above)

Corvo Birders twitching the cuckoo

Trying out a new tool to do some photos with
A couple of new birds in the village today- a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Blackpoll Warbler. Blackpoll was an Azores tick for me but I still haven't seen the Northern Shrike which would be another tick.
We did Katt's (the Guesthouse manageress) list yesterday and she's approaching 50 species including a few WP megas.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Corvo 2014 Week 2

 Buff-bellied Pipit
 Snow Bunting
The wind has now calmed down- making it easier to find birds
A few good birds around at the moment including a Northern Shrike and Black-throated Green Warbler. I haven't seen either because as usual on here I have knackered my knee.
Got to see the Buff-bellied Pipit in the village and a Snow Bunting and Dotterel up on the reservoir.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Corvo 2014

 Northern Parula- Two on the island recently (Vincent Legrand)
Philadelphia Vireo (Vincent Legrand)
 Common Dolphins and Cory's Shearwaters in high seas (Vincent Legrand)
 White-rumped Sandpipers- 10 on the island yesterday as part of an influx in strong westerly conditions
 European Golden Plover- migrants coming in from east and west
 A large storm over 2500km wide (almost the entire North Atlantic) is currently battering the island
2014 Azores Report was launched here this year (if you would like a copy please email me, costs 10 euro)
Storm conditions continue making is rather difficult to find landbirds. The storm (a 2500km wide complex) is due to last until Sunday so it might be easier to find some birds once it calms down.
For the daily news from Corvo see: CORVO BLOG
For all news from Azores see: AZORES BIRD SIGHTINGS

Tuesday 14 October 2014

10 Years of Corvo Birding

It's my tenth year anniversary on Corvo this year. Katt arranged a little party to celebrate the occasion. Cheers Katt- much appreciated. Great to see the birding community growing year on year.

Here's the story from 10 years ago: BIRDWATCH Eye of the Storm

Last couple of days

Juvenile Spoonbill (anyone recognise the colour rings)
Little Stint
Spent yesterday with Gerby and the Birdwatch group and birded Sao Miguel and today arrived on Corvo. 

Saturday 11 October 2014

Willet or won't it

 Storm approaching on Monday- Will it produce or won't it. It looks a bit of a classic. Hope I make it to Corvo before this hits.
Western Willet- couldn't be arsed to get a good photo of this as so many about

Beddington Farmlands JR Closing Comments

The JR is now over and the court will make a final decision within two or three weeks.

No point in making predictions and comment with the benefit of hindsight so will comment now.

I think the judge will rule in favour of the council and permit the application.

The only legitimate case I thought existed was the case of a biased planning officers report with regards to the impact on the nature conservation and the resulting inadequate mitigation (which was not adequate if the true nature of the factors such as the failed conservation management plan were taken into account).

The Green Party led on the JR case with a blanket anti-incineration strategy. We explored making two cases but were advised they would work against each other so the anti-incineration approach was taken (as the Green party had political/legal structures in place to move quickly). That anti-incineration strategy is largely a statement about unjust laws but that wouldn't make a legal case in this context. There is nothing illegal about incineration and the Beddington ER complies with EA regulations and all the environmental laws that are in place. Those laws and regulations may be incorrect and unjust but a judicial review only looks into whether the law (whether right or wrong) is being upheld. The strategy therefore was to look for a technicality, a flaw in the box ticking exercise which is the planning system, in the hope that someone has ticked the wrong box and that the planning application will be stopped due to an error. Basically this was the only way to stop the incinerator.

However while the focus was on stopping the incinerator by chance (luck) a real matter of reasoned concern existed. The matter of the failed conservation management plan, the breaches in previous environmental obligations, the disappearing wildlife populations and the failure of the planning officers to advise the planning committee on that  was being drowned out by party agendas and emotive opinions.

The Green party did not want to follow  that strategy because those problems could have been solved by looking at the mitigation package and working out a deal that would solve the past problems and create a better future for the reserve, the local community and the wildlife. However that would not stop the incinerator and the Green Party had their sights set on that.

So, a party agenda item, anti-incineration, ended up trumping the chance of actually looking at a specific local problem and working out a way of balancing conflict and moving forward in the best way possible. To me this is ironic as it equates to the Green Party actually being partly responsible for the loss of wildlife at Beddington Farmlands as they in effect hi-jacked the discussion table in the hope that luck would rule in their favour to stop something that they thought was wrong (but was not illegal) and in doing so, lost the chance of working within the present reality to minimise damage and work steadily towards a better future, so it's an own goal (once again) for the local community that are interested in people and nature.

The High Court situation was interesting. Three judges (two observers, one a young lady from Romania ((Why don't our English judges look like that!) and a guy from Italy), two QCs on the Council and Viridors side, with one of them earning £8000 an hour according to some sources, a line of Viridor officers, some council officers and then on the other side the only people in the room that weren't being paid to be there (the locals and naturalists) and best of all the claimant, a self proclaimed regular family man- paying the bill for the whole proceedings so that everyone else can make a load of money and the courts and the QCs get their pound of flesh of a billion pound contract. Maybe the Green Party made some political capital from the whole thing and maybe the claimant will have earned himself a higher position in the Green party political hierarchy. Who knows?, all I know is that the local wildlife and Beddington Farmlands  is fucked and has been used for all different kinds of people to fight over for a whole range of personal agendas. Here are the results for the special species that are trying to survive at the farmlands (see table below). Biodiversity is a quality of life indicator and locally that indicator is nose diving. Nobody is winning out of this conflict- we are all going down the fucking pan.

Anyway, maybe I'm wrong and the final decision will be different to what I suspect. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong. In the meantime I'm off to the Azores for some fresh air.

Breeding pairs of the target species for selected years

Notes on breeding population
Little Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover
Initial improvement now declining
Common Tern
Yellow Wagtail
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Tree Sparrow
Reed Bunting

Thursday 9 October 2014

Beddington Farmlands Judicial Review

The big day in court today and the case continues tomorrow. The strategy adopted is a win or lose situation so unfortunately no room for damage limitation or increasing mitigation measures for the reserve and wildlife.
I have great admiration for the team work and community spirit from the anti-incineration campaigners.
Good luck to them tomorrow. After hearing and seeing what I saw today I think I'll spend tomorrow planting up some new areas of habitat locally as I can't help but feel that will do more benefit for the wildlife (I would have preferred if the strategy for this case was to look at damage limitation). 

Wednesday 8 October 2014


The Beddington Farmlands high court case is tomorrow. So what is the potential fate for the farmlands?:

1) Lose. If we lose the case the incinerator will go ahead. If it goes ahead Viridor and Sutton are tied in for 60 years of land management and are still bound by planning obligations to create a nature reserve at the heartland of the Regional Park. The only difference is that there will be an incinerator in the mix (not ideal and it should never have happened). However with a stretch of the imagination the incinerator can actually be integrated into the park (plenty of nature reserves have industrial features as their backdrop e.g. Dungeness, Minsmere, Rainham etc etc) as a renewable energy project and certain aspects of it (such as the cooling pools and green roof) might actually create some new habitat and potentially will also provide a source of water for the proposed wet grassland. As part of the mitigation package of this application we also get a new warden, a community fund, a new management body and a new area integrated into the conservation management plan. However we've lost some extremely important habitat and have long term issues to worry about such as the kind of precedence this sets and the effects that the habitat fragmentation will have. Also the air pollution risk is a concern for local people so will continue to explore the possibility of setting up an independent air quality monitoring system in our local community (and report any breaches to the EA).

On a more positive note, leading up to the JR, the bird and wildlife group have grown its membership and support base considerably, have got a new website, new social media sites and there has been a lot of publicity for the reserve with new partnerships formed and we are certainly in a better position to move forward in the future. We've also learnt some legal challenging skills (and hopefully got to cause the offenders trouble for the trouble that they've caused to the birds and wildlife, trouble they could possibly avoid in the future if there is more commitment to the needs of wildlife and local people?) and we also have the option that we can immediately start a new case against Sutton for the lack of enforcement of previous planning conditions. Ideally it would be better if we could avoid conflict so will only do that as a last resort (if things keep going nowhere or backwards).

So with the new strengthened position of the wildlife community and the new conservation management plan and new commitments to improve the situation from the authorities it hopefully will not be too bad. In fact we have to make the best of the situation and will move on swiftly.

2)Win. If we win the case, the future is more uncertain. Viridor could potentially walk away from the site leaving behind a half job (Sutton have been unable to enforce previous conditions so its possible they won't be able to challenge the walk away). It could be extremely problematic to find the funding to complete the reserve. Also if we win Viridor and Sutton could appeal and then drag everyone back into court- it was tough enough this time raising the money and keeping the momentum. Would we get the Aarhus convention protection this time? There's also the possibility that an alternative plan for waste management could be more harmful for the reserve- a multi-resource facility to deal with waste could have a bigger footprint and destroy more green space.

Maybe if we win, the planning application will go back to the drawing board, with a new smaller plant proposed as part of a de-centralised approach to waste management (with more of a focus on reducing waste) across South London and a better improved mitigation package for the reserve. However that is the ideal world and we do not live in an ideal world- yet. However that would be the ultimate solution (but maybe a bit dreamy but that is what should happen!).

So basically, in a way.  if we lose we win and if we win we win. Whatever happens will continue working for the reserve and the wildlife and for the people who support that.

Tuesday 7 October 2014


It might blow before we get there!

Implosion before the case gets heard

Monday 6 October 2014

Sunday 5 October 2014

Saturday 4 October 2014

Friday 3 October 2014

Thursday 2 October 2014

7- Beddington Farmlands JR- this time next week

Not really falling for the net trick
 Meadow Pipits
Gall on Wild Carrot
Life goes on, despite the high court case looming that will decide the future of the farmlands. Spent yesterday having a look for migrants and joined the ringers in trying to catch Meadow Pipits.
A few migrants about- 1 Wheatear, 8 Skylark, 50+ Meadow Pipit, 3 Mistle Thrush over and lots of ducks 100+ Shoveler, 50+ Teal. 8+ Wigeon, 4 Pochard and a couple of Green Sandpipers.
Two Clouded Yellows on the mound and a few moths last night including Barred Sallow as first for the year.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Azores Rare and Scarce Bird Report

Got the proof for the new Azores report and making some final amendments (including spelling Scarce correctly on the front cover) .
If you would like a copy please email me

Beddington Farmlands JR Countdown- 8

Eight days to go.