Sunday, 29 November 2015

November - The month of the Sparrowhawk.

This month has been a good month for raptor spotting. As the weather has turned more wintery garden bird life can take a shift, blackbirds arrive from the continent and and squabble between themselves and the natives for seed and berries. Sadly one of these failed to survive when one flew into our bay window. It hit with an almighty thump and although I was out quickly I was only in time to comfort it as it died. It was bitterly cold and I tried to keep it warm by cupping it in my hands. Shock is a big killer in birds and its body temperature can plummet fast. I think its neck was broken or at least fractured and it lasted barely seconds.

Sparrowhawks have become a much more common site at our house. They regular hunt along the stretch of gardens in our street and in the summer spent sometime perching in the lilac by the bird bath. Today a juvenile female Hawk appeared in the same location.

You can tell it is a female because of its brown back and wings.

Note the bright super-cilium (stripe above the eye) this is only present in females

Note the rufous v-shaped barring on the chest. In an adult female this barring will become more linear with horizontal bars. The beak is also more grey at the base, in adults it becomes yellower.

The legs show the bright yellow typical of Sparrowhawks as a species. They are often described as 'knitting needle' thin. You can see how well they are adapted to catching small birds and holding them tight.

I managed to get these shots through the conservatory window and I m quite pleased with the outcome although it did take some work to crop and remove the window glare.

A sparrowhawk was recorded in the garden on the 10th November as well. This one was a male. As you can see from the picture below, they are more grey/blue, and have an orangey hue to their cheeks which extends down their barred fronts.

On this occasion he sat on the top of the cameras and was at a greater distance, this made it harder to screen out the effects of the window make the image look more washed out; but its enough for a comparison, note the lack of white supercillium.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Someones listening... I think.

It has been quite awhile since my last post mainly because I wanted to do a post on my local patch however with all the wet weather and it being that lull time between the summer visitors leaving and the winter visitors arriving things have been pretty quiet.

In actual fact much of the town has been quiet in terms of wildlife. In this time I have started to work on my next project... as if I need anymore! This time I am going to use the Habitat Suitability Index I wrote for the Hedgehog to survey my local estate. a) this will test out my methodology and b) it will build in the spring to a survey regime to estimate the population and distribution in the area. I m quite excited about this project and have already started digitising the estate in QGIS to create the necessary maps.

This wasn't really what this blog post was to be about. Instead with all the rain induced in door time I have moved my mini palm oil campaign on a little.  At the start of the month I wrote to two of the companies I have currently decided to boycott - Cadburys and Nestle to ask them about their views on Palm Oil usage and what they are doing about it. My letter read as follows:

Dear .......,
I am writing to you to express my concern that your company is still using unsustainably sourced Palm Oil in its products. I acknowledge that Palm Oil is a widely used additive to many products and not just your chocolates however its impact on the world is too great.

As you are no doubt aware monoculture palm oil plantations are responsible for the loss of vast areas of rainforest in south east Asia and is having a critical effect on many species. In particular the keystone species – the Orangutan is under particular pressure.

As a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil it is clear that as a company you acknowledge the need to act on this issue. I would like to urge you to step up your progress. My stance is not of one of an outright ban on palm oil this is unlikely to be achievable but for large companies such as yourselves to lead the agenda for reducing the quantities used and using only registered sustainable sources.

I would like to ask you to label their products clearly as to what palm oil it contains. I hope you would support a kitemark label system so that consumers are able to make informed decisions and companies can champion their own work on the issue.

I am a huge fan of your products but have sadly decided to boycott your chocolate until you reach a target of 100% sustainable sourced palm oil and have more clearly marked your products. As a multinational company you have a responsibility to act.

I sent these two letters on the 1st of November and I recieved my first and so far only reply from Nestle's just three days later. 

I will let you read the letter for yourself as scanned below before I make my comments.

I am always skeptical of large companies and the PR machines and so I was expecting a greenwash letter from some functionary. Did I get this... Yes and No. The letter reads as a standard response to the issue but it did highlight the companies awareness of the issues and the efforts that they are taking. I think their 95% traceablilty goal is good  and achievable and I like how they acknowledge that certificates are just a sticky plaster and not a realistic function of sustainability.

I would have liked to see more evidence of their doing. They state their commitment and goals and give some evidence of there green credentials with a link to their cocoaplan but why is their no link to work on their palm oil plan?

I was also disappointed with their lack of addressing the issue I raised about helping consumer choice with a charter mark or symbol.

On the whole better than nothing and much better than cadbury's but what do you think?

My next step is a follow up letter and one to my local MP. Watch this space.