Hunting for peregrine’s in The Guardian


trying to spot peregrines near the ford

Spotting peregrine’s near’Bakers’s’ford

Today’s Guardian online features my article on peregrine hunting in Essex

Things the Americans do better – bike transport.

Action Bus Bike racksMiami, I am discovering, is not a green city.

From the air it sprawls for miles and on the ground it is little better. Every inch appears to be concreted over, the car is king, plastic bags are forced on you in every shop and few people, it seems, are doing anything to change their resource consuming lifestyle.

It is a stressful place, alien to life, both human and animal. STILL, there is one area in which they are ahead of the game. Buses in Miami have cycle racks strapped to their noses.

It is a little disconcerting at first to see a bike balanced precariously on the front of a bus, it’s owners shoes tied to the front basket dangling out and swaying in time to the city traffic but how great would it be to have this service at home? How often have I cycled to a train station, thinking I had a few stops until home, only to find that scourge of British transport, the rail replacement bus service, operating instead offering no room for cyclists?

A bus with a bike rack would be welcomed by millions of British cyclists, I am sure and make our public transport integrated. In many ways America seems shockingly behind the world when it comes to the environment but it is getting this one thing right.

Dode Church

interior dode churchTook a beautiful walk this weekend up and down the hills around Luddesdown in the Medway Valley in Kent.

In the middle of our ramble we discovered Dode Church, a tiny Norman church sitting on a mound close to a place called Holly Hill, undoubtedly once a site of pagan worship.

exterior dode churchThe church was abandoned along with the village following the Black Death in 1349 but was restored and is now in private ownership and used for weddings and occasional public events.

alter dode churchTo our delight the door opened and we walked into a magical scene of the tiny building flooded in candle light. The floor was covered in straw and herbs and the benches with sheepskins. It was truly like stepping back in time and just the pinnacle of an excellent walk.

In the valley below we found a authentic looking stone circle. Not the real McCoy I’m afraid but it proved a good venue for a bit of impromptu Morris Dancing led by my friend who is part of Liberty Morris Dancers. morris dancing 1 (2)

Perspective brides, arriving to view the venue were no doubt a little perplexed by our antics and failed to offer us a booking for their weddings.

Day in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – December 2017

Day in the Life of an Environmental Consultant – December 2017

birdwatching on solar farm

Counting birds on the Essex coast

Winter marks the beginning of the tree management programme for the River Stour Internal Drainage Board.

The majority of the trees are trimmed back or removed to allow access to machines which de-silt the river. De-silting generally takes place every 10 years and is done so that drainage ditches maintain their capacity to hold a certain volume of water and cope with winter rainfall.
Nowadays ditches are partially de-silted with the central channel cleared and banks left untouched. This is a much gentler approach than in the past where banks were scraped destroying water vole burrows and removing native flora.

Carl inspecting Air Ministry Dyke willow

Trees such as this have high potential for bat roosts

Trees may also be removed if they are deemed to be a safety hazard. One particular tree that caused an issue this year was a black poplar which had a dead limb directly above a sluice structure. The IDB felt this could present a hazard to staff checking the structure and wished to remove the limb but inspections revealed several features which could potentially contain bat roosts.

Josh, our resident aboriculturalist, did not feel the tree was safe to climb so investigating with an endoscope was not possible and therefore we could not give the go ahead for the IDB to undertake the limb removal.
Further investigations are now being undertaken by the IDB to rule the tree out as a bat roost before they proceed with the removal of the limb.
Towards the end of the year our work took us to Langenhoe on the Essex Coast to undertake a WeBs count on behalf of Brooks Ecological Limited. WeBs stands for Wetland Bird Survey and the counts. which take place either side of high tide monitor non breeding water birds and are used to identify trends and distribution of waterfowl and waders. We are hoping to take more trips out to the RAMSAR protected Essex coastline in the coming months.
Lastly, this month, Carol Donaldson has been busy writing about wildlife for various publications including The Clearing and The Guardian. Read her article on the North Kent Marshes here.