Wildlife Wednesday At Home and Abroad

Another month has passed and at home our visiting garden wildlife has brought uplifting rays of sunshine in an otherwise bitterly cold and often dreary January.

Male Pheasant

Male Pheasant

Pheasants visit each winter, occasionally we see Red Legged Partridges too. A staggering 35 million are factory farmed in abhorrent conditions and later released for shooting. The League of Cruel Sports video (highlighted in green) of conditions is really grim watching and the accompanying text alarming.

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

In better news, our visiting Song Thrush is now a regular on the bird table, they are a red status bird, in serious decline. He or she just scrapped in, on my allotted hour of the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which made me wonder if results get skewed with only a one hour slot. Either way, I am glad he is here. I’ve heard singing in late afternoon, so hoping he attracts a female and that our hedge will be the place she chooses to nest build. We live amidst intensively farmed arable land, blamed for the decline. They prefer snails, worms and berries but during the harsher frozen weather has been visiting to eat Sunflower Hearts.

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

Territorial scraps have begun, several Blackbirds have visited trying to establish a territory. Young males with mucky coloured beaks are chasing each other, in turn, intolerant larger females chase them off too. But this wiley older male Blackbird with his distinctive bright yellow beak and a white star on his breast seems to be the current winner.


Blackbird watching the fights

I started some tentative tidying, inadvertently disturbing an overwintering toad, recovered him and retreated. And apart from a young vixen and grey squirrel its still the birds who provide movement and colour.


Starling with coat of many colours

Starlings are quite beautiful and each Spring we are fortunate to host nesting Starlings in the eves of our roof. Days are longer, Spring might just be around the corner.


Starling on the look out.

But for many creatures, this world is not kind and Spring is not around the corner. I joined the protest in London last weekend, campaigning for an end to the Dolphin trade in Japan.

Protesters in London Taiji Cove

Protesters in London 2017 Taiji Cove

The trade captures Dolphins for sale as food or to be sold to Aquariums, “Swim with Dolphin shows” and zoos across the world. The National Geographic report a dolphin sold for meat sells for a few hundred dollars, a live dolphin with basic training can be sold for U.S. $40-50,000 abroad and $20-30,000 in Japan. The Cove, a film which brought this to the worlds attention reports the sale price for performing dolphins is $150,000.

Protesters in London 2017 Taiji Cove

Protesters in London 2017 Taiji Cove

The protest centred around the Taiji cove hunts. The season lasts from September to February, pods are herded by speedboats into a cove in Taiji, and then either killed by ramming a rod through the spine, which its claimed is humane or captured alive, the young torn from the family groups, for shipping on.

The New Scientist reports – “A new study refutes these claims (of humane killing). “Our analysis shows that this method does not fulfil the internationally recognised requirement for immediacy,” says Andrew Butterworth of the University of Bristol Veterinary School, UK. “It would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.”


The video link above on the International Marine Mammal Project website shows hunters surrounding and wrestling to capture a baby dolphin, whilst its mother tries to save her offspring. Its absolutely heartbreaking. The baby is destined for an aquarium, swim with dolphin show or zoo.

Protesters in London 2017 Taiji Cove

Protesters in London 2017 Taiji Cove

Is it ok, to protest against other countries activities? I think so, the protest was peaceful. We can all take action in some way and speak out, sign the petition, or just be more aware.

Protesters - London - Taiji Cove

Protesters London 2017 Taiji Cove

In 1995, we won a holiday with Robertsons Jam for a two week trip to Florida and free entry into Orlando Sea World. Our children were 3 and 18 months. We watched Tilikum perform. And saw Dolphins crowded and captive in a tiny pool. I look back on that now with absolute revulsion and shame, the children were not remotely interested. What on earth were we doing there. If you haven’t watched Blackfish already, I would highly recommend it.


Robin, looking for a mate

Thanks as always to Tina and her lovely blog My Gardener Says, for hosting this meme.

Happy Wildlife Watching!

51 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday At Home and Abroad

  1. There is so much for us to do at present. It is hard to know where to focus out energy, Thanks for the links; I’ll be back when I have more time to read them in detail. Thank you for raising this issue.

  2. Great post, Julie–lots of good information and your photos are stunning–as usual. Good for you to attend the protest and YES–it’s always good to let your voice be heard. Trust me when I say that making sure my voice is heard is my top agenda for each day. I never visited a Sea World, though there is one in San Antonio (about an hour away from Austin). I was never very comfortable with the entertainment part of that and am glad that Sea World is phasing out their emphasis on capture. Thanks for joining in–always a treat.

    • Thanks Tina, sadly its not just Sea World, when there is a market across the world, there will continue to be a supply.
      We have one zoo and one safari park in our area, 30 years ago I volunteered in the zoo at weekends and thought then this was valuable work, now I feel zoos are mostly outdated, with the exception of true conservation work. There are some amazing wildlife documentaries available, and experiences at home in natural environments are absolutely valuable to foster future generations humanity and to appreciate what we have whilst its still here.

  3. A well written and thought provoking post. Personally I believe there is no excuse for cruelty to animals – it’s particularly heartbreaking to be made aware of the wicked savagery meted out to peaceful creatures like dolphins. Hopefully times are changing and the voice of your protest will be heard. On another note, I love your bird photos, so endearing. I’d love a bird table but worry about rats, squirrels and foxes reaching the bird food first – any tips?

    • I’m very conscious of transferring disease, especially as I’ve encouraged the birds in and do not want to create an unhealthy environment for them. And vermin, mainly rats – so instead of a wooden bird table, which is very hard to keep clean each season so use logs on a raised makeshift wooden platform which are all then burnt on our log burner. And then use a fresh log. Ours are close to the Kitchen window, where there is the best view. I wash down the feeding area at least once a week with a jet hosepipe and clean the feeding containers with hot water and a mild disinfectant, every couple of weeks. This sounds laborious but it really isn’t and just part of my routine.
      Rats do climb and we live within 30 metres of a river, but keeping the area clean keeps them away. Its fallen seed that can attract them. So I use mainly Sunflower hearts, which are taken whole by most birds – you can buy in bulk bags on Amazon 20kg for around £20.00. Plus really good quality fat balls in the winter. Kept in a sealed dustbin otherwise mice can have a field day! Both of these can be hung from decorative rusted hooks rather than a table. Ground feeding birds like Blackbirds, will come to the logs for sprinkled Sunflower Hearts and they really like apples cut in half, which you can put onto the logs too or put into a hedge on a pole. Our sunflower heart feeder also from Amazon has a small ledge, so as some birds cling, others like Robins are not so adept and need a ledge.
      The vixen came in to take the apples, so did the squirrel, which I foolishly put out on the patio floor so I only put a couple out each day now, raised up. But maybe the foxes will also keep the rats away? Squirrels are cunning and tricky, you can buy feeders with special Squirrel proof cages if they are a problem. The other thing is a thorny hedge and put your feeders in there. Hope that helps.

      • Hi Julie, Thanks for all the information, there’s some really useful pointers there. I think you could be right about foxes keeping any rats at bay as I’ve never seen any but have come across dead mice in the garden. I’d hate to create an environment that puts birds at risk – I once found a dead jay that had been mauled by something (cat? fox?) but if food is left up high, hopefully that would do the trick. I’ll certainly be trying out a few of your suggestions!

    • Urban foxes are probably more brazen than rural foxes, a couple of years ago I got really close to a Vixen and cubs by accident, it was a thrilling moment. I haven’t seen one eating Sunflower Hearts, so possibly try those first. But last year I had one caching ducklings in my veg beds, that was a grim discovery. Nature in the raw. Good luck with your birds.

  4. What a fabulous post! I Love your photos….you are blessed to have so many birds in your garden. I did the RSPB watch with my class but we didn’t see as many as I’d hoped yet the children were thrilled. I hope that will inspire even one child to be more caring for our native birds. I hope that by starting at home we can encourage more people to look after their local wildlife. My hedgehog is back as the weather has warmed up so I have been checking my fences today to make sure he can get out! But I must remember to wash my birdtable and feeders….I also bought a bat box and owl box today because we have a pair of owls calling to each other at night!
    Like you, I went to Sea World and am now appalled at this. But, remember we know much more about these animals now. I have watched your links in the past but really struggle now because I find it so upsetting.
    Good luck. I love your blog. xx

    • Thank you, the links are really grim, but I did not have a kinder way to explain.
      The Birdwatch is a wonderful way to encourage children, mine used to love taking part and have grown up compassionate for nature. I’m guessing you work in a school, I’m sure with your love of wildlife you’ll inspire at least one of your pupils. We saw far more birds when the weather was harsher, I hope your children were not too disappointed and maybe you could continue to monitor visitors if time permits! My eldest is a teacher and regularly tells me how busy the day is. I would love to be putting an Owl or Bat box up. Lately I have heard Tawny Owls calling from the field to the front of our house, which was quite exciting. Good luck with your Bats and Owls! x

      • Yes, I am a teacher…. we hear owls but not sure what kind…..thought perhaps a small owl? Yes, I hope that at least one of the children love nature….my own do in their own way but are teens so not too passionate the mo! Good luck with your birds and garden. I cant wait to get in the garden when it stops raining!

      • Try the RSPB website – type in ‘RSPB Owls’ and the 5 species will come up – you can listen on each page to the calls and decide which you have. More rain due tomorrow, but Friday set to be lovely!

  5. Great post with wonderful photos Julie. We never see starlings round here and they used to be such a common sight. Well done for highlighting the awful slaughter of dolphins.

    • We do not see as many as we used to, they often get a bad press but I love their presence here. A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to see a murmuration, and what a fantastic sight that was.
      The Dolphin slaughter is horrendous and the taking for captivity just for “our” amusement is beyond words.

  6. Heartbreaking 😦 It’s important to protest the inhumane treatment of our fellow creatures that share this planet, most of which were here before we were. Sometimes I absolutely despair at our species.

  7. Thank-you for this well researched post Julie. I am so pleased you are posting again as I have missed your wonderful photos. In reading the comments I see that you make a disposable bird-table. I was going to ask about the gorgeous lichen that the birds were standing on but now I realise that the lichen is on the logs! I haven’t fed my garden birds for nearly 18 months now. I feel bad about it and miss seeing them all but I was having such trouble from squirrels that I stopped, initially for just a few months but it has gone on and on. I’m sure I will start again sometime but with just feeders and not a bird-table (though mine was an easily cleaned plastic one). I will definitely wait for the avian flu threat to end and will have another think.
    I couldn’t watch the video of the capture of the baby dolphin – I get depressed very easily these days and knew I wouldn’t have been able to cope with it. Thank-you for the warning of what the video was about. I have signed the petition and have always thought that any performing animal is behaving un-naturally and has been forced to change their behaviour by some means or another. Don’t feel too bad about your trip to Florida, Julie. At the time most people were unaware of what those beautiful animals were going through and most visitors just wanted to get close to them and admire them. We must take comfort from the fact that we are ignorant no longer and can do something to make this world a better and fairer place for ALL its inhabitants. You are certainly doing your bit and I admire you greatly.

    • Hi Clare, although you do not currently put out bird food, you have a wonderful garden and lots of sheltering places for wildlife, your ponds are the best thing and I would dearly like to have one like yours. Where there is water, there is life.
      Squirrels are a nuisance, we live near to woodland, so probably they have ample there which stops them seeking out food in my garden.
      At school in the 70’s I had a wonderful headmaster who encouraged my love of wildlife and gave me the opportunity to speak at assemblies, mainly on the Save our Seas campaign, he also gave me a book ‘To Save a Whale’ which I still have. So I did know when we visited. I also remember my art teacher telling me I was weird as I made endless paper mache penguins to illustrate my point and thinking he was barmy for not understanding my point of view. Such is life!
      Take care, you are such a really kind and good person. We need more of you! xx

  8. An interesting post Julie. A good supplier of bird food at reasonable prices is http://www.vinehousefarm.co.uk they donate 10% of all sales to your local wildlife trust.
    One advantage of a free press and social media is its ability to bring information to us that we wouldn’t otherwise get to hear about. I wouldn’t beat yourself up about seeing dolphins in captivity, perhaps it helped develop a love of these animals in your children, before you had the ‘knowledge ‘.

    • Hi Brian, thank you, I belong to the BCN Wildlife Trust, Vine House have donated £15,000 to them already and I read £1 million across all Trusts. Our local group have some brilliant speakers and in the summer months walks with wonderful guides, its one of my favourite activities.
      You are kind to let me off the hook, but I did know and worse I took my children there, who quite rightly chastise me.
      I agree about the advantage too, like you I earn my living as gardener and sometimes its all too easy to live in a bubble. Thanks again for bringing up Vine House.

  9. I loved seeing these birds Julie, they’re all quite striking. And your photos are fantastic. Good on you for joining the protest. I have signed many petitions over the years against the Taiji hunt, but still it goes on, and I still continue to sign more petitions, hoping one day soon it will come to an end. And it will happen one day, as I believe the world is starting to wake up to what really goes on, not just with the dolphins, but with so many other species around the globe. There is room on this planet for everyone, man and animal, and there is no reason why man has to treat animals so appallingly. Thanks for the great information in your post and for letting people know.

    • Hi Sue, yes, I believe that too.There are so many issues we are now more aware of and we are fortunate to be able to speak out. Otherwise there would not be hope. And without that its even more of bleak prospect.

  10. Your bird photographs are so beautiful. Well done for attending the match. I will check out your petition link. It is hard to believe in 2017 we still continue to kill dolphins and whales. A great awareness raising post.

    • Desperately sad and inhumane. The dolphins caught for consumption are apparently laden with mercury, so highly dangerous for humans to eat. We are filling our oceans with toxic waste. What will it take for man to wake up and salvage what we can.

  11. Your photographs are superb! They bring the birds right into the house. We took our children to these shows when they were young for “fun” and because they were advertised and enticing. I am ashamed our thoughts did not go further then. I think protests and information opens your eyes. My grandchildren would never be taken to them now, so there is some slight improvement. Amelia

  12. Stunning pictures as always Julie!
    A bad cold and maintenance on my website refrained me to join the wildlife again, but got such nice readings from all the others 🙂
    I am glad you take part in the fight against what generally I consider animal cruelty; not only dolphins but many other species as well. And all done indeed in the main purpose of ‘human entertaining’!
    Unfortunately, until people will stop visiting such places, there is no chance of winning the battle….

    • I hope you are over that bad cold now, winter colds are grim.
      Today I visited one of my favourite walking spots and across the hills, could see 5 men, yelling and chasing sheep for their own fun. The sheer lack of compassion by humans for animals is all around us sadly.

  13. Hi,

    A lot of what we read about our wonderfully diverse countryside and garden wildlife communities sometimes misses the point entirely when it comes to nature conservation. Although, from a slightly biased viewpoint myself, my insider’s account of certain aspects of our modern countryside might be worthy of a read for those who like to keep an open mind on such pursuits.


    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell and naturestimeline

    • Hi Tony, I am open minded, so read your guest blog, but did not understand your point.
      Re Brexit. There is an opportunity now to make farming subsidies fairer – why do ultra rich landowners running game shoots for sport receive a subsidy, when a small organic farm under current rules does not.
      The largest subsidies go to conglomerates – in the east region – Tate and Lyle producing Sugar Beet receives the lions share. What value do these farms have for wildlife? Or in fact to human health.
      Have you considered the birds higher up the food chain, feeding on invertebrates who have ingested farmland pesticides -there is compelling evidence now that these are killing wildlife further up the food chain e.g birds and mammals.
      I note you are a wild life trust volunteer as I’ve said already I am a member. There are many wonderful Wild life Trust reserves and none of them have game shoots on these reserves.
      Our countryside is for everyone, not just rich landowners – its for all of us to take responsibility for the future of our planet. There needs to be transparency on subsidies, farming and game shoot practices. Especially as the conditions these non native birds are bred in are inhumane and barbaric- they do not meet the welfare standards we now accept for poultry. And certainly not “tender loving care”.
      We need green corridors through out the country of rich diverse conditions to enable our flora and fauna to thrive. Intensive farmland does not allow that – chemicals, lack of hedgerows, catastrophic soil depletion. These are all areas, we need to address and support our farmers with.
      Farmers have a very difficult and demanding job but I cannot say the same for game shooting.

  14. Wow, that is a lot to take in. I had no idea so many pheasant were being bred for shoots, although I do know that it happens around here too (pheasant and partridge). In fact I had an encounter with pheasant shooters near Wandlebury Ring, of all places, when I was walking with the dog and my son along the public path with shooting immediately to the right and men with guns to the left. I was angry, but intimidated. Well done on your march. There is nothing traditional about any of these practices anymore. Wonderful photos as usual, especially the starling.

    • I can imagine how intimidating that was Allison, even more so with your son and dog with you. As Wandlebury Ring is a public place and country park, they clearly should not have been there in the first place. The 5 month Pheasant and Partridge shooting period can be a really difficult and alarming time for walkers.

  15. Gorgeous photos of the starling and the thrush Julie. Both of them are so easy to pass by but your photos really bring out their glamourous side. Thanks for bringing the plight of the dolphins to our attention. I can’t believe that it’s still necessary to march and demonstrate about this despicable trade.

  16. Your talent in photography captures a story of whatever you photograph! Some people can be good at one type of photography, but you are good at it all! As I get older, I am finding I can’ t stand to see anything hurt in nature:-( Dolphins, how could anyone want to hurt that creature! They are like the peacemaker of the ocean:-)

    • I have lots still to learn Robbie and am keen to keep learning too. In the meantime I like the practising. Yes, hard to imagine how removed man is from any animals humanity in life and death.

  17. We as humans really need to reevaluate our relationship with the other creatures around us. Our “reign” over them has been brutal. We make some pets and treat them as precious beings, and do terrible things to others. Kudos to you for joining the protest. May each of us do our bit to make the world a better place for our fellow-beings.

    • Hi Cynthia, this is such an acutely succinct observation on man’s behaviour and attitude. And such wise words too, ‘our fellow- beings’. Thank you. 🙂

  18. Hi Julie, obviously no move yet. Lots of your bird friends here. they are great photos, i assume they are taken with a good camera and a proper zoom lens. I just reread your previous post ( I had already commented on it ) and was thinking what a lovely post it is. Hope all is well with you. Louise

    • Hi Louise, we have finally moved – a couple of weeks ago – and are now in limbo as we have not found another house yet. Thanks for asking and apologies for the delay in replying, the last couple of weeks have been full on. I hope all is well with you, I have lots to catch up with. Best wishes, Julie

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