Buzzards face threat of illegal persecution

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It’s not long since, that the common buzzard was far from that in Yorkshire. But the last 15 years has seen a complete turnaround as it rapidly expanded eastwards from strongholds in the west and north.

Buzzards now breed in every UK country and are now the most common raptor.

A fact highlighted last Thursday when Barnsley Birders recorded 61 buzzards over Wintersett reservoir. At around 10am a ‘kettle’ of buzzards was seen swirling high above which reached 21 birds before drifting south, a process repeated during the rest of the survey. In all, 51 birds were counted, joined by at least ten local birds which flew up, presumably to defend their territories, before descending again when the others left.

Scottish buzzards are known to move away from the Highlands to lower ground in autumn and last week’s warm sunny weather with plenty of thermals could have carried some of these birds further south.

Also many young buzzards move away from their nesting sites in autumn, then return the following spring to check for potential nest sites.

Birdwatchers have welcomed the return of the buzzard after a slump in the 1950s, first because of myxomatosis which killed rabbits, the main food source for buzzards, and because of a poisonous sheep dip which lingered in the mutton carrion they were eating.

But game shooting interests are not happy about the increase because they claim the birds take too many pheasant poults. They’re lobbying for permission to have buzzards culled by trapping or destroying nests and eggs. Measures to allow this were shelved in 2012, after widespread protests but illegal culling is going on, the latest example being a gamekeeper on an estate near Holt, Norfolk found guilty last week of poisoning ten buzzards and a sparrowhawk with mevinphos, a banned pesticide.

The first snow buntings of the autumn have been seen at Spurn and Scarborough and other winter arrivals included Lapland buntings, two Slavonian grebes and a redhead smew at Hornsea Mere, two whooper swans at Hunmanby Gap, bramblings, and redwings.

Sabine’s gulls were seen off Filey and Flamborough with large numbers of little gulls, a Leach’s petrel off Spurn, and there were also pomarine and long-tailed skuas and sooty shearwaters.

Inland a dotterel has been seen with a golden plover flock at Ringstone Edge reservoir, Calderdale and pectoral sandpipers at Blacktoft Sands and Nosterfield nature reserve.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Calendars for 2015, produced by Michael Flowers and priced £9.17 (inc. P&P) are now available. It features 16 images accompanied by over 300 suggestions on what to see, and where and when to see it. See www.eybirdwatching.blogspot.com or contact mflowers81@live.co.uk or 07946 625688. Please say that you saw this mentioned in The Yorkshire Post and Michael will donate £1 for each calendar purchased to Spurn Bird Observatory.