Your Wonderful Bird And Wildlife Questions Answered, Thanks To Glaslyn Wildlife Osprey Project.

Last night, 21 April, we took part in a wonderful one hour question and answer session on the @GlaslynWildlife Facebook page; you can listen to it there right now! Also you can make a donation via the page to help the work of these wonderful people protecting Wales’s first breeding pair of Ospreys. The group does lots more than “just” protect the nest of course and engages thousands of people with Ospreys, birds and wildlife in the beautiful Glaslyn Valley near Porthmadog, Gwynedd in North Wales. Do check out their Facebook page and once it is safe to do so pop down and see the project, you will be made most welcome.

So, your questions. For those that don’t have Facebook and for those who did not have their question covered last night here are all the questions and our personal answers. Please note the answers and opinions expressed below are ours and not necessarily those of Glasyn Wildlife, so please feedback to us if you have comments or more questions. Apologies if we missed your question please ask it again, so many questions came in via numerous sources it was difficult to capture them all!

Lyn asks – Why are Ospreys so successful in different parts of the world?

Answer – Osprey need a good supply of fish to feed on, almost exclusively fish eaters, and a safe place to nest. These conditions are widespread throughout much of the world. Ospreys are migrant birds in some parts of their range so they can breed a long way north of where they might otherwise be able to nest, northern winters would be too cold for them, so by migrating they can occupy a much larger part of the world. Luckily Osprey are fairly tolerant of man which also helps.

Muriel asks – What seeds and shrubs would you plant on rough ground to encourage birds?

Answer – Plants that produce seeds, berries and flowers are great to bring in wildlife and of course birds. On poor ground bramble will usually grow, cover, flowers and fruits. Teasels are great for seeds, Goldfinch love them. Cotoneaster and rowan trees are also wonderful berry-bearing bushes, maybe a Waxwing might drop in if you are really lucky!

Red Kite Sky 1

Red Kites a wonderful succes story here in Wales and across the UK.

Tony asks – What are your thoughts on the status of birds of prey in Wales at the moment?

Answer – A big question for sure. Overall pretty good, Ospreys are increasing, Red Kites have come back from near extinction to now be widespread across much of Wales, Common Buzzard have also increased and can now be seen everywhere just about. Goshawks, despite some continued persecution are doing well and we see them in North Wales much more often than only ten years ago. More worrying is the Hen Harrier situation: illegal persecution, that’s killing, continues and the re-introduction of Driven Grouse Shooting around Llandegla has coincided with a sharp drop in raptors in that area, including the disappearance of Hen Harriers. One satellite-tagged bird was found shot in the area; this is disgusting and very worrying if raptors are wiped out in this wonderful area on our watch, it is a scandal. Driven Grouse Shooting has no place in our world it damages the environment and our native wildlife. Merlins don’t seem to be doing well in recent times and we don’t really understand why. Anyone got thoughts on why this is? Maybe climate change, cold wet springs effecting breeding success? But overall birds of prey doing ok but we must keep a careful eye on their populations and stamp out the illegal killing.

Becky asks – What are your thoughts on zoos?

Answer - We don’t ever feel comfortable with wild animals in cages, they should wherever possible be free. However some amazing conservation work is done by zoos and this can literally save species from extinction. Also zoos offer people a chance to marvel at animals they might never have the chance to see. So on balance we do need zoos but managed well.

Wies asks – What is your all-time favourite birding destination and why?

Answer – Ruth:– The Pantanal in Brazil a vast seasonal wetland teeming with birds and wildlife; the diversity is mind-blowing and many species allow superb views. And the weather is wonderful and lodges are fantastic. Anywhere a Toco Toucan comes to the bird table is close to paradise.

Answer - Alan:– Uganda is my current favourite. An amazing diversity of habitats provides home to vast numbers of birds and some very special ones too, Shoebill just has to be seen to be believed! Combine the amazing birds with some forty species of mammal in a two week trip and it’s just awesome.

Holly and others asked – What your views of taking wild Peregrine chicks from nests under licence from Natural England?

Answer – Alan will try not to swear! We covered this in a recent blog and it makes the blood boil, utterly insane, Peregrines are protected by law that should mean they are safe from all but criminals! No justification for this whatsoever. There are plenty of Peregrines already in captivity where they breed.

Corinna asks – Is there more than one species of Osprey?

Answer – Yes maybe! Some latest taxonomic thinking now recognises two species – Western Osprey and Eastern Osprey but the differences are slight.

Corinna also asks – why do some Ospreys migrate to Africa when others winter in southern Europe?

Answer – we don’t really know but it is likely that climate change allows birds to survive further north than in previous times. Also it maybe that with the increased population of European Ospreys some try to winter here? If a population increases it is likely that a percentage will do things differently from the majority?

John asks – Would you like to see more Osprey nest platform put up across North Wales to encourage more birds to breed?

Answer – Yes! Provided they are sited very carefully in areas that can support breeding pairs and are on land that will not be disturbed allowing the birds the best chance of successful breeding. A pair in the Conwy Valley would be wonderful!

Muriel asks – Do birds see colour?

Answer – Yes they do though not perhaps the way we do. It is thought that birds can see ultra-violet light so have a different view of the world to us.

Sarah asks – Do the Osprey I saw in Costa Rica stay there all year and do they breed there?

Answer - Ospreys can be seen all year round in Costa Rica but surprisingly do not breed there. Non-breeding young birds spend time there until old enough to breed and then migrate north to find a mate and nest. It is surprising they don’t breed in Costa Rica.

Beryl asks – How do birds know how to build their nests?

Answer – oh that is a tricky one! The ability to build a nest is passed down through each generation, it is not learnt as such but practice helps! In Weaver birds it takes several years for the males to be able to weave a nest that impresses a female. But this is unusual, normally males build the nests and use them that year. There are amazing diversity of bird’s nests and it really is mind-bending to think they are not taught how to build them.

Holly 2 asks – How do we think lockdown will effect breeding birds and in particular persecuted species such as Hen Harriers?

Answer – Great question! Of course we don’t know but it seems likely that fewer people in the countryside should be good for breeding birds in general and we hope for a bumper breeding season due to reduced disturbance. For our persecuted birds we fear for them. Those that kill “protected” birds are unlikely to follow advice about staying indoors. It is likely that these criminals will see it as a chance to kill more of our wonderful birds.

Dave asks – Do we think after lockdown we will have a greater appreciation of nature or will things slip back to normal?

Answer – We really hope that people will have had a chance to pause and see just how good nature is for our well-being and mental health. But in the real world, once greed kicks in sadly it may return to “normal”.

The wonderful King Penguin colony on South Georgia in the South Atlantic.

Penny asks – If you were on Death Row and were allowed one last bird to see which species would it be?

Answer – Ruth it would have to be King Penguin, and Penny would understand being a huge penguin fan, if allowed on South Georgia in the South Atlantic where I once stood amongst 250,000 pairs of King Penguins!

Answer - Alan Golden Eagle probably my all-time favourite bird and to see one soaring over a wild landscape would be a great way to go out!

Alexia asks - which bird would you choose for company on a desert island?

Answer - Alan - a Nightingale, because if would be a joy to wake up each morning and hear it singing. There's nothing like birdsong to lift the spirits.

Answer - Ruth - well a King Penguin probably won't enjoy a desert island, so how about a Cormorant, if it could be trained to share its fish!

Helen asks - What bird would you like to be for a day?

Answer - Ruth - I'd like to be a Gannet for a day, they're such elegant birds and imagine being able to fold your wings and plummet straight down into the sea like a spear.

Answer - Alan - Golden Eagle for the day, soaring over Britain's wildest landscapes.

We have a few more questions where we didn’t catch who asked them, apologies.

Question – Can you remember seeing your very first Osprey?

Answer Ruth – many years ago I went on holiday to Florida in the USA and visited JN 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge and watched Ospreys nesting right by the roadside! I remember thinking I am sure these are rare birds back in the UK and here they are right above me!

Answer Alan – As a young lad I persuaded my parents to take me to Loch Garten on Speyside to see the only pair of Ospreys nesting in the whole of the UK. The RSPB wardens were very kind and allowed me to visit the “forward hide” not open to the public and enjoy a much closer view of the sitting females head, a wonderful moment.

Question – What can we all do to get more people involved with wildlife?

Answer – A great question and we can all do this! Talk to everyone, and we mean everyone, about wildlife, engage folks and show them even everyday things. It is amazing once you get chatting nearly everyone has a wildlife story to share and the more we share, the more folks are engaged. Every time you are out, try and show some wildlife to other people. Most are thrilled that you have taken the time to share.

Question – Where is the first place you will go birding after lockdown?

Answer Ruth – If it's not too late in the season, I'll head over to Cemlyn lagoon on Anglesey to catch up with the busy tern colony there. Sandwich Terns, Arctic Terns, Common Terns and always the chance of a Roseate Tern too - brilliant!

Answer Alan – The uplands of North Wales to watch a male Hen Harrier float over a heather hillside and a female rise up and catch food dropped by the male, perfect.

Question – How is birdwatching helping you in lockdown?

Answer Alan – It is a huge help and I really would struggle without my daily fix of birds and nature. Being immersed in and looking at nature calms the worries and lifts the spirits, just what is needed right now. It can also provide real excitement too – seeing an Osprey fly over Llandudno from our window for example – on a high for hours after!

Answer Ruth – birdwatching lifts my spirits and knowing the natural world continues to go on while the human world grinds to a halt. Seeing a male Stonechat singing his heart out on my daily walk can’t help but make me feel so much better!

We are so lucky to have so many species and habitats within easy reach here in North Wales, and once the world returns to normal, we would love you to join us for one of our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips days out. We expect to enjoy a lot of birds during these relaxed pace tours and we can tailormake the day to suit you.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips in the future, just drop us a line to arrange a custom tour and please see our tours pages for set departure trips. If you have any questions at all please fire away here….

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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