Birds & Wildlife

[box title=” March 1st: HCA contractors inform us of their pending work at Hillyfields” box_color=”#333333″]This week our group received a letter from RSK who appear to be a contractor for the Homes & Communities Agency about to start some work on the Hillyfields Meadow green space. This is the first time we have been contacted in advance about any planned work. It’s presumably a result of our previous complaints when they cut the long grass during nesting season last year, which as we pointed out was illegal.

If residents are concerned about how the plan below is being executed you can contact us, or contact Mr Gardner on the number below.

It’s worth also reminding supporters that a comunity group applied to have this area designated an Asset of Community Value last year. The council was bound to make a decision on that by December as per the legislation for ACV’s. It’s now early March and no decision has yet been forthcoming. We are told that there are complications that need guidance from government before any decision can be made. We are happy to a wait for a proper and informed decision to be made, but we feel that it should happen sooner rather than later.

RSK Hillyfields letter

 

[/box] [box title=”HCA admits to grass cutting in breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act” color=”#333333″]It was noted by some local residents that the long grass on the HCA part of the planned housing site (Hillyfields Meadow) was cut in mid May, the height of the bird nesting season. This is obviously very bad news for any threatened ground nesting birds, such as skylarks, known to nest in the area. This is also in breach of the law, per Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Panshanger People wrote to the Homes and Communities Agency who manage the site to complain about this on July 1st.

We have now received a response from the HCA and they admit that the grass should not have been cut in May. They blame their own contractor for doing the cut, and state that no survey of the site for nesting birds was carried out before the mowers moved in. This is clearly a breach of the law, although it’s not clear who is responsible as the HCA seem to be passing the buck to their contractor in their response. We will now consider our next steps in regard to this. The grass was cut again this week (July 19th) although this was reportedly planned, and the peak nesting season has now passed. This was apparently a hay cut by a local farmer as agreed with Natural England. This land does need minimal annual management and we have no issue with that.

This unimproved grassland is rare in this part of the country and the damage inflicted by cutting it back at precisely the wrong time of year should not be underestimated in our view. You have to ask whether the HCA would have even known this May cut had taken place had we not raised it with them? Although presumably they are billed for it by their contractor so would have noticed at that point. We wonder what penalty and/or reprimand the contractor has received? If anybody out there knows who the contractor is we would be interested to hear.

You can read our letter to the HCA HERE.

You can read the  HCA response on July 18th HERE.

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[box title=”Owl News July 9th” color=”#dda23b”]Our sponsoring of the bird monitoring actvities around the airfield has been very worthwhile so far. Our licenced bird ringers are also monitoring the barn owl boxes and have found an occupied box already. The picture below may not be pretty but it does clearly show owl pellets, this proves that owls are roosting on the site.

Barn Owl pellets Panshanger Airfield

It’s not pretty, but it is clever.

Here is a video from the Barn Owl Trust if you want to unravel the mysteries of owl pellets:

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The proposed site for housing that has been put forward by the council (known as WGC4)  comprises a greenfield and natural habitat. It includes the airfield itself and adjacent uncultivated fields which represent an increasingly rare natural habitat in the south east. It appears  the area has had little surveying of its wildlife over the years and Panshanger People are keen to ensure the value of this area as a haven for wildlife is recognised.  It seems clear to us that unless it’s known what wildlife and supporting habitats exist, we won’t know what is likely to be lost if the area is developed.

Endangered bird ringing programme at Panshanger Airfield:

Panshanger People is happy to co-sponsor a new initiative by licensed bird ringers for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)  as part of their population and migration monitoring survey. Monthly bird ringing is being carried out at the airfield over more than a year in order to collect valuable data on the resident and migratory bird species that use the site.  This will be fed into the Trust’s national database. The ringing data will also be sent to the Herts Biological Records Centre as evidence of the bio-diversity that exists on the site. Very little surveying has been undertaken at the site previously to build up a picture of the bird species that use the airfield area. Of course, great care is taken that no birds are harmed during the process.

Of particular interest to the ringers are the ‘red listed’ species. These are globally threatened with declining populations in the UK. Birds such as linnets and the yellowhammer’s are on this list and are thought to breed on the site, along with perhaps several others. Skylarks are also a fairly common sight although there seems to be fewer than in the past according to local reports.

Linnet

 

Find out more about Linnet’s here.

 

 

 

Yellowhammer

 

Find out more about Yellowhammer’s here.

 

 

 

Have you spotted either of these or other rare birds in our area?

So far one ringing session has been carried out and caught a total of 18 birds most of which were blackbirds, robins and chaffinch. However, two migrant warblers were also caught. Bird ringing is very weather dependant as wet or windy days are no good and it is also requires a very early start 4 – 5am. The activity is planned in advance so as to maximise the effectiveness of each session, no birds are harmed.

Barn owls

Barn owls are an internationally important species and the Herts Biological Records Centre are very keen to hear from anyone who has seen one in the area.  It is not thought they currently breed around the airfield but it is known that they do roost and hunt there, unless of course you know different?

Barn owl

You are invited to contact us if you see any barn owls in the area (please note time and location) and we will pass that on to the ringing team and relevant record keepers. Any photos would of course be very welcome. Barn owls have a lot of protection under the law and many new building schemes must accommodate them. There is already one barn owl box up on the airfield site and another will installed soon. You can find out more about Barn owl’s here.

 

Panshanger People are happy to co-sponsor this initiative and have donated some funding towards it. We feel it is important to conserve wildlife in our area and collecting records like this means that the ecological value of the airfield site will be increased. This in turn should help protect the area from inappropriate development and preserve our rich natural habitat for many years to come.

You can find out more about the Herts  Biological Records Centre here, and British Trust for Ornithology here.

The Herts Bird Club is also has a lot of information about local birds and a record of sightings, their website is here.

If you have  any photos of wildlife around Panshanger please do send them to us and we’ll happily display them on this website.

Kite flying!

redkite

Many residents would have noticed that there are several red kites that can be seen majestically gliding over our heads most days. You can find out a lot more about these new arrivals here, their proliferation across England in recent years is a real success story.

Do you have any pictures of our local kites? If so we’d be happy to display it on this site.

 

We are also concerned that the area adjoining Hillyfields, known to us as Hillyfields Meadow, has had its grass cut very short several times a year since the Homes & Communities Agency began to actively manage the site a few years ago. Most recently the grass was cut in mid May, still nesting season for many birds. For ground nesting birds such as the skylark this is of course very bad news. There is protection under the law for wild birds and their nests,  a summary of it can be found here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/policy/wildbirdslaw/birdsandlaw/wca/

Your comments or pictures about the wildlife in our area are very welcome. We will publish the results of the bird ringing exercise on this site as the months go by. We have part funded this activity which of course has a cost to us, if you feel able to donate to us, however small, please see our Donate page, or just get in touch. The more funds we have the more we can do.

Thank you.