I think we are all aware of the persecution Hen Harriers, a winter visitor for us in the Cotswolds, suffer in the UK: no successful breeding in England in 2013 and a Government study showing the England could support 300 pairs.
John Armitage, a retired RSPB officer now living in Argyll and with 30 years involvement in Hen Harrier protection, has started a petition calling on the Government to institute a a system of licencing for upland grouse moors and gamekeepers. The petition closes on 27 February. More information is here. If you agree, the petition is here.
Crossbill. Richard Tyler
With winter weather over the Cotswolds you may feel like drawing the curtains and curling up at home. Don’t – there’s a chance of a couple very interesting birds out there.
Crossbills are very early breeders – they’re right in the middle of their breeding season at the moment, as this is when the conifer seeds they feed on mature. The place to see them in this county (if at all) is the Forest of Dean, but there are a few sightings in the Cotswolds every winter. Look for them among stands of mature conifers.
Dipper. Rob Brookes
Dippers are fairly easy to hear about now as they look for territories and start nests. Over the last few years they’ve retrenched to the Stroud and Dursley valleys, though some still survive in the north and east Cotswolds. Check out shallow, fast-flowing streams for birds feeding and nearby banks and bridges for nests.
Willow Tit. Richard Tyler.
Willow Tits excavate their own nests in damp, dead trees rather than using existing holes. Talking to those involved in this Forest of Dean study, now and February is the time to listen out and locate them, as often they go quieter once they start building and breeding.
Three very contrasting species, all well worth looking for in the Cotswolds. Get off that couch and put your boots on.
Aston Rowant, where the M40 motorway climbs onto the Chiltern Hills, is well-known for the Red Kites that circle above it.
In the last couple of years we have seem to have gained a smaller Cotswold version: the long hill on the Fosse Way (A429) between Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach (thanks to OpenStreetMap contributors for maps).