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Posts tagged ‘birds’

Field oak with rooks

April 18, 2013

Gabriel Hemery

Field oak (Quercus robur) and rooks by Sarah Simblet

Field oak (Quercus robur) and rooks by Sarah Simblet

Photograph (low quality) of a completed drawing by Sarah Simblet for The New Sylva: Field Oak (Quercus robur) and rooks.

Woodland bird feathers wanted

April 15, 2012

Gabriel Hemery

The authors are keen to include some drawings of the feathers of British woodland birds in The New Sylva.

woodland-bird-feathers

Feathers from British woodland birds: (left to right) great spotted woodpecker, tawny owl, jay.

Can you help by providing a beautiful feather from a jay or tawny owl, a woodcock or perhaps a great spotted woodpecker?

We are looking for the attractive feathers of one or two woodland birds. As the illustrations for The New Sylva are exclusively in black and white, we want to find feathers that have strong contrasting patterns. They need to be also from bird species that epitomise woodlands. The species shown in the photograph would all be suitable candidates but perhaps you have better ideas and more appropriate examples of British woodland bird feathers (but no pheasant feathers please!).

Sarah Simblet likes to work directly from real life rather than photographs. So we are looking for feathers that are in excellent condition that can be depicted by Sarah in one or more drawings for the book.

If you think you could help we would be delighted to hear from you. Please use the form below and tell us what you could send in. We would be pleased to refund your postage, can return the feather(s) if needed, and will gratefully acknowledge your help in The New Sylva book.


The changing fortunes of the Red Kite

August 29, 2011

Gabriel Hemery

Red Kites

In the early 1990s, when I was a student at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, I used to visit the town dump. Not to scavenge because I was flat broke (well not quite) but because it was the best, and actually one of the few, places in the UK where it was still possible to see red kites in the wild.

Red Kites

I captured this photo of a captive Red Kite on a compact camera (Panasonic Lumix TZ8) during a falconry show in France. It took about 50 shots to capture the shot I wanted with another bird of prey flying in the background of this perching kite.

Red kites were once common throughout England and Wales; being one of the main scavengers in the streets of London. Even Shakespeare referred to London as “The city of kites and crows.” By the by the end of the 19th Century however they were driven to extinction in England by humans, while only a tiny population survived in the woodlands and valleys of Wales.

What are you thinking, my wild friend
As you claim supremacy of the summer sky?
What magic holds you there without a single flap
Of your gorgeous wings?

Who dressed you today wondrous one,
In a rust coloured waistcoat and a starched white shirt?
Your taloned wings outstretched, embrace the sky
You truly are God’s work.

Who are you nagging with that fishwife song?
They can hear you from Garreg Dan to Caban Coch.
Keep on calling my brave beloved, someone will come,
You cannot be the last Red Kite.

Written by Allen Williams

Between 1989 and 1994, red kites were imported from Spain and released into the Chilterns: a stunning protected landscape of rolling hills and beech woodlands only a few miles north of London. The introduction project was run by English Nature and the RSPB. The birds started breeding in the Chilterns woodlands in 1992 and the population has expanded massively to the surprise and delight of both naturalists and local people.  Today there are over 300 breeding pairs in the area. I frequently enjoy walking in the beech woodlands of the Chilterns where large gathering of red kites provide a spectacular display.

So successful has been the introduction that since 1999, chicks have been taken from the Chilterns and used to re-introduce the red kite to other parts of the UK including Scotland and various locations in England (The Midlands, Yorkshire, Newcastle). In January 2006, the first wild red kite for about 150 years was seen on the streets of London (read more). The reintroduction of the red kite must be one of the greatest conservation success stories of the 20th Century.

Gabriel Hemery


Other links

Public forests are -the- place where birds of prey are safe

July 4, 2011

Gabriel Hemery

Today The Hawk and Owl Trust released a strongly worded position statement aimed at the England Forestry Panel. It states that:

  • Forestry Commission forests must remain in national ownership and be given effective protection in the public domain for all of us, for ever
  • the Forestry Commission should be given a new constitution and a new remit with protection of the environment at its heart to enable it to continue its management of forests on behalf of everyone in England
  • the Forestry Commission and its management of forests are crucial to the achievement of the Trust’s core aim ‘to see birds of prey reaching their full potential as a vital and beautiful part of the UK environment’.

Explaining the Trustees’ strongly held views, Chairman Mrs Barbara Handley said:

The Forestry Commission and through it the forests it manages have an exceptional record for the conservation and protection of birds of prey. At a time when illegal persecution remains a critical problem on many estates, the Forestry Commission and its forests stand apart as the place where birds of prey are safe.

Read the full Hawk and Owl Trust position statement.

Gabriel Hemery

Warbler in the woods

April 29, 2011

Gabriel Hemery

Earlier this month I discovered a warbler in full song, perched in a leafing ash tree.  I was unsure what species it was because although I’m not bad at the visual identification of birds, I’m not so good at identifying them by their song.  I thought it was a blackcap from its song but this confused me because when I spotted it, the tell-tale black head cap of the male was absent.  Surely this wasn’t a female (they have a brown cap just to confuse) blackcap singing?  My thanks to ornithologist Mike Rogers who later confirmed from this recording that it was indeed a blackcap 1.

Listen carefully and you will also hear a chifchaff with its distinctive chiff-chaff, chaff-chaff,chiff-chaff,chiff-chiff,chiff-chaff …. and the melodious tones of a robin in the background.

Gabriel Hemery


1 Ornithologist Mike Rogers, the Earth Trust.

A forester’s Spring

March 19, 2011

Gabriel Hemery

Spring is definitely here but the signs are subtle.  Here’s a forester’s view of the emerging Spring.

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Gabriel Hemery

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