Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ash Tree Disease Spells Bad News For British Wildlife

The news that ash tree dieback disease has reached the Yorkshire Wolds is very, very worrying, not least because of the effect that the possible devastation of our native ash stock will have on wildlife here. 
There are an estimated 80 million ash trees in the UK and ash woodland is a distinctive feature of the Yorkshire Wolds.

This is the view from my studio window: a tapestry of fields and hedgerows, interspersed with pockets of ash woodland. It is a very typical Wolds scene. But how will it look in 20 years time?
In Denmark, where the disease has already taken hold, 90% of ash trees have either died or are dying.
Ash trees make up one third of Britain's trees. Their hollow trunks are used by little owls, barn owls and tawny owls. Woodpeckers too, both green and spotted, like to raise their broods in ash hollows and tree creepers nest under the peeling bark of old ash trees. Robins, redstarts and plenty more also thrive in ash woodland.

I photographed these little owl chicks in an old ash tree near my studio in Thixendale.
I really hope that we can do something to prevent the spread of this disease. I shall be writing about my concerns in next week's Ryedale Gazette & Herald. Make sure you pick up a copy on Wednesday, December 26th.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Short eared owls about?

After nearly two days of solid rain, I'm hoping the short-eared owls will be hungry and out hunting today.

I have to drive out to Hull to deliver an original painting to its new owner so I'm planning a detour to see if I can get any photographs. These are some I took last year.

It is a big foggy in Thixendale though so I hope that it's a bit clearer by the Humber!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Elephant Encounters

I watched the four-footed stars of Planet Earth elephant surfing during my trip to Kenya in August. Read all about it by clicking here to transfer to my latest column in The Yorkshire Post.
I'm taking bookings now for another guided safari to Kenya in 2013 and shall be giving a talk and slideshow on the trip on January 12. Tickets are just £10, click here to book.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last Christmas for the Partridge in a Pear Tree?

It was worrying to read in @The Guardian yesterday that partridge populations are still dangerously low. According to wild bird statistics published by Defra yesterday, there was a 30pc drop in numbers in the five years to 2010.
It seems that outside of the popular carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, partridges may soon cease to exist.
And the fate of turtle doves, which also feature in the yuletide staple, is even worse, according to the RSPB. The organisation, which this year launched the Operation Turtle Dove campaign, claims the decline is nothing short of a 'wildlife disaster'.
We must all do our best to protect these precious English partridge species - this surely can't be their last Christmas?
They really are beautiful birds, as you can see from these pictures I painted of them. They have very delicate, grey plumage, which is so much more subtle than the brighter red-legged French partridges that thrive in their place.
Let's make sure this is not their last Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Leopard Lure

Take a look at my latest column in today's Malton Gazette & Herald. I've focused on the recent trip I led to Kenya's Masai Mara and how nervous I was about leading a group of 11 people from the UK on what I had promised would be the trip of a lifetime. I need not have worried, we saw a leopard on the first day!