Wednesday, 10 July 2013


hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression.
how about murder?

In February this year (2013), I decided to explore more of the surrounding of Whinfell Forest in Cumbria. The area has always had an interest to me since moving to the Penrith area in 2011. I forever find my self in the neighbouring area of Cliburn Moss, a fantastic nature reserve with many species of wildlife. Surrounded by the sounds of the Jay and escaping eyesight, my first very close encounter with Gold Crests, and countless arms reach Roe Deer, the reserve has a sense of magic, mystery, and eerie emotions. As the reserve canopy opens toward the bog area, many times you see the spectacles of buzzards soaring through the air with the classic 'mew' call, wings fully stretched and finger tips allowing ray of sunshine to illude through, a magnificent bird. The area however stretched further, over the fileds more woodland awaited. I used to drive countless times along the stretch of road connecting the village of Cliburn to the A66. and every time Roe deer could be seen prancing along the tarmac and entering the woods, white bottom disappearing in to the dense trees. Perfect for me to have a look at. Peering over the stones walls that kept the public restricted, the place looked untouched. the moss lay perfect, the grass and wild flowers flourished. However no gate, no access. Maybe the land literally across the road held the same resemblance. Many of times i seen white vans drive by and pull into a driveway. Each van holding the logo of Lowther. i thought it would be best to first ask permission to gain access. I had been wanting footage of Roe Deer for a project at University, and this looked like a perfect location. Walking towards the drive way, no one was to be seen. I tried knocking on the door of the house, but no response. However there was a telephone number on the large van. I pulled my iphone from my pocket and rang the number, in no time at all i told the person on the other end my project and what i wanted to gain. It seemed far to easy? I was granted permission. Obviously not aware on what i was about to find?

Once in the woods (Atkinson Plantation), i was hit by silence. the area pulled me in and the outside disappeared. Scoutting around looking for tracks, feeding signs and anything and everything. The deeper i explored the more connected i became. Tracks everywhere. The smells and the feelings of the woods were enchanting, i took one more step and was struck by a smell i knew too well, Fox. Following the smells i soon found a den, ripe with the musky essence and fresh scat. Being a wildlife enthusiast, photographer and filmaker i was excited to say the least. i may have just stumbled across a little gem. Or not.

From entering the woods i had heard the distinct 'mew' of a buzzard, putting it out of my mind, thinking it would be soaring somewhere close. But the mewing never stopped. I became curious, "maybe a buzzard lives here too". The more i walked the more the woods turned into a plantation. with my mind fixated on the smells, noises and hopes of exploration, i never considered to look at the structure of the woods. Nice neat rows of Scots Pine. and then a clearing, pheasant pens, with clear traps around them to keep other animals out. Still curious of the sounds of the buzzard, i began to follow the noise. It came closer and closer. Eager to capture something on camera i began to set my Canon up to take photos. 

Sure enough i found the buzzard.. But not in the environment i imagined. the buzzard lay enclosed. at first what i thought to be just small pen.
Gaining more curiosity i looked further in to the 'pen'. My heart sank. 

There lay three Buzzards

Furiously trying to get out on the trap, two tried and tired, the third lay exhausted, flat to the ground, beak open and abraisions all over its face, clearly given up. 

From reading stories and research about persecution within the UK, i think i might have just stumbled upon a case of it. Clearly the birds had been there a while, from looking around the trap, it was obvious to see that the bird where baited in, as a pheasant carcass lay in the middle. I soon ripped my phone from my pocket and rang my mate. it was at this point i realised never to get a O2 contract. Welcome to O2 is not what you want to hear. However soon enough i got through, and the process began to report the findings. After passing all the information over to Cain, i decided to lay low, i didn't want to intercept anyone that might be close by or returning to the plight. 

About 30 minuets went by, and i was greeted by Cain, and we walked back to the trap. Soon enough the RSPB was contacted with information on the findings, and what to do. 

A difficult choice to make. Do you let the birds go? Or report the incident to try and bring awareness and justice to the birds and demonstrate persecution still goes on?

We left the sight.

I returned home to begin sending photos of the findings to the RSPB investigation team, as well as grid references to allow a pin point location. After this it was up then left to the authorities to deal with. Camera traps were placed to record the activity of the trap.

I participated in everything that was needed of me. I was contacted by the WIldlife Crime Officer at Cumbria Police, to provide statements. it had been a few weeks since the findings, so i was eager to know everything, however only so much could be divulged because it was prior to a court hearing. 
I was told off record the status of the birds. Devastated is not the word.
The camera traps picked up a man entering the trap and murdering the birds.

Months passed.

Monday 8th July 2013, Colin Burne of Winters Park, Penrith, was convicted.

Justice.... NO

The 64-year old gamekeeper attended Carlisle Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to three charges. These related to the killing of two buzzards on the 11 February 2013, killing five buzzards prior to this date and possession of a wooden stick as an item capable of being used to kill the birds.
He received a 70-day jail sentence, concurrent on each charge, suspended for 12 months.  In sentencing, the Judge stated that had it not been for his ill health he would have considered jailing him. 

Never have i been so disgusted in the legal system!!

He MURDERED 7 Buzzards (that they know of).

Justice has not been surved. 

I just hope that this will create a mass awareness on what our wildlife has to struggle against.

Monday, 20 May 2013

6 Months is far too long!!

First of all WOW, can not believe it has been almost six months since I last had a blog update. It would be easier to say i have done nothing for six months hence the absence, however there have been an array of experiences I could have shared much earlier than now. For everyone that knows me, they will know that my memory does not serve me well at the best of times, never mind thinking about all them months, but i will try!
So what happened in December? Well it begins, I cant remember, looking through my 500px account to see what I had posted on there to try and refresh the memory, even that account is looking scarce. So what did I do? Spent Christmas at home, before returning back to Cumbria to earn a crust, then most probably sat with my head in the books trying to get ahead of module assignment deadlines for Uni. Probably exactly what I did, although I remember the "trying" part being more like pulling my hair out. Once again Andrew left everything to the last minuet. I do remember completing what i would say is my best piece of university work to date. The Hen Harrier storyboard. Whilst completing this, I have to say a passion for these birds began, the history of this species within the British Isles is enough to send any wildlife enthusiast into a panic of disbelief on the conservation status of this bird of prey. Although from previous knowledge and general banter, it was not till I researched the bird in full that the details of persecution and the facts that made me question conservation in society!! Any way im not here to pass judgement (YET, more of that to come in future updates), only update of the progress of life so far.

So as University was gearing towards the end of the year, I embarked on an filming expedition to the what i would have to say is the best isle on the planet, The Isle Of Mull. Since my visit last year i have to say, this is one of my favorite places in the UK, there is nothing like it.
I started the expedition with two friends, Jesse and Dale, and our objective was to create a wildlife documentary on the species on Mull, although this is an ongoing project, we did manage to document our time on the Isle and create a short film of it all. Which can be seen below.
I have to say being on the Isle for 2 weeks, there still was not enough time, the wildlife was literally every where and as like last year, it blew me away. 

Expedition Mull 2013 from Andrew Jake Wildlife on Vimeo.

A highlight for me on the expedition, was my personal encounter with a mountain hare. Whilst on the Isle we had target species to try and film, and the mountain hare being one of them, I have to say i was not dissapointed when I got this oppertunity. After being stuck in traffic around the Pennyghail area for what seemed to be eternity (single track lane, and resurfacing the roads dont go well), we arrived at the southern part of the Isle. I took my place within the landscape and scanned for area for the hares. None to start with, or at least that i could see, after a good 15 mins of squinting, I spotted a pair of long ears within the very dry grass (Mull suffering from a 10 week drought). The grass provided great cover for the hare, however I needed to get closer. One thing I have been trying to master of the past year is field craft and stealth, and I have to say its working so far, many learning curves and after patiently sniping though the grass I gained a great spot to capture some great footage. The hare however began to realise what I was up to, and sped off into the distance, appreciative of the footage I had already got , I thought I might try again, for where the hare had just gone over the brow of a hill lay a great piece of rocky landscape to gain cover. As cautiously moved over, I placed my camera down, set up the leveling and began to start the waiting game all over again, as I began to get comfortable, there it was, back over the hill and sat in front of me.

At first I didn't know what to do, move, reach for camera, press record, take a photo.... gasp for air, frightened that any sudden movement would make it run. so I sat and watched him for a moment, and carefully reached up and pressed record on the 7D. After posing for quite a while, the hare pounced forward before hesitating for a second or two, then away it went. Afterwards I just sat there speechless. One of the best experiences of my life.

After an epic time within on the Isle, i was time to head back to the land of Cumbria and prepare for another film and revise for an exam. The next film has been something which I have been planning for a few months, and under gone a few changes from the proposal I wrote for it. The film tell of how society is changing and children dont see the outdoors as well as what the older generation did. Overprotection from parents? The Xbox era, or being surrounded by 'i" products. I spent many months preparing for this film, filming in all locations of the UK, Cumbria, Northumberland, the most northern point in mainland Britain "Dunnet Head', Scotland, Yorkshire. the location go on. But i had a great time doing it and now my car is suffering from it, too many off road adventures, ditched and hedges.... But nevertheless, it will pass an MOT one day, but until then my other film is also available to watch. I had fun putting it together, and it also allowed me to help bring a connection to my sister with Wildlife, which is an added bonus, the more children get involved with nature the better.

WildChild from Andrew Jake Wildlife on Vimeo.

While moving to different locations for the film i rekindled my connection i gained in November with a badger sett, this time though, the light was on my side, spring had arrived, and it brought daylight with it, although i love camera trapping... seeing the badgers in flesh is aways going to be the more favourable. I spent many countless evenings in delight for the boldness of these creatures. After a while my presence wasnt an issue, although still cautious of my being, it didn't stop the evening antics and the arrival of the this seasons new additions to the badger family, a few cubs have been spotted, even though badger cubs are at nearly full size when emerging from the sett, the clear 'Pom Pom' style tails clearly establish the young to the adults.

Accustomed as they may be with the presence of me, i dont think they minded these two either, as you can see they tried their hardest to blend in with the environment, and obviously graduated with first class honours in the degree of camo and fieldcraft.

I think I have covered the past 6 months pretty well in this post, and have redeemed my memory doubts.
All University assignments have been handed in, and the exam completed, now all I have left to do is work work work all summer. For some that might seem to be a pain in the backside, however I have just recently started my new postion as a Wildlife Conservation Ranger, and well, it ain't really a job, how can you label taking people out on Wildlife talks, surveying wildlife, and educating children on wildlife as employment? But is doesn't stop there i have also managed to gain another job in a Falconry, so its safe to say, this summers work work work, will suit me just fine.

Within the 6 months i have also hit a milestone, i turned 25 on the 19th May. Depressing was the word at the beginning of the day, and stayed there pretty much all day. All my family are 100 miles away, and all my friends from uni had moved back to their 'home' homes, so there i was all by my self, and pretty much feeling sorry for my self, so it was decided, i needed to get out of the house and do what i love best, connect with nature. After driving to a location, i had allowed ample amount of time to wander around and clear some thoughts, the sun was still shining and the fields where radiating glorious shades of green, and the smell of outdoors made me relax. On the walk i stumbled across some holes and took a good sniff..... FOX! Nearby was a moss covered stone, good enough to sit my old ass down on, i continued to ponder in my thoughts, after a while i stood up to stretch my legs and was greeted with a pair of eyes.... a pair of very young eyes. There it stood, as bold as anything, and the staring contest began. of course i lost, why? because i had my camera around my neck wanting to take a photo. as i began to take a course of photos, it looked away, and stumbled forward, and wandered down the track before gracing me again and away it went back into the den. As i placed my camera down, i couldnt stop shaking, as much as it saddens me to say this, there was a tear in my eye. But a very Happy Birthday indeed.