White tailed Eagle reintroduction to the Isle of Wight?

White tailed Eagle reintroduction to the Isle of Wight?

A personal reflection.

I was pleased to be able to get to one of the consultation meetings over the proposed reintroduction of the White-tailed Eagle onto the Isle of Wight in 2019. The project is certainly ambitious and one that might be expected of wild remote coasts rather than a lowland Island off the busy English south coast.

Fourth largest Eagle in the world.

The White-tailed Eagle or Sea Eagle as they are often called is undoubtedly an impressive bird. The adult has a 2.5 metre wingspan with a white head and tail. Their current range covers northern and eastern Europe and was largely lost as a breeding species in England by the end of the 18th c. It was in the mid-1970s that Sea Eagles were successfully introduced into Scotland on the Isle of Rum. And as it happens, I was working on Rum at the time and among my other duties, I helped build the cages to keep the young in before they were fledged and released into the wild.

Courtship display

Some years later whilst still on Rum, I had the fortune to watch their courtship display when high up in the sky, the birds locked talons in mid-air and cartwheeled down earthwards before releasing themselves only to fly up skywards again.  This courtship display was quite a few decades ago now, but I still clearly remember it – it was spectacular!

The potential reintroduction of the Sea Eagle to the Isle of Wight is being proposed by the Forestry Commission and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. Both organisations have a good reputation for wildlife management and for species introductions and more can be found about the plans, along with an online questionnaire at www.roydennis.org/isleofwight .

Display panel

One of the consultation display panels on reintroducing the White tailed Eagle to the Isle of Wight.

Top species predator

So, do we really want a top species predator to be introduced to the Isle of Wight and the Solent? Is the UK conservation movement (or even the Island conservation movement) at one in wanting this reintroduction? Well, I would say probably not – there are reservations, some would argue that we need to ensure existing species and habitats are in good order first before reintroducing species that were here hundreds of years ago.

Others will argue that we need a full time Forestry Commission Wildlife Ranger on the Island instead or that scarce environment funds should go towards maintaining our AONB, country parks and nature reserves.

Yet, notwithstanding the careful preparation work to be completed before any permission is given for reintroduction, this initiative might just be that special thing that highlights the Island’s natural beauty, encourages visitor spend in the local economy, links in with the new Coast Path to be established around the island and balances the current proposal to establish the Island as a Biosphere Reserve.  And if the Sea Eagles are allowed to fly? Then perhaps I might once again see the remarkable courtship display above my head – this time on the Isle of Wight.

Bread making on Mental Health Day

Mental Health Day 7th October 2018

The Isle of Wight Festival of Mind, organised by AspireRyde, was held as part of Mental Health Day and there was a range of activities on offer to help people relax and enjoy life a little more.

I took part in the bread making course run by Vectis Housing. It was an excellent course and was enjoyed by all of us who took part. The end result was tasty too!

Just out of the oven!

The Festival of Mind was held at their community buildings, formerly Holy Trinity Church. Within the grounds of the old church was community growing project called Growing Great Things aimed at improving the health and wellbeing and reducing isolation of local people. I met up with Alice the organiser who told me the project was really well attended  with activities happening three days a week. Numbers of people attending were high with the limiting factor being time and money.

Tomatoes from the Growing Great Things project

Growing Great Things is just one of several green centered activities to be found on the Island aimed at connecting people with the outdoors and the natural environment.  It seems to me that perhaps more could be done to promote these excellent activities to both the wider public and to the health and care profession so that they can be better accessed by more people and better funded.

 

 

 

Photos by Pete Johnstone

More photos of Mental health day can be seen here

Pete’s pictures now up in the New Rembrandt Gallery, Newport

A new venue for my pictures in the centre of the Isle of Wight! Throughout October they can be found at the New Rembrandt Gallery in Newport.

All the scenes are of West Wight and the images have been printed on Aluminium Dibond, a process which ensures excellent picture quality and durability. The matte finish reduces the glare that can often be seen when pictures are mounted behind glass. The prints are 21x28cm priced at £55 each.

The images, all taken over the past year are of the coast and mostly shot in winter, when I reckon the light on the Isle of Wight can be at its best.

New Rembrandt Gallery, 15 Scarrots Lane, Newport PO30 1JD

 

 

It was great to see my portrait of cabinet maker Gary Mowle being featured at the Freshwater Coffee House on the Isle of Wight today. Gary was one of my portraits in my recent West Wight People and Place exhibition held at the Dimbola Museum and Galleries earlier this year. 

The exhibition illustrated local people and their connection to heritage and local community. Gary was one of 16 other portraits of West Wight people. 

Gary Mowle, an image from West Wight People and Place

Stefan Powell the owner (pictured right above) of the Freshwater Coffee House has featured the photograph of Gary as the first in a line of portraits, in the coming months, to illustrate the diversity of people living in this corner of the Island.

 

Photographing the Greensand Country

Greensand Country Landscape Partnership

It was particularly pleasing to secure a photography commission from the Greensand Country Landscape Partnership as previously, some years back, I had played a part in helping to devise the Audience Development Plan for the project.

My current role is to help build up a library of photographs that feature the distinctive qualities of the Greensand Country. The two days recently spent in the area were to focus on taking photographs of the first Greensand Country Festival (26th May – 3rd June 2018) with the photos helping to monitor progress and for use in future Festival guides and publicity.

In all I attended 6 Festival events ranging from a ramblers walk, a very well attended Walk4health walk through the lovely and recently restored Ampthill Great Park (again HLF Funded) a Forest School activity through to a singing event on Woburn Sands Station!

I thoroughly enjoyed the two days which was really helped by people happily allowing me to take their photographs.  While taking the photos I must have spoken to several dozen people and it is surprising how few have heard of the HLF funded Landscape Partnership schemes.

These Landscape Partnerships have helped restore many local landscapes up and around the country and one that has engaged many thousands of people in the process. Just one of life’s hidden gems, I guess.

Background: Greensand Country is an island of distinctive, beautiful and loved countryside in the heart of Bedfordshire. The area contains all of Bedfordshire’s remaining heathland, more than half of its woodland and more historic parkland per hectare than anywhere else in the country. It is a landscape rich in wildlife and cultural heritage, with its own special qualities and sense of place.

More info: http://greensandcountry.com/

Photographs. Taken by Pete Johnstone, published courtesy of Greensand Country ©. All images have parental permissions where required.

 

 

West Wight People and Place (Isle of Wight)

Final (frantic?) touches are going into the exhibition which launches next week at the Dimbola Museum and Galleries, in Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight.

I am really looking forward to the exhibition opening and show casing the many fascinating people I have photographed in West Wight over the past year.

West Wight People and Place seeks to capture the contribution that people are making to this diverse rural community, be it around the sea, landscape, heritage or the community itself.

Also great to be co-hosted with Jan Ramscar.

Pete Johnstone

 

 

 

West Wight People and Place

The West Wight People and Place project is taking shape. A few more portraits to take and then final preparation for the exhibition early next year.

Remember those old grainy black and white photographs of farm workers starring at the camera, their names, now long forgotten?

Well, the idea behind West Wight People and Place is to try and capture a more modern version of the community in the West Wight area. People who are, in some way, connected with the land, sea, community or heritage of this wind-swept corner of the Isle of Wight.

Its a moment in time.

Photography: Pete Johnstone

 

Goodbye East Anglia!

After 23 glorious years living in East Anglia we are heading south. We will be leaving behind some wonderful friends and a rich and varied landscape full of colour and interest. When I joined the Cambridge office of the Countryside Commission in 1993 someone said to me the landscape was flat and boring – how wrong could they be. It is a fantastic place and I will be sad to go.

Now it is time to try somewhere new and we are heading to the Isle of Wight to find new landscapes and to meet new friends. As we make the move PJ.elements will be taking a break for a while and will hopefully re -surface again in September with a new home and camera in hand!

With best wishes,

Pete Johnstone

Crowdfunding Nature – evaluation video on recent work to test the effectiveness of crowdfunding for wildlife organisations in the East of England

Crowdfunding Nature – Project Update (June 2016)

Keep the Nightingales Singing!

Project update: As part of the Crowdfunding for Nature project, Natural England and local charity Nene Coppicing and Crafts raised £5200 from 90 backers from the UK crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder.
Crowdfunding Nature is an initiative run by the East of England Biodiversity Forum and managed by PJ.elements and CrowfundUK. The initiative is currently undergoing evaluation and a short video of the lessons learned to help other environmental organisations with crowdfunding campaigns will be out soon.