To tell it like it is, or not...

I am grateful to Gavin Haig (Not Quite Scilly) who drew my attention to an opinion piece, penned by Matt Phelps, which appeared in the November issue of 'Birdwatch' magazine, entitled 'Positive Approach', which I have now read. In it, he suggests that there is too much negativity being posted on social media regarding the state of our birding world, which is then acting as a deterrent towards a younger generation in adopting conservation and wildlife study. He also suggests that a lot of this negativity is being generated by older birders, and that these old timers keep banging on about the 'good old days' which isn't helpful in encouraging the youth to pick up a pair of binoculars and get out into the field. Does he have a point? Now, I am undeniably an older birder, and I am also guilty of having posted, blogged, written and spoken about the slump in bird and invertebrate numbers. I also like nothing better than to revisit my notebooks and share in the hi

Birding. Why and what does it mean?

It might seem a simple question to answer. We tend to start off with a desire to identify what birds are in our presence and to record what we find by making a list. As time goes on we begin to make several lists, that of species seen within differing borders, at varying times of year and of many parameters. We identify and we collect. But, with advancing age - and experience - this does not cut the mustard. Our outlooks mellow, out age bestows upon us a certain sagacity (whether that is earned or not). We want more from what we have done, unquestioned as it might have been for many years. To 'just do' can become nothing more than a means to an end, something to fill in the time, to keep us amused, to act as a deterrent to stop us from wasting time that might otherwise be spent doing less meaningful things. Too much over thinking? Maybe, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a worthwhile exercise. I'm just about to hit 65 and have recently lost a few birding role mode

Mike Netherwood

I first met Mike Netherwood at Beddington Sewage Farm in early 1975, me being an ultra-keen and ultra-green 16-year old birder, he some 20 years my senior. Mike, together with Ken Parsley, were the remnants of a once much larger ringing group which carried out the trapping and ringing of birds across the open expanse of the sewage farm. Whenever I bumped into them, which I often did, they would both tolerate my many questions about what they had seen and trapped and listen to me waxing lyrical about my own observations. Over the coming months they showed me how they caught the birds, allowed me to witness the ringing and measuring of them and, if I were very lucky, allow me to help them out by holding mist-net poles, carrying bird bags or writing down (scribing) the data that they were collecting into notebooks. By the summer of 1976 I had joined them, proudly in possession of my trainee ringer's permit. For the next three years (until I 'defected' to Dungeness) I spent man

The dying of the year

By the time that the calendar creeps towards mid-November, there is a part of me that accepts that the year is on the way out. Even though there are still at least six weeks to go until that becomes a reality, something buried deep within me has always felt that way. From a schoolboy kicking through deep drifts of leaves to an adult scanning the skies for some late migrant thrush action, mid-November says decay, whispers 'end', suggests a last act before it creeps off 'stage right'. As morose and macabre as that sounds, these feelings are not those of death but more like a readying for a coming birth - that of a new year and a not-to-distant spring  - the pagan in me is alive and kicking! I've spent a lot of time skywatching from Epsom Downs over the past few weeks. And Colley Hill. And Box Hill. Even the back garden has had a look-in (although has not lived up to its previous successes). It has all been a little bit... meh (as the kids say). Apart from a couple of


This autumn has, so far, been underwhelming on the birding front. Sky-watching has failed to produce any notable movements, with thrush and finch numbers very low. My combing of the local fields and hedgerows has uncovered a lack - even a silence - of avian presence. It is, it must be said, depressing. What exacerbates this dearth of birdlife is that social media reveals that, elsewhere in the country, there are birders filling their boots with large numbers, variety and rarity. At times like this I am reminded that 'comparison is the thief of joy', so it is best to try not evaluate your own, albeit small successes, against what is going on elsewhere - there lies disillusionment, disappointment and madness. It is also a truism that such successes elsewhere are often localised, and increasingly only happening when weather conditions are ideal, which does not happen all that often. So, my local birding experience is not going to be anything other than a regular diet of mediocrity

Wonder of the day (and night)

Merveille du Jour is an uncommon enough species of moth which enables it to retain a certain aura. Not quite annual here in Banstead, anytime I record it is a joyful thing. No further words needed, just enjoy this mint green humbug of a moth...

Moth people

With so little to blog about as far as birds are concerned, and with my botanical hat seemingly put away for the rest of the year, it falls upon the lepidoptera to once more provide the subject matter for this latest post. Last time up it was all about my early mothing memories, but what I neglected to mention was the part that people played in nurturing and encouraging my interest. This will put that right. First up is Sean Clancy. As my last post mentioned, it was his actinic trap set up in the moat at Dungeness that was the spark that set alight my early interest in moths. Sean was a little younger than me, and was somebody that I had first met birdwatching at Beddington SF (when he was just 13 years old) in the company of a school-teacher of his, one Barry Banson (of more later). Sean's regular appearances at Dungeness often coincided with mine, and we soon became good friends, taking birding trips together. I knew of his interest in moths, and although I had had my own moments