Showing posts from November, 2012

A birding chocolate tea pot

"Ask not what your interest can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your interest" With apologies to JFK, somewhere in the USA, some time in the early 1960s There's an awful lot of people out there looking. Looking at birds, animals, plants, moths, butterflies, overturning logs to look at beetles, disturbing leaf-litter to look for fungi, checking trees for disease, ponds for amphibians, locating bats by detectors. But are we doing enough to make a difference save for adding more observation to the vast observation pile? I don't know if we are. I don't know if we can make a difference anyway. Defeatist? Maybe. Realistic? Possibly. It just seems to me that big business, those who weald power, the monied and the agenda setters couldn't give a flying f about whether or not our butterfly populations are becoming fragmented to the point that they cannot sustain themselves. Or that our birds are still falling in number to the point that those of us who

Plan of attack

With only five weeks (ish) until the start of a new year, as is my custom, I have prepared the way by making plans for my natural history assault on 2013. I find it hard to start a year with no aims at all. I cannot contemplate just mooching about, visiting here and there just to see what's occuring. There is no form nor function in doing so (unless I stumble across a wintering mega, in which case all analysis is off). My main thrust will be concentrated on my uber patch - that is all of my local patches which, when strung together, wiggle from Ranmore in the SW to Beddington in the NE - about a 15 mile wiggle. I have already collated my bird observations across this area (since 1974) and created my own personal and 'virtual' bird report, something that I love to update. Within this uber patch is found Beddington SF, Holmethorpe SP, and Canons Farm which, for an inland birder, offers plenty of scope. What I want to do next year is compile a similar report for plants and

Lord of the Owls

So, I've just taken the picture above (as I'm scanning for owls at Amberley Wild Brooks) and a woman, walking a couple of dogs, approaches me. Woman: "What are you looking for?" Me: "Owls" Woman (with much joy and incredulity on her face): "ELVES!!!" When I explained to her that I was actually looking for owls she seemed terribly disappointed. She no doubt thought that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was, in fact, a documentary... I managed to see two Barn Elves but unfortunately no Short-eared Elves. Maybe they are still quartering the open ground at Hobbiton.

Ornithological procrastinations

I have settled on my 2013 'Natural History' project and am already looking forward to it with great excitement. I am going to take that ultimate birding vicar, Gilbert White, as my role model, and immerse myself in studying the natural history of the hills and fields of north Surrey. There are a few rules that I am going to impose on myself however: At all times I will wear a dog-collar and tri-cornered hat, breeches and buckled shoes. I will shoot anything that I cannot identify, or if I come across a flock. I will travel everywhere on horseback and stay in an inn each evening. I will refer to all birds in their original state - such as Wood-Wren, Fern Owl, Bramblefinch - and if I come across such species as Water Pipit, Caspian Gull and Willow Tit refuse to recognise the modern interlopers. I will employ a man to climb the dizzy heights of such peaks as Box Hill to collect alpine specimens for me. I will correspond only by post and let interested p

Sick birding

This post was prompted by David Campbell, who was birding at Canons Farm last Sunday with the chickenpox... I once had a blocked tear-duct. It was quite messy, without getting into too much detail. And then I had a temperature to go with it, a thumping head, a general feeling of malaise plus aching limbs. So I did what all sensible people would do and got into my car and drove 90 miles to Dungeness. The rush of pre-birding anticipation got me through the journey but as soon as I pulled up outside of the observatory I felt terrible. So I immediately turned round and started to drive back home. It was a long journey. My eye started to weep pus and blood (told you it was messy). My headache started to seize up any ability to think straight. Pulses of pain travelled down my arms and legs. I felt very hot. Then very cold. Then very hot again. The speedometer rarely went above 40. It took an age to get home and when I did I crawled into bed and into a fitful sleep. I had a call from th

Blogger bloat and the meaning of ?

I've not been posting as much recently. And neither have many of my favourite bloggers. Subject matter seems to have stagnated. I cannot motivate myself to drum up new angles or think of subjects to entice the visitor to get involved with. My stats (not that they are the be-all and end-all) have dropped. Comments are rare. Something's gone wrong. I have recently started to tweet which gets a short observation or idea out there quickly. It does not take the place of a post as it is relying on 'followers' as an audience (and if we are being honest it's an audience that we all want). Maybe these tweets have taken the steam out of my posting. I have deleted this blog once before, something that I regretted doing. I won't make that mistake again. I need to rethink what it is that I want this blog to do. It's never been my intention to just list my observations but there again it's rather presumptious to assume that my meandering thoughts or slightly wonky

Red Kites at night, birder's delight

350 Red Kites in the air together, in one loose flock, is one hell of a sight. I didn't really want to go along to Gilgrin Farm, a feeding station for the kites at Rhayader in Powys. To me, it smacked of being a zoo, but my wife in particular wanted to go along. I am so glad that we did. Driving northbound along the picturesque A470 (is there a more stunning A-road in the UK?) I started to count the kites once we left Builth Wells. As we approached Rhayader I was staggered to see that the swirling mass of birds gathering over the lower slopes of the eastern hills were all Red Kites - maybe 40 in total. As we parked at the farm there were kites everywhere, 360 degrees of action. They were approaching from all directions of the compass, gathering to take the meat that was due to be put out for them by the farmer. I quickly estimated 150 birds, then recounted, 180. Another scan revealed more streaming in, 200+. magical. There are hides provided for the close inspection of the bir