Showing posts from August, 2023

Calendar turn

Today marks the end of meteorological summer, with August handing over the baton to September. Some may claim that we are now entering into proper autumn, although the birder in me still thinks that the early returning non-breeding waders of late May and early June are the first signs of that. However you think (or don't think) of August 31st, to me it has always been one tinged with melancholy, and for not sad reasons, just wistful ones. In my early birding days, August was always holiday time. No school (or art college) to attend meant that the summer was mine. July would be spent at Beddington SF (with the odd journey further afield) but once August came along my plans would be elevated and what I considered proper field trips organised. 1975 found me on a train to Perthshire for my fist 'foreign' trip (well it felt like one to me!). You can read a bit more about that here.  The hot summer of 1976 saw the last two weeks of August spent blissfully in Suffolk. Again, if yo

14 days at home revisited

Colley Hill on the North Downs. Always looks good, rarely produces. Maybe this autumn? Back in the late spring I embarked upon a '14-days at home' project which saw me spend a fortnight criss-crossing the uberpatch (May 26th - June 8th) recording all that I saw. The final totals comprised 88 species of bird, 419 species of plant, 19 species of butterfly and a distance of 245.5km walked. The birding was slow, with many species in woeful numbers. However, as a project - a green, low-carbon project - it was enjoyable. At the time I suggested that I might do it again in the autumn. Well, the autumn is here... I may start tomorrow, or maybe at the end of the week, I'm not sure yet. I will, as far as possible, remain on foot. I will concentrate just on the birds this time. I'm not expecting too much as, locally at any rate, this autumn has been painful for extracting passage migrants. Chats are thin on the ground. Hirundines largely missing in action. It's a bit early for

Birding health check-up

Birding is, without doubt, a physical activity - admittedly more so for some than others. But even if you are a 'drive to chosen destination and sit in a hide' advocate you will use your body in several different ways. And all of these 'ways' are at the mercy to deterioration with age. It is about time that I visited my ornithological doctor and have a health check... Dr. Bird: "Come in Mr. Gale, take a seat. I will ask you a series of questions and ask you to be as honest as you possibly can. The last birder that I saw claimed to have walked from Cley coastguards to Blakeney Point in 45 minutes. Needless to say I dismissed the rest of his answers as nonsense. Now, according to my records you are 64 years old, a non-smoker and can see from looking at you that although not worryingly overweight you could do with losing a few pounds. A fair assessment I think you'd agree. Now, to start with, please tell me about your eyesight." Me: "I've just had

They think it's all over...

Back in April 2022, on a warm evening at Gander Green Lane, I was watching Sutton United play Crawley Town in the company of Sussex birder Jake Everitt. Even though the match before us was a pretty decent one, as birders will we started to talk about our birding experiences, particularly what species we had observed while watching football matches. It was at this point that we devised a competition - football spectator meeting birding fanatic - a challenge to find out who could see the most species, while watching football matches - during the upcoming 2022-23 season. The rules were outlined here.  Apart from updates on the Twitter/X platform my results have not been revealed - until now! During the 2022-23 season I attended 47 matches, involving 59 clubs across 14 different grounds. Apart from a random visit to Suffolk-based Leiston Town, they were all played in south-London and Surrey, the majority being at League Two Sutton United where I held a season ticket. I saw 129 goals, the m

Priest Hill - an overview

There are places that I regularly post about which, to the casual reader, will not illicit any response - there will be no idea of what it looks like, its understanding of its history, and no recognition of its place in human history. This is the first of a series of posts that hope to fill a few gaps. First up is Priest Hill. Priest Hill. I've no idea as to the derivation of its name, but I can tell you that it isn't a hill. It may be on high ground in as much as you get an elevated view across west Surrey and out towards the Buckinghamshire Chiltern Hills (via the Wembley Stadium arch and Windsor Castle), but the land all around is relatively flat. Until the Second World War it was farmland, a mix of arable (wheat, barley, oats and potatoes) with a small herd of Jersey cows that were used for milking. A demand for the payment of death duties meant that the owners were forced to sell, which in 1942 brought in the tidy sum of £100,000 from Surrey and London County Councils. The


Climate change - the massive Elephant in the room. As a lifelong champion of the natural world, my awareness of what is happening to our wildlife and the climate is finely tuned. By actively seeking out information on these subjects, by following fellow champions on social media and being able to formulate some kind of considered opinion from these sources, I am in a good position to have a handle on 'what is going on'. And as such it can be baffling to look around at my fellow man (women are also available) and witness a complete apathy, nay ignorance, as to the situation that is before us. Historically high temperatures. Sudden, violent flash floods. Desertification. Out of control fires. Melting glaciers and permafrost. Disappearing ice-caps. Crop failures. Collapse in invertebrate and mammal populations. Species extinctions. The creation of more economic refugees and of populations on the move where they were least expected to need to be moving. All this was the doom-monger

Of blogs and stuff

There was a time when I would post with wild abandon on this blog, sometimes 200+ posts a year - admittedly, some of these posts would not pass a quality control filter but never the less it was an enjoyable process to come up with a subject matter, gather together a few words, select an image or two and send the whole package off into cyberspace. I was lucky enough to have a loyal band of visitors, many of whom would leave comments which sometimes created their own threads, some of these becoming a virtual game of tennis where words rather than balls would be metaphorically knocked back and forth over a net. Traffic to the blog was, as times, very healthy indeed, and although I was never in this blogging lark for the numbers game it was quite humbling to know that what was being created had an audience. Things started to quieten down a couple of years ago. The first sign of my partial withdrawal was to close down of the ability for visitors to comment. This was a result of an increasi