Friday, September 22, 2017

Autumnal Equinox

Today ( 22nd September ) marks the occasion of the Autumnal Equinox within the Astronomical  calendar. This means that our night and day are of approximate equal length as the Equator passes the centre of the Sun.   Our North and South poles are not tilted towards or away from the Sun, as on other occasions, but are aligned to , theoretically at least, the same amount of daylight to both of Earth's hemispheres.

The next notable occasion is that of the "winter solstice" on the 21/22 nd December, with the 21st being the shortest day of the year in the context of daylight.

The Meteorological Calendar is derived from the Grigorian Calendar  which we assiduously follow . The seasons are simply split into three monthly blocks, which makes forecasting and the comparison of statistics easier to follow. These are straightforward.....Spring is March to May inclusive, Summer is June to August, Autumn is September to November and Winter is December through to February.

And , if you really want to be precise, we now have 100 days left to the end of the year!!!  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Huddersfield and Halifax RSPB MG first autumn meeting.

The first meeting of the autumn/winter was last evening. After all the usual formalities were dealt with by David Hemingway ( Group Leader ) we were treated to a very entertaining and informative talk by John Gardner on " Iberian Birds".  A very varied array of bird photographs was shown from a variety of locations in northern Spain including some superb shots of Great Bustard in display. Similarly close up shots of both Bonelli's and Golden Eagle were impressive. I wasn't aware previously of the extent to which photographic opportunities and facilities were laid on with a whole series of hides having been created for that purpose at various different spots and local guides providing the necessary back up too. Quite a business . The one that John Gardner used utilised road kill as bait, i.e. dead Rabbits, for the eagles in question with some obvious regular success at the site on the boundary between Spain and Portugal overlooking the immense "jointly" protected nature reserve. I doubt the process or habit of using tethered white pigeons ( by other people ) is legal (?) but clearly the local populations of eagles are thriving and taking full advantage of the situation.   My favourite photograph.......Bluethroat, a real corker , but many others similarly competed !!!

The Group are visiting Rutland Water on Sunday, one of a series of trips that are organized throughout the year.  Why not pay us a visit ? Take a look at the website of the group for all the details of both meetings and trips.  

Inaugural meeting Penistone and District Countryside Society.

Tuesday evening saw the first formal meeting of the Penistone and District Countryside Society ( South Yorkshire ).  This is the brainchild of Chris Tomson, previously a farmer at Broomhead in the Peak National Park and now an Agricultural Advisor with the RSPB.  Currently his main ( work ) "target area" is the Yorkshire Wolds and it was on this area and the theme of farming and wildlife that he presented the first talk to the embryonic group. The intention is to hold a series of meetings in winter and a programme of outside visits to areas of interest in the Spring and summer.

It was a great evening with a series of attractive and hugely relevant photographs, most of which had been taken by Chris himself. Now we all know that our farmland bird communities have reduced in recent times, decimated by the increase in intensive farming methods and the rapid turn around between summer harvested crops and those sown for over-wintering. And it's easy also to lay blame and criticise such innovation and call out for change. Hopefully change there may be, given that it's estimated that many farmland bird species, for instance, have reduced by 60%,  that due to the specificity of insecticide sprays the food upon which many species depends is a thing of the past and due also to the spraying of crops the botannical diversity of the countryside has plummeted. But also let's remind ourselves that the call for increased food production ( predicted at needing to double by 2050 ) comes from successive Governments, who we elect, who operate on our behalf and whose policies we should be prepared to confront as necessary. In all these situations the "adult way" is to participate, identify opportunities for change and work hard at gaining support for suggested changes , not stand on the byelines and bleat !!  Certainly the "targetting" of important agricultural areas and the adoption of these principles is symptomatic of the RSPB's approach which is enjoying success. OK, as yet, it might only be 5% of farmers who are participating , but the potential opportunity for change is just around the corner with the schemes under consideration by DEFRA in a post-Brexit situation.

I felt more optimistic when I came out of the hall than when I went in. We'd heard of endless examples of  a wide variety of projects,  from Syngenta's Operation Pollinator scheme  ( Operation Pollinator ) to much smaller scale, almost personalised projects introduced by individual farmers. One of these, at Ryedale, near Malton, I felt particularly encouraged by . It's aim is to support Corn Buntings, by planting to assist food availablity, by providing breeding habitat and even song posts and I'm looking forward to receiving more information on this in due course.

So a great start. But what next. Well, another meeting is already planned, on the 17th October.

Click to enlarge!

Do come along and mention it to your friends too. It's always difficult introducing something new like this but I'm sure support will grow over time. Given sufficient interest is evident a Committee will be formed and a longer series of meetings organized. So, watch this space.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

West Mere farm, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire.

This is where I stay when at Spurn. It's immediately on the left as you enter the small village of Kilnsea and offers B and B as well as three small self-catering  accomodation units.  It's home from home , believe me!

There are other places to stay at, of course, the Observatory itself, the Crown and Anchor and several caravan sites ( Driftwood, Sandy Beaches, and Kew Villa, the latter being operated by Spurn Bird Observatory ). Contact details are available at the end of this posting.

What can be said is that notable birds have been seen in the immediate vicinity of any of these. Within a couple of days of arriving at Westmere recently a young lad had photographed a Rose-coloured Starling on the telephone wires outside his bedroom. Not bad !.

Having spent 16 years living on Islay I'd missed "east-coast falls " and so I was determined this year to spend as much time as I could in a catch up situation. For me Spurn was the obvious place to be. It also has the obvious advantage of providing access to sites further up the coast where particular migrants might find landfall. During my recent visit I went up to Bempton to take in the Greenish Warbler which had been there for a few days. So, having been there in Spring and part of August/September I'm now poised for a long spell within October basing myself in one of the above self catering units. Such provide comfort, convenience and flexibility . "Mine hosts" are Sue and Andrew Wells for which nothing is too much trouble. I've already placed my bookings for 2018 so ensure you move early!

Access to Kilnsea Wetlands is just down the road and easily withing walking distance, as is the walk across a couple of fields to the North Sea coast. A similarly distanced walk across the fields will bring you to Sammy's Point adjacent to the Humber with its attractive stand of mature bushes so  beloved of a variety of migrants.   And, of course, you're not that far away from the Penninsula itself , the Canal Zone, the Observatory's Church Field area, Beacon Lane and the Warren area where visual migration watches and sea watching activities take place.  So, a busy day followed by a self catering preference or a meal at the Crown and Anchor washed down by Timothy Taylor's beer. A life style for the Gods .

If you've never been birding at Spurn , then try it. It's a phenomenal place which , admittedly is changing radically given the breach of the |Penninsula which took place in recent times. What the future holds is anybody's guess so now is the time to take it in. Where else can you stand on a narrow penninsula with the North Sea to one side of you and the mighty River Humber flowing past you on the other.  A unique place and experience and a mega place for birds.

Spurn Bird Observatory
Westmere Farm         
Kew Villa Campsite             E-mail
Sandy Beaches          
Crown and Anchor              Ring   01964 650276    

Martin Garner Spurn Young Birder Award.

Apologies for a belated entry on such a relevant topic. These awards were presented on the weekend of the Spurn Migration Festival after the participants had spent a proportion of their day being assessed in a variety of ways. The awards were presented on the Saturday evening by Professor Ian Newton and Dr. Andy Clements with all participants being acknowledged. Whilst there was an outright winner,  apparently the final marks had been close, all were clearly to be firmly congratulated. In Ian Newton's encouraging  words, "please do keep involved as we need you in the future" !

This is now a firmly established part of the Observatory's programme and the competition will certainly continue in the future. For details of what is involved then refer to the Spurn Bird Observatory website.

I have to admit I had a vested interest in the proceedings this year.  Sami, the son of long standing friends Sarah and Steve Sankey, now resident on Orkney, was one of the contestants, although sadly not the winner this time around !  "Team Sankey" had never been to Spurn before so the weekend necessarily included a whole variety of involvements, including sampling Timothy Taylor's beer at the Crown and Anchor  ( that was for Dad and me whilst Mother and son went on the bat walk which, incidentally, was very successful and something I'll sign up for next year ) !!

Now it's not everyday that anyone can visit a new place and find part of it carries the same name!!  Here's Sami at Sammy's Point on Humberside which is an integral part of Spurn. Unfortunately the weather was less than kind and we had to rush off  anyway to try and see a Sabine's Gull which was flying out along the Humber. Sadly we missed it ( much to Sami's disgust ) although there'd been previous compensations given the showy Wryneck and Long-billed Dowitcher  which were present.

Altogether a very enjoyable weekend for all and one to remember.  Well done , Sami !

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Let the Spurn MigFest commence !

There's now less than 48 hours before the commencement of the SPURN MIGFEST. Registration formalities can be completed on the day ( Friday ) , so don't let the imminence of it all put you off. take a look at the Spurn Bird Observatory website for details or contact the BTO for information.  Whatever, don't miss it !

Set out below is very full programme of events taking place and other details of less formal activities,  ( click to enlarge the image )

There's something to entice everyone, a keynote lecture by Professor Ian Newton on Migration and a hogroast to restore those depleted energy levels.  Don't miss your opportunity to attend this event !!!!

An update of sorts from Spurn, with apologies !

Well, folks, it's always said that it's bad to start off with an apology, but I've no alternative. I haven't managed to keep up with a daily Blog on what's been happening at Spurn as things have been a bit more intensive than I thought in the "personal time management department".  Most definitely could have done better !!

However, daily updates are available on the Spurn website, with results from the efforts of the guys who make available countless hours monitoring visual passage and sea passage, besides details of what has been ringed and recorded generally.

Suffice to say I've been having a great time , which has included Red-necked Phalarope, Pectoral Sandpiper, Rose-coloured Starling over several days, Citrine Wagtail, Great White Egret and Greenish Warbler ( although this involved a trip to Bempton ) besides species like Pied Flycatcher, Curlew Sandpiper, Arctic Skua and the like. A couple of reasonable days seawatching were absorbing and I'm looking forward to more when I return in October !

And now , well in less than 48 hours , it's The SPURN MIGFEST.     What's not to like.