Sunday, March 29, 2020

New Mammal Atlas for UK.

The book shown below has only just been published and is a volume that should grace the bookshelf  \of anyone with an interest in wildlife in the UK.

Inspired by the late Derek Yalden, the Atlas presents the collated results of records from the UK for the period 2000-2016. The design layout and presentation of text, maps, illustrations and diagrams is absolutely excellent, as is the up to date information on all our familiar mammal species. Particularly pleasing and interesting are the details made available on the wide range of bat species and cetaceans, many of which are supported by relatively few records.

A book that can be browsed time and time again, releasing new information, inspiration and delight on each visit.  Copies can be obtained from Pelagic Publishing  ( ) or by visiting the Mammal Society website ( ).


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Birds of Cyprus.

The book shown below was published at the very beginning of 2020 and joins others in the series of field guides produced by Helm.  I was really looking forward to it supplementing the variety of birds to be seen in Cyprus on my visit this Spring , but then current circumstances intervened. I was also looking forward to spending time with Colin ( Richardson ) and to congratulating him face to face on what is an absolutely excellent publication.

   This is not a review in a formal sense, more a celebration of what is a tremendous publication that would no doubt have enhanced the enjoyment and experience of many birders visiting Cyprus for the first time this Spring.  As might be expected from Helm the standards throughout are beyond first class, be it the layout designs, illustrations, presentation of the text and distribution maps and the reproduction quality of the photographs. The authors  and all others involved deserve our thanks for a volume that will give countless hours of enjoyment !

I particularly liked the compendium of birdwatching sites and the exhaustive and precise details for each. Such is a fitting tribute to Colin Richardson's diligent exploration of the island. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone intending to visit Cyprus ( which , currently, is in a more severe form of lockdown than the UK ). Future circumstances will , I am sure, be different and allow the full benefits to emerge from what is a wonderful island. For those who have already reaped the benefits of visiting Cyprus then the book provides a wonderful prompt to reliving  the experiences you have accumulated.

Until last year I'd never had a good view of what is now accepted taxonomically as Cyprus Scops Owl. Then the view of a slightly angry looking bird peering down at us from the upper confines of a large thorny bush were superb and the diagnostic slightly darker and greyer plumage well seen . Such has been perfectly replicated in the stunning illustration on Page 142, even to "the look", an experience now depicted in perpetuity. Thank you.

It may well be that visits to Cyprus might now be curtailed for some time. More reason to get a copy of this book, repeatedly savour the contents and build up your enthusiasm for a visit at a future time.
You'll not be disappointed in any respects.

A challenge to isolation !

Yesterday morning I started what I now intend to be a regular habit in the ensuing weeks, that of covering a given small local area and noting what birds I've seen.  Thankfully, where I live is central to two adjacent kilometre squares , one of which has the River Don running through it and the other comprises an upper part of the rising flank of the eastern Pennines.. As a consequence , and easily within reach , are a variety of habitats that inevitably will provide a good selection of birds. I've identified three routes I can follow on my "permitted exercise walk" each day and am quite looking forward to it all.

Yesterday morning was quite cold and a bit misty when I went out ( I suppose the area averages out at a little over 250/260m. ).  I confess it was after dawn (0530 hours ) and whilst a few cars were on the move I only saw one other person.  Suffice to say I didn't see much,  as the route I'd chosen was closest to the houses and predominantly "urban" in all respects  despite the rural location. I repeated it again this morning, with, much the same return, excepting a singing Mistle Thrush and a very welcome rasping Greenfinch..

The contribution our gardens make nowadays in supporting our birdlife is of paramount importance given many of the rough corners within our landscape have been lost in the quest to bring all available areas into production.  The task of monitoring garden birds has risen in parallel and the results from the surveys organized by the British Trust for Ornithology in this respect have been illuminating ( see ).  The benefits of pursuing an interest in our urban wildlife have been championed by many, including the Urban Birder ( David Lindo ) whose indefatigable efforts have led many into appreciating a hitherto undiscovered world on their very doorsteps. See

Whilst my  " local list"  has not yet reached twenty , the opportunity to follow my passion within the circumstances imposed upon us all has already  improved my own sense of well being and offset a sense of restlessness and frustration. Worth embracing the habit I'd say !  I suspect that we might all discover something within our close neighbourhood that lay ignored previously, driven past as we set off for favoured birding areas a little further afield !  Whilst I doubt I shall see anything exceptional I intend registering the area within the BTO BirdTrack scheme and adding the bird species seen into the population monitoring programme.  I'll keep everyone posted on what is recorded within each month and such might be the interest and benefit I gain from it all I might make an effort to keep it going in a permanent sense.

In passing may I add this as a Postscript. Last evening many in my village, along with countless thousands within the UK, emerged on to their doorsteps at 2000 hours  and clapped their hands as a gesture of thanks and admiration to the staff of the  National Health Service ( NHS )  { and now the 600,000 + volunteers who have come forward to help }  for the magnificent job they're doing in countering the effects of the Conovid 19 epidemic..

It was humbling, and not a little emotional, to witness and be a part of something so simple, but so far reaching in a collective sense, happening as it was throughout the country. When I came back indoors I was much reminded of the epic words of Sir Winston Churchill about the Battle of Britain. Substitute "nursing" for "human conflict" and the tribute is as vibrant today as ever was.

Never, in the field of nursing, has so much been owed by so many to so few.

To all in the NHS, thank you, take care and bless you all.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Facing the future !

Well, I'd be the first to agree that it's been an absolute age since I last put out a Blog.  Many things managed to get in the way, but I suppose 2019 will go down as both a good and bad year !!

Recovering from a knee injury , sustained in 2018, which " insisted"  over time in improving, and then deteriorating in equal measure, was somewhat frustrating to say the least. Eventually, in November 2019, things cleared up entirely after over fourteen months.   In between, and on a completely different front, I'd had to replace two laptops  ( yes two ! ).  A complete meltdown on each occasion against which I'm still reaping the penalties.  If anyone reads this and realises I haven't been in touch for some time then please E-mail me as I've probably lost your contact details which probably right now reside in some local cyber cemetery!

There were some better times, of course, when I was at Spurn and the time I spent out in Cyprus ( see the Blog entries ).  Nonetheless, I was rather looking forward to 2020 as the preceding months appeared , overall,  to have moved through less than smoothly !

The New Year started in Scotland from which the return journey allowed a "calling off" at the Firth of Forth where I managed to see both Surf Scoter and the White-winged Scoter. Some local birding followed, including a day south of Doncaster which produced both Common Crane and Rough-legged Buzzard. Not at all bad for South Yorkshire!

A period of stormy weather saw a weekend on the East Coast cancelled and damage sustained to the house roof !   Was the improvement trend faltering I asked myself?  A week in Norfolk soon followed , which was largely a washout,  and then following on my return home the Covid-19 virus  pandemic engulfed us all !  The immediate effect of this was that an intended "Spring sojourn"  of several weeks in Cyprus was cancelled and a later trip to the Cairngorms suffered the same fate.  I'm afraid I took the view that decisive action was needed, however much of a disappointment this proved to be , as the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances was unlikely to end for some time. Being a "golden oldie" the advice to isolate soon followed and now, of course, we're subjected to "conditioned house arrest".  My preferred description ! So it looks as if 2020 is set to be worse than 2019, so how best to approach things?

I rather suspect that the overall implications of what affects us all will extend much further than the three weeks , or even three months, that are currently being offered  as popular "milestones".   I truly believe it's best not to create such false horizons, much better to construct a timeline of your own , and to determine a series of activities that link to your interests and thereby provide some form of substitute  to what you might otherwise be engaged in.   A home based bird list, for your immediate area, coupled with the odd migration watch perhaps,  a deliberate selection of wildlife documentaries on television from which you can compile your own world list of species "seen" , and a catching up on reading all those natural history books you've bought but not yet opened. I'm sure there are endless other possibilities and I'd be glad to hear of your ideas.

For my part I've decided to continue with this Blog, to include details of birds I've seen on my local "exercise " walk, to include book reviews and reportage on environmental and conservation topics that might yet hit the news.  After such an absence of regular entries the "readership" of the Blog will take a little time to build up and so feed back and ideas might be a bit thin on the ground, but keep them coming nonetheless.  In the meantime , best wishes to all, take care .