If you read our blog regularly, you will know that Bert regularly refers to Steve, the Information guy in the Visitor Centre, as "The Dark One" wandering around with his "badly tuned radio". This is his bat detector, which we use on our guided walks, looking for bats around Old Moor. It seems strangely appropriate, therefore, that Steve should have received an award last week which had him dressed in a get up which had him looking strangely like Bat Man!!
Steve and his wife, Pauline, (who regularly volunteers on Steve's events and courses) pictured at Old Moor, receiving his award. Sadly, there was no wind to ruffle his cape, dramatically! :(
Steve is now a Member of the British Naturalist's Association. This means that his field skills and sharing of his knowledge about nature and wildlife, have been judged by the British Naturalist's Association, to be of a suitably high standard to gain this recognition. The Association has 'Fellows' like Simon King and David Attenborough who have been recognised for their international work spreading knowledge about nature.
Steve has received this because of the work he does for the RSPB in delivering talks and courses for various groups and individuals at Old Moor and around South Yorkshire.
On a personal level, Steve is particularly proud to have received this award because he has Dyslexia and was never able to achieve academic standards (all those years ago, when he were a lad!) which allowed him to formally study nature at university, or similar. This 'field knowledge' assessment has allowed him to achieve recognition for all the work that he has put in over the years to develop his knowledge in a non-academic way.
Congratulations go to Steve and we are happy that he continues to share his enthusiasm and spread the word about fantastic nature is!
Well, it is Sunday morning and I have started my day sat watching the garden for an hour - as I am sure many others have done this weekend.
It is Big Garden Birdwatch again and we want as many people to take part as possible. In fact over 600,000 people took part last year and we'd love to match that again.
Big Garden Birdwatch (or BGBW) started life as an activity for Young Ornithologist Club members in the winter of 1978/9 and whilst the number taking part may have grown out of all proportion to that first event, the basic principle of an hour long garden birdwatch has stayed the same.
It is this that helps to make BGBW not only the largest bird survey of its kind in the world, but also one of the longest and best data sets on the fortunes of common birds that we have. For example, the declines of common species such as House Sparrow and Starling were picked up very quickly by the Big Garden Birdwatch.
So, back to this morning and my hour long vigil. We all have expectations for our birdwatch hour. "There were 12 of these yesterday, will they be here today?" "Maybe the Coal Tit I saw last week will come back?" Or "please let there be birds unlike last year when they seemed to set the clocks for BGBW weekend and disappear, never to return until Monday morning!"
How did I do? I saw all my usual suspects and had the bonus of a juvenile Sparrowhawk tazzing round in circles after a Great Tit that completely out-witted it. It perched on the garden gate, making it the first Sparrowhawk that I have ever seen landed in the garden in 10 years!
My garden is small and open, surrounded by an old Mill and the ground at the moment is covered in snow (out in deepest darkest Peak District) but I have habitat nearby and lots of RSPB bird food to tempt them.
My scores, in order of maximum numbers seen at any one time, were:
Chaffinch 7Blue Tit 5Wood Pigeon 3Great Tit 2Blackbird 2Magpie 2Long Tailed Tit 2Sparrowhawk 1Collard Dove 1Dunnock 1Wren 1Jackdaw 1Robin 1Nuthatch 1
Maybe not the numbers of birds I might expect (maybe the sparrowhawk dampened their courage). And several notable absentees - the flock of siskins that usually winters along the river are absent this winter (maybe due to a good larch crop in the nearby plantations). And since an outbreak of trichomoniosis a couple of summers back, the once common Greenfinches are gone. House Sparrows have recently found my garden and this morning? Well, I could hear them chirping away but could I get one in the garden...? Grrr!
But that is the beauty of Big Garden Birdwatch. And because I send in the results every year, my own little insights make up part of a much larger picture that helps us target our efforts and research to get the best for our birds and wildlife.
It is now 9.40am and the day is still young. There is still time to do your count or better still, pop down to Old Moor and join in our BGBW event!
And do, please, let us know how you got on....
Like in the kids song.....
Fantastic news just in this evening!!
When Dave, 'The Wadd' Waddiington and Kate, our Wardens went up to the reedbeds to monitor the bitterns coming into roost at dusk, they had a fabulous surprise. There were three!!!
We had hoped that there might be a third bittern spending time at Bolton Ings, because we have had several sightings from there and seen a bird flying to and from that area. So far though, we had also only ever seen two in the air at the same time, or had two sightings in quick succession, but in different spots, within the reedbed area on Old Moor. So we could only ever get as far as being confident of two birds. We could never be sure that there was a further bird around.
Tonight, all that has changed! Three were seen in the air at the same time as they worked out who was going to have which part of the Old Moor reedbed for the night!
It's fantastic news for the future success of the bittern population and a testament to the hard work of our staff and volunteers who have planted new reeds year in and year out to help create a large enough area to provide a suitable home for one of the rarest birds in the country.
In 1997 we were down to only 11 'booming' males - that is birds ready to breed, in Britain. The population has slowly risen since then and it now looks as though Old Moor will provide the base for a further population increase! Having had one bird stay all summer in 2011 and two more now join it for winter, we must have improved our chances of being able to make a breeding pair in spring...... Fingers crossed!!