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!!
Good evening! I start today's report from Old Moor with tales of a wandering little egret.... Indeed, it seems that it has 'no fixed abode' (NFA)! Last week, it was on Bolton Ings, on Saturday it moved over the river, to Wath Ings, today, it has been seen on the Wader Scrape and the Mere and was last seen flying back over the river towards Bolton again! A restless fellow....
Our lovely little kingfisher has been hanging around the Wildlife Ponds again and two kingfishers were seen from the Field Pool West hide.
Marie and Sandy Clark sent this picture of a kingfisher eating a tiddler, which they took from the Field Pool West hide a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for sending it.
Wath Ings had the group of grey partridges wandering around there, today. No numbers given, but there are usually around 10... Male and female goosander were reported from the Mere and a male pintail was seen on the Wader Scrape. There will ofcourse have been may others not mentioned here, such as the wigeon, teal, shovelers, etc.
Flying wigeon, taken by Lynz Harston. A great action shot! Thanks, Lynz.
There was some tree planting going on in the Tree Sparrow Farm, so no reports from there today, but the feeders on the other side of the hedge, visible from the car park, were busy, with lots of greenfinches.
We have lift off!! Another great action shot, this time from Ian Butler. Thanks Ian.
Have a good evening and see you soon, I hope.
I've been saving this blog up for you. Gradually collecting information and beautiful pictures.... It's time to turn the spotlight on to the little kingfisher that has been hanging around the Wildlife Pools and thrilling so many people!
If you come to see this gorgeous little bird - and you should! - make sure that you ask us in the Visitor Centre about which pools to check and we'll happily point you in the right direction.
Here's the little bird, taken today, by my manager, Craig. (He said he'd fire me if I didn't use his pic! I got him back for this victimisation by refusing to make him a cup of tea.... but he fired me for that too.....)
This bird began to be spotted on the same pools in late autumn and come December we were having daily sightings. Happily, this continues to be the case! So we've had chance to get to know it a bit and have come up with a bit of educated guess-work to understand more.
We have seen a couple of things about it which lead us, first of all, to believe that this is a juvenile female. There has been a slightly darker band showing across her chest, which is one of the signs of juvenile plumage and she has been developing a strongly coloured base to her beak. This lets us know she's a she, because the males have completely black bases to their beaks.
The time that she appeared has also led us to believe that she is a juvenile and quite possibly, one of the young from the resident pair which nest in the river bank at the back of Old Moor, between us and our Bolton Ings site and which we see fishing on our reserve. Kingfishers are feisty birds and strongly territorial. The wardens have seen aggressive behaviour with birds chasing others along the stretch of river mentioned, fairly regularly over the last month or two. It would be expected that an adult pair would chase their grown youngsters away over autumn and winter, to make them find their own patch. This means that they are free to raise another brood in the spring.
So our little one may well have found a handy place, not too far away from where she grew up. The Wildlife Ponds has not previously been an area which has been regularly fished by the adults, so they seem to be giving her a bit of space, with her far enough away from them for them to be happy! And boy, has she been making the most of the fishing opportunities on those pools......
Here she is, sat on a reed mace head, improvising a perch. Note the darker band across her chest.
There she goes!!
Mission accomplished!! Thanks to Ian Butler for this fantastic sequence. He's got a kingfisher addiction now, you know and has to keep coming back to try to get more great shots. Fine by me!! :)
Our warden team put a perch on the pool side for her, using a dead branch of silver birch. Kate (our assistant warden) swears that the height of the perch has dropped by atleast 20 cm or so, because she's getting so plump from all the fish she's eating! People see her catch several every day.
We don't know how much longer we'll have her with us though. She has obviously found a good patch to wait out winter and stay full. After a few days of frozen water, she returned. As spring gets under way though, the urge to try and find a mate and nest will take over. There aren't any banks in the pool which she has been using, so no potential nest sites there.....
I would like to point her to the fantastic sand martin bank at this stage (as covered in last night's blog), showing her all the wonderful, ready made tunnels with nest chambers at the end!! We know that kingfishers have taken up the opportunity to nest in them on other sites.... It would certainly be wonderful to have her stay here! There is the not-so-small matter of finding a mate though, first of all and that means taking to the river really, following the waterway. Let's hope a potential suitor comes to find her, then, before she goes to find him!!