After a short break I bring you to penultimate part of this waltz through the alphabet of all things RSPB orientated.
W is for … WOS
… Or the Welsh Ornithological Society of which I am a proud member.
For the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to man the stand at the society’s annual conference. I have also been lucky enough to meet the great and the good of Welsh Ornithology whilst I have been there.
I make no secret of the fact I am serving my apprenticeship when it comes to learning about birds and birding in general. I have no encyclopaedic knowledge of a vast array of species. I still struggle to ID that pesky wader in amongst all the Godwits (it’s always a Ruff). Most bird song passes me by, unless it is a Blackbird or a Robin or a Wren. I am utterly self-taught, which is why I enjoy the annual conference each year. The day is packed full of talks on all things feathered in Wales.
I have sat and listened in awe to Roy Dennis relating his lifetime of experiences with the Ospreys of Wales. I now understand how the rare bird committee works, and how a record is accepted, and more importantly, why it is so important. I met Andy Clements, Director of the BTO, and listened to a talk on the amazing Cuckoo tagging project, which is probably my favourite conservation project. The data provided on the Cuckoos annual migration is fascinating, and has brought the perils they face to the masses in an easy to follow format. Shearwater Cam will live long in the memory too. Last year Mark Avery was guest of honour and ruffled a few feathers as he likes to do. There were talks on the environmental impacts of the Severn Barrage, Honey Buzzards and the near mythical Hawfinch. I have learnt so much from attending, and I can’t wait for this year’s conference which is in North Wales. I intend to shock RSPB Conwy’s Julian Hughes and make the trip up the A470 and be there in attendance again!
X is for … X-Rated
There are two things certain in life... death and taxes.
There are two things certain when you start watching wildlife, whether it is on a nature reserve or on the television, sooner or later is all about death and sex!
I can guarantee you if you are out watching wildlife and taking photos you will end up taking a string of photos of various animals, birds or insects “at it”.
I have sequences of photos of amorous pigeons, gulls, ducks, dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies; the list goes on and on. It can get quite embarrassing I can tell you! Quite often after I have snapped a few shots of their “behaviour” I have politely turned away.
The struggle of life and death is at the centre of all things natural history. Our attitude to it can be interesting. People will happily watch a television programme that will feature a lion or a cheetah bringing down the weak and the young of a herd of wildebeest. We will marvel at this master hunter at work. Yet when this survival of the fittest arrives in our own back garden we can baulk at nature’s violence.
Not everyone welcomes the arrival of a Sparrowhawk in their back gardens, especially if it makes a kill. Yet the Sparrowhawk is doing it for the same reason as one of the big cats in Africa. It is simply feeding itself or it’s young to ensure the survival of its species. During the television series “Birds Britannica” Stephen Moss suggested that we have now made the back garden an extension of our own living area. So seeing a Woodpigeon meeting its demise is in effect happening in our living rooms. I thought he made a very salient point.
To me nature is good, bad and ugly and you simply can’t accept one part without the others. Nature is shocking, it is red by tooth and claw, but it is utterly fascinating and beautiful too. There is nothing more romantic to watch than the mating dance of Great Crested Grebes, and if you are not an incurable romantic like me, then Woodpigeons appear to like a good snog!
One more part to go next week!
All images © Anthony Walton
Well you might think I've gone mad but there is something wrong with the site and nothing happened when I clicked 'post' so I did it again, and again, and again - well just as many times as the posts and there's no 'delete' button!
Couldn't agree with you more about how one can unwittingly become a voyeur and have to look away but as you said not before recording a bit of the pre-nuptial behaviour. From that point of view I've found the Canada Geese with their peculiar head-ducking and the Redshank with its brief 'vertical take-off' flight onto its partner's back to be the most interesting.