News archive

November 2016

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

From the Weird to the Wonderful

From the Weird to the Wonderful

Ben Andrew related some of the more remarkable enquiries reaching the RSPB's Wildlife Enquiry service.

Based at The Lodge, the RSPB's HQ, some 42,000 enquiries were received last year! Many involve identification questions and some amazing photos are sent in - leucistic birds cause confusion. Albino birds would have pink or red eyes but Ben showed us a Robin with all white feathers except for its red breast and a white Great Spotted Woodpecker with just red on top of its head.

The Wildlife Enquiry team need to be diplomatic when someone phones up and says they've seen a bird which would be extremely unlikely in the described location. However, sometimes the seemingly improbable can be true such as the Dipper in Cambridge! A man told Ben it perched on the guttering near his door - a strange location for a Dipper especially as there is not a population of Dippers in Cambridge but a photo was sent clearly showing one of our native Dippers perched just as described.

There were lovely photos of birds nesting in odd locations - a Blackbird nesting on a window ledge gave the owner wonderful views from nest building to fledging plus another using traffic lights as a home.
There are also distressing photos of trapped or dead birds from the result of wildlife crime - the information received can help catch those involved.

The second part of Ben's talk featured his own wildlife photography. Those of you who watch Countryfile may have seen him win last year's calendar competition when his photo of a hedgehog was voted the viewer's favourite.

Ben takes many photos in urban situations especially in London. He likes to take on a project where he follows an animal and their lifestyle through a period of time - he showed us some evocative photos of foxes in a cemetery. His Cormorant project aimed to capture London Cormorants in many situations. His photos have appeared in the RSPB's Nature magazine, and in campaigns to support wildlife.

He ended with his 'Wildlife & Us' project where his photos show wildlife and people in the same view - very different from the standard composition of isolating a bird, say with no other distractions in the image. One image was of a tree full of roosting Pied Wagtails near a warm air outlet at Heathrow airport - the birds were in silhouette and out of focus in the background were people passing pulling their suitcases. Definitely designed to make us think about our relationship with wildlife and how closely we live together.

Ben's talk was very entertaining and much enjoyed by his audience - one person coming up to me at the end and saying he thought it was one of the best talks he'd been to!

If you click on the 'Download file' link, then you will see the striking poster that David (our Publicity officer) produced to advertise this talk.

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