Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science.







Thursday, 29 December 2011

Squealing piglets


In contrast to my recent access rant getting into Llandegfedd Reservoir yesterday was a breeze. Water levels were high with a stiff wind creating choppy conditions which made for difficult birding. Respite was found in Greenpool bay where teal, mute swan, little grebe and others found shelter. Here too was a single male pintail. Water rail were in fine voice with up to four birds calling loudly from within a metre of the Greenpool hide. Excellent views can be obtained by viewing the alder and willow carr through the two right hand observation flaps and just waiting patiently. 


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Fishermen welcome others run along and play elsewhere


Back to my cause celebre! There were hundreds of wildfowl at Wentwood Reservoir yesterday but to do anything more about getting a closer view other than sticking my scope through the bars of the gates like a Special Branch officer on a surveillance operation was impossible. Once again Welsh Waters practice of embracing certain income generating recreational users more than others means that birders are locked out like naughty children.
So what is Welsh Water's policy on access to their landholdings? Paul Henderson Strategic Regulation Manager in his written evidence to the Welsh Assembly Government's Sustainability Committee Inquiry into Access to Inland Water in 2009 gave us a hint. He said:

'We are committed to providing appropriate access and promoting recreational use at our landholdings for the public in so far as there is no significant risk to health and safety, risk of pollution or damage or harmful impact to wildlife'.


Later on in his evidence he re-emphasised this commitment by saying, 'We are always keen to encourage greater use of our sites...........'

Why is it then that we birders are being drowned out when it comes to having fair access arrangements? In  my examination of the 13 recommendations that came out of the WAG inquiry none related to access for the study or enjoyment of biodiversity. Yes there was the reassuring statement that recreation improvements would only be allowed if not detrimental to biodiversity interests,  but in doing so shouldn't the benefits of conserving and enhancing biodiversity be accessible to the public to enjoy and cherish?

Another recommendation featured funding to help improve access to inland waters. In response WAG set up SPLASH  a Water Recreation Challenge Fund for Wales. Since its inception its funded over 65 projects to the tune of over one million pounds but its seems only one project is 'access to wildlife' related. Why is this? Is it that campaigning conservation bodies just don't see a problem with access to nature at wetland sites?
Fine words are offered by Welsh Water and WAG in relation to nature conservation but allowing access for individuals and organisations who are well placed to support their conservation aspirations is all too often restricted or barred. Birders are simply up the proverbial creek without a paddle.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Gwent Goosander Survey: Visit 2



Took in Bryn Bach Park before returning to Dunlop Semtex Pond for the start of visit 2 of the Gwent Goosander Survey. 'Twas bitingly cold but a few black headed gull were happy to come in close for some scraps left by the locals. This adult gull was carrying a ring marked Estonia but wasn't able to make out the number as the bird wouldn't stay still long enough and the ring's on upside down.


At DSP there were five goosander ( 4 female and 1 male ) all of which eventually left taking a north westerly route. Full count:

9 Pochard
9 Tufted duck
8 Moorhen
16 Coot
30 Mallard
5 Goosander

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Forgotten logos



My wife refers to it, rather dismissively, as 'paper shuffling' but a recent examination of my dusty archive of biological records turned up an item I feel is worthy of mention. Buried amongst the pages of annual ringing totals, nest box records punched out on an old style typewriter and a growing file of more contemporary orthoptera records shared through email, I found a letter head sporting a forgotten, unfamiliar logo.

This logo, to the best of my fading memory was one of the earliest for the then Gwent Trust for Nature Conservation (now Gwent Wildlife Trust). A rather statuesque Barn Owl was the main focal point which, I seem to remember, eventually gave way to an updated symbol in the 1990's of a  more action filled, in flight owl just about to alight on its prey. Today with the barn owl  logo ditched - in some cattle feeding trough - the local Wildlife Trusts throughout the UK generally use a variation of the black and white badger symbol as a sort of nationwide corporate identity.

An evolution or time series of logo's used by conservation organisations and naturalists' societies over the years can sometimes provide an interesting insight into the make up, direction and membership profile of these organisations working to protect our natural heritage.  The Gwent Trust for example in using the barn owl chose a species in decline, who's stronghold, once fortunes had changed, would be the landowning rural communities of  Monmouthshire. Who would have guessed that a drift towards using the badger logo could potentially alienate the same rural farming communities were once courted with the owl logo.


For me logos often act as a memory prompt, a focus for the reminiscing of times long gone when as a Young Ornithologists' Club (YOC) member I along with some mates would look forward to the annual local cine film viewing of the new RSPB movie, all of which seemed to involve the ubiquitous Bobby Tulloch and the Shetlands Islands. For a logo the YOC's design of the 1960's and 70's could easily, with some little adaptation, be that of the Hitler youth or Third Reich. A spread eagled kestrel that wouldn't have been out of place adorning the cap of the camp commandant of Colditz.

Other logos have evolved and come and gone. The BTO has buried at sea its Gannet in favour of some other thingamajig and the RSPBs iconic Avocet logo has changed but to their credit retained the same bird despite it now being a conservation success. Pen and ink calligraphist designs have given way to the whizz ding of computer generated artwork easily transferable to cap or polo shirt. But amongst all this modern organisational identity there's still the odd group that remain true to tradition. See the Monmouthshire Moth and Butterfly Group logo as an example!


Monday, 5 December 2011

A touch of the Med





Happened on this 1st winter Mediterranean Gull busy preening on top of the refurbished boat house at Cwmbran Boating Lake this lunchtime. No amount of enticement was going to get this bird down to join the dozens of black headed gull milling around my feet and the Canada geese tugging at my trouser legs. Also 27 Canada goose and a single black headed gull with shiny ring but didn't hang around long enough to photograph.
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