Saturday 29 November 2014

Conservation Fundamentalist?

Red spot is where I came out on the test 

I took this : POLITICAL COMPASS TEST as recommended by Mark Avery . According to the test I come out as a lefty libertarian. 

To be honest- not a big fan of general politics (or these stupid tests which try and undermine the importance of appreciating complexity and are probably rigged too)  - always thought there was something random and nonsensical about the concepts of right wing and left wing- a chaotic jumble of traditional morality, vice, state control and individualism e.g. 

1. Right wing (jumble) : Christianity/War Lust, Anti-homosexuality/Pro-Greed, Racist/ Pro-Globalisation, State Brutality/ Free Market, Poor social and environmental regulation/ Philanthropy, (they love hunting too)

2. Left wing (jumble): Science/ Mysticism, Environmental regulation/ Libertarianism, Anti-authoritarian/ Political Extreme Passive Aggression (Political Correctness), Revolutionists/ Lazy bastards

To me it all looks like a load of shit?? I could move around that model above depending on what issue, what particular situation, what mood I was in, who it was related too etc etc. I just think the whole idea of an individual shackling themselves with political rules or classes  is debilitating. I can see the argument of strength in numbers but societies can be as oppressive as they are liberating.  These modes (right and left wing) of thinking can probably be traced back to particularly influential thinkers (individuals or small groups)- thought modes in much need of modernisation.

The only thing that makes sense to me is learning from experience and applying that experience to every situation- treating every situation/problem in a unique way. When required I'll be completely authoritarian, when not required I'll be completely libertarian. There are no rules (always hold them lightly) as far as I'm concerned.. 

'Political classes' to me seems like the mutant child of the human herding instinct trying to superimpose itself on a group psychosis- choose which mental asylum you're in? I always come to the conclusion that insanity is the only thing that unites humanity and appreciating that is probably a good thing (and not to be intimidated by power or classes- the powerful are as mental and clueless as all of us and individual empowerment and a move towards a true democracy is more possible by appreciating that).   

Nature is one of the most important things in my life and I find myself pretty much at war with the society around me that doesn't value nature in the same way as I do. So if I had to call myself anything it wouldn't be a lefty, conservative, labour, lib dem or green it would probably be a Nature Conservation Fundamentalist? (a non-violent one). I will do anything that is required to protect it and I will align with any group or individuals that share my value and love for nature. (and end up pissing them all off because they probably won't accept my non-political class alignment and mingling with the 'enemy'). Fuck them all in that case- I'll have a go at what one madman can do alone. Nature is my ally- and she is the biggest arse whipping bitch on the planet. Don't really need anyone else. 

Thursday 27 November 2014

Fungi on the Common

Possibly Shaggy Scalycap (thanks for id Yvonne BRITISH FUNGI FB GROUP 
Slime mould (Crystal brain?) 
 Jelly Ear
Was looking at some tree work on Mitcham Common today and came across these fungi. Ids welcome.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Songs of Praise, Mini-Episode One, The Black Dog

Here is the first instalment of Songs of Praise, a 'family musical' story that I've knocked up about the adventures of a young naturalist.

It is the dark ages in 20th century London and a boy named Bryan is born. One day, when Bryan was three, he went to the park. He loved the park. He would chase butterflies and feed the birds and hunt for insects.
He was happily playing with his friends one day when suddenly, he saw a sight. It was a sight so scary that his blood set thick.
It was the Black Dog.

This is a song about a lesson learnt from an early experience with nature: Peace is in constant conflict with fear. Often that fear is irrational. It is also often self fulfilling (e.g. dogs tend to go for people who fear them).  Once self-fulfilled the consequences are often not as bad as perceived but sometimes e.g. the dog kills and eats you. In this case the central character survives and goes on to live the rest of his life in constant conflict, hopelessly longing for peace and being whipped along life's road by his fears, to bigger and better things. 

Monday 24 November 2014

Sunday 23 November 2014

My Garden by Alfred Smee- early Beddington natural history

Thanks to Dave and Bob I've got hold of a copy of My Garden by Alfred Smee which was published in 1872. The book chronicles the gardening exploits and natural history observations through the 1800s of the current Grange- part of Beddington Park (adjacent to the farmlands and part of the contiguous green space that forms the heartland of the Wandle Valley Regional Park).
Anyway here's a few interesting bird observations:

Whooper Swan- one present through 'one winter'
Smew- one shot in January 1871
Slavonian Grebe- a specimen obtained once from the water.
Corncrake (Land Rail)- heard in the meadows in summer
Wild Geese- seen crossing over the garden, but have never been known to settle
Woodcock- visits the garden
Whimbrel and Curlew- heard crossing over of an evening during the autumn migration
Gulls- not often been obsevered
'A stray Patridge and Pheasant visit us now and then and one Quail has been seen in one of our meadows'
Turtle Dove- appears in the district plentifully in August
Woodpigeon- in 1869 flocks at intervals in number from ninety to five hundred crossed the garden
Nuthatch- has been shot in Beddington Park
Wryneck- in 1871 the gardener found a young Wryneck and placed in the Poor Man's House
Magpie's- they have been observed but are scarce throughout the district
Hooded Crows- formely considered to be scarce by Apollo, have been seen on two or three occasions
Hawfinch- occasional visits and probably occasionally breeds
Mountain Finch (Brambling)- recorded at times
Black-headed Bunting (Reed Bunting) - recorded at times
Woodlark- has been heard about the place
Grey-bearded Wagtail- have been observed (WTF?)
Ray's Wagtail- have been observed (WTF?)
Marsh Tit- 'we have it'
Grasshopper Warbler- 'has been heard'
Nightingale- 'charms us with it's sweet melody'
The White Owl (Barn Owl)- 'The ill-faced owl, Death's dreadful messenger' (steady on)
'In the woods on the hills Hen Harrier, Hobby and Merlin have been shot.
Cockatoo- a splendid wild one was unfortunately shot this year (1872)
'Although birds delight us with their song, yet in my intercourse with musical men I have found but few that have the power of recording their notes' (Magnus Robb 100 years away!)
and finally
'A garden without birds is like a mansion without inhabitants'.

What a gezer! The founder of our local natural history and in whose path which he hath trail blazed we do gratefully and humbly walk (unarmed).

Saturday 22 November 2014

Pochards etc

 Female Pochard (in summer the bills are often black)
 Male Pochards (Juvenile birds moult into adult type plumages early in the winter)

The easterly airflow with low cloud continues resulting in some vis mig and new arrivals. Highlights were a first-winter Little Gull, 167 Redwings, 6 Fieldfare, 50+ Lapwing and Pochard numbers also increased to 52 birds.

Corvo birding article in Azores national press

Friday 21 November 2014


A nice little morning with Lukas and Elaine from Bedzed. 13 Brent Geese flew relatively low over the lake and headed south-east, 5+ Snipe, 15 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 48 Lapwing (including an arrival of 24 birds), 46 Pochard, 30 Tufted Duck and 4 Wigeon.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Bioregional 20 year anniversary at The Crystal E16

The Crystal- a sustainable cities structure

Spent the afternoon at The Crystal on the Docklands for Bioregional's 20th year anniversary conference.
We did a bit on aspirational living and nature and some interesting talks on renewable energy etc.

Bioregional are a Hackbridge-based company (part of the Bedzed eco village) and they are partners in the development of the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve and developing Hackbridge into one of the most bio-diverse suburbs of London. 

The Blame Game

Who is to blame for the decline of nature in the UK and wider?

Is it the National Farmers Union and the Common Agricultural Policy? Is it the building developers? Is it the failure of the conservation NGOs? Is it global warming? Is it population increase? Is it the obsession of the conservation community with nature-celebrities, fluff, gush and glossy tosh? Is it the self indulgence/pomp of the scientific community with over technical, obscure and irrelevant pursuits? Is it the lack of co-ordination and over-competition between conservation societies/the scientific community, the public and government? Is it the scramble for limited funding? Is it the duplication of effort over and over a-f##king gain? Is it the global elite? Is it the cytoplasmic mass of mindfulness-less humanity within the conservation movement that infests and overwhelms anything of worth?  Is it birders treating nature primarily like a commodity to collect/hoard rather than something to enhance? Is it the repetition of conservation mantra married with lack of action? Is it the people in positions of power to make a difference in conservation using their power to line their own pockets and seduce their colleagues? Is it the hunting community? Is it my bloody neighbour who has just astro-turfed their lawn? Is it LIDL shoppers that support unethical cheap food production ? Is it the immigrants? Is it Patrick Duffy? 

No. After much deliberation I have come to a conclusion. I am to blame. I am solely and entirely responsible for the decline of nature within the UK and wider. 

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Autumn vs Winter

 Marsh Harrier flew east today. Garganey still about. Also 30+ Woodpigeon and a few Mipits moving south.
  I thought this bird looked more like a herring x LBB ?
 Leucistic first-winter Herring Gull
 Caddis fly sp. Saw a bumblebee in Gillian's garden today too. Species possibly Limnephilus affinis (thanks Derek)
Tidied up our woodland glade planting and the butterfly strip at the reserve entrance
Autumn refuses to give up the ghost with a bit of visible migration this morning including one of the farmlands few records of Marsh Harrier for November. The Garganey still about too.
However I've finally yielded and started looking through the gulls. Better make the most of them because the landfill might only have a two or three years left. So the gulling season starts- winter is here(ish) .
Also been doing a bit of habitat work recently (on the Hackbridge wildlife gardens and Mile Rd)- putting a few places to sleep for the winter, cutting back overgrowth and tidying things up. Put a load of bulbs in recently too for the spring and quite of bit of additional planting. A bit dissappointed that we didn't manage to extend the wildlife gardening habitat too much further this year- just an additional 1/2 acre or so. Will use this winter to plan a big push for next year.
Filed a formal complaint to the local authority this week about the delay in restoration at the farmlands. Stop the Incinerator campaign members are still looking into legal appeal options so one way or another hoping to keep encouraging along the restoration programme and see some progress over the winter months.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Independent mini Conservation NGOs ?

 A small local team to manage a 'cell' (a local area) 
Tree work (felling a dangerous Beech)
 Reed Planting on nature reserves
 Planting a pyracantha hedge (a wildlife friendly hedge)- as opposed to fencing
 Wildlife gardening
 Meadow management 
Wildflower meadow planting (this one an industrial estate) 
 A mature wildlife garden
 A mini-wildlife garden planted from scratch  (in Bedzed eco-village) 
 Recycling of all the green waste- logs for burning, woodchip for garden mulch and biofuel
 Some timber used for carving, furniture etc  
Public tours/exhibitions/workshops etc for skill transfer/awareness/new customers etc

I hear a lot about low wages and shortage of well paid job opportunities in conservation. The independent option is not a bad one- either self employment/partnerships setting up a company etc. The little company I run with my brother and friends manages green spaces (tree and hedge work, wildlife garden makeovers, habitat creation in private and communal gardens) in our local area (our patch), we do habitat restoration/maintenance on nature reserves and we do workshops/exhibitions/tours etc to promote our work and spread ideas. So basically we are like a micro-conservation organisation (we've got our green spaces(our 'reserves') we manage them for wildlife and we promote that work, pollinate ideas and attract new members/customers. We do some of our ecological consultancy/survey work our selves but personally I find it too tedious and prefer to be doing practical/business work so we work with consultants (independent ecological consultancy is of course another option for the independent minded conservationist). We've also got a few side lines which keeps things interesting- a bit of nature tour leading, writing etc (would love to get more into nature friendly farming in future). 
There's plenty of work in what we do (unfortunately we have to turn work down due to over demand), the financial rewards are good and its very rewarding in more important ways too.
A socio-economic landscape of a good number of mini practical conservation NGO's probably be a good thing for conservation? 

Monday 17 November 2014

Thee Bryans- Songs of Praise

Coming soon (next week maybe)
Songs of Praise
Local/ home-made musical story about the explorations of a young naturalist whose journey leads him to some rather strange discoveries

Reviews include:
‘What the hell is this?’ (Dicky, session guitarist)
It’s the nuts (Oedipus )
‘When will you grow up!' ( Writer’s mum) 
‘They’re obsessed with it’  (Writer’s sister about nieces and nephews)
'The strangest request I have ever had'  (Discburner Dave) 

12 part mini-series. Every week at some time on Non-stop Birding. 


Sunday 16 November 2014

Urban Birding

 Peregrine with Feral Pigeon ('Racing pigeon'- a ringed bird)
 David Lindo and students
 Teal- males are lekking at moment
Peregrine feeding station
Met with David Lindo and his group today to have a look at the birds and conservation issues at Beddington Farmlands. Unfortunately the Grey Phalarope decided to depart (about 20 people arrived today to see it). Good to bump into Tice's Meadows birders today also.
Highlight was a Peregrine with prey, also 2 Stonechat, the Beardies were calling, good numbers of duck and a few mips and skylarks on the mound.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Winter birds

 Duck numbers pretty good

 4 Redshank, the Grey Phalarope and 16 Lapwing on the lakes today
Restoration- top soiling and seeding on the northern mound today. This area is being restored to acid grassland (in theory)
A pretty good winter haul on the farmlands today: 1 Grey Phalarope, 4 Redshank, 1 Marsh Tit (first one since 1996), 2 Bearded Tit, 5 Stonechat, 1 Peregrine, 400 Teal, 100+ Gadwall, 50+ Shoveler, 33 Pochard, 20 Tufted Duck, 30 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 20+ Goldfinch, 20+ Linnet, 20+ Chaffinch and 2 Barn Owl presumably still around. 

Thursday 13 November 2014

Barn Owls

 One of two Barn Owls on Irrigation Bridge
 Grey Phalarope still present
 Female Teal

Bedzed residents reported a Barn Owl in the neighbourhood so we did a bit of owling yesterday evening and discovered two birds that came out of a roost on Irrigation Bridge. The Grey Phal was still present and a couple of Stonechats.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Grey Phalarope

 First-winter Grey Phalarope- the second record following the first one in 1987 in the aftermath of the Great Storm
 Bearded Tits- a pair still present. Also Cetti's Warbler and 5 Water Rail.
 Male Shoveler- the local drakes have now acquired winter plumage. 45 Shoveler today, 1 juv Garganey, 400+ Teal, 95 Gadwall, 6 Wigeon, 30+ Tufted Duck, 10 Pochard 
The Southern Mound has been ploughed in preparation for restoration seeding. Quite a few birds feeding on the mound including 2 Stonechat, 10 Skylark, 40+ Meadow Pipit (the ringers caught 15 of them today), 10 Reed Bunting, 20+ Goldfinch and 60+ Linnet. A few Redwings and Fieldfares going over.
The Grey Phalarope found by Nick yesterday is still present today. This Arctic breeding bird winters at sea off West and Southern Africa and is generally an exclusively pelagic migrant.
According to Birds of Surrey (Wheatley 2007), there were 32 records in Surrey (Vice-country), 6 previous November records. The Birds of London (Self 2014) lists Grey Phalarope as a scarce passage migrant to the recording area.
The first Beddington record was a first-winter from October 19th to 22nd 1987.
Red-necked Phalarope has yet to be recorded at the farmlands, reflected in it's scarcer regional status  (25 records in London area, 16 in Surrey- ref a/a)