Sunday 29 March 2020

Project Partial Lockdown

Unfortunately Rishi's bail out package for the self employed didn't include limited company owners who pay dividends or self employed people who have absorbed their profits or only been self employed recently so on those bomb shells we (our team) have to choose between plague and poverty so are being forced to carry on working (while taking as many precautions we can). So it was my usual Wednesday to Friday in the crack of South London and Saturday to Tuesday in the sanctuary of the Old Vicarage. 
The Old Vicarage
With a cold brisk northerly blowing its been pretty raw going working on the garden but we've put in another two raised beds and preparing more seed trays and ordered more seeds.

 The only 'migrant' in the garden has been this Chiffchaff
 Raised beds as far as the eye can see- got ten now and need another two or three
 The broccoli we planted last weekend is coming along well 
 I've got my eye on this bit of garden that the Ponies were moved to during the wet conditions and have inadvertently ploughed it up- thinking of doing a bit of farming if Bryan and James don't object 

Back in the Crack 
So I had to spend Wednesday to Friday doing my utmost best to not catch or transmit the virus. Luckily on Wednesday I had a quote in the hidden gem of Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon so basically was doing my daily walk while getting paid for it- some champions trees in there. Thursday was private quotes- I get the customers to open the gate and either keep their f##king distance or speak to me through the window on the phone of what they want done. Whenever I get back to the van I sanitise with alcohol (my hands look like I've grey scale from Game of Thrones now). I'm also living off food in the doomsday cupboard (been over doing the Oxtail soup) so have not been to any shops. Friday was in doors doing all the end of week admin and accounts etc so luckily I'm basically able to self isolate and continue working. Not looking forward to go back this week as the epidemic peaks. 
 View over Beddington Farmlands and the incinerator- not a single plane or vapour trail in the sky. The whole world has got better air quality apart from South London! 
 With all the cafes shut, my Thursday morning crew meeting and briefing involved just me in the campervan 
Cannizaro Park . The tree list of this park is pretty impressive SEE HERE. Luckily our Merton Council contracts have been handy through this period- we've got a lot of school work to do which we can do while schools are shut and can keep away from everyone 

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Project Lockdown

We've decided to use the lockdown period to get some work done on the Old Vic garden (previous posts on the Old Vic HERE ).  Unfortunately the government have been vague about who can and can't go to work but been very clear that the self-employed won't be receiving adequate help so basically we have to keep working at Little Oak so its only partial lockdown for us. 

However still getting plenty done in the garden. Did an hour or so garden birding this morning, highlight was a Curlew flying over, a small movement of Chaffinch (about 15), a couple of Mipits, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing eachother round the Poplars and 1 Redwing. 

The moth trap was pretty quiet as temperatures continue to drop to below zero at night. 

 A good time to get some gardening and garden birding done 
 Holly knocking up a raised bed out of timber that Bryan had lying around 
 The finished result- we made or prepared six raised beds in total and plan to get another six built 
 Colonel Jacob inspecting the work 
 Renovated this box hedge today too as a border between the vegetable area and rest of the garden 
 Got the seeds sown for Broccoli and Tomatoes 
 Red Kite over the garden- a second calender year bird (white spots on underparts) 
Last night's moths (top left to bottom left: Hebrew Character, Early Grey, Clouded Drab and Common Quaker) . 

Monday 23 March 2020

The Mediterranean Falls!

Finally saw a Med Gull at Otmoor yesterday (Oxfordshire tick too), Ebird list HERE . Most interesting was a huge flock of Fieldfare and Redwing (mainly Fieldfare I think)- presumably migrating birds that have hit a bit of a wall in the moderate headwind? Also had a Category E tick- a Hawaiian Goose (can't be many of them on the loose?) - the volunteer warden Pete told me last week one or two were knocking about so glad to finally see one.

Had the moth trap and sound recording equipment on at the Old Vic. Just Early Grey and Hebrew Character in the trap (its dropped below zero at night) and no migrants on the night recordings- although did get some nice recordings of Tawny Owl (and some rather unpleasant recordings too involving our Ponies in the garden) and also picked up a new bird - a calling Red-legged Partridge for the Old Vic list.

Adult Mediterranean Gull 
Fieldfares (above and huge flock below) 

This is all that seems to be left of the 8000+ Golden Plovers 
Red Kites chasing each other in territorial and display flights is the backdrop round these parts at the moment 
Hawaiian Goose- a Cat E lifer! 

 Two Male and one female Tawny Owl
 Horse following through and Tawny Owl 

Red-legged Partridge (distantly over Pheasant) 

Saturday 21 March 2020

It's Knot Looking Good

Yesterday while the world continued to melt like cheese Glenn had a cracking little morning at the farmlands, he found this Knot (presumably a first-winter as no sign of any summer plumage coming through and contrast between mantle and flight feathers) and also Curlew, Ring Ouzel and Redshank. 

I had the sound recorder on most of the night but failed to pick up anything apart from one Redwing call and a couple of Greylags amongst the constant noise of the usual Canada Geese and waterfowl on the lake with the background noise currently being made even worse by a flock of gulls which are now roosting on the wet grassland area. With that noise going on all night, its very difficult to pick up any migrants going over on the sonograms. 

 Green Sandpiper - all photos taken from the Wet Grassland public hide 

Wednesday 18 March 2020

I'm All Twite Jack

As I've been preparing for the down fall of Capitalism for the last five years, I didn't need to spend the day panic buying (as I've been panicing for half a decade and had two months supplies in my 'doomsday cupboard' already) so I joined up with Kojak and went birding at Beddington Farmlands. A pretty epic day really Ebird list HERE. Highlight was of course a beautiful couple of Twite, one appreciably paler and less well marked than the other. The close views and ability to appreciate the subtle differences on these two individuals and the subtle hues, tones and markings that define this species was quite frankly, beautiful. This is only the third record for Beddington, following the rather famous ringed bird in 2017 see here. Ed Stubbs informs me that this is the first multiple birds in Surrey since 1986 and the 23rd county record since 1900. 

Also had my first summer migrants of the year, a male Wheatear and 2 Sand Martins. Also 5 Water Pipit, 6 Green Sandpiper, a flock of 12 migrating Common Gull, a light passage of 25+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Peregrine, 4 Common Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk and a very interesting hybrid aythya duck- a Redheadish look alike- presumably a hybrid Tufted x Pochard but one where Pochard is coming through more than Tufted Duck which is unusual.

Partner in crime Kojak's account here. We are doing alright this year locally, on the last three days out together we've found Raven, 2 Siberian Chiffchaff and now 2 Twite. 

In the moth trap last night- Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, Hebrew Character, Early Grey, Beautiful Plume, Agonopterix alstromeriana (5) and butterflies on the wing today included Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. 

 Northern Wheatear
 Sand Martin
 Water Pipit - about 7 birds about. 
 Lapwing- great to see the birds taking up territories in south east corner (not so great to think that this habitat will be gone over the next few years and we could loose our Lapwing population) 
 Migrating Black-headed Gulls (above) and Common Gulls (below) 

Aythya hybrid, presumed Pochard x Tufted Duck 

Monday 16 March 2020

Otmoor Hike

Walked the whole of the Otmoor reserve perimeter today, through the MOD footpath, along the Oddington track and then back to the car park through Big Otmoor and Greenaways. 74 species including Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Golden Plovers and Bittern (booming). EBird list HERE . Also thought I heard a LRP out on Big Otmoor but just a faint single call.

The WeBS counts from a week or so ago recorded a lot higher numbers SEE HERE due in part to a degree of clear out (particularly Wigeon and Golden Plover) since that count but also due to full coverage of the entire site (the WeBS recorded 6895 water birds alone, I only roughly estimated 1500 birds of all species from the limited view of the perimeter). There are so many places a rarity could be hiding. There's been a big fall of Wheatears and a few other migrants this morning across the South Coast and inland too and a Willow Warbler seen by someone else at Otmoor- presumably there's more to be found today. Might go back later. 

Also 4 Roe Deer, Muntjac, Brown Hares and last week had a Stoat. The herd of Fallow Deer were out in the field again near Holly's. Seem to be an early Spring phenomenon. 

 Second calender year Hen Harrier 
 Curlew- amazing sound of birds singing and displaying this morning . Also Redshanks and Lapwings displaying in the sunny conditions. Still a flock of Snipe out on Greenaways so they obviously haven't taken up territories yet.
Male Marsh Harrier mobbed by Lapwing 
 Red Kite- not sure what the prey item is- frog leg?
 Male Reed Bunting- plenty of singing resident birds this morning as territories are starting to be set up
Barnacle x Greylag Hybrid (more on these birds here
The Pill- twenty years ago this was the only bit of water on Otmoor- amazing what decent management can do (see below for Otmoor today) 

 Brown Hare- about 10 or so mainly on Big Otmoor 
The herd of Fallow deer are out in the fields near Holly's again- I counted approx 110. A couple of years ago this herd numbered 74 see here

Friday 13 March 2020

Beddington Farmlands Bird and Wildlife Report 2018

We have finally produced the 2018 Report. For on line copy see project log HERE. To order a hard copy please email me 

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Flooded Fields, Oxfordshire

Flooding problems have luckily subsided locally with all roads in the local area re-opened but it has left quite a few interesting wetland areas particularly near the bridges along the River Thame. Elsewhere in Oxfordshire, Whooper Swans, waders, waterfowl and even a Kittiwake has been found on flooded fields. Oxford Birding Blog HERE

I've been keeping an eye out locally near Shabbington and Ickford (on Oxon/Bucks border) and checking the Mute Swan flocks for Whoopers. Today along the River Thame I had 7 Little Egrets, 2 Curlew, 8 Lapwing and a few flocks of Greylags, a few Mute Swans and large numbers of gulls, many of the large gulls are Lesser Black-backs (presumably migrating back). Also a few small flocks of Redwings and a few Yellowhammers. Both the twin bridges at Ickford and Shabbington (near the FIsherman's) look good for attracting something- I've had Curlew, Redshank, Stonechat and Barn Owl near the Ickford bridges in the past.

 Little Egrets

Monday 9 March 2020

A long goodbye to eco-politics

The best politics is no politics. Well designed systems and good management means that wheels and cogs just turn smoothly without too much squeaking, banging and burstings. We've still got a way to go with the Beddington Farmlands project but I do think the time has come where things are set up better and there is no need for too much politics. We now have a higher level accountability structure (The Housing, Economy and Business Committee) to deliver the reserve, the CAMC is populated and working and so is the CSG and work is being distributed more equally across members of the Bird Group. Road maps, completion plans and enforcement planners are all in position- everything has come together and aligned nicely. 

Campaigning does work, public pressure does work- none of that would have happened without the community pulling together and pressurising Sutton and Viridor to get their act together- which they have. Instrumental to that has been  Extinction Rebellion who basically put the wind up everyone (with the threat of getting swarmed by a pagan multitude) and it will go down in history that it was this group (XR is actually a campaign of another group called Rising Up!) that kicked things into place for Beddington Farmlands. 

However even though campaigning does work, it also doesn't work and selection of what campaigns and at what stage those campaigns are at , to support is vital. Most campaigns will fail in the same way that most things fail in this world- relationships, businesses, empires, hopes and dreams. Therefore very reluctantly, due to so many other commitments and pressures, despite being a founding member of the local Extinction Rebellion group I have decided to leave the campaign and focus on non-political activity. Originally the group had three objectives- to tell the truth, declare an emergency and form citizen's assemblies to advise government on how to solve the emergency. Over time XR has become more about veganism, not flying on planes and a bridge protest on Waterloo yesterday was about women's rights and issues such as climate rape, demonstrated by ladies with breasts out (I was struggling to see the link between that and ecological monitoring and restoration management plan implementation- which is what the ecological emergency needs). I think ecological decline is getting watered down (it should have been the ecological and climate emergency anyway, not the climate and ecological emergency). The group never got the support of the eco-social establishment that it needed to effectively challenge capitalism. I think that was a mistake- if the eco-social establishment got behind them and worked with campaign leaders, they could have kept it more on track. I think public support is waning and its become an umbrella for hard left extremism rather than ecological and environmental science. Personally I always favoured a disruptive targeting of elites and people in power - not a targeting of the public who are clueless to planning and legal systems that are penetrated by capitalist interest to rig decisions agaisnt democratic will. This is a corridors of power game- not just a game that can be played by people power.

However, this is far from a perfect world and what the group has achieved should not be under-estimated and personally I think if they focus on targeting main polluters and ecological destroyers they will gain more public support than allowing themselves to descend into a left wing cluster fuck fest. For the Sutton group, I think if they target Viridor that will be make a lot of sense- a lot of the public will support challenging polluting incinerator builders (especially ones built on a nature reserve). I was involved in writing a strategy about this- a collaborative one but there was no support for a cross party local political alliance on it- with Independents, Labour and even the Green Party being un-supportive. XR is supposed to be beyond politics and a vehicle to unite political divides- however those divides and turf wars are more important to party members than unification and targeting elites directly- they all seem to be fighting to be either elite lackeys or political puritans (martyrs) and take the pound of flesh, whether in money or their own flesh, for it. I've spent the best part of ten years sacrificing my well being  to get this reserve built and I really do not want to enter another 10 year war, without the support of the entire community. I feel like I won this war for the farmlands (and now I'm being nominated for establishment awards (like the BTO) its shows I'm no longer a threat or force of change) and the next one is so big, there is no way I'm going in alone or with a divided nucleus this time. I've concluded it won't be until the next generation that grow up in the prison of late stage Capitalism that the next big one can really start. It's now a waiting game. Viridor have 25 years at Beddington Farmlands- I reckon we are talking 5-10 years time when the Thunbergites and climate strikers enter the work force and feel the full horror of the reality they are in. 

It's also all part of my down sizing of volunteer commitments and focus on family and personal (selfish bastard) objectives- I'm also no longer gong to edit the bird report (it's time someone else took over again- I started the report when I was 13, overhauled and updated it 20 years later and overall have edited nearly half of all 30 editions) and basically going to concentrate on new projects and business which are not political. I would say to anyone who is suffering from a serious case of altruism, infected with a care for other people and concern for the future of the human species, and worried about their disconnection from nature, is to volunteer in the volunteer sector. Being paid for something is a nice sedative to the unrequited love but volunteering to help others is a different box of cheese altogether. By the end of a decade of that shit, you will be quite happy to see the entire human species obliterated from time and space and want nothing more than the capitalist oligarchy to enslave them all and carry out a global genocide on the obsoletes. I don't think I've been worn down as much as I want to be involved in that but I certainly have got to the point where I don't give a flying fuck if they do (Im in the watching evil and doing fuck all about it camp now)- as long as I can keep away from it all- which is what the fucking plan is! As you can tell I need a break! 

I intend to maintain low key support for local environmental groups and campaigns (more here ), will be feeding back to the HEB and keeping an eye on things and will intervene if needed but I'm hoping I can just watch it all come together now from my deck chair on the Black Sea- heading out there next month. 

Goodbye to eco-politics (me and Jacob on the left of the banner)