The natural history 'highlight' of the year was the global invasion of a zoonotic pathogen, that appears to have jumped from pangolins into humans.
Instead of reducing the current threat and halting the risk of future zoonotic pandemics by halting biodiversity loss (viruses are jumping into humans as natural systems become increasingly stressed/ eliminated ), stamping out illegal wild animal trade, increasing hygiene and animal welfare conditions in Asian wet markets and world wide intensive animal husbandry (all the last pandemics of the last decade or so have been zoonotic in origin (Bird flu, Swine flu, Ebola, SARS etc) (SEE INTER-GOVERNMENTAL SCIENCE-POLICY PLATFORM FOR BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES REPORT) while simultaneously reducing the risk of the current pandemic by de-centralising and promoting self-reliance, increasing resilience and changing supply lines to limit the numbers of people and goods being moved across the planet and re-focus onto local and sustainable supply lines interconnected into a regenerative global trade network, while also protecting/shielding the vulnerable from the pandemic and introducing Non-Universal Basic Income for full-time dedicated hard working 'volunteers' to help develop an international regeneration programme (of re-building society and the environment); well instead of that billionaire controlled world governments (and the UK government) locked in a race to the bottom deployed a strategy that will make pharmaceutical multi-nationals even richer (in an impossible arms race of novel vaccines to outcompete novel zoonotic viruses as the biodiversity crisis intensifies), removed personal freedoms on an unprecedented scale, restructured the economy by eliminating vast tracts of the small and medium scale (and traditional large) business environment, generated mass unemployment and obsolescence while the mass obsolete, unemployed and failed small businesses will be scooped up by billionaire controlled mega systems like Amazon, Zoom and even pig breeders (SEE HERE ). As the global capitalist oligarchy exerted its grip everywhere, Beddington Farmlands (Viridor) was sold to Henry Kravis and George Roberts of KKR Inc @ Co, a £550 billion concern who took control of our local area in March. Henry Kravis is the 317th richest person in the world. The potential to set a global precedent for corporate-local community-council ecological regeneration is now at the highest stakes (and the most challenging/dangerous).
Meanwhile many birders across the country set about becoming billionaire controlled drones, policing and lynching any other birders who strayed beyond walking distance of their open prisons while applauding the Disaster-Capitalists for protecting them from a threat the Capitalists 'engineered' (through creating ecological stress) and were accelerating. Many birders also signed up for low-carbon birding also known as patch self-incarceration, in a bid to neutralise themselves and permanently remove the eco-tourist support of much of the planet's biodiversity - making it easier for the billionaires to scoop that up too in the future. We need responsible travel -not to abandon our global community. As birders our primary objective should be Net-Biodiversity Gain supporting certain Net Zero objectives (many net zero measures are highly ecologically destructive).
My response to the acceleration of the human planet hurtling even faster to the edge of oblivion was to tell all the drones in the local bird group and local viridor controlled committees to go fuck themselves while I buggered off to learn how to grow my own food and build my personal resilience to see out the next few years as the global Capitalist dictatorship boot comes down even harder. It's a very precarious time and not one to be sparring in pointless exhaustion inducing pseudo-committee corporate fronts like the CSG, the CAMC and now even the bird group (which I have totally dissociated from). We can achieve much more as an independent outside pressure group- avoiding energy draining engagements, clearing out dead wood from our group and targeting politicians and PR machines.
Meanwhile on the progress front it was a great year mainly focused on building a technologically advanced local community support base for Beddington Farmlands (totally independent from the viridor controlled groups also to avoid inadvertent greenwash as the KKR backed Viridor execute their coup de grace on Beddington Farmlands over the coming months- a triple whammy of abandoning key ecological targets, abandoning key public access objectives and continual delays in restoration coinciding with an assault from the Thames Water front of decommissioning of over 200 acres of wetland in preparation for development), we launched the Save the Lapwings Campaign which now has over 50,000 supporters (to spotlight the coming Thames Water/Viridor led ecocide), ran a public access campaign (for new paths and fulfilling current obligations) and started the lengthy and complex process of taking legal action against Sutton Council and Viridor for ecological planning regulation irregularities (which we plan to execute after the 2023 planning deadlines have passed).
Personally speaking it was an excellent year (while my sincerest sympathies to all those who were exposed to this threat). Much of our preparation for global breakdown paid off with near record profits, new acquisitions, a restructuring of our projects and enterprises and some fantastic birding. mothing and botanising.
I suspect I hosted our pathogenic 'ally' in March of this year- if I can ever get it confirmed (with an anti-body test), it will be new species for the pan-species list!
Here's some pretty pictures of some of this year's highlights:
White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese in Romania (above) and Whooper Swans (below) . The only foreign trip of the year I did was to complete the purchase on a new private nature reserve in Bulgaria in January. Did some great winter birding but had to travel north to Romania to find the geese which don't always travel so far south when the winter is mild.
Location of our new small nature reserve project. Although visits this year did not go to plan we still made progress with getting drone footage, surveys and preliminary landscape architect planning.
Back in the UK (where I was to spend more time than I have in about 40 years!) the highlights of January including this nice comparison between Raven and Carrion Crow (above) and twitching the Black-throated Thrush at Whipsnade Zoo (below)
The highlight of the month was the discovery by local birders of a wintering 'Sibe-hotspot' on the River Wandle nearby with a Yellow-browed Warbler (above) keeping company with 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs (below) - there was also a Firecrest or two nearby (below that)
As the world went into lockdown in March we deployed our global breakdown emergency plan which involved setting up a mini-farm at the Old Vicarage, utilising supply stores and forming an affinity group. It was a good practise run.
The mini-farm in March
Instead of buying bog roll (we'd been storing it for several years anyway for times like this) I went birding with Kojak. We found these Twite (below), which we later discovered had been unknowingly found and photographed by Dave Warren in January and this March Knot (above) was a very unseasonal local bird. April
April was all about exploring our local area. The biggest discovery was finding out the birding potential of the Airfield- two minutes walking distance from Holly's (The Old Vic). Firecrest (above), Corn Buntings (below) and Yellow Wagtails (below that) were a few of the birds discovered there.
Lockdown bird back in London (Beddington Farmlands) where I was based for work was this Spoonbill from the window.
This Pinion-spotted Pug (at the Old Vic) turned out to be the moth highlight of the year. This Blossom Underwing (below) was one of many firsts for the Old Vic throughout the year.
Oakley Airfield May
This stunning pair of Black-necked Grebe was one the highlights of Beddington Farmlands
We found this summer plumage Great White Egret in Kent, once lockdown was over
Oakley Airfield highlight of the month was this presumed 'Greenland Wheatear'
Spotted Flycatchers had returned to the Old Vic by late month
By mid-month we did some Orchid hunting in Kent. Highlights included Monkey Orchid (above), Lady's Orchid (below) and Fly Orchid (below that)
Duke of Burgundy was present at one of the orchid sites.
The mini-farm in May- things started to pop up! June
June was mainly about moths, orchids and mini-farming. Always a treat to catch Privet Hawkmoth (above) and this was quite an impressive hand fall caught one night (below)- Lappet, Pine, Poplar, Elephant Hawkmoths and Buff-tip.
Plain Golden-Y- a stunning moth (and a lifer)
Maple Pug- one of a number of subtle moth lifers this year (see 'this year in numbers' in the next blog post)
Dark and pale morph Peppered Moths
Successfully breeding Great Spots in the Old Vic garden was great to have
Our orchid hunting continued into June with Late Spider (above) and Lizard Orchids (below)
Meanwhile back at Beddington Farmlands- it was the beginning of another year of controversy as the Thames Water decommissioning of wetland started to take it's first casualties with drying out habitat providing opportunities for predators to target ground nesting birds. This initiated the Save the Lapwings campaign (SEE HERE
The mini-farm in June- all going well