Sunday 31 October 2021

Another tornado

To mark the beginning of COP26 a powerful squall (a small tornado) ripped through the Old Vic today and took down four trees. This is now the second time in two years we've had this kind of incident HERE   which has resulted now in the loss of 4 trees (an Ash, Elm and Field Maple today) and damage to the Willows. Trees can't be replaced this quickly, luckily we've let a swarm of Elder go wild and Sycamores are growing up so we should have replaced the 'carbon' in the garden but seems like a bit of a negative feed back loop going on with storms taking down trees, removing carbon which creates more storms (and elsewhere wildfires doing the same thing).

Started winter work recently including updating my bird and moth life lists, Luckily IOC have been splitting away so got quite a few bird ticks this year (only got two real ticks this year- Great Snipe and Long-toed Stint). Better on the moths with over 50 lifers. Shouldn't really be bedding in for winter and writing reports, lists and papers quite yet- still a good two weeks left of autumn migration. Will try and get out birding over next few days.   

The storm did bring in a couple of Rusty-dot Pearls. Otherwise pretty quiet in the moth trap over last few days; Feathered Thorn, Red-green Carpet, Green-brindled Crescent, Sprawler, Yellow-line and Red-line Quaker, November moth agg, Chestnut and the odd Rush Veneer. 

Siskins have been feeding in the Silver Birch recently, otherwise not much else of note on the garden bird front. 

Got the garden ready over last few days for the winter with extended beds for next year and also garlic and onions in. Also broad beans in the greenhouse and still got some potatoes, kale and cabbages to harvest. For COP26 the best policy for us and most mortals will be to increase our efforts in sustainability and become as self sufficient as possible and maybe put razor wire round the garden for security while fighting off the capitalists (campaigning against them), staying out their systems and supporting other people in our network and scaling up as much as possible.  
Finally re-constructing the office after dismantling the Beddington Obs- we've refurbished some loft space in the house and started moving things in. Getting all this ready for winter working too. Need to move more books out of storage too to fill out the library.  

Saturday 30 October 2021

COP26- brace yourselves

Just trying to get my head around the process that is going on here which is about to start tomorrow. The objective here is for wealthy powerful humans who are a bit concerned about themselves burning too (Lady Gaga had to leg it from the California fires HERE)  to look for ways to appear like they give a toss about 'humanity' (which they may or may not do) and nature (they probably don't and certainly don't give a monkies about first winter larid)  while also looking for ways to retain their wealth, manage risks of revolution by addressing concerns of the populace (pacifying them) and see if they can make any more money out of it all. Mark Carney describes the Green transition as the greatest financial opportunity of our age with $100 trillion dollars in the game (HERE).  What this means is carbon capture technology, biofuels (our new E10 petrol at the pumps is now 10% biofuel), green energy infrastructure (windfarms, solar, electric cars) and investment and tax incentives to enable a decarbonisation of the planet. 

COP26 is no Extinction Rebellion summit. There won't be much talk of de-growth, orbing, dismantling capitalism, Venus in retrograde, replacing GDP with Gross Domestic Well-being (like Bhutan and New Zealand), reducing overall consumption, redistributing the wealth of billionaires or introducing Natural Capital Accounting. 

So what does this mean for the muppets like me? What does it mean for the birds I like to mince around watching? It probably means that housing, roads and industry will continue to be built (but using green technology), that human population will continue to increase, that nature will continue to be destroyed, that intensive farms will switch from nature less monocultures to even less nature less biofuels (without the human consumption element the chemical additives can increase too) , windfarms and solar farms will cover the earth surface and as all this increases and increases each human becomes less and less significant, becoming increasing lost in larger and larger systems,  living in a smaller and smaller space (houses and gardens are knocked down to create energy efficient apartment blocks), diets being switched to plant based as we can sustain more humans in small spaces eating more efficient plants, higher taxes to pay for this transition, being discouraged to fly and travel (to save the planet) and instead live in a rented box apartment attached to two devices, the first a virtual reality head set which gives access to the metaverse where we will be greeted by digital humans HERE and permitted to explore a world beyond our coops and the second headset from the corporation we are working for in customer services (thank you covid for helping the corps achieve more working from home- these billionaires even get viruses working for them!) .

The alternative scenario in the great plan that billionaires have for me, is restricted access to the metaverse (premium access only for collaborators) and universal credit/ universal basic income instead of a job (where the taxes for benefits pay for the Netflix bills, headsets and rent).  Both options include mass chemical control and antidepressants to keep the masses sedated and calm and to abate revolution. What with childless lives being promoted (Birthstike HERE ) and relationships very difficult to sustain what with humans lost in massive diverse systems and unable to find commonality on Tinder and Grinder- it is likely we will be alone in a box with access to a digital fantasy world to choose instead of suicide- the whole thing generating billions and billions of pound for billionaires who have their own mansions, massive gardens, private nature reserves to hunt on and steaks to tuck into and their happy families (everything they value, which they have convinced us we shouldn't) . 

COP26 is not about saving the planet or humanity, its about saving a group of humans and enslaving the rest and doing the whole thing at the expense of nature and wildlife (business as usual). Indeed de-carbonisation could well stop the planet from hell fire but we could instead be walking into a new cool hell. As ever and always the muppets will need to look after ourselves and will have to save ourselves. We need to maintain our own mind, freedom, wealth and power and find a way to keep moving and keep evolving.   

Main thing to remember is that a broad scale, the left and right are in it together for both good and bad. Lefties will tell us to stop having children, stop eating meat, stop travelling, surrender our freedoms and the right will mop that up and stick us in boxes eating chickpeas (with some marine algae sprinkled on it to make it taste a bit fishy and call it vegan tuna salad) and charge us for the head sets,  the rent and the vegan deliveroo. The corporations and wealthy fund these charities and activist groups through donations because the whole process works for them all . On the good side of this not so holy alliance, the left will encourage us not to be greedy bastards and the right will encourage us to not be lazy bastards. There's always a good side, there is always a choice for every individual to win, which is how the universe justifies itself (I believe in  consciousness formed by the sums of our individual parts of it but I also believe he/she/him/her is bored and slightly psychotic in the vastness of eternity) this squid game of life we all find ourselves having to play.  

The aim of this game is to dance around, having a laugh, stay alive, keep shining and avoiding all these fuckers trying to stick us in a dark cage and if we want to keep enjoying birds , not only will we have to save ourselves but them too. COP26 is not going to sort that out but it could shake up the game and reshuffle a few cards in the stacked pack. I saw this nice thing yesterday, the UK's first natural capital business HERE. Maybe a bit elitist, big landownery and hob-nobby but certainly seems like the principles can be adopted to more people power approach.  The good thing about these summits and high level processes is that if you pick apart all the bullshit hiding amongst the turds are opportunities to actually do something good that can be mobilised to stay free, escape the global slave camps and spend time in nature birding . 

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Corvo FAQs

As I keep getting asked the same questions here is a quick Corvo FAQ. The fact that people ask these questions implies they lack basic understanding of what birding is so I've taken the time to spell a few things out. If you are a seasoned birder and read this and haven't worked this out for yourself yet I would suggest as a rule in life that you are better off following orders of someone you trust rather than expressing opinions of your own as it will be a good thing for you to accept that- you will be happier and less angry. 

1) Why don't birders just go to America to see American Birds?

They do. Personally I have seen very few lifers on Corvo, seen most of the species in America before. However if you want to see or find American birds within the Western Palearctic the Azores is the premium site. The same question applies to all twitching and rarity hunting, why do British birders go to Shetland or Scillies to see or find birds which you can easily see by travelling to Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Asia or America, in the case of Scilly also for about the quarter of the price, hundred times the birds and without having to throw up over the side of the Scillonian too. Why do birders get excited about seeing a Skua on an inland reservoir or a Pochard flying over their urban garden ? 

Of course the answer to these questions is relativity, context and perception. If you really want to go and see rare birds then go through the IUCN list of critically endangered species and go looking for them.  

If however you enjoy the concept of games, boards and pieces than there is added value in being a bit more fractal and less serious.  British birders/twitchers have drawn a line (depending on what game you are playing it's either the geographic unit of the British Isles including Ireland or the political boundaries of the United Kingdom which Nicola Sturgeon could well and truly fuck up) to create a playing field with the aim of attempting to see as many birds in that playing field. On this playing field, like a real life game of Pokeman, certain pieces are harder to find (rarities) and  have higher values/more points and they become desirable and then players (birders) compete to collect them or find them. Its a first world phenomenon. 

The Western Palearctic board is basically a bigger game and World Birding is the biggest game. Then of course there are smaller games like county birding and then smaller games like local patching and then the smallest game of all- garden birding. In all those games, the playing fields are different as are the pieces with different values in different games. A general way of measuring absolute value is the concept of 'Description Species' - within each recording area/playing field, there are generally referee-like organisations (rarities committees) which define the species within that area which are rare and assess those claims to assist in maintaining high standards of play/identification and to help regulate fraud (stringing) and error (stringing again).  From a bird finders point of view, description species are the tokens to collect i.e. county rarities and national rarities.  National rarities are perceived as having more value but it's not a perfect scoring system as a Lanceolated Warbler on Fair Isle is nowhere near a good a find as a Long-tailed Skua in Surrey. More elaborate scoring systems and leagues are also featured in some initiatives such as Local Patch Challenge.   

Like all games/sports there are also serious implications to these games, it provides people with purpose and focus, increases their mental and physical fitness,  data is collected for nature conservation purposes, it drives innovation and invention in birding technology, it creates economy, jobs and community and most important of all it's an alternative to the worst most boring game on the planet- collecting money and things. Collecting birds is so much more fun and doesn't generally involve child labour, sweat shops, suicide nets, enslaving the working classes, destroying the planet and serving billionaires and Satanic forces. 

So if you love Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, love travel, love different cultures, meeting foreign birding friends and of course love the birds of the Western Palearctic, then it's a great game and if your playing that game then Corvo and the Azores is the autumn hub (its like the Shetland or Scillies for Europe) and THE place to collect those American birds.     

2) ....but the Azores isn't part of the Western Palearctic, its part of America.

I haven't actually got the patience for this at the moment. Bare with me I will come back on this but in the meantime if you really hold this opinion- go and take a long look at yourself in the mirror first and ponder why you feel you should hold this opinion and ask yourself these questions

a) What the fuck do I know about biogeographical zones and how they are designated? 

b) Why have I got an opinion on something I have no knowledge of?

c) Why have I been convinced that democracy and freedom is a good thing for me?

d) Should I move to China, I could be happier living under Oppression and Dictatorship?

Tuesday 26 October 2021

One billion pound fraud probe called for by Sutton Council Opposition into the Beddington Farmlands Incinerator


Monday 25 October 2021

A few bits and pecs

 It's half term so my last week off work is going to die in a birding whimper of family attractions and zoos. I managed to sneak in the Pec at Port Meadow found by Thomas Miller today and also got a quickie in at Otmoor yesterday HERE  - the Golden Plovers are arriving and also had a Merlin. With Pec my Oxon list is on a rather appalling 168 HERE

A few new for year moths in the trap. Did a load of work in the garden yesterday. Finally saw the f#cking Armadillo (Six-banded) at Cotswold Wildlife Park today after three attempts (about £120!) of seeing it in its cage!  

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper . Other Pecs that have featured on this blog HERE (including a sound recording). 
Sprawler- new for year 
Yellow-line Quaker- new for year
Chestnut or Dark Chestnut? It's a Chestnut (thanks Dave) . Also seemed like we had a stow away from Portland today when I found a Feathered Ranunculus in the van. It flew off (despite my efforts to stop it)  into Bucks so beware any local trappers.  
Rush Veneer- surprised to see this migrant in the cold trap this morning 

Winter Onions and Garlic are in the mini-farm. We are harvesting cabbages now, Kale is still growing, there are still potatoes in the ground and loads of Beets and Parsley

Nice light in the garden this morning 

Redwings (66 calls last night) and Tawny Owl. An evocative recording which captures the atmosphere of nocturnal migration. 
The bastard was asleep too! 

Sunday 24 October 2021

13th Portuguese Rarities Committee Report

We have recently published the latest report from the Portuguese Rarities Committee (Part of Birdlife Partner SPEA)  which can be viewed and downloaded HERE


Friday 22 October 2021

Brill Windmill and the Old Vic

Did about three hours up at Brill Windmill this morning. A late Swallow and a few Bramblings, Redwings and quite a few Chaffinches moving with a few Goldcrests in the bushes and a Chiffchaff (Ebird list HERE). Also a couple of flocks of Woodpigeons moving- the harbinger of the last migration wave of autumn is near. 

Back at the Old Vic I had a few flocks of Golden Plover going over high a couple of evenings ago (presumably the local Oakley Airfield birds arriving back) and the Tawny Owls have been very vocal. The moth trap has been relatively quiet in the now much cooler evenings but still a few new for years including Satellite and November moth agg. 

Went to our local farm shop this morning (as ever trying to only buy non-industrial products where possible) and they had a game fair on with the British Association of Shooting and Conservation and other countryside groups that would trigger the likes of Mark Avery and Chris Packham into a right frenzy. I certainly get the sense I'm behind some kind of enemy lines in this part of the world what with it being Tory and hunting heartland but to be honest the whole region is absolutely stunning and there is a real abundance in wildlife, even away from RSPB controlled Otmoor (which is the nuts though), so probably some kind of indication of the perils of populist politics.   

Brill Windmill 
Redwings on the move
November moth agg
View from Brill looking west over towards Otmoor (north of the Beckley mast to left of image on horizon). The Whitchurch Sand Formation and Purbeck group beds form the hills at Brill that rise above the Otmoor basin and the Oxford Clay Formation. Most of the geology and corresponding ridges and valleys orientate roughly SW-NE in this area. Most of the vis mig today was go due west cutting across the ridges so presumably on a broad front and not really bottle necking or funnelling over Brill. Wind today was from the north west. Brill looks like the best vantage point for vis-mig close to home but would be interested to find out if there are any better vis mig stations in the local area.  

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Portland Trip

Spent the last couple of days on Portland hoping to catch some rare migrant moths in the mild air being drawn up from the south. It did produce some scarcities in the region but looks like further west with Tunbridge Wells Gem, Scarce Burnished Brass and a few S.recurvalis.  We only had a few regular migrants so overall, in the spirit of autumn 2021 it was somewhat lesser than expectations but was nevertheless exciting and atmospheric and good to meet up with Kojak and the Portland obs gang. Also great to meet Ian Lewington who is also our Oxon county recorder. The system intensified into rather stormy weather especially by today which blew a few seabirds round. 

In addition to a nice little range of migrant moths highlights also included Kittiwakes, Gannets and auks migrating, a Little Gull at Chisel Cove, a Pom off the Bill at first light, an Arctic Skua yesterday,  a couple of flocks of Siskins wheezing around but apparently the rarest thing we saw were hundreds of Black-headed Gulls moving west at the Bill which we only sub-consciously even noticed until Martin told us such a movement is somewhat unprecedented at the Bill (See Portland Blog HERE).   

Kittiwakes (above and below). Had a couple of hundred of these over the last two days. 

Pomarine Skua 
Gannets of different ages (above and two below) 

Juvenile Shag 
First-winter Med Gull battling against the wind 
First-winter Common Gull pelagic style 
Had about 275 Gannets this morning 
Olive-tree Pearl
Dark Sword Grass- had two of these, one in my trap and one at the obs
Rusty-dot Pearls 
Radford's Flame Shoulder (above and below). The one below was one I actually caught in my actinic- nice to catch your own. 

Feathered Brindle- less of these since a few weeks ago. Also much less Lunar Underwings now. 
Feathered Ranunculus- beautiful variation in these  
Flame Brocade 
Great to have all the mobile gear out at a top migration spot- hopefully if I keep this up I'll catch something good one day. Species list this time included the above and also Delicates, a few Silver-Y,  Mallow, White point, Angle Shades, Turnips, Square-spot Rustics, Lunar Underwing, Beaded Chestnuts, Beautiful Gothics, Large Ranunculus, L-album Wainscots, Red-line Quaker, Green-brindled Crescent, Black Rustics, Large and Lesser Yellow Underwing and Eudonia angustea. 

Monday 18 October 2021

Autumn 2021- So far, so bad

Since mid- July I have done 34 birding sessions (according to Ebird which is most but not all), usually an average of 4 hours (including some all-dayers and some quickies). So that's approx. 136 hours in the field this autumn so far with concentrated effort in the last two weeks. So far I have found absolutely nothing in the way of description bird species. Got to be one of my worst autumns that I can recall. Seen a few good birds such as Purple Sandpiper, Purple Heron and an influx of Cattle Egret locally and also seen Long-toed Stint and White-tailed Lapwing and found a few little bits like Wood Sand, Great Egret and Whimbrel. What with screwing up my Corvo trip too (and missing Prothonotary and Cape May Warbler there More grippage here ), not being able to travel to Bulgaria and spending literally all day at Beddington yesterday to dip the Penduline Tit there (a first for the farm) , this has to be one of my worst autumns but not sure it tops the 2016 disaster ( HERE). Since I did this post HERE  the most recent autumns have also been pretty good , 2017 was really good for local finds, 2018 was absolutely epic on Corvo, 2019 was  mainly in Eastern Europe and 2020 was excellent British rarity hunting. Still got a few weeks left of the autumn so maybe still time to save the day but so far, so bad.

Luckily I do moths too, which I  started as a way of doubling the chances of finding rarities and also bad weather for birds is good for insects so increases field work efficiency (shift taxon focus depending on weather conditions) and if I add the mothing hours (and a bit of noc-mig) its got to be another 150 hours (2 hours more or less daily) so in total that's near 300 field work hours this autumn. It's been better on this front with a few county rarities and scarcities including Vagrant Piercers (mega for Oxon and less than 10 records for Bucks), a good run of Clifden Nonpariels, a few migrants such as Gem, Olive-tree Pearl and Dark Sword Grass (all good inlanders), jammed in on the UK's biggest night of Radford's Flame Shoulders at Portland (plus saw the other local specialities), a Dark Spruce Knot-horn , Flame Crest and Dotted Fan-foot (goodies for Bucks) and loads of moth lifers (cuz I'm such a moth dude still). 

It's not all sunshine and the inevitable bad autumns have to be endured but basically moths have saved the day.  Anyway its not over yet- still a few weeks to go and more determined than ever to make sure once these annoying covid restrictions are lifted, that lost time is made up for.     

Saturday 16 October 2021

World of Twigg- Craft Fair Day

Spent today supporting Holly with her World of Twigg brand at the local pub craft fair. Please support small traders and creators this xmas instead of buying shipped shit from billionaires. There are so many equally convenient ways of buying gifts through online platforms such as ETSY, although not ethically perfect,  its better than Amazon. Holly's shop is HERE . So many reasons for supporting local artists and crafts people directly including purchasing unique designs, often personalised and handmade, high quality, most e-cottage industries have small carbon footprints and at the same time not supporting culturally homogenising, environmentally destroying and billionaire making junk culture.   

I've added a World of Twigg gadget down the side bar of this blog. View in web version to see all our products and services including nature friendly tree and garden work, specialist birding and nature trips to the Azores,  World of Twigg cards and crafts,  Thee Bryans music and Bird reports and books. Alternatively view on the Little Oak Group Website HERE

Birding Forecast for this week

I think last week was a good call- I should have been on Corvo HERE and indeed a Prothonotary Warbler and a few other american vagrants were found and the decision to go twitching was also a good one considering not much else was found anywhere else. Also predicting common bird migration in the light westerly windows came good this week with lots of good vis mig. 

So here goes for this week. Tomorrow a period of light westerlies continues so it's back on the vis mig (or twitching Beddington if this local mega is re-found (SEE HERE). From early next week a warm blast of air comes up from the south which could be good for moth migration and southern vagrants so I'm heading to Portland. By the end of the week the wind is coming from the far north so I'll probably be heading indoors for that!

A westerly airflow (but maybe broken) continues to affect the Azores so who knows what can happen out there- the late autumn could bring in later migrating American species. I'm UK bound now due to family commitments so will have to enjoy the show remotely. 

Usual caveats apply- it's October, anything can turn up any time any where and there is a lot more to vagrancy and migration than just weather (See Birdwatch articles HERE and HERE) but weather is one of the concentrating mechanisms that can increase the odds of finding something but as ever and always there is no better method than blanket cover/ carpet bombing with large numbers of observers. 

Friday 15 October 2021

COP 15

 Press release HERE

More biodiversity targets from the UN. Considering most of the last set of targets were not reached see  HERE and HERE it is only rational to not have much faith in this 'top down' process. There was a bit of somewhat good news in the background of this week's COP15 see HERE  . 

So once all the hyperbole has blown through and the baby is torn to bits by the scavenging for the political and funding capital available, who knows what actual gains to biodiversity there will be?

A citizen/private led biodiversity recovery programme would in many ways compliment and even possibly exceed the potential of the establishment doing anything. The digital tools for cooperation and innovation are lying around everywhere and seemingly few people are picking them up. It would help if we stopped looking to the establishment (they can provide some broad frameworks but not much else), that's just lazy to think that a bunch of head-nodders with a made up title in a some select committee (selected through heavily corporate lobbied hierarchies  for their ability to go with the flow - i.e. down the pan) can do the work that is our responsibility to do. By pretending they are anything else but some old bones to the world is their sin. How can they justify immense salaries if they admit that. If they admit that the money that is hoarded within inequality needs to be used to empower a citizen's global recovery they would need to stand down, to resign. That is exactly what they need to do.  A humility for them to speak out to citizens, to declare their impotence, their subjugation, their enslaved positions is the best thing they could do. When little girls point it out to the world they clap. They clap their own scorning.

A more equal society for nature and people can only be achieved by the abusers taking the knee (through seeing the need to do so themselves) and the abused standing up. The Rewilding movement provides some leadership on this approach HERE and the further democratisation and privatisation of nature conservation can only open up new routes and possibilities. 

Over the next few months we will begin rolling out the first wave of a campaign to push our small organisation forward to fly some kites on all this.  We are going to stand up. 

The Old Vicarage

At home for the next few days. Did some vis migging, noc-migging and mothing in the garden. A few autumn bits Ebird list here, the highlights being Redwings, Song Thrush and Robin over at night, the usual Tawny Owls which have been vocal again for last few weeks,  a Great Egret over Wheatley Services on the way up north a couple of days ago and today a Woodcock flew over the road on the way to Starbucks. A couple of NFY moths.

Spent most of the day moving into the new Loft Office at the Old Vicarage, getting ready for a new push at work once the autumn is over. 

Large Wainscot NFY
Red-line Quaker- a couple of these recently. Surprisingly very few Sallows this year, not even had a single Common Sallow in the garden (had a few locally at Henry's). Also no Yellow-line Quaker yet. 
After an absence for a while a couple of Vine's Rustic have reappeared recently 
Brick- NFY

Thursday 14 October 2021

White-tailed Lapwing

Had to be done considering I was already in Yorkshire. Ebird list HERE . Nice to see some other birds we don't get down south with flocks of Pink-footed Geese going back and forth. 

White-tailed Lapwing
Spotted Redshank
Curlew Sandpiper
Barnacle (above) and Pink-footed Geese (below)

This rascal species has been responsible for two of my very few twitching adventures HERE