Friday, 31 December 2021

Mini-zoo

The mini-zoo continues to evolve at the Old Vicarage. So far one Syrian Hamster, 14 tropical fish ( 1 Amazon Angel Fish, 1 Siamese-fighter, 4 Neon Tetras, 4 White-lined Mountain Minnows, 2 Sword-tail Guppies and 2 Varied Platy) , 1 Leopard Gecko, 1 Dartmoor Pony and 3 smelly Dogs. That's an additional 10 species to add to the 1020 species which are either wild or naturalised in the garden.

Monday, 27 December 2021

The Year in Numbers, 2021

So here are a few very basic and rough and unready metrics for 2021 that we measure our small organisation. LITTLE OAK GROUP , annual productivity by with using a triple bottom line framework- Economic Capital, Natural Capital and Social Capital. It's a mess but its a start. These are small numbers for small minded people like us and basically any individual or any small company can measure their success in this kind of framework and use it for healthy competition and fun purposes. It could be possible to elaborate on this and use standardisation and scoring systems and indices to get an annual all round score and rank organisations and individuals within a sustainability framework (to provide an alternative to a GDP framework).  Who knows instead of FTSE indices in the future we might have Triple Bottom Line Indices with investors being given better choice over ethical investments and the companies who score low in Sustainability could be put in higher tax brackets too to encourage higher share prices for the all round performing companies?   A lot of this information will be available to big data companies anyway (through companies house and internet activity and measuring things like negative feedback/complaints on social media etc) who could build company profiles and rank them for investment guidance even without their permission (I guess Ethical Consumer already do something like that). Governments could also harvest this information and use it to measure individual sustainability behaviour and reward/punish those within a social credit scoring system etc. Alternatively anyone could equally utilise a similar approach of data harvesting and measuring productivity for negative objectives so I guess its an important game to be in to counter that. Anyway here is our penny's worth. 

ECONOMIC CAPITAL

Turnover and profit for 2021

Approx £300,000 at 25.5% profit across handled contracts

Net assets

Shares across land, properties, enterprise values and holdings in stocks and cryptocurrency: approx £2.5 million across distributed network (owned by directors)   


NATURAL CAPITAL 

Land (not including property) owned and/or directly managed

 Approx: 5 acres in UK and Bulgaria

Land managed indirectly/ contribution to management

 Little Oak Tree and Garden care service over 500 private gardens and communal blocks equal to approx 64 acres not including nature reserves and public spaces (enormous areas over 500 hectares).   

Project Species Inventory Totals 

The Old Vicarage: 1020 species (including priority species) all time, 6976 moths of 427 species in 2021

Beddington Farmlands: 2000+ species (including priority and red data species) all time. (See next years report for more) 

Natural Capital Monitoring Effort Indicators

Ebird checklists in 2021: 131 (approx 400 hours)

Irecord checklists in 2021: approx 100 (approx 200 hours)

Rarities found: Elevation of Short-billed Gull to full species status was the best 'find' of the year (a first for the WP), also a few county rarities but overall not a great year. Two Vagrant Piercers in Bucks and Oxon were the best moth finds (both less than 10 records for the counties).   

Carbon Accounts

On our negative side we have fossil fuel vehicles for work and also flights to overseas projects. On our positive we plant and protect trees and shrubs and store carbon in the approx 70 acres of land we directly or indirectly manage. Would need to measure more precisely but we must be on our way to carbon neutrality and if you include the counterfactual- (if a regular tree or garden company managed those 70 acres they would cut down everything in sight and block pave/ astro turf  it) then we are presumably in a strong positive position? 

Net Biodiversity Gain Accounts 

These results will be in our project reports such as the Beddington Farmlands Bird and Wildlife Report etc. Difficult to make simple conclusions but overall where we do measure things there are lots of positives. Again another area for more work. 

SOCIAL CAPITAL 

Facebook Pages Metrices

Beddington Farmlands: 4.7 stars, top post had a reach of 18.5K, 1877 followers

Blog Views

153,000 in 2021, 1.69 million all time for Non-stop Birding (the Corvo blog gets another 14K or so mainly in October) 

Publications in 2021

Beddington Farmlands Bird Report (1), Portuguese Rarities Committee Report (1), Birdwatch/Birdguides article (2 including a re-release)) Telegraph and Source Material (1- contributed to) 

Total Number of Project Publication Reads on Research Gate

11328 reads (all time) 62.8 research interest (which is 58% higher than average on this platform) 

Other social media metrics

On our April Bulgaria trip we did some Tik Tok videos with Dylan and one of them went viral with 4.5 million views. Ridiculous. 

Also on Twitter with a slowly increasing following (although Twitter is a bit dry and serious for what we do, facebook is a better and more down to earth platform for remtards like ourselves ) 

Personal bird and moths lists (mine) 

All time world bird list: 2945 (a few armchair ticks plus Long-toed Stint and Great Snipe this year)

All time WP list: 706 (LT Stint and Great Snipe this year) 

All time WP Moth List (mainly UK so far) : 778 (at least 70 lifers this year mainly from the Old Vic) 

Azores Bird List: 242 (nothing new as didn't visit this year)

Beddington Farmlands Bird List: 224 (nothing new)

Oxfordshire Bird List: 169   (15 new ones this year) 

Surrey Bird List: 243 

The Old Vicarage Bird List: 87 

British Bird List: Couldn't give any less of a fuck (too much traffic on the UK roads to bother with this :-) )  

LITTLE OAK GROUP

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Ebird 2021 Review

This is a fascinating read! Inspiring developments and growth have occurred in 2021 with huge developments in Ebird applications for nature conservation and lots of new fun features for birders. I'm looking forward to play around with the new Trip Reports function. 

Direct link HERE

Happy Xmas

Happy xmas!

Top presents (mainly from myself to myself) below:

This stunning and essential gull identification booster by friends Peter Adriaens and Fred Jiguet is everything and more than I expected. I pre-ordered 10 copies (to get into the hands of aspiring young birders) without even looking at the samples as I knew the authors would create a masterpiece.  Peter's genius in being able to condense seemingly infinite variability in this group of birds into relatively straight forward diagnostic criteria is unparalleled on this planet. An incredible piece of work and testament to decades of study and skilful coordination of a regional specialist birding community which is always done with methodical and surgical rationality, patience, humility and kindness. As far as I'm concerned this is the un-rivalled birders book of the year. Buy HERE  . I also bought Alex Lees and James Gilroy's Vagrancy book- 2nd place for me in birders book of the year for 2021 (another stunning culmination of a life long dedication and study).  
Second place for best xmas present of 2021 was this 'Pigeons are Liars' hoodie
and our Home Menagerie continues to expand with this Leopard Gecko joining the club  

Friday, 24 December 2021

The Old Vicarage 2021 Review

The last of these project quick annual reviews, our homebased wildlife gardening project at the Old Vicarage. This is basically the pilot to what we are working towards (our own eco-farm/nature reserve) so the one acre plot here gives us a good area to practise and experiment on. We've basically got our own eco-farm/nature reserve already here but the ambition is to scale this up one day and move the effort to the coast/migration flyway. In the meantime will keep practising and learning in this beautiful place.  

Here's a few photo highlights. A mini-moth report on the local moth blog HERE.

The first moth lifer of the year was this Yellow horned. 

In the first wave of spring planting the early potatoes went in, we've extended this area for next Spring and also grow a few tubs of potatoes too
A couple of good moths in the summer included this Fen Wainscot (above) and Olive (below) 

Summer at the mini-farm.   
Mere Wainscot- another summer moth highlight. We found this in the first of our summer Bioblitzes. See HERE
Italian Tubic 
Lilac Beauty 
Beautiful China Mark 
Dark Spruce Knot-horn 
Harvest time in early autumn
This female Gem was a very welcomed migrant
Feathered Gothic was our 1000th species for the garden HERE
Moth of the year has to be this Vagrant Piercer, a local mega migrant (less than 10 records for Bucks) 
After waiting for our first Clifden Nonpariel we had six this year  
Prepping, preserving and soup making - we managed to fill up the freezer with winter supplies 
Jacob ready for a garden bug hunt 
A large flock of mixed tits and warblers were present in the garden during the autumn containing a few Willow Warblers . Other garden birding highlights through the year including the summering Spotted Flycatchers, a flyover Hawfinch in late autumn and wintering Siskins. 
An autumn storm resulted in the loss of a few trees in the garden and a near miss for the campervan
The last big harvest was the pumpkins
The Old Vicarage after a snow fall in November 
This Buzzard was a garden resident for a few months
The mini-farm in late autumn. Isabella moved into the coach house recently. 
Meanwhile back in the house we renovated the loft into a new office for Little Oak Group/World of Twigg. We also started to build our pet army with a new aquarium to add to the hamster, pony and dogs and today we are off to buy a Leopard Gecko. This domesticated animal/ pet/ zoo biodiversity element to natural history is literally a bit of an elephant in the room. If we include all the domesticated and pet animals and plants species that humans bring with them into the built and garden environments and into parks and zoos/wildlife parks/collections, things actually start looking (with a slight perspective shift) a lot less bleak. Hopefully we will get chickens here soon too.   
The new bird feeders have taken off now and are often crowded . Interestingly no House Sparrows in our garden this time of year
This was a nice surprise in December, a retrospective identification by the CMR from 19th July- a lifer in the form of a Minor-shoulder Knot 
The big addition to the Old Vicarage this year was little Isaac, the seventh human member of the Old Vicarage community in addition to the pets and the 1020 wild and naturalised species that we have recorded on site. An ambition for next year is to pass the 500 moth species milestone (currently on 484)

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Twitching, travel and county birding Review 2021

One of the benefits of being patch displaced is the opportunity for nomadism. For the first time in many years (since I moved out of the Beddington Farmlands obs) I now do not have a primary birding patch so until we get our own reserve/eco-farm it's a good opportunity to take inspiration from Hawfinches and Crossbills and wander around looking for sustenance. Its been very interesting and great to have central databases like Ebird and Irecord to submit records to keep track of the meanderings and also to feel like still part of  a 'patch' but on a much bigger scale. So here's a few pics of my wanderings for 2021, for county birding highlights scroll further down.

I did a two dayer in Yorkshire to twitch the Long-toed Stint (above) and White-tailed Lapwing (below).

A few days in Kent through the year were pretty standard - this Bonaparte's Gull at Oare is now in it's ninth returning year 
I bought a generator and did a few days moth exploring. A couple of trips to Portland were epic.
Caught my own Radford's Flame Shoulder (above) and other Portland specialities such as Flame Brocade (below) 

Started over-nighting in the camper for work trips to London- hope to  move around in the coming Spring and Summer and do some more moth trapping  
A couple of camping trips with the family and lots of days out (below). I'm learning a surprising amount about prehistoric life thanks to a shared interest with Jacob and visits to dinosaur attractions and museums. 

Started looking into taking Jacob on field trips to look for fossils (was kindly donated these fossils above on a recce to Warden Point on Sheppey to start our collection). The mission with Jacob for 2022 is to look for a bird fossil and plan family trips around fossil hunting locations.  

Local Birding in Oxon and Bucks 
The year started off with an exciting influx of White-fronted Geese, these birds were at Otmoor
Local Long-eared Owls are always a winter winner 
Found this Black Redstart on Oakley Airfield 
Another okayish local find was this Brent Goose at Otmoor (had a pretty good finding start to the year with White-front in Bucks and a few other bits too- unfortunately my luck dried up and I had a finding famine for most of the autumn) 
This Grey Plover at Otmoor was another local winter highlight. The White-fronted Goose spectacle continued throughout the winter (Otmoor birds again below) 

By February there were amazing numbers of wintering waders and waterfowl at Otmoor including this flock of Ruff
Nick found this Ring-necked Duck at Otmoor 
The excellent local birding was associated with the whole area being very wet and well flooded
This Glossy Ibis at Otmoor in Spring was the first in a good year for this species locally
Golden Plovers up on Oakley Airfield. Unfortunately this great local birding site was seized by Capitalists in the Spring (below) who removed all public access and are now building an autonomous vehicle testing track on it. It was an excellent site within walking distance. 

Found this Great Egret at Waterstock- a first for this site 
The arrival of Curlews in early Spring is a local phenomenon - a lowland breeding population still survives in the Thame Catchment - we can hear them singing from the garden some days which is simply brilliant 
Myself and Isaac West did a big day at Otmoor in April and managed to see 100 species in a day at this fabulous site
Wheatears on the airfield were the last good birds I saw up there before it was lock downed. Will try and speak to the farmer to see if he will allow access for a bit of birding. 
These breeding Garganey on Otmoor were a summer highlight
Did some more moth trapping at Waterstock Mill- a big population of Poplar Hawkmoths there and a few local specialities including Dotted Fan-foot and this Large Emerald (below) was a lifer. Also caught a Vagrant Piercer there which is an Oxon mega- only three or so records.

Purple Sandpiper at Farmoor Reservoir in September- mega! 
Isaac found this brilliant juv Caspian Gull at Farmoor in September 
Mid-autumn in Oxforshire was all about herons and egrets. Cattle Egrets colonised the county this year and by the end of the breeding season there were flocks roaming. Great Egrets keep becoming more regular (a confiding bird at Otmoor below) .

This Purple Heron at Blenheim Park was another local autumn highlight
Cattle Egret conquest (Otmoor)
Finally saw a Brown Hairstreak at Otmoor
Thomas found this Pec at Port Meadow- another local birding highlight 
Little Auk on the Thames in the wake of Storm Arwen was absolutely mega! 
Still a week left of the year so hopefully time for another local highlight. The Weasel yesterday was the most recent highlight.