Tuesday 29 November 2022

The Old Vic update - Lazlo

Seems like we have finally found a solution for the Cockerel, Lazlo . After he almost pecked our prize hen to death we had to isolate him and was then deciding whether to turn him into a Sunday roast or keep him as he is such a good looking bird and we might want to breed from him later. Housing the hens has been expensive to make sure we have a predator proof large compound but hopefully in time they will pay for themselves with eggs and compost (and provide insurance against money becoming worthless or supply line disruptions - and in our first year indeed there are now currently egg shortages). So we needed to come up with a cheap solution for the Cockerel (a potential financial liability) so he has been in the old dog kennel for a few weeks imprinting on his new home before we were going to try and free range him (saves money on feed etc). However what with bird flu restrictions (mad that in order to control bird flu, poultry farmers have to contain birds inside in more crowded and inhumane conditions which is why bird flu evolved in the first place) we couldn't let him range round the whole garden and potential village so with a bit of cheap fencing we've got a cheap fix (£14! instead of over £200 for electric fencing or £300 for complete predator proof enclosure) . He escaped within the first morning (we think because one of our drunk family members fell onto the fence) but Isabelle (the pub chef who lives in the coach house) caught him effortlessly (she was raised on a Portuguese farm) and we put him back into his new run. He had made his way over to the hens so if he does escape again it should be easy to find him.  

Bryan has been out shooting pheasants in the local shoot (Mark Avery won't be happy) so we've been getting free game meat lately so I've been trying some new recipes. Still getting through the pumpkins too (got about 10 of them still) so what with eggs, pumpkins and pheasants there is still plenty of home produce to live off even in the winter. We do supplement our self sufficiency with Burger King and Starbucks and local farm shops and markets just to prove our anti-Capitalism is only a protest against the share and indices and reward systems of the global market. The stocks and shares I bought recently were in Sustainable Forestry, Renewable Energy, Water Companies and also Whizzair (that fly me to Bulgaria) so again the system change we would like to advocate is evolution and transition and smart engagement (but genuine transition and not global establishment bullshit and leftist propaganda) and the avoidance of extremism and simple narratives (there is nothing simple about the complex system we all have to survive in)- I suspect real system change can only come from grassroots projects that create that new system themselves and then grow and connect together. 

Still a few moths, good numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares around the garden and the Sheep Field. Making good progress on the digitisation of old notebooks etc, Holly is making good progress with the indoor refurbishments, Jacob is Joseph in his school's nativity play and Isaac has got two new teeth- so all going well. 

Lazlo- the murderous cockerel 
£14 solution
I noticed in Vegan/vegetarian propaganda that there is often the case made that animals are fed food that could be fed to humans which makes the whole meat and diary industry inefficient. However that's not our experience with these chickens. We mainly feed them off garden weeds or mini-farm surplus. They love to eat the chick weed, goosefoots and other weeds that we have to remove from the raised beds, they eat willow leaves from the tree pruning that we have to do or storm damage branches, we throw them worms when digging the beds and they also eat kitchen waste (non-salted or cooked). Indeed we do supplement that with laying pellets but not much (and presumably the laying pellets are also made with industry waste that is not fit for human consumption?).  Indeed some meat and diary practises especially heavily industrialised practises are unsustainable but that's not always the case.  
Still getting the odd migrant- a smart Silver-Y
Scarce Umber (above) and Mottled Umber (below) 

Thanks very much to Peter Hall, this moth has been confirmed (following dissection) as Grey Birch Button, Acleris logiana. My first dissection result, which is exciting. I don't generally like lethal identification methods and really for a certain area once a species pair or group probability has been ascertained then I'm quite happy going with the most probable species for ongoing monitoring purposes (and review the process periodically to check for status changes). However logiana/kochiella were equally likely - so once I've recorded both of them (as a result of dissection) it seems to make sense to use extrapolative means to record them afterwards.   
Incredible photo of female genitalia (Peter Hall)
Did a bit more tidying up in the mini-farm but still keeping the vegetation between the beds for the chickens
Pumpkin curried soup (above) and Pheasant and Pumpkin stew (below)- so delicious. If we ever get our own farm/ reserve some of these recipes will go into the cafe. The dream is to have a field to fork cafe that only serves recipes from the wild/ farm. Slowly getting our menu together. 

Digitising notebooks has been interesting- here is an extract from my birding notes from 1987- amazing how good Beddington used to be for waders. This extract was from July 1987 during a period of Northeast winds. Getting all this data onto Ebird is a good idea as presumably in the future these big data systems will govern global systems and will be used to for example to build global recovery networks for waders. 
Went to Cotswold Wildlife Park at the weekend. After dipping the Six banded Armadillo in the past on numerous occasions, it was good to get a photo of Jacob with it

Monday 28 November 2022

Not a lot of moths and birds but plenty of bad financial decisions

The lack of moths round here is having an impact. Processing a moth trap and doing a bird survey to start the day is a very healthy way of meeting that pesky human need to work , collect and grow. Collecting data and species lists, for me anyway, is a complete substitute for collecting money and goods and provides equal or more fulfilment and to me it seems a good idea to grow economic, social and natural capital together. However the problem round here at the moment is there are no moths and the birding is a bit unchallenging round here at the best of times. 

So like most other winters, when the boredom starts kicking in I start thinking about ambitions and finances. I generally make some poor decisions in my impatience (trying to get a million odd quid together for our private reserve is a long rather boring game so something less dehumanising like short term investment is always very tempting) and this November has been no exception.  After the collapse of the crypto platform FTX I lost all my crypto stake so rather foolishly bought some more on Coinbase. Also after I lost about a grand on a stocks and shares ISA by investing in green tech on the back of the 2021 COP26 I invested more recently on more green stock. Will see if this time is any different- there is something quite addictive and rewarding about watching day to day fluctuations with the potential of realising an asymmetrical risk. A lot of people say don't 'gamble' unless you can afford to loose it all and I do think that's very good advice as you almost certainly will loose (like I do). Making sensible long term financial decisions are so boring and potentially depressing (its just not natural to think too long term)  its important to balance things out with reckless hopeful fantasies of getting rich quick especially when there are no moths to replace that jackpot excitement every day. 

However in addition to my poor decision making things are progressing well on the sensible long long road to making enough money to buy a small farm.  So this was the plan last winter HERE and here's a quick update on that plan

1) Investment in buy to let market- we have two flats in London which are being rented out and the rent is being used to pay off the capital (only 10 percent overpayments permitted within mortgage terms). There is approximately £400K now in equity but final value (once paid off) is currently around £540K. 
We also have a flat in Malta and are currently building another one which together should be worth approx £400 K in equity but only 50% of that can be used for the farm/nature reserve. 
If all goes to plan within 5 years (the saving plan time frame) we should have a  £740K deposit. 
2) Investment in green funds/alternative markets- after retreating from this strategy after making over 20 percent losses, now only investing very small amounts for fun. Who knows with crypto at low points and the stock market down too, there might be more opportunity in the deepening recession to actually make this work (buying in at the bottom) but for now will see if the fun and games yields any results. 
3) Purchasing of land in project sites- this has gone well this year in Bulgaria we partnered to extend the site by 50% so now have about an acre and looking into gradually buying more up, have got services to the site being arranged and will build a small cabin too as well as creating some really nice habitats. Hopefully can work something up worth about £100K but will keep this separate as a satellite/holiday project/home. 
4) Growth in core business activity - as we seem to be heading towards a recession I don't think there will be much scope to grow the tree and garden business, the emphasis will probably be maintaining the whole thing.
5) Continue improvements in HQs- we can certainly do a lot to improve the assets we own and there has been a lot of home and garden improvements this year.

Saving up is painful. Not only is it painful but its also not certain that it will work out. Unless the cost of what your chasing is rising slower than what your saving the target can keep moving away further. Living in a mind set that is anchored in the future, means you don't enjoy the present as much. You could even die before you realise a longer term dream and would have wasted all that effort on a future that didn't even happen. However you could live a long life without trying to fulfill a dream ambition and then regret that your wasted time there too. So getting all this stuff in balance seems to be a good idea and having plenty of time for hobbies and enjoyment and taking reckless foolish risks is so important. Who knows if we ever get this farm/private nature reserve - it will probably be a lot of bloody stress and work and new pain if ever we did so basically the main thing is to take a nice steady enjoyable journey, making the most of the present and the current view, having plenty of stops and plenty of fun, accepting the bits that are a slog and uncomfortable and if ever we arrive at where we are trying to get to (I tend to arrive up somewhere different to where i set off too) , well that will just be the beginning of another bloody long journey. Roll on the Spring because at the moment the less moths the more gambling is going on  round here. 

Friday 25 November 2022

Back at the Old Vic

November is not generally my favourite time of year but this November has been full of surprises with a county first moth earlier on in the month and finding a Bulgarian mega last week. However this week was classic November- boring, bad weather, short days and long cold nights and all rather depressing with no moths and few birds. Fortunately work this week was quite busy (still double figure quotes to look at) and I've been fighting off the seasonal affective disorder by cleaning out the paludarium and aquariums, turning over the raised beds in the mini-farm, cleaning out the chickens and picking away at digitising my notebooks onto Ebird and catching up with the Azores reports. It's all a bit of a slog without the daily excitement of recording new species.  

Despite it being nearly December I am still able to scratch the odd meal out of the mini-farm. The chickens are still laying eggs (Light Sussex do lay all year round) and we harvested the last of the tomatoes and green peppers today. I've ordered the new fencing for Lazlo, the poor cockerel who has been in solitary in the dog kennel since he tried to kill Nadia (the main Hen). 

So basically not a lot happening round here. Need to plan a winter trip to give us something to look forward to while picking away at the winter work list. 

The mini-farm- I've tried not to over tidy it this winter as instead of strimming the 'weeds' between the beds I'm topping them and feeding them to the chickens 
Winter eggs 
Lunch made with nothing but food from  the garden either freshly picked or in storage (potatoes, garlic and onions). I was impressed can still do off grid meals in late November. Still got loads of pumpkins too to eat yet. 
The Panther Chameleon in the Paludarium - nice to have a bit of the tropics indoors. Some of the fish are breeding now and our clean up crew of cat fish, snails and crustaceans seem to be working well  too so we slowly getting a bioactive enclosure. 

Thursday 24 November 2022

The message from the crack

I keep a healthy distance from Beddington Farmlands (also known as the crack as its where all London's sewage and waste ends up so is literally the arsehole of London) nowadays but keep what I've learnt from there very close to heart. Here's the latest from My London HERE where the situation is predictably lining up for further deterioration and exploitation. 

Here's a log of the biggest waste of time in my life HERE (but the most important lesson learnt so also the most valuable use of my time) which ended up me getting kicked out the bird group and every local committee despite the fact that I had devoted most of my life at that time to make this community project a success. 

The lesson is clear and a gentle warning to everyone else. Democracy is a farce and society does not 'work'. Private ownership and dominance hierarchies is where primary power lies and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to limit your power. There is secondary power in democratic fantasies and many high level democracy priests do very well out of disempowering others for payouts from primary power (people like George Monbiot and other prominent 'hard leftists' who get paid well for preaching this bollocks and people working for NGOs funded by Polluters and Ecocidal organisations and do things like name Common Cranes Viridor HERE.) The more people that primary power (via their priests) can convince to sit out of the game, rent and watch others play the more dominance and power they can acquire. From what i can see on environmental social media, a lot of content is propaganda to convince people to do the right thing by owning nothing, not competing  and serving the 'greater good', a familiar 'religious' oppressive strategy that nowadays has replaced Jesus with e.g. Carbon. 

 In theory democracy should work as it's rational- everyone working together should yield greater results (the greater good) but that theory does not take into account human psychology which is a biological algorithm that is wired individualistically, hierarchical and generally short term. Even when this is understood and one individual carries most of the burden of pulling everything together and taking all the risk (like I did) it still doesn't work. The Sutton Biodiversity Officer, Dave Warburton still kicked me off the Science Committee (for things I said about the power hierarchy in a private conversation)  even though there was no risk to himself but rather aimed to win favour in the dominance hierarchy and the same for Marcus Kohler, the site ecologist who campaigned hard to discredit me behind the scenes- again to win favour in the exploitative hierarchy. Even though they could have just permitted my presence they felt they could move up the ladder and score points with superiors by removing me from the equation as I was overall challenging the value extraction agenda but was also suggesting an alternative where value creation was created by the community and NGOs at little cost (maybe a little extra) to the corporation. It was basically in my mind a flawless plan as everyone was a winner and kept their own individual value systems. It was just pulling it together that I was trying to do. However that requires shared inspired belief which is less powerful than fear based belief- which is why the world, in areas, gravitates to inequality, exploitation and decline .

Even Derek Coleman the London Wildlife Trust rep, voted me off the CSG as he didn't want to compromise his position and recently all members of the bird group kept me out of the group following a reshuffle. In short, I as the most prominent and devoted and dedicated Champion of the reserve was outed by the community I was serving and instead they all sided with the Dominance hierarchy- Henry Kravis and his cousin billionaire, KKR, Viridor and Valencia. In this case that dominance hierarchy was an exploitative one to nature as the hierarchy was a fundamental Capitalist ideology.  I do think that all the people who kicked me out will eventually become victim to them too- who needs a council biodiversity officer where government continues to shrink and be starved of resources, who needs a site ecologist when regulation  is being thrown on the bon fire, who needs a conservation NGO when nature conservation is moving into the private sector, who needs a bird group in an area there are no birds left. There will be a justice there as they all rejected a solution so it will be fair result.  

So for me this is the biggest and most important lesson from all this. Landless socio-environmentalists  operating within a democratic system have a weak value system which is easily compromised and very quickly betray each other when faced with low odds . They are very noisy (basically screaming to death and in despair) and tend to dominate social media platforms and attract attention from other people who are also 'screaming to death' so they appear to be 'dominant' and attract large followings but in reality this is just hoards of lemmings following each other off the cliff.  They are basically attempting to impose their values on people higher up the hierarchy, a hierarchy that is also the hand that feeds. They are fighting up hill and attacking an extremely well defended fort which also throws them their survival rations. It's a hopeless strategy. Not only is it a hopeless strategy but it is annoying for primary power (its just unwanted noise that makes no difference to anything) and primary power is now instead of creating the farce of democracy are happy to sacrifice that and get people to accept authoritarianism by seeking to hack vulnerable humans by using big data systems and social media  HERE. Campaigners/activists/socio-environmentalists are increasingly being used to strengthen primary power e.g. Just Stop Oil blocking the M25 etc create a growing hatred for environmentalism. The more extreme and radical that social media drives people to behave in the name of people and planet- the more power to the Fundamental Capitalists and the more they can parade openly as the Authoritarians they are.  

So what is the answer? Well the answer is copying everything above that Fundamental Capitalists do because it's the only thing that works- hacking people, driving inequality, flying the flag of democracy over authoritarian systems, creating fantasies, creating mass delusions but instead of doing it just for money, doing it to create natural and social capital too. Ethically speaking what is wrong with manipulating people into being healthier and happier, what is wrong with inequality when it is responsibility weighted, what is wrong with a fantasy which makes people cope, what is wrong with a delusion that simplifies the world into that something they can be understood. There is a formula to Power and it's the same formula whether it is put to good or not so good outcomes. 

Beddington Farmlands is a largely a lost cause- it's something that will be used for a bit of green wash for an organisation where nature conservation is not part of it's value system (apart from providing a bit of turd polish). Beddington Farmlands is a monument and testament to why democracy/ stakeholder groups do not work , members in these community groups are usually weak and are seeking safety in numbers but when the key stakeholder is predatory that safety is delusional. Private ownership rules the world and whoever wants to make a difference in this world should primarily seek private ownership and land and manage it according to their values and indeed even bring other stakeholders on board at that stage. The world in part (mostly maybe) will often gravitate towards exploitation and decline (especially ecological) and the largest structures on the planet will often generate that. Unfortunately a lot of human life is wasted and used to empower the few but to some kind of degree people choose that so what's wrong with that? I don't know why its just like that- maybe most people are naive and that has enabled societal evolution?.  

There are two main types of potential winners in this game from what I can see - those billionaires and one percenters who own those oppressive structures and create personal paradises from the wider destruction and cost to human wellbeing and the environment and then the other type of winner is those who do the same thing but create personal paradises from their gardens, small farms, small businesses and small passionate endeavours. For the majority of people the best odds are to become winners by being private owners and being the change they want to see and if enough people do that it can make a difference at scale. With enough bullshit (over simplified narratives and noble lies and imagined power hierarchies) too some of those small enterprises can grow into large organisations. People want to feel important because they are not- and key to making a success of anything is understanding that. That can be done in a way that helps people or hurts them. Even though its a long hard road (and lacks the delusional seduction that change can be achieved top down simply) more people need to take power, own land , create jobs,  own environmental businesses and project their values on the world through things they control individually and that.................... is the message from the crack. 

Monday 21 November 2022

Bulgaria, November 2022- Final day

Well that was an excellent week. Found a Bulgarian mega (with Dimiter), saw loads of good birds, ate Tripe soup and wasn't sick, got loads of work done on the plot and also got the ball rolling for services to be connected by Spring.  

I spent the last morning at Cape Kaliakra which was shockingly quiet. Ebird list HERE. I'm so familiar with this place during migration times when it is buzzing that to see it during a mild quiet winter's day was quite eerie. Meadow Pipits, Wrens and Robins were present which are not present in Spring. The highlights were a couple of juvenile Arctic Skua, a Black Redstart and a first-winter Caspian Gull. 

The moth trap was relatively busy last night. A few moths in photos below from the week. I started an I-naturalist project for the project Leps which I need to start working on HERE

Juvenile Arctic Skua
First-winter Caspian Gull flying past 
Meadow Pipit
Grey Partridge out on the Steppe
Black-spot Chestnut - had a handful of these throughout the week. Also had Green-brindled Crescent, Silver-Y (with hundreds in the fields nearby), Rusty-dot Pearl, Rush Veneer, Diamond-back moth, Dark Sword Grass, Beaded Chestnuts, White-speck, November moth agg and Rhomboid Tortrix. Also lots of Painted Ladies about, Clouded Yellows, Red Admirals and Small White. Amazing for November and presumably involving migrants in the mild south winds. 
Black-banded Polymixis- 050122 update- INaturalist update, Polymixis xanthomista (Black-banded) does not occur in Bulgaria so the default is P.rufocincta
This moth was very numerous on the plot and in the surrounding area. Still working on it. Update 050123- the only suggestion so far is Deuterotinea casanella which is mainly a Russian species HERE

Saturday 19 November 2022

Bulgaria- November raptors

I spent the first part of the morning completing the conservation work and by 11am I downed tools to watch Common Buzzards migrating over the project plot. In about 90 minutes there were at least 93 flying into the south wind. There was also 2 Hen Harrier (a male and female) , a Merlin and several Sparrowhawks moving over. EBIRD LIST HERE. This November raptor migration has been a welcomed surprise this week. 

I then headed off towards Shabla, there were raptors all along the coastal steppe, mainly Buzzards and Marsh and Hen Harriers but also a single Long-legged Buzzard. 

I then checked Shabla Tuzla and Shabla Lakes (a few Bewick's Swan and a group of Dunlin) before heading to the Harrier roost at Lake Durankulak. I had 86 harriers up in the air over the reed bed at one point and birds were still coming in and presumably many must have already settled in the reeds so who knows how many there were - the majority were Hen Harriers and there could well have been over 100 Hen Harriers and 20 or so Marsh Harriers. 

108 White-fronts came into roost and there were 16 Bewick's Swans in the field. 2 Water Pipits and a small flock of Golden Plovers  flew over  EBIRD LIST HERE

Had a few moths in the trap last night in the mild conditions. Will post separately on that. 

Migrating Common Buzzards (above and below)  over the project plot- a real bonus to be seeing November raptor migration and especially over the project plot as most raptor passage is concentrated inland from here usually in line with Balchik

Male Marsh Harrier over the Coastal steppe- is that a Steppe Mouse I see? I need Steppe Mouse (tried doing some night drives and spot lighting recently but no luck) and they are everywhere at the moment so it could be. I think I could see the legs still kicking. The tail looks a bit short though like a Field Vole. 
'Ring-tail' Hen Harrier over the Steppe 
Long-legged Buzzard over the Steppe. This has been a three buzzard trip- Common, Long-legged and Rough-legged. 
Male Marsh Harrier 
Difficult to photograph how impressive it looks to watch nearly 100 harriers (mostly Hen) coming into the reed bed (above and below) 

Bewick's Swans (above and below) . It was a barmy 22 C today. Watching wild swans and White-fronts in summer conditions was quite surreal especially considering it's November. A bit worrying really. 

Bottlenose Dolphins off Cape Shabla- this is the first time I can remember seeing these out here. If I recall correctly they are a Black Sea subspecies. Also had a couple of Harbour Porpoise off the coast in last few days. 
Had this Red Squirrel (or whatever these things are? Black Squirrels? whatever the latest taxonomy is) at the project plot. Also had at least four Golden Jackals calling at dusk yesterday. The project plot mammal list now includes Field Vole, Wood Mouse, Red Squirrel, Roe Deer (caught on camera trap last Spring) and Golden Jackal. Also a few unidentified Bats. 

Friday 18 November 2022

Bulgaria, Kamen Bryag

It was another work day today, this time paperwork. Before I met Dimiter in Dobrich I had a walk round Kamen Bryag (our project location). Ebird list HERE. Common Snipe and Dunnock were new for the local hotspot HERE. Then most of the day was sorting out permissions and legalities for connecting water to our plot. If all goes to plan we should have electricity and water on the plot by next Spring. 

Once again after a day of bureaucracy I was rewarded with a dusk treat- this time I discovered a roost of Short-eared Owls on the nearby Steppe- there were 19 of them! Blinking impressive. Must be another response to the mammal explosion (locally called a calamity) this winter.

Just a few of the Shorties in failing light (above and below) 

Syrian Woodpecker, also Lesser and Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker this morning 
Crested Lark- first time I've seen them locally 
Calandra Lark and Skylark (centre) comparison flight shot 
Silver-Y. There must have been hundreds of these in the local area today. Seems like at some point there has been a big emergence or immigration of these 
The Kamen Bryag cliffs this evening 
More classic ex-Communist urban scenes. Something quite brutally cool about it. 

Thursday 17 November 2022

Bulgaria, work day

Dimiter and I spent the day working at the project plot. We did a hay cut on the meadow area, transplanted some trees and burnt off some brash wood piles (old vines etc) and made a log pile. We  had to burn off some material we had stock piled in the summer when we couldn't burn so before we did we had to check the material for hibernating animals. Sure enough there were several Field Voles and also a Spur-thighed Tortoise. The voles ran off but we had to move the Tortoise to another compost area we have. Will certainly create and maintain new composting/ hay pile areas in future (this one was in the wrong place) as they are certainly good bits of habitat. 

We worked to dusk and there was Little and Long-eared Owl and Woodcock flying around the plot as it got dark.
Spur-thighed Tortoise- an unfortunate rude awakening but better than being woke up by the fire
Field Vole, there was also Wood Mouse in the area. The reptile matts we put down have got voles and wood mice under them too- there were at least 10 voles last time I checked
Had this micro-moth flying around the Steppe a couple of days ago. I had the LED moth trap on last night but didn't catch a single moth. There are plenty of Silver-Ys flying around during the day and also quite a few butterflies including Clouded Yellow, Red Admiral, Large White and Painted Lady. It was 18 C today and apparently it's been very mild so far with the wild geese characteristic of this region just starting to appear (we had a couple of flocks of White-fronts going over a couple of days ago). 
Everywhere on the Steppe there are these mounds which are Steppe Mouse colonies. Would be good to see one of these for a mammal tick. It's a population explosion year so a good time to try and see them- I'll try and do a bit of night exploring if I get the time. 
The meadow area on the project plot, before the hay cut. The idea with this area is to create a species rich meadow so we've had to dig out the old vineyard (but kept about 1/3 of the vineyard in the front of the plot) and been cutting back the rough grassland to enable the seed bank to re-germinate (the plot was left unmanaged for several years before we acquired it). The meadow is part of an overall plan to create a large wildlife pond, wild edges, wooded borders, a woodland area, vineyard and garden and also construct a small wooden cabin. We should have water and electricity by next spring (fingers crossed). It's back to the council offices tomorrow to get the planning permission for the water (we did the electricity earlier on in the week). 
After the hay cut. Still need to tighten the crop on this and also transplant more of the trees to the wood area. A bit more on this project HERE