Society News from February 2020

Taw & Torridge Branch Indoor Meetings - updated

Posted September 2nd at 5:16 pm in Events by Mike Daniels

The Taw & Torridge Branch are restarting Indoor Meetings at the Castle Centre, Barnstaple. Start times are :7.30pm. Details for the remainder of 2022 and beginning of 2023 are:

8th November - John Walters, the Secret Life of the Long-tailed Tit

13th December - Philip Marlow, African Game Parks are not just the Big 5

10th January 2023 - Emma Scotney, An Introduction to Bats

14th February - James Fentom, Plovers of St Helena: A study

14th March - Stephen Powels, Tawny Owls

11th April - Ian Gaspar, Bird behaviour: an illustrated talk


Mid Devon Branch visit to Exminster Marshes on Tuesday 25th February

Posted February 29th, 2020 at 10:13 am in Mid Devon Branch by Mike Daniels

The sun shone when there was a break in the storm clouds on Tuesday morning. Mid Devon's field trip to Exminster Marshes took advantage of the opportunity and clocked up 48 species during a 4 hour morning saunter along the lane and canal path to Turf Lock. Wildfowl and waders prevailed with close up views of the more common species at this time of year. It's comforting to see a large, undisturbed mix of Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Shelduck and the odd diving duck of freshwater and estuary. Snipe, Lapwing and Curlew in the fields while flocks of Godwit, Lapwing and Dunlin circled above. The Peregrine emerged and the Kingfisher fished at the lock. Avocet, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin and Oystercatcher were present on the estuary. The group split in to two for the return leg when the rain forced us back to the cars at 2pm. Eleven members enjoyed the company and opportunity to forget everything else.

Nick Armstrong

Wadebridge, Walmsley Sanctuary and Chapel Amble February 5th 2020

Posted February 9th, 2020 at 10:16 am in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

24 members rose early and met at the start of the Camel Trail in Wadebridge. We walked along the trail to opposite the Burniere hide and back before driving round to the CBWPS hides at Burniere and Walmsley. There we were met by the warden, Adrian Langdon, who joined us later in the hide and proved an excellent host.

Because the group was too large for the Tower hide we split into two groups having lunch in the two hides. The extra visit to Burniere provided beautiful views across the saltmarshes to the estuary and spectacular displays of thousands of Golden Plover wheeling in the bright winter sunlight. The walk to Tower hide disturbed a Brown Hare that entertained the group by racing back and forth across the fields.

Some of the group then went on to Chapel Amble (extra species seen marked with asterisk below).

Among the abundance of 71 species were the rarities of Whooper Swan, Greater Scaup, Spoonbill and Siberian Chiffchaff.

Spoonbill preening, lapwing in the sunshine

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Greater Scaup [F], Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill [A], Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover [3000?], Lapwing, Knot, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper*, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove /Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit*, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird, Chiiffchaff, Siberian Chiffchaff*, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch

Brown Hare

Phil Stevens, Photos by Dave Batten

Birding in a Vulture Landscape - talk by Ian Parsons on 27th January 2020

Posted February 2nd, 2020 at 5:08 pm in Plymouth Branch by Inga Page

Many will be familiar with Ian Parsons’ insightful and informative articles in Bird Watching magazine where he casts light on British species often revealing behaviours that are not so widely known to us all. Ian brought this focus in his presentation where he introduced us to that birding Mecca of Spain’s Extremadura region. It is a place close to the heart of Ian and his wife Jo. So much so that in 2012 they set up a bird tour company specialising in guiding birders toward the many exciting flora, fauna and avifauna there. Ian and Jo named their company “Griffon Holidays” a name that owes much to Ian’s great passion for vultures and, in particular the Griffon Vulture.

Ian gave us a detailed overview of the region; its geography and flora, fauna and birdlife. The region is rich in surprises, such as a species of Mongoose, and the Iberian Lynx, which is recovering its status in Spain thanks to a conservation programme there. Wolves are also present in the north of the area.

Why do species prosper in Extremadura?  Land management, low population density & climate all underpin the food chain. Beautiful wild flowers fill landscapes of traditionally managed livestock who freely roam the distinctive dehesa grazing under the oaks, which also provide precious shade in the hottest months. Other landscapes include the mighty steppes where Bustards mingle with cattle and Bee-eaters hawk from fence wires. In the Montfrague region the Tajo cuts through the landscape and provides cliffs from which raptors and Black Stork can be seen. Bridges are occupied by huge colonies of House Martin and Alpine Swifts scythe the skies beneath. Trees host species such as Golden Oriole, Crested Tit and Hawfinch. And, up above them, ever present, watching and waiting Black, Griffon and Egyptian vultures occupy the airspace.

Evolved and adapted for a key position in the ecology of Extremadura vultures can be seen circling. Using the thermals with great mastery and always watching- watching each other, other birds such as Kites, Eagles and Ravens and livestock (and incidentally humans far below them!) they await opportunities to find carrion.  They are the ‘clean-up squad’, reducing carcases in a matter of minutes to mere skin and bone. In doing so they prevent the spread of diseases, such as rabies and anthrax, due to their unique physiology that incorporates stomach acid that destroys these antigens and dissolves bone. They are equipped also with the ability to cope with extreme heat of the region up to 40C +, by regulating body temperature through heat loss from ‘bare’ necks and legs’ circulatory system.

Ian presented this talk with great knowledge and passion.  Listening to him it is evident why one could become enthralled by this iconic area of Spain - a ‘must do’ visit for all birders and naturalists.

Ian’s book, “A Vulture Landscape, twelve months in Extremadura” Whittle Publishers is available from June 2020     ISBN 978-184995-457-0

Griffon Holidays                                                                            John Lloyd

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