|A downpour just misses the group...[Photo JWRutter]|
We have all learned a lot of what we know about natural history thanks to the efforts of others.
This could be through friends, or early mentors, bird clubs, natural history societies, book authors or whatever, but do you give back?
Beginners wouldn't be expected to, of course, but a lot of us out there have many years of field experience of varying levels. Just about everyone I know who is a naturalist or birder are always willing to help others in some way. I have read about cliqueish behaviour, suppression, standoffishness etc but as a rule this is very rare and we mostly delight in being able to help someone out.
I do this in various ways. The commonest is probably people who are coming to visit Northumberland or Northumberland birders /naturalists going to somewhere I've been before. It takes little time to knock up a map and email some findings so they can enjoy the wildlife you have already done. With local young people and beginners I have given out copies of bird reports, books and advice on how best go about things etc all the while being conscious of the needs of the wildlife the info is about. For example If I think too many might visit a site for something I have found, I might give advice on places to look, habitat requirements etc where an observer might make a similar discovery for themselves.
Another way to help out is by giving talks to local clubs or leading a guided walk in an area you are familiar with.
This is what we did yesterday. John and myself arranged to meet up with other members of Alnwick Wildlife Group for a morning birding walk around our patch at Boulmer. Well, Seaton Point really, but its all Boulmer.
13 participants, mostly relatively inexperienced or casual bird watchers, gathered at Seaton Point layby at 8am . We walked the shore around to Boulmer navigation poles and back by the coast path returning to the cars at about 11am.
Boulmer has been very slow in recent weeks so I was worried there might not be much to show them, but a few summer plumaged waders and terns with some id tips and nice scope views always goes down well.
On arrival before the guests came, we had a singing Lesser Whitethroat at the golf course layby, my first here this year.
As we walked the beach the first waders were Oystercatchers displaying around the rocks, then a nice summer plumaged Grey Plover sat out in the seaweed. This could be nailed down in the scope for all to get a view of and it was a new bird for most present. Next up were a small party of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover all in breeding dress but it was a male Turnstone in his tortoiseshell finery that got the oos and ahhs.
While watching the waders, my birds of the morning flew in, 5 Little Terns, a great count for here, to fish in the rock pools. They were tricky to get good views of but the flickering wings hovering and the chattering squeaky calls were well appreciated.
Around the corner on the dune edge a nice Greenland Wheatear did the right thing, glued to a fence post long enough to give close scope views, while nearby a family of Stonechats also allowed close scrutiny.
At sea, 20 Common Scoter and a Red throated Diver flew south while Gannets, Auks and Sandwich Terns were ever present.
As we walked back by the coast bushes 3 Whitethroats, several Reed Buntings, Linnets and Meadow Pipits could all be pointed out and identified by song, behaviour and field marks.
We arrived back at the cars just before a heavy shower came, but everyone was pleased with the morning and most had at least seen and learned something new about our local birds, which can't be a bad thing.