Monday, May 24, 2021

Giving Back...


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.



Gibster said...

There are two 'meaningful' natural history groups here on Skye - the botany group led by the local BSBI recorder and the nature group led mostly by myself. The botany group is holding its first meeting of the year later this week. The nature group will be restarting soon too. But there are precautions to be taken and little things to be aware of (bearing in mind that I'm generally by far the youngest attendee on the walks and I'm no spring chicken myself) like passing around my hand lens for others to use, passing around tubes of captured insects for others to examine, hunkering shoulder to shoulder over the back of a camera to zoom in on a certain feature, the mass handling of latches on gateways, sitting scrunched up on a fallen log for lunch etc etc.

To be fair, the risks are slight and Skye is hardly an epicentre for infection. But I did have a mild panic attack reading about the scope views you and all of your group enjoyed. There are certainly a good few less scopes than folks in your pic...

Stewart said...

Hi Seth aye you are right, it was all my scope, but there wasnt much faffing around with it or touching for that matter. I had considered the COVID risk, but if it were as bad as that we shouldnt really be meeting at all I reckon. In Northumberland there are under 20 covid cases at present, so I hope it will be ok.
Regarding gates and stuff outdoors, Ive never been too fussed at that even at the height of the pandemic. In a crowd situation like a football match I can imagine its a problem but not so much with a few walkers out in the open air. Buy a second spare hand lens for handing around...

darrell j prest said...

good post stewart

ive found myself going a bit further of field recentley which is good.
as you may guess i dont really care for lots of birders as in this age social media nobody actually talks to anyone, some do, so it was refeshing to find myself on saturday at swillington being quizzed by a young lad on what id seen. took me back to when i full of enthusiam.

so at the weekend off to northumberland for 2 nights in the campervan annstead farm near salthouse so if you see a tall ginger bloke with a beared and mad yellow labrador and a bonkers woman say hello

i might even find something

Gibster said...

I think my head is stuck in the mindset from when I used to lead practical conservation work party task days and had to do the whole risk assessment/safety talk/blah blah beforehand. Hence I'm always looking for issues that probably won't happen. I sometimes take folks up hills and through bogs, over slippery rocks and into areas with no phone signal, so I try to act as a responsible leader on the day, even though everybody else here has been heading up hills and into bogs for longer than I have, ha! I wasn't knocking you btw, I figured you'd have taken a look at the risks and come to a sensible conclusion. Incidentally, I do have 4 or 5 hand lenses, the problem I have is remembering to grab them all back again at the end of a walk ;)

Stewart said...

Darrell - Good seawatching at Annstead Point Darrell, then you have Budle Bay just along past Bamburgh, it will be busy though...enjoy...

Seth - Oh no, I didnt think you were. I have always been one of those careless types so maybe not the best to do guiding but it is all quite laid back on the wildlife group walks. ;)