Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In Tiers

This is my local park. It might seem a dull shot, but contains something quite exciting. We are in Tier 4. Full Lockdown. But the horizon, those trees, well, that is Tier 2. Freedom

I think I can make it there and back in day. In tier 4 I am permitted exercise, but once I'm over the border I could wander freely without restraint. I could even go into a pub for a substantial meal. 

The main issue is the border guards. Maybe I should take some high status goods; toilet roll, or dried pasta perhaps, in case I'm stopped.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Patch latest

Dropped D#4 off and went for a short walk round the patch. The valley is flooded; water running over the top of every bank construction and lock and off into the fields. This usually happens a couple of times each winter. The path is nevertheless still walkable but I need to take a short diversion. A couple of Bullfinches call unseen, and the hazel and hawthorn scrub sounds like it is heaving with Redwings chattering away, with the odd one flitting across gaps. Along the river bank and I can hear a Water Rail in the flooded rushy pond opposite, and a Teal calling, but can see neither. 

Birds that aren't corvids or pigeons are fairly scarce until I get past Feakes Lock, where as I chat to a house boat owner struggling with his craft in the current of the river in spate a female Sparrowhawk shoots past and a Little Egret lifts from the damp field opposite.

Up the path into the chat field and a distant Stonechat appears fleetingly. Local Stonechats are a subject of some discussion; a local birder/photographer posted a picture online and stated that a couple of pairs winter regularly in the valley and another pair on the tops. Well, that's not my experience; early spring and late autumn passage, and the odd one appears here and there in winter, but not a banker by any means. Nevertheless, a December Stonechat. Lets see if it hangs around ...

Stop at the top of the field and take a call from Mrs D. She's taken the dogs for a walk, so I should extend my walk as I came out without a key. As I finish the call there's a gronking - Raven! A pair fly over, one settles in a tree, and the other flies around, goes quite close to my house - maybe one for the house list eventually - then after a few minutes cruising around heads off towards the willow bed in the park. It's a first for my patch for me, but not unexpected as they have been seen increasingly in the area. What a huge bird it is, and is the 91st species on the patch year list.

Another patch tick is just a few yards on - Sheep. A field full of them. The local farmer is always trying new stuff, always with an eye for nature, so will be interesting to see if they pull any birds in. Carry on round the outside of the field and two Green Woodpeckers fly off and 20 Goldfinches feed in the sun on the teasels in the overgrown field.

Up and over the road and onto some more traditional farmland. Two fields both hold about ten Skylarks, one has 5 Red-Legged Partridges, and there are thrushes flying around, including 30 Fieldfare some of which settle close. Multi-coloured, flecked, large; if you saw pictures of all the other European thrushes and were asked to guess what the remaining one looked like, you'd never guess Fieldfare. And that evocative shak-shak call, always a thrill to hear. Even after 40+ years of birding I still can't quite believe that Fieldfares exist, and not only exist but are common enough to be regular on the patch and elsewhere.

A few Yellowhammers and Chaffinches around the hedgerows, a Bullfinch goes over calling, then back down past the farm and under the railway. The Stonechat has moved up toward the overgrown pond and gives some nice views.

Back across the river, stop to see some Long-tailed Tits. Perhaps a Treecreeper keeping them company? And yes there is, almost as if I've willed it into existence. I spend a few minutes watching it run up the underside of branches, pick around bark. Always a good day when you see a Treecreeper.

And that's it. Another cracking list for a couple of hours walk out of the house. And that flood - Lets keep an eye out and see if as it slows and settles some wildfowl come in. This year I've relied a lot on the patch, and it's really delivered.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Why I'm in favour of Sizewell C.

Minsmere is just about the best bird reserve in the country. Together with Westleton Heath and Dingle marshes it forms an area of outstanding wildlife. Not just the Bitterns, Marsh Harriers, Savi's Warblers, Dartford Warblers, but also Adders and Red Deer as well as so much else.

There are plans afoot to build a new nuclear power station between the current one at Sizewell B and the reserve. This will clearly impact on the wildlife of this rich and diverse area. Nor surprisingly, this has produced a lot of opposition. But I'm in favour. Here's why.

Firstly, climate change is real. As naturalists, we know this better than anyone. From the Ivy bees and Tree Bumble bees in our gardens to the three species of Egret I saw at Abberton today, our world is full of winged creatures moving north. My research indicated that, in as much as we can tell, this century will see continued warming and gradual change, but there may come a point when that gradual change breaks down and significant change, probably quite bad, occurs. And if the Clathrate Gun goes off, its Good Night Vienna.

As a civilisation we are making progress to slowing and then stopping warming. Globally, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic; As the standard of living goes up across the world, birth rates fall and the population is stabilising. Technology improvements mean significant reductions in CO2 emissions are possible. Every time we slow the increase in CO2 we give ourselves more time to develop better solutions. Climate Armageddon is not inevitable. We can solve this.

In the UK, we need to do our bit, and the most obvious target is electric vehicles. We are going to see a significant push in the next few years (I understand the EU is using 2020 as a baseline, so vehicle manufacturers have been avoiding pushing electric vehicles this year to get a low baseline and will push hard next year). But to make the most of the opportunity to reduce emissions, we need to charge these vehicles on carbon-free electricity, and the best way to do that is overnight. Given we don't have a viable means of storing electricity from variable renewable sources such as wind power or solar, it would seem we need a reliable source of instant overnight power and the best way of doing that currently is from nuclear power stations. 

Sizewell would seem to be a sensible place to build one given there is already one there. It could be the spur to improve the A12, it could help bring jobs and prosperity to the region.

And the wildlife? Well, according to my take on the plans, the plans leave much of the Minsmere/Westleton area intact. The area from the Eels foot at Eastbridge to Sizewell and Leiston may see a lot of activity, but the levels, the reserve, and the heath should be okay.

The RSPB and other are making a lot of noise, but my inner cynic wonders what the real aim is. Might it be to create a sense that wildlife compensation is required, that the 'loss' of the wildlife habitat should be recompensed by the expansion of local or other wildlife areas? Either locally around Walberswick and Westleton, or further afield? 

Reduction in CO2 emissions, cleaner environments, and an increase in wildlife areas in East Anglia? That would be win-win wouldn't it?

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in sea...