Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Make Your Nature Count Week

Just a quick blog about a survey the RSPB are asking people to do this week.

Make Your Nature Count

I'm doing this at Mum and Dad's today before the Test Match starts.

More details on how to take part may be found at :-

As you can see Mum and Dad's garden is a small surburban one in Warwick. You can see their bird table and there a couple of feeders in the bushes and on the fence to the left. Already this morning song thrush, dunnock, goldfinch, house sparrows and starlings. Our swifts seem to be taking a break from parenting. They're proably at Draycote Reservoir abou twenty miles away, feeding up on the buzzers. They'll be back later.

Right now for the survey.

All the best everyone,


Saturday, 4 June 2011

What a Fabulous Day. Thanks Sainsbury's and Thanks to the people of Warwick


So arrived at the Sainsbury's store dressed as a siskin. Normal day I suppose. Great response from the people coming from off the car park to enter the store and boy, they didn't know what I had in store for them.

The all singing, dancing and welcoming 6 foot tall siskin.

In fact the good majoroty of people either smiled or laughed which was just the sort of wonderful reaction that keeps one going. The children in particular were brilliant. Well, honestly one did scream with fright and a couple of tiny tots were a little scared but the rest, dozens of them accepted a RSPB LOVE NATURE sticker and a small chocolate coin. I couldn't lay any chocolate eggs. I am a male siskin.

The things people ask when you're collecting for the RSPB. "Have you noticed the lack of willow warblers?" [No actually] "Did I make the costume for myself?" [no but the person who made it must have spent hours doing so. Beautifully made.] "Where can I get squirrel proof feeders?" [try the RSPB shop - online or the catalogue.] The perennial question - "when are the RSPB going to do something about magpies. They're eating all our small birds?" [As Bill Oddie says, "If in doubt, blame the cat!"]

Then there's the lovely pride people have in their garden birds and in how much they spend to attract them. I heard about the usual suspects; titmice, sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. I heard about great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers and grey herons. Then there was the "I spent over £50 on bird food this week. [brilliant.]

Away from birds there was a distinguished older gentlemean who waned to tell me of his time in the RAF special forces. Over ten minutes of hearing of his exploits. He even tried to teach me Arabic. I had to repeat his phrases. Brilliant! Mike, the scout leader security man; Lucy, a Sainsbury's employee training to be a teacher and a display of another employee breaking 100 rook tiles [big thick ones] with his hands in some martial arts performance for Myton Hospice; all great people who helped the day along.

Joined at 11 o' clock in the morning by Alastair, together we stood and listened, said hello and goodbye and collected for the RSPB. Great bloke.

Alastair, Lucy and I

Then there were the donations counted carefully by Dad and I at the end of the day. Now not taking into account a one Euro coin, an American cent, 2 very old halfpennies; the total came to

Drum roll, Trumpet call, Open the curtain.........


So many many thanks to the people I met, thanks to Sainsbury's and thanks to the staff at the RSPB MIDLANDS HQ at Banbury who made and sent such a fabulous costume.

Brilliant day!

All the best everyone,


Friday, 3 June 2011

A Couple of Cracking Finds and then ...... LOVE NATURE WEEK for the RSPB

I'll leave Mum and Dad's photo until last so don't scroll down just yet.

Had a great Sunday a couple of weeks ago with a couple of ex-pupils who are still birders after all these years. Jason Oliver and Steve Allcott were pupils of mine over twenty years ago when I was a secondary school science teacher in Wolverhampton. Imagine my thrill at seeing them both again and knowing that they are birders.

Well, I'd walked to junction 2 on the M42, which is about 5 miles from my little abode. We'd arranged to meet at 5.00am so I'd set off at 3.30. Along the country lanes towards Alvechurch, down Cobler's Hill and over the canal bridge when amongst the singing skylarks I heard a quail. 'Wet my lips'. Just a couple of times but unmistakable. I haven't heard many in Worcesershire so was really pleased with this one.

Norfolk. Red-necked phalarope gone from Burnham Norton and a gale force wind a-blowing. Visited Titchwell and saw a very few birds but the company was good, especially in the cafe where Flo was still working. Now Flo had been fabulous last eyar, heating up some milk for my Horlicks and for a couple of baguettes. Great to see her friendly face again.

Off to Lakenheath and still that wind. An RSPB group from Southend were looking for the singing golden oriole. Having seen on the notice board that 2 males and a female are there I looked for myself but had to do with the sound of that beautiful call. I did manage to see a couple of hairy dragonflies and a few variable damselflies.

A week at work. Don't want to talk about that!!

So to Upton Warren for a night in the Flashes hide. My reward came at ten to seven the following morning. A small wader came from the direction of the third flash being chased by the avocets. I thought it was a turnstone at first but then realised it was a smashing red-necked phalarope. The first one I've ever found myself and only the seventh for the new Fetlar, Upton Warren. Phoned and texted like mad and soon the first birding friend arrival, Andrew Pitt; soon followed by Dave Walker, John Belsey, Andy Warr and Mike Wakeman. Phil Andrews and Arthur Jacobs, eventually all the Upton regulars were either there or had been and seen this beautiful bird.

I stayed overnight again and couldn't believe it when just after six in the morning it turned up again on the second flash. Time for home I walked the six or so miles and started school work.

Monday, rain at last and a day of planning for school. Then news came in - two red-necked phalaropes at the Warren! Amazing and brilliant! Chuffed for the reserve and for all the dedicated people who watch the place. Add the fact that 2 people saw a scarlet rosefinch in the car park, just shows what a small reserve can have if regularly watched.

Now it's Friday night and I've gone over to my parent's house to prepare for LOVE NATURE - RSPB WEEK.

Prepare is so apt as a very large box had arrived there on Wednesday. Dad wasn't too pleased but all tension changed as we had a great day watching the Test match on TV, watching the scorecard as Warwickshire beat Yorkshire in the Twenty20 and then the large box was opened to hilarity.

Is there nothing I won't do for the RSPB? You want more?
Someone spent a very long time making this costume of a siskin and many thanks to them. So tomorrow I'll be dressed in this and will stand outside Sainsbury's in Warwick, starting at 9.30am. Here's hoping it's successful.

Finally another donation for Asthma UK. Thanks to Gary Birchill.

All the best everyone,


PS. anyone know of any available female siskins?