Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Ice-breaking.


Trevor Gunton is the man behind a lot of our "showing birds to people" events. He has a million stories to tell, but this one takes the biscuit so far for 2015.

A man phoned up to get the details of our New Year's Day Birdwatch event, during which he carefully noted the times of our walks and talks, how to get here and so on. It was his final question that floored Trevor when the man asked "When is it exactly?"

This almost equals the occasion during a previous event when Trevor was behind the counter selling bird food. (This was before we had the till and Trevor was banned from the shop!)

A lady came up to the counter and asked him, "Hello Trevor, do you have big fat balls?" Without missing a beat, Trevor looked down and said, "Hang on, I'll just have a look".

Every year we put on our New Year's Day Birdwatch and we are always amazed at the turn-out. Despite quite a bit of publicity, I think the message has spread by word of mouth and this year's event excelled all of Trevor's expectations, despite it being a grey and foggy day.

We have always found that the morning walks are well attended but interest wains in the afternoon as the light fades, so this time we decided to only do walks in the morning and talks in the afternoon. It seemed to work well.

Trevor has christened my walk as a "tick and twitch" because I ask visitors to pay me 10p for each species we see. Several years ago we clocked up 57 species from the Hayden Hide so I tell them that 50 species is a possibility, although we rarely reach forty in an hour and half.

This time the weather really did not help and we had more visitors than birds! For a start, there was no wind or sun to create lift for raptors so we did not see any. In fact there were three hot-spots that yielded almost all of our birds.

The fields near the works are under the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme and have been planted with millet, which is effectively canary seed. The result is that this is the place to find all your finches and buntings, including yellowhammers.

The Kingfisher Hide produced our best wildfowl viewing where we could watch cooperative feeding between swans and a host of other wildfowl. At the top of the food-chain we saw the predatory ducks (yes, really) such as goosanders and goldeneyes.

The other good spot to be was the Visitors' Centre, although the best times to be there did not coincide with the walk. Greenfinches, house sparrows and fieldfares were seen there and nowhere else.

A few birds were picked up in more random spots and I was particularly thrilled to see goldcrests and a tree-creeper.

Altogether my group of 38 people saw between 35 and 40 species, raising £167!  I know that recruitment was high during the day (20 members) and that the tombola did very well too.

My talk on wildfowl was attended by a dozen or so people and Trevor and Ray attracted similar numbers to their talks too. About 20 people stayed until dusk to see our starlings come in to roost.

I really enjoy New Year's Day because I just love showing off the reserve. It's a very good social occasion too.

So, if you did, thanks for coming along!