So let us onto more pleasant matters, the wedding
of Amita Sood and Daniel Bentley. I received a message
earlier on in the year from Shaun Bentley. (Haven’t
heard from him in years. Few years ago, he invited
me out on his beautiful motor boat to judge whether
there was a market for a birdwatching boat in Hampshire,
I accepted the invitation provided I could invite
11 of my naturalist friends along, and we had a
wonderful full day out around Hampshire, the IOW
and the Needles. Some said it was one of the best
birdwatching days ever!)
Shaun wanted to know if I would do a wedding,
for his son, Daniel. I have retired from doing them,
do not have to do them financially, being more into
just writing and photographing what I want, when
But - - - as luck would have it, I had been feeling
the wedding creative juices building up, and thought
I might enjoy having another go. The further fortunate
factor was that I had not too much on in early spring,
and furthermore, and the deciding factor, was that
a hernia operation was going to prevent me doing
much for quite a while, so could devote some time
to the editing etc. In other words, I was available,
so after giving it a few days thought, for the first
time in years, I agreed to do a wedding. I then
approached Southampton University, who never replied,
then Arts University Bournemouth and enquired if
anyone might be interested in assisting me, and
also sought a volunteer as a videographer.
I was hoping to get one or two volunteers, but
11 came forward! I had to make an instant decision,
so after an immediate meet-up, chose Rebeka as videographer
and Teodora as my assistant photographer. Teodora
was to be a talented photographer.
We drove and met Amita and Dan, did 2 recces,
looking over possible venues, and taking pictures.
Then the wedding day itself, but as the wedding
started late in the day, was freezing cold and even
snowed for a while, I was unhappy with the lack
of location shots, so we did another day’s
shooting outside. Finally, we did a day at Arts
University Bournemouth’s studio, where Amita
again changed into her wedding dress.
I presented the bride with 2,458 pictures on a
hard drive for her future use. Also, 3 video shows
of 4 minutes, 40 minutes and 2 hours, all to music
and effects on DVDs. A 45-minute slide show to music
and effects and featuring about 400 pictures. About
1400 prints of various sizes plus about a dozen
framed pictures. I am sure no one else does this
in the UK.
I also produced 2 digital photobooks, the second
one by a company called CEWE. I may be the first
wedding photographer in the world to do it in this
manner for the simple reason that no one knows about
it, and for some reason CEWE itself do not promote
it, but they can do a digital photobook where the
pictures turn into videos! A bit of fun, maybe gimmicky,
but I am sure it will catch on. (Even if you go
into their site, they do not say they can do this,
it was by chance a friend of mine saw it on TV.)
I have always been fortunate with my brides, and
if I have one strength, it is to relax people, and
to get natural smiles. They seem to trust me. If
only they knew! Right from the first wedding, which
was special as we were on HMS Victory (hence my
eventual agreement to do it), with the men in naval
uniform, a wonderful bride, Miss Portsmouth. Every
wedding since has been big, and every one bigger
than before. I have always gone overboard on the
editing of pictures, and a few techniques remain
I am pleased with the results, I did enjoy it
all, and I must say that the bridesmaids were fabulous,
as was everyone else, and Daniel was a real steadfast
trooper as he does not like having his photograph
taken!! The real star though was Amita, who had
all the poses, never complained, smiled throughout,
somehow seemed to stay glamorous and seemed to love
it all. I only had to delete one picture of her.
How do they do it? She totally dominates the pictures,
including full facial close-ups, time and time again.
5 days shooting in all, the most photographed bride
since Lady Di!
Things went wrong as they always have done and
always will. We were given the wrong date for the
wedding, and what was short notice was even shorter
by a week, a camera stopped working, the light for
the video malfunctioned, the first dance was way
too dark, there was not enough light for good outdoor
shots on the wedding day and it was too cold, Dan
was not at home when we called on the day itself,
my windscreen wipers froze up solid when we left
for home that night, there were 3 delays getting
the studio, major problems with the video presentations,
but the final outcome, and all that really matters,
was I believe, as good as any photographer in the
UK could obtain. I intend to do weddings like this
again on a regular basis, say every 27 years or
BITS AND PIECES
I continue to be the ornithologist at the BNSS,
but after 3 years, I will give it up in February
2017, so giving plenty of notice. I did say I would
do it for a year, until they found someone suitable,
and that was 3 years ago. I want a year of just
travelling anywhere and anytime, around Britain
and the rest of the world, but this and other voluntary
tasks always precludes me just going off, as and
I have managed to get some fantastic speakers,
nearly all of whom I am fortunate to know on a personal
basis and have yet to have a dud. I happen to think,
that unless some magic is produced at these lectures,
or unless they are concerning localities close to
Bournemouth, say Dorset and Hampshire, then maybe
the days of these lectures are numbered, and the
BNSS give 100 every year, which may be unique. I
find Facebook and Twitter faster, more relevant,
shorter, you can chose and pick, and it means we
all, including me, have shorter attention spans.
I will write about this in greater detail at a later
This year the BNSS became accredited as a museum,
and Jane Goodall, who lives here in Bournemouth,
became the second patron, alongside Chris Packham.
Not a bad duo.
I continue to enjoy Dorset, although so far it
has been a wet grey summer. I have used sun cream
on one occasion this year!
By chance I met my first cousin, Jackie Julian Martin,
when visiting Derek, my uncle and her father, last
week. I took some pictures and she is a beautiful
lady, obviously gets this from our genes!? It was
a lovely meeting, but we communicate by phone, Facebook
and email, she living in Boston USA. Now yesterday,
heard from another relative, Kerry, from Perth,
Australia. I intend now to see if the Julian clan
can communicate with one another!
I visit Weymouth and Portland on a regular basis,
and still think I reside in the best county, the
best place on earth. I have enjoyed the usual nature
walks throughout the year thus far, being to the
usual places, discovered a secret garden, 'Bennetts
Water Gardens' just outside of Weymouth, with the
most species of lily in Europe. A visit to Exbury
confirmed it as being my favourite gardens, and
despite going at the peak time this year, on a hot
weekend, there was hardly anyone there. A mystery
2 days ago, I received a message to say there was
a White Stork, together with a Great-white Egret,
at Cowards Marsh, Christchurch. I am not a twitcher
- but - I hastened out with usual camera, and managed
to get some lucky shots as it flew. Still quite
distant, but a couple of pictures were okay. Turned
out these were the only ones taken, because next
day it was seen flying over Weymouth towards Portland,
and there fore back to the continent. So, I was
somewhat fortunate and the pictures are in demand.
Sorry this has taken so long to update, that’s
why I have written so much, and about so many topics,
but on the other hand, I do not think many read
it anyway. Why should they? I hardly lead an exciting
life. No, it is more for the writer himself/herself
to put down some cathartic thoughts, much like a
diary. If you have read it, thanks, and perhaps
you would care to communicate some day. Would like
to hear from you.
HARRY THE HERNIA
I am 65 years of age, and I have been lucky. I
do not lead a healthy lifestyle, love junk food,
do not exercise, but lucky. I have hardly ever been
ill. I did suffer from backache for many years,
had a sneezing allergy which was quite severe, but
these ailments have gone away. I had a minor heart
complaint, fibrillation, which was cured by the
NHS following an effective 5 minute procedure, and
that has been it for my entire life. I have never
broken a bone, never suffered lasting pain, never
had a scare. Lucky.
I have seen a doctor about 15 times in my entire
life. But, a few months ago, I felt a niggling discomfiture,
which went away for a couple of days, to be replaced
by a small lump in my groin. I went to the doctor’s
surgery, and laughed when I was given an appointment
3 weeks ahead. I believe when I was a boy, you used
to go the surgery and wait to be seen, there and
then. You would be seen that very day.
So this time, the receptionist asked if I was
in pain, and being the honest chap that I am, replied
that there was no pain. Later, speaking to colleagues,
including a friend who was a nurse for over 51 years,
I was told that someone should at least examine
me, quite urgently. The receptionist had asked me
if it was urgent, but this is difficult to answer.
It was not desperate, but was quite urgent.
But then I guess, this is the same for about 90%
of those going to see a doctor, is it not?
I then got a phone call to say the Doctor could
not make it after all, and would have to put off
the appointment for another 2 weeks. So all in all,
it was just over 5 weeks just to be seen by a GP.
I was thinking of writing about this for the local
paper, not blaming anyone, not offering a solution,
but just pointing out, something seems to be going
I went to BUPA. Have been a member with them for
some time, but never used them. I asked for an appointment
and was told no problem, just get a letter of referral
from your Doctor. So, back to the medical practice,
and asked for a letter of referral. Er, I would
have to get that from the Doctor after I had seen
him. This totally defeated the object of course.
If I saw the Doctor he might as well examine me.
So should I now give up BUPA?
I saw the Doctor, got an appointment at Poole
Hospital, and was told, as expected, that I should
have an operation. This would be in about 3 months
time, but I would also be on stand-by.
I was out birdwatching in Poole when my phone
went, and a place came up last Tuesday for my hernia
op. I accepted it immediately. I had a greed to
do a wedding, that was to be on 11th of March so
that was okay, good timing.
Now, I am still in a bit of pain, can hardly walk,
and have been informed that the wedding is on the
4th, next Friday. They had given me the wrong date!
Yesterday was quite bad so just overdosed on painkillers,
although I do sleep okay. So, I just hope I can
hobble about on the wedding day. It is all day long,
and involves much driving. It’s a big do,
with 100 guests, and I’ll have an assistant
and a videographer. Luckily, I have done a couple
On Tuesday we all arrived at 7am and then a doctor,
in the presence of another doctor, told me that
I did not really need an operation. Although hernias
can go wrong, it is only one case in 20, whereas
after an operation, for reasons unknown, patients
can have a permanent pain for the rest of their
life, and this is one case in 10.
What a strange time to tell me that. Why not before?
Was he trying to put me off? I said I had prepared
myself for the operation so let us do that.
I changed and then waited – and waited. Everyone
went through before me, I was the last - by 2 hours
and at 1 pm, I had had enough waiting. All I had
been allowed was a pair of glasses, so had nothing
to do but watch daytime TV. I finally asked a nurse
to get some magazines from my locked-away bag. As
soon as I got it, I was called. Had waited 6 hours.
What made it worse was that there was a great view
from the waiting room of Poole Harbour, my favourite
place, and naturally, it was all blue skies.
The operation went okay, and at 6.30pm my friend
arrived from Poole. He used to be my best friend,
someone I have known for over 40 years, but grew
tired of, as he has always been an alcoholic. He
is a beer alcoholic, so is still alive, and always
looks healthy, but is always pissed, and sure enough
he was pissed when he arrived and caused a scene
in the ward. When we finally left for my taxi, he
insisted that the taxi driver goes to the Blue Boar
first, on Poole Quay, to drop him off. This despite
me being in pain. He will now be regretting his
actions. Ten minutes later we had to come back from
Poole Quay and passed the Hospital again on my way
I think I thought I would be fine, like when I
had my heart thing, when I was perfectly okay. Did
not realise I would be in discomfort 9 days later,
but it is getting a little easier each day.
TAPE & CHIPBOARD &
THE RUDDER 16.2.16
My phone went at 10 pm! Would I like to have a
free plane ride the following day? The weather forecast
seemed okay, the plane cannot fly if the wind speed
is more than 14 knots. What? 14 knots? Obviously
was not going to be a Jumbo, nor even a Lear Jet.
I travelled to Old Sarum Airfield the following
day, and luckily it was a nice day, conducive to
The plane weighed less than the average American,
a squeeze to get in. “Careful where you put
your feet,” said Jolyon, “That is the
rudder line there.” The plane had a broken
wing, and Jolyon told me he had some chipboard and
duct tape to repair it. Alarmingly, this was not
a joke and he did indeed repair it with duct tape.
Read this by all means, but do not pass it on to
my insurance company.
We then pushed the plane out, did the checks,
and got to the muddy grass, accelerated up and immediately
took off, in a matter of feet. Not quite Heathrow.
For the next 1 ½ hours we flew across Wiltshire,
Old Sarum, Britain’s (oldest hill fort), across
the New Forest and Lyndhurst, onto Lymington with
views of Pennington, Normandy Marsh, Keyhaven on
the right, and across The Solent, over the Isle
of Wight and onto Shanklin, Sandown, and Ventnor.
From there, westwards along the stunning coastline,
to St Catherine’s Point, the southernmost
tip, along the cliffs of the Dinosaur Jurassic Coast,
Freshwater, and then the giant Whitecliff.
We passed close to and around the glorious Needles,
Alum Bay with its famous coloured sands, back across
the sea to the largest salt pans in Britain at Keyhaven
and then back over the Forest again, finishing close
to Salisbury. Great day, and photographs galore
which can be seen under ‘Events’.
THE RETURN OF WAGTAIL THE WAGTAIL BUT THIS YEAR,
I DO NOT WELCOME HIM BACK
He’s back. For the third year running, my
Grey Wagtail has returned to my tarmac drive. The
bird has been here a few days now and I expect him
to stay the winter. So it’s good to welcome
him back, there to greet me whenever I go to or
return from the car. Well actually, it is not good.
This year I do not want him here.
Once again, he is always on the tarmac, never on
the grass and must be eating microscopic insects
which cannot be seen with the naked eye. We are
located over half a mile from the nearest stream,
the Bourne (Bournemouth!), and a mile from its nearest
practical river home. Grey Wagtails, which are actually
attractive yellowish birds (but have grey backs),
are, and should always, be found by rivers, where
they live on insects.
So why do I not greet him with delight? Well,
unlike the previous 2 years, there are now 2 cats
around, and they are probably both killers. They
are lovely purring creatures who often welcome me.
But, you know the sort. Stalking, poised and ready,
fixed stare, motionless, salivating.
So we shall see. Why does he come here each year?
This time, I do not even have a theory. I have now
given him a name – after 2 years of deep thought
– Wagtail the Wagtail.
PLANT THE PLANT
For about 25 years now, I have had the same houseplant.
Year after year it sits there in the corner of the
living room, not doing a lot. I have never hugged
it or talked to it, it is in truth neglected, gets
watered about once every 3 weeks, and that is about
it. It has never had a ‘holiday’, that
is, it has never been outside in the fresh air even
for a day, so has never experienced the wind in
its twigs, a sun ray on its stem, an insect paying
Sometimes it looks poorly, sometimes the leaves
lighten and fall to the ground, but always it recovers.
It hates being over-watered and does not seem to
like plant food, even just a few drops will cause
it to show its disgust by shedding a bunch of leaves.
First they yellow, then fall onto the carpet in
contempt. It has never seen the sun, in fact, where
it is in the corner, it gets hardly any light. I’m
sure it hates central heating, all houseplants hate
it, but it sits there right next to the radiator.
It hardly ever gets new soil, perhaps if I am feeling
considerate and generous, I might offer it some
soil every 5 years or so, but the poor old thing
stays in the same old plastic pot, year after year
after year. I have taken cuttings and grown and
given away its offspring or grown them myself.
But generally it prospers. I am not trying to
evoke a moral here for anything other than plants,
but Plant seems to thrive on neglect. Every so often,
it explodes into colour, an eruption of blood-red
flowers so profuse they overwhelm the green leaves.
Like a beautiful Cinderella neglected and shut away
for months on hand, it puts on its finest finery
for a show that puts any other plants to oblivion.
‘Here I am, Look at me and be blown away,
before I go back to my life of neglect’ and
sure enough, everyone is blown away and admires
I can’t remember where I first got it, was
it a present, did I take a cutting, I can’t
recall, but I know that for at least 25 years it
has been there. Some have dogs, some are cat people,
I have a plant, always there and will probably see
me out. If you are reading this and I am no more,
give it a good home and neglect it. It will pay
you back for your lack of time, caring and nurture.
AND A CHOPPER - SUNDAY 6.9.15
The day started at Hengistbury Head. It was CHOG’s
annual day, and it must have exceeded their expectations.
They had 32 visitors and the goal was to see an
Osprey. As it was, they managed to see 2, albeit
distant, hunting in the Harbour, both of which caught
fish. But also Whinchats, Spotted Flycatchers, Wheatears,
Yellow Wagtails, Siskin, Ravens, Stonechats etc.
There was also a moth trap and bird ringing, and
That suited me as I went from Hengistbury to Hurn
Airport and my helicopter ride. Front seat, camera
at the ready, and off we went to Muddeford, Christchurch,
Bournemouth, Poole and its Harbour, Brownsea, Wytch
Farm (Britain’s largest oilfield), and back
along the coast. Fantastic. I missed THE picture
as we missed 3 Buzzards by 10 feet, and I was probably
the only one to see it.
OVERDUE, RAMBLING UPDATE - 27TH JULY 2015
To Cerne Abbas and climbing the Giant’s Hill
on a Devon/Dorset Butterfly walk. Would have been
easier had I been born a goat, and we did climb
to the top, and around and back the other side!
The commonest butterfly was the rare Duke of Burgundy,
but also Marsh Fritillaries, a Green Hairstreak,
Orange Tips and a host of others. The flora this
year is exceptionally good.
A walk in late spring with Heather Dixon on Purbeck
was to see a Bluebell Wood, but the plants were
totally overshadowed by a sea of wild Garlic, covering
the undergrowth with a sea of white.
A walk on Martin Down on 23rd of May produced
more Marsh Fritillaries, Green Hairstreaks, a Hobby,
and a lengthy walk around Sturminster Newton produced
nothing apart from 4 Kingfishers, but was a nice
scenic walk to an area of which I knew nothing.
I have been making the most of the summer thus
far, with many trips to Martin Down, enjoying seeing
and hearing the Turtle Doves, Dark-Green Fritillaries,
Ravens. A trip to Hurst Castle was a first for me,
but again enjoyed the scenery, the ferry to get
there, the butterflies, birds and flora.
Various trips to Titchfield Haven, which are always
a delight no matter what season. Few sites are good
in winter and summer, but Titchfield Haven and Brownsea
Lagoon spring to mind.
One of my favourite summer haunts, and favourite
places anywhere, is the Jurassic Coast, trips to
Durlston are always a delight, affording views of
Guillemots, Peregrines, Ravens, Razorbills, Fulmars
and I enjoyed 2 or 3 expeditions to the Winspit
Valley which are never disappointing, apart from
the thought of the long and ever-increasing steep
hill that has to be endured on the return.
I have only walked the path through the water
meadows from the A338 near Stockbridge, on 2 occasions.
It goes through to the New Forest, but it is superb
and so I will do so much more frequently. Full of
insects, raptors, we were granted prolonged views
of a superb Red Kite, certainly more enjoyable and
appreciated than normal, because it was unexpected
I managed to fit in the annual BNSS Coach Trip,
which this year travelled to Wiltshire. Beginning
at Great Wishford, where we were guided through
the church, which held the oldest fire-engine, built
in 1728!! Later we were to visit Devizes Canal Centre,
and the day was rounded off by the Women's Institute
at West Lavington, and a most civilised cream tea.
Once again, it was a great day out. Not enough time
at the locations, which is always a good sign, and
better than being bored.
But the main focus was on the village of Lacock,
often used in historical filming, and it was easy
to see why. We were here for a few hours, but not
long enough, and somewhere I must visit again. The
ancient Abbey was wonderful, as was the botanical
garden and weather. A great day.
A visit to Chase Wood with Wiltshire and Dorset
Butterfly Conservation did not disappoint with a
mass of butterflies including about 15 of my favourite,
the White Admiral, which has sentimental value to
me since I was 9. Unfortunately, the hot weather
meant they were not co-operating for photographs.
We tried and tried for the Purple Emperor without
A coach trip to London and the lovely gardens
of the V&A proved to be a super meeting place
and a productive meet-up with Sophie Stafford and
my first-ever meeting with Ian Langford of Langford
Press. We got on so well, we continued to chat for
over an hour after the meeting. We are of the same
mind, he is a super professional at what he does
- printing nature and art books - and how he does
it all, more or less by himself is a wonder.
Ian is I believe a Publisher because he loves
art, he loves nature and he loves publishing. A
name cropped up at this meeting - Rob Hume. I have
been in touch with him, and look forward to our
Now met Rob Hume, at the way-out pub in the New
Forest, the High Corner Inn. My sat-nav went wonky,
and I finished on a 2 mile track, but this pub really
is off a main road. Very strange these days, but
a good pub.
I am presently reading Rob Hume’s auto-biography,
although he does not call it that. It is basically
his history of birds and birdwatching and 20 years
as editor of the RSPB magazine. What a team I have
– Rob Hume, Sophie Stafford, Ian Langford
and Chris Packham has confirmed his interest. I
hope more than anything, that after a year, we will
I have asked Chris Packham to become Patron of
the BNSS and he immediately agreed. What a splendid
generous chap he is, and this could put us on the
map. This was finally announced to members on 23rd
of July and was released to the media.
One of my favourite places is Boscombe & Southbourne
Cliffs, East Bournemouth. Not only visually stunning,
but great for wildlife, Stonechats - tame and accommodating
as they are so used to people, Dartford Warblers,
happy in their small territories despite being besieged
by people and dogs, then there are the butterflies,
the Wall Lizards, flora and the wonderful beach.
The end of the beach is Hengistbury Head, with its
Sand Martin colony, which I thoroughly appreciated
this year, and its wonderful geology. It comes onto
Muddeford Quay, and the most expensive beach huts
anywhere. Looking west, we see the wonderful Purbecks
and Swanage, Old Harry Rocks. There are worse views
In early July the centre at Hengistbury, had the
most colourful display of wildflowers in its small
meadow actually enclosed in the Visiting Centre,
and my photos as usual, were free for DWT to use.
Then on 25th of July I went to the annual wildlife
event for all of the various societies this year
it was held at Hengistbury.
All of this has allowed me to enjoy my camera.
As I try to take less and less pictures so that
I can actually look and appreciate more, I finish
up taking ever more photos. Sad really. I have also
been doing photo shoots of my relatives and friends
in Weymouth, Fareham and Southsea. When my mother
died in 2001, I visited my parent’s friends
and relatives, in England and Scotland and now this
year, 2015, I am doing this again to those remaining.
A visit to Kingcombe Meadows, on the other side
of Dorset, realised a trip way overdue. I have always
wanted to visit this site, the HQ more or less,
of Dorset Wildlife Trust, where they run their courses.
The flower meadows did not disappoint, and despite
this being the start of the school holidays, it
really is a quiet, rural part of the world here.
Butterflies galore as we expected.
My first trip to Fontmell Down, showed another
side to Dorset. In the far north, there were immediate
views of 2 Red Kites, still rare throughout this
county, and then we observed the butterflies and
moths of this nature reserve, and very hilly chalk
downs. We went across the road when leaving to the
Compton Abbas Airfield. This, being a hot Sunday,
was heaving with day trippers, and a fabulous cafe
just yards from the runway is a site to be re-visited.
I saw some of the tiniest planes imaginable here.
Many trips to Brownsea, and an extraordinary day
on 15th of July, resulted in 10 Red Squirrel sightings,
and some super-duper photo opportunities. Never
do I tire of photographing this mammal, with its
colour, its ear tufts, and its sheer beauty. Maybe
my favourite British animal.
One stage during this walk, we were looking at
a White Admiral, whilst a Nightjar was churring
away in the middle of the day. It was a great day
– a so-called Geology Walk – and it
finished up as a birding experience in the hide,
where just a few feet away the Common and Sandwich
Terns were nesting and squabbling. How I love Brownsea
on days like this.
Nicky Hoar gave me as lovely talk on the Dorset
Wildlife Trust with its impressive 26,000 members,
as did Paul Morton on the ‘Birds of Poole
Harbour’, how he was asked to do the barbeque
for David Cameron during the election, and the science
of bird sound.
I am not a gambler as such, but I do have 2 bets
every year. But these are big bets. Several hundred
pounds. They are wagered on The Masters and the
British Open, and these wagers have served me well,
very well, over the years. The way I work is that
I place money on some of the favoured players, but
never the favourite, the odds are too short, and
some money on the outsiders. All E/W, so I can make
a lot of money or can get my money back. Some bookies
will give you up to 8th place, so as I know a little
about golf, and love these 2 tournaments, the only
sport I really watch, then I have done well.
This year, I managed to get Zac Johnson at 100
to one. A fortune in winnings, and funnily enough
did not get any of the next 12 players, so a bit
of luck as well.
But on top of that, I won a small fortune on the
General Election, with the Tories getting an overall
majority. So, it was boom time for my income, and
I actually spent a couple of weeks looking for a
Then I decided to stick to my good ‘ol reliable
Kia. Doing nature walks, it has a huge boot for
telescopes, wellingtons etc. but more importantly,
being worth just £500, I need not worry unduly
about mud, or keeping it spotless, and it still
goes. So, I will persist.
This year was meant to be the year of travel, but
trying to get the book off the ground has put paid
to that. But, there is nowhere, in summer, where
I would rather be than Dorset, but come the autumn,
then really I must be awa - -
ONLY HAPPEN TO A BORIS JOHNSON OR - - ME - -
I was on my way to a HOS walk at Itchen Stoke Mill.
I saw 3 Cranes, and obviously told the HOS members,
who agreed I should report it ASAP so that others
might find them on this Sunday. I saw these birds,
as they flew overhead, for about 3 seconds as I
was driving along the M27. Luckily, the Records
Committee had further proof of this sighting, as
an hour later they were seen in Salisbury, an hour
after that, seen landing in Oxfordshire. Was this
the shortest confirmed sighting ever of a rare bird
in a county?
Roger Harrison, owner of the Mill and a significant
part of the Itchen, was on his way back from Scotland
and would arrive back at any time, but in the meantime
Victoria Harrison would lead the walk. Not knowing
how to report the birds on a phone, Victoria kindly
let me use her computer from the beautiful Mill
House, one of the most scenic sites in Hampshire.
She switched the computer on for me, and said that
I could leave and catch up with the walk when I
After struggling with remembering passwords etc.,
finally I was able to get a message to 'hoslist',
but could not get to goingbirding, and sent the
message to the county recorder, Keith Betton. Finally,
I was ready to leave. This was when the horrible
moment arrived. The front door would not open. It
was locked. I was locked in!
I tried the back door. Padlocked. I saw our group
on the lawn being talked to about the Mill, the
introductory talk finished and they set off! I banged
on the double-glazed and locked windows, knowing
no one would hear me. Picture if you will 'The Scream'
by Edvard Munch, accentuate it by an awful lot,
and even then, you just approach my feeling of horror.
My only chance was that Victoria would remember
and someone would come back and rescue me, but after
20 minutes, I felt utter desolation and defeat.
(Later, I was somewhat narked, that no one had noticed
that I was absent. Shows my charisma. However, the
reason, it turned out, was that they were stretched
1/4 mile along the river bank, an excuse I accepted.)
I would be stuck here for 2, maybe 3 hours, whilst
others enjoyed the spectacular vistas of this private
stretch of the River Itchen and the Water Meadows.
Far, far worse than this would be the gleeful ridicule
I would receive, probably for eternity from so-called
I would try a long-shot, and tried my phone. Yes,
I had Ted Barnes's number, but there would not be
good reception here, way out in the sticks, and
Ted is not a mobile phone type person; but glorious
surprise, I got an answer. I hesitantly told my
predicament, fully expecting Ted to explode into
laughter at my predicament. Yes, this is exactly
what happened. Never have I heard such laughter,
and sheer happiness, as I could hear the message
being spread about.
I then Spoke to Victoria, who after apologising
for simply forgetting about me, directed me through
passageways to a door, which she told me to open;
but it would not budge. I was told to pull the string,
and to kick the door and it would open, and it did!
Then through 2 more doors and I was out, and free
to the outside world again. I could envisage the
sigh of disappointment from my friends. Had Ted
not just happen to have his phone, have it on, the
reception work, then I would have been stuck for
It was a strange experience being stuck in a house,
with a constant rumble, as the River Itchen flows
through the middle.
A PIECE I WROTE ON FACEBOOK. NICK ROBINSON WAS DIAGNOSED
WITH CANCER AS THE ELCTION CAMPAIGN TOOK OF. A CRUEL
TIME, AND HE WAS SHOWN KINDNESS BY ALL POLITICOS
- WELL, NOT QUITE ALL 30.5.15
Leading up to the election, I was told and emailed
by friends, and even by some who I had admired for
their conservation work, that Russell Brand should
not be ignored, he had the voice of the young, and
some of his thoughts were worth merit. Well, he
is 39, so compared to most of my friends he is indeed
youthful. I am sorry to say this but they should
have known better, they are trying to be 'with it'
(shows my age) and I wonder what they have to say
now? Can they now name one thing he has ever said
that is profound? He has had to admit to reading
dictionaries just before he talks to learn big words
so as to impress, but they were just thrown in piecemeal
with no meaning. This is a man who does not understand
a graph, yet Ed Miliband sought him out for his
thoughts. Here is Nick Robinson's take on the great
Russell. Incidentally, have you ever heard anyone
actually laugh at Brand's humour. Yes, they may
titter, they may think he is sharp and clever -
At the time, Nick Robinson was suffering from
cancer, and this is taken from his new book on his
illness, but he concentrates mainly on the election
campaign, and is the only time he shows real anger
and actually swears.
''THE 'BRAND SHOW' LEAVES ME CURSING. After a
recording of Question Time, as Russell Brand poses
for photos with his fans, I wait patiently to ask
him for an interview. We’ve had a bid in with
his agent for weeks, and again and again he’s
told us that ‘Russell may not have time’.
He has plenty of time now but no, he brushes past
me to pose with yet more fans.
I return to the departing devotees and as they
sing his praises I find myself angrily defending
the politicians he so loves to attack. While Russell
is being driven by his chauffeur, with his PR and
his personal make-up artist, to his multi-million-pound
apartment, I point out that the Labour guest on
the panel, Mary Creagh, will take the train, collect
her bike and cycle home before heading to her Wakefield
constituency to hold a surgery the next day. Who,
I ask, is more in touch?
I find myself cursing Brand as ‘that f***ing
sanctimonious t***’. I’m not sure this
complies with BBC editorial standards but it feels
better out than in.
My beef is straightforward. I do not resent the
fact that a stand-up comic has energised, excited
and enthused people about some of the great issues
of our time where politicians and, yes, commentators
like me, have utterly failed. It is just that I
am not impartial when it comes to democracy''.
felt strongly about the ‘Uncaring Tories’
and the shy Tories, so submitted a shortened version
of this to the Daily Mail, who phoned me to say
they wished to make it ‘Letter of the Day’.
This involved them arranging them to send around
their photographer (he was with David Cameron last
week), from Waterlooville, where I happened to live
in the past (and from where I developed my love
of nature). So together with a shared interest in
photography, we got on well together, although he
still would not permit me to wear my mancini. Never
have I had so many photographs taken.
A week later I was surprised to receive a cup through
the post. This it turned out was a prize from the
Daily Mail as I had been awarded the ‘Letter
of the Week’. Not bad considering it was the
election time. Below is the full article although
of course the letter was edited down, and certainly
the heading was nothing to do with me guv.
Now, it is up to the Conservatives to be humane,
both in animal welfare and in welfare cuts. Yes,
the welfare state has gone wrong, but we should
always protect the weak. Having spent 27 years dealing
with the poorest of the poor, most are not wicked
scroungers, it is the system that went awry, I would
prefer the average claimant (or whatever is the
PC word these days) to the average tycoon. The average
claimant does not wish to tread on people, cheat
on their taxes, cheat the public - but this is a
LEFT AND THE UNCARING TORIES
SHY TORIES 11.5.15
It is not statistically conceivable that every
opinion poll was incorrect. So was there a last
minute swing? Did the fact that Ed was finally given
a rough time by the BBC just before the election,
something he and the Labour Party was not used to,
have an affect? Did voters get into the booth and
then decide they preferred Cameron to Miliband?
Maybe. The Ed Stone was ridiculed for saying nothing,
the Russell Brand interview a farce, so did these
influence matters? Was the feeling that the left
SNP would team up with the Milibands too much? These
were all possible contributing factors, as was the
fact that there was so little mention given to the
wealth creators, it was just spending money again.
Is the ‘shy Tory’ a real creature?
In my opinion, most definitely. Was this a factor
in getting every single poll wrong? Yes.
I am on social media, Facebook and Twitter, plus
emails. Not a great deal, I limit my friends based
largely on my main loves and interest, being the
natural world, and the sciences, plus comedy and
art. I follow about 77 people, and during the election
campaign, have received many a tweet and a Facebook
message. These to a great extent, have been along
the lines of ‘I SUPPORT THE NHS. ENSURE THE
TORIES ARE OUT. VOTE LABOUR!’ I tired of receiving
these messages, simplistic slogans.
Like every other group, amongst naturalist there
are kind, considerate individuals, but there are
also the rogues, those who will always let you down,
those that profess to be conservationists but will
only agree to a project for money and recognition,
otherwise not interested. In other words, I have
discovered, they are just a smidgeon better than
the average Joe, in my opinion.
So I found it strange that I have never received
a single tweet or a single Facebook message, nor
even an email, from someone proclaiming themselves
to be a Tory or UKIP supporter. I do know plenty
of such people, some are friends, some from conversations
from various gatherings, but never, ever from social
This morning, one of Britain’s top birdwatchers,
an author, mentioned the same thing on his Facebook
page, to which I have responded, saying I am exactly
the same. Unlike me, he is involved in social Facebook
and Twitter on a bigger scale, yet no one votes
anything but Labour. Apparently, out there, there
is no such thing as a Tory. I could understand that
if Labour had come out green, animal-welfare minded
conservationists. But like the other major parties,
our countryside was given not a mention. After all,
Animals do not have a vote.
It is all to do with perceived virtue. ‘I
am left-wing’ which some people thinks translates
as – ‘therefore I am - - - - - - - virtuous.
We lefties have a monopoly of conscience. If you
are Tory, you are uncaring and selfish’. How
many times do we read about luvvies professing their
left-wing views, from the ultra-left and tax-dodging
multi-millionaire Martin Freeman (his partner also
a tax-cheat), to just about every actor/actress.
Perhaps a tweet such as ‘I prefer to produce
wealth and balance books and then we can spend’
does not have the same ring and a less self-congratulatory
tone to the usual ‘I am anti-austerity’
and ‘Our party believes in a progressive policy’.
( What on earth does that mean?) Have you ever heard
anyone profess to being ‘pro-austerity’
or proudly saying ‘we believe in anti-progressive
policies’. They are simple slogans, maybe
aimed at simple people, and one day, people might
ask themselves what they mean.
But the great god is of course no longer socialism
or communism – tried that, didn’t work.
No, it is the NHS. If you spend more, we will spend
more, plus 1. I tired of hearing that only the Labour
Party supported the NHS. Go back and you will hear
them saying for 40 years that the Tories, who are
evil by the way, want to destroy it. Yet still the
spending goes on, still it increases, it is the
8th largest employer in the world, one on 16 of
the British workforce works for it, yet they are
unable to cope. So we all agree that we have to
think about what we do about it, but as soon as
any change is proposed, there is uproar. Whoever
is in power will face difficulties, but it does
not mean they ar uncaring.
And of course, only the Labour Party cares about
it. I was treated by the NHS last year. My mother
died of cancer being looked after by the NHS, likewise
my father with a brain tumour, my sister died of
alcoholism despite the best efforts of the NHS,
and my other sister died of cancer aged 18 with
loving care from the NHS. Yet, day after day I was
told to vote Labour because only they care. There
is a perceived impression that if you are not a
Labour supporter, you are an uncaring, banker-loving,
out-for-yourself, cut the NHS, lout.
Those who believe in free speech cared little
when Nigel Farage was hounded out of a pub, when
he was simply attempting to have a quiet lunch with
his family. Why should anyone care, as he is a right-winger?
I am sure anyone on social media who professes to
be a UKIP supporter would be at least taunted on
social media, maybe abused, maybe threatened.
So, best to keep a low profile. I do not believe
that all of my naturalist friends are Labour supporters.
Either some of them are lying, or they simply keep
quiet about it, if they are Conservative. But those
that message, are saying out loud – ‘look
at me. I left-wing. I am virtuous’. Not all,
some are genuine.
Quite a few of my friends profess to vote Green.
All ecologists and naturalists disagree about most
things environmental, there are good healthy debates,
but there is just one theme that all agree upon.
There are too many human beings in the world, and
most of them want to eat meat, fish, have a better
standard of living, and Britain is the most overcrowded
country in Europe. Yet the Greens want an ‘Open
Door to all’ policy, and not just to Europeans
but the world. Maybe after a hundred million or
so have entered, they might reconsider; but it is
all nonsense I’m afraid.
If there was a party that offered real, genuine
social justice, more equality, protected the weak
against the strong, be they strong unions as well
as corporate companies, was wealth producing, protected
the environment, developed green spaces for all,
protected those without the power of a vote including
farm animals, helped our wildlife, helped our young
who do not enjoy the advantages of my generation,
then they would get my vote.
I have been involved in politics, either directly
or indirectly for 40 years now, our house has served
as the HQ for the constituency Labour Party. I still
have pictures of my father with Harold Wilson. Nowadays
I am simply a political anorak, but I have yet to
meet anyone of any political persuasion who is against
the NHS, so please stop sending me pointless slogans.
I do not mind arguing economics, ethics, or any
other subject with a rational and dedicated opponent,
but please, no more moral crusading.
I do not believe that nearly everyone wants to spend
more, sorry ‘invest more’ on every government
department, which appears the case judging by ‘Question
Time’. I did not believe what I was reading,
on social media, so I actually did do something
about it. Normally, I just have 2 bets a year; the
US Masters and the British Open Golf, which I know
a little about, but I thought I would have a go
at the Conservative Party winning an overall majority.
I do not claim that I knew anything, but had a hunch
and loved the odds, so put down the biggest bet
that I have ever placed. It turned out very nice
Liz Jones has written similar lines this weekend,
and we can see what the left think of Tories at
the anti-austerity demonstration just held in Westminster.
I believe, that when someone is phoned these days,
by a pollster, and they ask if you are willing to
answer a few questions, you can say yes or no. I
now believe, that just a few more of those who reply
– ‘I would rather not, thank you’
are going to be Conservative. This phenomenon may
be here to stay, which presents a problem to pollsters.
Yes, shy Conservatives are out there.
AND WHAT I THINK - 29.4.15
What a dreadful election this is turning out to
be. As someone who is a political anorak, and has
been since the age of six, no election compares
to this for sheer banality.
There is no vision from anyone, apart perhaps from
the SNP, the real stars of this show, and they are
going for nationalism, breaking up what is already
a small island, ‘this is our oil’, suddenly
become left-wing (when did that start?), ‘anything
to keep the Tories out’ (funny, they were
in coalition with the Conservatives not long ago,
but that is never mentioned), but they are the stars,
and will probably decide who rules. How odd? They
will be influential in Westminster, somewhere they
are against! May be interesting.
As someone who loves Scotland, am 50% Scottish,
have most of my relatives still living there, I
have to say I do not like the intolerance to the
English, the petty nationalism, and most certainly,
do not like the bagpipes.
All parties promising spend, spend, spend, even
more day by day, as more and more promises are being
made – on the hoof. They cannot possibly be
kept. In the old days, a promise or two might be
broken, but now the entire economic arguments are
based on falsehoods. They cannot spend 8 billion
more on the NHS without raising tax, or without
a major economic boom. And what will happen if there
is another economic crisis? The parties cannot say
it was unexpected, even we all know how economics
work, there are ups and there are downs, sometimes
beyond our control. What is to happen to Greece?
(Not mentioned of course.)
The only things that seem to matter are the NHS
and spending more money. No vision on the environment,
the poor, transport, farming, fishing, education,
immigration, the law, the Police, the armed services,
nothing on foreign policy, should we help the poor
of the world, should we campaign against animal
I am hearing and reading of Conservatives who
are going to vote Labour as a protest for David
Cameron’s 2 greatest failures, and surely
if he had at least tried on these, he would have
walked the election. (The economy has been saved,
our savings have been saved, unemployment is right
down.) Those 2 failures are immigration and the
seemingly uncontrollable rise of the wealthy, who
just get richer and richer. Even if the government
can do little about it, and even if, arguably, it
brings wealth to the country, they could at least
express some displeasure on the unfairness of it
The ever-increasing population growth, we are
the most over-populated place in Europe, affects
not those living in Hampstead, Islington, the judges,
the politicians, the lawyers, it affects the working
man, those who tried to better themselves by getting
an apprenticeship in plumbing or electric, only
to be under-cut by immigrants. UKIP will affect
the Tory votes, and it seems the major political
parties have simply given up on trying to control
the rise. Commuters will find their trains busier,
the M25 may one day just come to a standstill, our
wild habitats will become fewer, and yet nothing
can be done.
So, I care little about who wins. It might be
good election to lose, because even if we spent
another 20 billion on the great God, the NHS, it
would still require more, staff will still be overworked.
It needs a change, we all know that, but any talk
of change and uproar ensues.
So Labour chat to Russell Brand, whilst the Tories
say they will never raise taxes, ‘whatever
happens’. The SNP are up and up with their
dislike of the English, UKIP are Nigel Farage and
that is about it, the Lib Dems stand for, er, just
like the others, trying t get votes, trying to get
power, for the sake of power.
Where are the big rallying speeches? Where are
the ‘meet the public’ set-tos, the old
soapbox? For those of us who know a little about
politics, this campaign is huge turn-off, we can
see through ALL of them. The only discussion is
how much more to spend on most things, no talk on
how to produce the wealth, no talk on how to help
the small businessman who can produce wealth for
us all, it is all appalling.
HAVE ACTUALLY DONE IT 28.4.15
Bournemouth is a new town, just 200 years old.
Even in 1841, there were just a few hundred living
here. The pine trees, for which the town is always
associated with, were all planted – Scots,
Maritime, Corsican Pines. Bournemouth was flat heathland.
So not that much history. It is a fabulous town,
wonderful green spaces, the pier and seafront, great
hotels, all reasonable thanks to competition, great
micro-climate, super gardens, and located perfectly
in the best county of all, Dorset. But it has little
history, just smuggling – and er, that’s
So yesterday evening was one of the greatest nights
I follow football, but not passionately, and am
an absentee supporter. I like Arsenal, and Portsmouth
is my main side, being my home town. Southampton,
used to watch them quite a bit and admire them for
staying up for so long, about 50 years now. Oxford
Utd because I lived there and Oxford City –
well, I had big dealings with that club, which I
will not go into, but it was one of the original
This though I have to admit, is a fair-weather
article. I would not be writing it if Bournemouth
had not achieved this most unlikely success. S not
only am I an absentee supporter, but reflecting
a bit of the glory. The supporters I admire, are
not those of Man Utd or Liverpool, but of small
unfashionable clubs, mid-table, and travelling to
away games on a freezing January night. They tend
not to be violent or even chant those mindless chants.
Now I support Bournemouth because I live here.
This is definitely not a footballing town, which
makes it all more impressive. What they have achieved
is remarkable, truly remarkable, but you would not
have thought so, at least not until the last few
days. Very little publicity, and the club hardly
got a mention, at least amongst my friends. Just
6 years ago they were second to bottom of the lowest
division. They were deducted 17 points and totally
bankrupt. They were about to go right out of the
league and possibly cease to exist. At one stage
they were minutes form liquidation. A manager, Eddie
Howe, and a chairman Jeff Mostyn, saved it, and
apart from a short break where Howe moved away before
returning, this small club has climbed and climbed,
and climbed. A Russian oligarch from Sandbanks,
who keeps an ever low profile and no interviews,
Maxim Demin, has put some money into it, but with
such small gates, they are going to find it a struggle
to survive with the big boys.
Even if they struggle and get relegated, enjoy
the moment, it is still somewhat unbelievable, for
this the smallest club ever to play in the Premiership.
Just a few years ago they were literally collecting
money from tins. Now, promotion is worth something
between 100 and 200 million pounds. The money is
ridiculous and in my view obscene, but if anyone
deserves it, it is Bournemouth.
More than anything, this is a friendly, happy,
generous club. I went along this morning after the
night before. Just 5 supporters there, the manager
arrived and I had a chat and photographs with him,
similarly the chairman hugged me. I made sure the
REAL supporters got a picture with Howe, their hero.
This man is just 37, the most sought-after manager
in Britain now, but says for the time-being he will
not go to Newcastle, Liverpool or anywhere else,
and why should he? He has been with the club since
he was 10, and is a Bournemouth lad. Now he is being
touted as a future England Manager.
Everyone says what a nice quiet man he is, he
even keeps a diary, and it has just been revealed
that at one stage he put in £10,000 of his
own money to help keep the club afloat. His career
as a player was cut short as a player due to an
injury, but someone once said, every cloud has a
silver lining, and perhaps he would never have become
a manager had this not happened.
Anyway, well done The Cherries, a breath of fresh
air to the overpaid, moaning, whining, cheating
managers we are used to. Just await the open top
bus now, and bring on Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd.
I shall still be absent though.
- THE CHERRIES, WALKS, THE ELECTION, CANFORD SCHOOL,
LONGHAM LAKES, BNSS, PORTLAND, WEYMOUTH - 21.4.15
The latest on The Cherries. It's all to play for
with 2 games left. Yiiikkkeeeesss. This is going
to be close. They are currently second. I was actually
listening to their comeback on Saturday, then seconds
from the end, a controversial penalty awarded against
them and it was 2-2. Oh deary me.
Lovely day at Weymouth and Portland Bill, in the
glorious Dorset sunshine, yesterday. Ravens, Peregrines,
Whinchats, and hundreds of auks, mainly Guillemots,
loads of Gannets. At Weymouth, the Caspian Gull
was pointed out to me, it would have to be pointed
out! The obliging Hooded Merganser was in full mating
plumage, but of course, nothing to mate with. He
has been here many years now, and not the most difficult
bird to photograph. A Red-rumped Swallow was quite
unmistakable at Radipole. Good day. I do love Weymouth
and Portland Bill.
This week also saw a trip around Canford School,
where they have the most fantastic trees. The tallest
tree in Dorset, a Wellingtonia, stands at 110 feet,
but we were told giant Redwoods can grow to 400
feet in California. What????? A giant Sweet Chestnut
was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, so far older
than Bruce Forsyth, and is still going strong (well
the tree is anyway). Another highlight was a Wollemi
Pine. These are prehistoric trees, thought to be
extinct and just seen as fossils, but quite recently
a group of them were discovered.
The BNSS Open Day was another success, with over
600 attending! Children and parents are full of
smiles, and this year we had a garden full of other
exhibitors. It was weather dependant and the weather
was kind, so I took a multitude of photos for the
BNSS and other organisations. The only pity is that
everyone says what a great time they had and then
– leave. Few are the number who join.
2 lengthy walks around Longham Lakes to try to
see the Garganey or the Scaup, and drew a blank.
Did manage to photograph a Reed Warbler, never easy,
not as obliging as the H Merganser. Longham is very
quiet, few know about it, and Dominic Couzens based
his book ‘A Patch Made in Heaven’ upon
it. Not exactly a hotspot for birds, but a local
patch nonetheless, and that is the whole point.
A further walk was around Alderholt, in north east
Dorset, somewhere I have never been before. Again,
a lovely walk, didn’t see much apart from
the first Swallows of the year, and a Grass Snake.
This snake was sun basking, half out of his burrow,
just passing the time of day, minding its own business.
Then, about 8 admirers bent down about 10 feet away
from hi. He did not react, did not seem to see us.
Then slowly, his tongue started to flicker –
and flicker some more. His head turned round and
you could see him thinking ‘what the lf**K?’
Not one, but the scent of 8 aliens. Gradually, in
slow motion, he reversed back into his hole.
I have been photographing Goldcrests and Firecrests
from my balcony, and pictures from all of these
walks, on the website.
Please, please can we have an election every year.
Why not twice a year. It’s all forgotten that
we were all within 2 hours of losing all of our
savings in 2008. Don’t wish to know about
that. Despite talk of cutting the deficit, it is
now all hands to the pump, to pump out more and
more money. Okay, our children and grandchildren
will be lumbered but let’s spend, spend, spend.
We’re going to spend an extra 2 billion on
the NHS. Well, we’re going to spend an extra
8 billion. Well, we’re going to cure cancer.
The NHS is the 8th largest employer in the world,
and that includes armies. One in 16 in Britain works
in the NHS, but they need more – and more.
Yes, the staff are overworked, takes 2 or 3 weeks
to see a Doctor, A&E are probably in crisis,
so the hole thing needs at least – looking
at. But no, we know it needs change, but as soon
as change is suggested, there is uproar. Certainly,
the managers are overpaid, as are so many others
concerned with the NHS. We no longer have religion,
we no longer have Communism, but by god, we have
the NHS - inevitable round of applause.
DEMOCRACY HAS SPOKEN SO LET US BE DOMOCRATIC - 12.4.15
Today Malta voted 51% to 49% to continue with spring
hunting of migrant birds.
Very depressing, made more so, by the narrowness
of the defeat. A 1% swing brings the ‘what
ifs’ into it, reflections of benefit of hindsight,
maybe the campaign should have been more threatening
and so on. If it had required a 5% swing, then funnily
enough, it would not be so depressing.
So, what is to be done, democracy has been employed,
the people have spoken.
( H,mm, democracy. Not the great solution to everything
as America believed, as evidenced in Iraq, where
you voted on sectarian reasons, hence the Sunnis
felt marginalised, hence it was easily invaded in
2014 by Isis and a third of it lost in weeks. Get
rid of the elected President quickly, and start
again was the solution. Similarly, the USA were
not exactly delighted when Hamas became the elected
rulers of Gaza, not what was envisaged. Earlier,
the death of Tito, brought in democracy and the
Serbian wars. If people are going to vote purely
along religious or tribal lines, and then often
abuse power, abuse which is going to be permanent,
then it can be worse than a benevolent dictatorship.
I digress in a big way, yes democracy is usually
the best method, and Malta has spoken; although
it did not help that the Prime Minister and the
leader of the opposition was for hunting.)
Malta is an important staging post for migrating
birds, and yet every spring, 10,000 (!) hunters
from this tiny island, derive some kind of pleasure
from blasting them with shotguns. Okay, why not
try binoculars, why not try photographing them,
why not try just enjoying this free spectacle. They
are not even Malta’s birds, they are passing
Now I consider a ‘hunter’ as someone
with a Bowie knife fighting a Grizzly. That person
can rightly call himself a ‘hunter’.
Someone who kits themselves up in camouflaged clothing
to appear like the real thing, and arms themselves
with an expensive shotgun, versus a Turtle Dove,
is not a hunter, and somehow the odds seem a bit
stacked. Words like butcher, assassin seems more
The Island of Malta earned the George Cross in
1942, for holding out during WW2. Yes, I and we
are grateful, it was a strategic hub – but
it was a long time ago, over 70 years ago, and a
different generation, and has nothing to do with
this current argument. It is probably a reason as
to why Britain has made it such a holiday destination,
giving much required employment and income to the
They argue that hunting is traditional. Well,
time moves on, even traditions. 3 things were different
in the past. There were far more birds; the firearms
were not as easy and accurate and now the birds
are shot for sport, not required meat. These are
huge, fundamental differences.
As for tradition: We should now consider bringing
back bull-baiting. It’s a sport, and less
one-sided than the spring shooting of birds. Perhaps
public hangings, a great traditional attraction,
very popular with the masses and part of our heritage.
We should all be grateful to Birdlife Malta. Some
of these people not only risk abuse, but even physical
attacks and irreparable divisions in families. Far
easier to keep mum. Also to Chris Packham, a name
who brought attention to this annual massacre, again
far easier in his position, to avoid major controversies
and not get involved.
So, what is to be done?
I suggest that the policy of the RSPB, which is
that it is better to keep talking, now ends. It
has been trying for over 20 years. The actual name
‘Protection of Birds’ means something,
it is the body for action. They cannot be seen as
being left or right wing, so understandably, they
avoid political issues, but these are our birds
and Europe’s and Africa’s birds, so
surely no one could grumble, if they simply advise
their million members to avoid Malta as a holiday
destination. This must be Malta’s main source
of livelihood. If the RSPB have a million members,
then with acquaintances, we are talking 5 million,
which means power, which could mean national news
event, which could mean snowball effect.
Birdwatching and Bird Watch magazine should follow
suite, and why not all of the journals, and whilst
they are at it, why not drag Cyprus into this mire.
3 million songbirds a years are estimated to be
slaughtered in traps for mere morsels of food. (But
of course, it is traditional.)
Bird numbers are being reduced by loss of habitat
and insecticides, killing off the basic essential
food chain, so the traditional supply is no longer
there. As for allowing Quail and Turtle Dove to
be legally shot, who thought of this? Both of these
species are suffering huge decreases in numbers
already, the joys of seeing them in Britain are
now rare indeed.
Are we doing this for the birds benefit or ourselves?
The answer is both. We want to enjoy the birdsong
and the beauty but we also want our children to
inherit the spectacle of seeing these joys of nature.
So come on, left-wingers, right-wingers, UKIPers,
all of you. This election should not be JUST about
money and the NHS, who promises the most, there
are other issues out there, wars, destructions of
our earliest historical sites which also occurred
this week, and now this, a difficult to comprehend
democratic result; the right to wear camouflaged
clothing, call yourself a hunter and blast little
birds as they voyage on their magical ride of migration.
Shame on the human race.
Today is heartbreaking, so let us just imagine
what Chris Packham and Birdlife Malta are feeling.
They are, let us admit it, now in a weaker position
as they confront the hunters. But let us use the
adage – ‘use the difficulty’.
Sometimes, with hindsight, a setback, however severe,
can be used as an unforeseen spur for change, and
in the long-run, may work out better than ever expected.
Chris Packham has done his very best, for which
we should be so grateful, but he has his BBC employer,
who as we know, prefers to keep a neutral stand
on contentious, issues. So I would like to see Bill
Oddie, with back-up, starting a new campaign now.
He is emotional about this subject, which is essential,
he too devotes his own time to it, he too can be
influential, and he has contacts. I think him ideal.
I can understand the RSPB avoiding controversial
actions, where possible. But surely, this is not
controversial, it is just plain wrong. So let us
democratically, boycott Malta and Cyprus, but more
importantly, let us pass on the message to friends,
colleagues, radio stations, journals, to avoid these
holiday destinations until they change. Who knows,
it could start a trend. The war may yet be won.
BIG EVENT AND AN EXCLUSIVE 29.3.15
from an article I wrote for HOS website and Kingfisher
You are probably aware that Twitter has been aflame
this week on the big event, so congratulations to
all involved on another successful AGM/Open Day
on putting together our big event. We are awaiting
the returning Officer results but an exit poll reveals
that there was a new world record in attendance
3 disappointments: First, problems reported on
the overflow car parking; being looked into. Secondly,
no chocolate cakes this year; an official enquiry
is under way. Thirdly, no Chris Packham. But did
we miss him? Er, yes actually. It is only the second
time he has been unable to attend, he has been good
for the Society, and part of the reason for our
huge attendance figures. He was unanimously selected
for a further 5 years as President.
He had a sickie from the BBC to say he was filming
a Easter Special at Bempton Cliffs and then Panama.
Bempton is one of my favourite places, easier to
spot the birds than attempting Firecrests and Hawfinches
deep in the canopy of the New Forest, so he was
excused, but it calls into question the BBC Charter.
Final straw, it will now have to go. (HOS Exclusive
- On TV last night, he signed off by having a dig
at some of us by saying he was off for some chocolate
cake. We can now officially confirm – there
was none available. It was bluff.)
Also unanimously, Glynne Evans was elected as an
honourable Life Member, well deserved for the time
he has given to the Society, so many projects for
so many years.
John Eyre gave an update on the Hampshire Bird
Atlas, and the considerable amount of work involved.
As a co-author of Birds of Hampshire * and 20 years
as Chairman of HOS, if he says it is a lot of work,
then it is, and far more than expected. Incidentally,
his co-author *, John Clark, has produced another
excellent Bird Report, a beautiful production and
another mammoth undertaking by all involved, recorders,
the Records Panel, editors - everyone, to produce
this annual scientific/artistic report.
Next up, Marcus Ward who is undertaking the largest
surveys ever on Hawfinches and Firecrests (he clocked
up 505 Firecrest nests last year) in the New Forest.
If anyone ever wishes to help him, just get up at
4am, that is before heading off to work, then coming
home in the evening, recording the work, enjoying
a full family life, then early to bed, setting alarm
clock to 4 am, 6 days a week throughout the summer.
Simples. If you prefer, simply join him on one of
his HOS walks.
Both of these species are amongst the most difficult
to survey for so many reasons, not least their size
and unwillingness to cooperate, which is why I will
stick to peacocks. Well done Marcus, rather you
This talk was followed by Mark Cocker, prolific
author, but most famously, ‘Birds and People’.
There was not a negative review. It took 10 years
to write. This rightfully is considered one of the
greatest nature books ever written, it won the Daily
Mail Book of the Year amongst a multitude of other
honours, and is full of wonderful picture . Oh,
and 400,000 words.
In my mind, we are going through a golden age in
nature writing, and Mark is generally regarded as
being our finest exponent. He talked about his magnus
opus, and it was gratifying to know that he was
as accomplished a speaker as he is an author, which
is not always the case. Birds of Paradise, Hummingbirds,
these were shown in their magnificence, but it was
also satisfying for him to devote time to what he
emphasised is the most important bird in the world
- the chicken - and how we should respect it a bit
more. I am also of this mind. I sometimes remind
friends of mine who campaign for the hen Harrier,
that they enjoy their chicken nuggets, and in sheer
numbers of exploitation, there is no comparison.
The chicken gets a raw deal throughout the world,
its tragedy is its taste. Cock fighting at least
is now banned here, but used to be a huge commercial
sport, and the names given to those organising the
events were Cockers.
Mark came a long way from his beloved Claxton,
and it was not a hindrance that Jonathan Mycock,
in overall charge of our Open Day, is an old pal
of his, enjoying foreign birding holidays from way
Dr. Dick Potts gave the John Taverner Lecture,
and having spent 47 studying the Grey Partridge,
so is beginning to know a thing or two about them,
too detailed to go into here. The Grey Partridge
is perhaps the greatest illustration of the decline
of farmland birds. Even where fields have set aside
strips, insecticides are still sometimes used on
them (!), which makes it all somewhat pointless.
I remember when as a boy I happened upon a family
of Grey Partridges, displaying the broken wing mimicry
by a parent to lure me away. This enchanted me and
has stuck forever, cementing my admiration of these
So thanks to the speakers, thanks to each and every
stallholder, to Jonathan and the committees for
organising it all again (not bad value for free),
but next year do try to do something about the chocolate
NOW A BLOG 20.3.15
I intend to write more regularly
on this site, maybe once a week or so, as a sort
of blog. I hope I never report that I am going out
to lunch or off to the pub. But it saves me keeping
a diary, I can refer it to my friends so saves me
writing emails, I can refer it to my enemies so
saves me writing emails, it saves me repeating myself,
it saves me repeating myself, and when I am about
to snuff it, I hope to look back and reflect what
a pointless life it has all been. (In reality,
I will continue to write emails to my friends.)
Next, within a few years, hope to crack texting,
then Facebook and Twitter, maybe even with
photos, with my trusty 5 year-old Training Officer
As for today's eclipse. Would you
believe it? Bournemouth experiences one, sometimes
two, cloudy overcast days each year, and today was
one of those. But why did it not at least go dark,
with 97% eclipse? Pity, I met with Lucie Green,
a few weeks back, so will now have to email and
enquire. Next week, will be
meeting with friends, including Chris Packham and
Marcus Ward (who knows more about Hawfinches and
Firecrests than anyone, anywhere) and Mark Cocker,
regarded as our finest wildlife writer (which is
really saying something!). Good times ahead.
& RFLECTIONS ON MY BIRTHDAY 19.3.15
Today is my birthday. For a reason
unexplained, this year I received a plethora of
good wishes, in contrast to previous years. Maybe
I am about to snuff it and you know something that
I do not. Maybe it is because today was a milestone
birthday, one of those defining ages in life. Just
20 years from now and I will be fast approaching
my official middle-age. Yes, that was it.
I do hope I will always be immature,
and never, ever, ever moan about the 'youngsters
today'. The 'good old days' were never that good,
it is all a myth. There were paedophiles, it's just
whereas these days little is done about them, in
those days nothing was done. The youngsters today
are if anything, better behaved than my generation.
We could not find a phone box that was not smashed
up, students revolted demanding 'freedom' although
had no idea freedom of what, protests against Vietnam
were fair enough, until the morons started chanting
for Ho Chi Minh or Mao. No, the youngsters are fine,
unlike in our days, jobs are harder to find for
them, and now many students are lumbered with debt.
They do however, have a severe lack of musical tastes,
whereas we had the Beatles, Stones, Who, Cream,
Fleetwood Mac, Kinks, Small Faces etc. etc. etc.
etc. Also of course, the biggie, they are fixated,
obsessed by social media, faces waiting anxiously
for the next text, not looking at the trees, or
hearing the birds, they are missing out on life
The only problem is, that if I were
younger, I would probably have been the same! But
apart from this, leave them alone, they are fine,
they are supposed to rebel, every generation does,
but they rebel less than we did, and they are going
to have a tougher time - less secure employment,
mass immigration, possible permanent terrorism,
possible climate change, over-population.
Anyway, thank you for all the emails
and messages, sincerely appreciated,but perhaps
next year, do consider enclosing some money.
For the last 2 days I have been
photographing a pair of kingfishers on the Stour,
and today discovered where the nest is. Obviously
this is not to be revealed, but it is close to a
footpath, a well walked doggy-walk footpath, and
soon, it will be discovered by the public. As it
is, it is, these Kingfishers are already enjoyed
by local walkers, and perhaps no other species are
so popular with the general public.
I always maintain there are 4 'WOW'
birds, those that virtually everyone wants to see
(I do not count the 2 eagle species, you have to
be in Scotland to see them). If ever we show these
birds to the public, they also say - "Wow.
Always wanted to see one of those." These are
the Kingfisher, Osprey, Peregrine and Puffin.
I have seen countless KFs over
the years, but this time I used my trustee old prime
lens - 300mm 2.8 - to get the birds in flight, much
more unusual. When no one was looking, I gave my
lens a kiss. Some of the pictures now on the website,
and will later be placed into Special Birds category.
- ACCORDING TO JEREMY CLARKSON - 17.3.15
.Jeremy Clarkson dominates our home news this week.
A big beast. Here he is excruciatingly rude about
my beloved town, but coming from him, it is flattery
indeed. He is probably about to be sacked by the
BBC, or will probably walk, so as everyone else
has had their say on him, here are mine.
I like Jeremy Clarkson. Too many of my friends,
especially the naturalists, are Guardianistas, either
living in Hampstead (where I lived for 9 years),
or Islington, where the chattering BBC/Guardian
readers pontificate to all and sundry. I enjoy his
wit and his politically incorrect outbursts. What
I cannot forgive, was his eating an Ortolan Bunting
in 2002. This bird is rare and declining, what he
did was illegal, they are trapped in a brutal manner,
they are then force fed in a brutal manner, and
killed in a brutal manner. All this for a morsel.
Still, he got his laugh.
I am indebted to the Echo, for these quotes from
Jeremy Clarkson, following Top Gear's trip to this
glorious town in 2009. Or did they really visit?
Anyone who visits here, is struck by how young everyone
is, all jabbering away on their mobiles, more foreign
language students than the rest of Britain put together.
I, seemingly am the only old git over 50 years of
age, whereas Christchurch - - -.
As for the traffic problems - there are virtually
none in Bournemouth, thanks to the Wessex Way, the
dual-carriageway that winds through the centre.
On the other hand - just outside - coming form Poole
(or christchurch), well here, you do get long queues.
So I rather suspect he is considering Poole as being
part of Bournemouth, and there they do sometimes
have major traffic problems. Mind you, Top Gear
blowing up a car on a major thoroughfare would hardly
help matters. So this is taken form the Echo - -
1. The show saw the car fanatics transform a Fiat
Multipla into a car fit for elderly people, painting
it the same colour as a hearing aid, installing
comfy armchairs in the back, with a cat cage on
2. During their filming for the same show, Clarkson
explained the mysterious absence of colleague James
May by telling our reporter “He’ dead”.
“No, I’m joking. We sent him out for
lunch hours ago. I don’t know where he is”,
The two also joked that May was unhappy about coming
to the south coast for filming.
“His exact words were that he hates the south
coast, and he hates everyone who lives there,”
Richard Hammond added: “It’s a personal
thing. He hates all of these people individually.”
Thankfully, the two said they disagreed with May’s
3. Following the show being aired, Christchurch
council leader Ray Nottage hit out at the show,
questioning why Christchurch was portrayed as “some
sort of extension to a massive old people’s
home.” He invited Clarkson and co-presenter
Richard Hammond to put a councillor in a reasonably
He said: “If you experienced as I did the
BBC presentation of Christchurch on Top Gear on
Sunday evening, you as I am sure, would wonder why
this dynamic, vibrant community is constantly described
as some sort of extension to a massive old people's
4. In 2010, Clarkson lavished praise on former
Bournemouth airline Palmair and Bournemouth Airport
for their service. In his column in The Sun, the
presenter said he was initially disappointed his
two-week holiday would be starting with a Palmair
flight from Bournemouth.
He said: “The plane – probably a Sopwith
Camel – would be marooned in Tenerife and
would not be able to pick me up until it had deposited
a party of Swedes in Yugoslavia.
“I’d therefore be spending my entire
fortnight at Bournemouth Airport. A place where
Coca-Cola has not yet been invented and all you
can have is mead.
“Wrong. Bournemouth Airport is brilliant and
Palmair was even better. We took off on time, landed
on time, the food was nice and we didn’t crash
5. And in 2009, he stepped into the row over the
Bournemouth Spur Road, accusing highway chiefs of
“closing a lane of the A338 for seven miles
so some worms could be rehoused.
“Closing a road should be a last resort. Getting
it open as soon as possible should be the number
one priority. And worms do not matter.” (Oddly,
the piece was accompanied by a picture of an earthworm.)
6. He also added Bournemouth’s traffic to
the never-ending list of things he hates.
He said: “Some people say Tokyo is the world’s
largest city but they are wrong, because it’s
Bournemouth. The last time I was in Tokyo I got
from one side to the other in less than an hour.
“To get from one side of Bournemouth to the
other on Monday night took me more than twice that.
“The south coast metropolis is often billed
as a safe place for people to retire – rubbish.
It’s full of old people who went there when
they were young but simply couldn’t get out
“All the sign posts point to places you have
never heard of and the traffic has to be seen to
- CAN BOURNEMOUTH DO IT??
Well they are still at or near the top. Now, the
realisation that Bournemouth Football Club, or the
Cherries, might become the most improbable Premier
League side since its inception.
In all honesty, this does not strike me as being
a football-crazed town, it is a laid-back tourist
resort, with a vast, transient student population.
Even now, I hear little talk of football –
by – anyone really, or is that just the company
Be that as it may, Dean Court is tiny, the capacity
of 12,000 is tiny, it does not exude a magisterial
presence like so many Premier stadiums, no untold
wealth, no huge passionate crowds. It was not long
ago that the Club were facing bankruptcy, and recently
it was revealed that the manager, Eddie Howe, helped
out by throwing in £10,000 of his own money.
He of the film-star looks, and in view of his
limited budget, small gates, indeed, small catchment
area, it makes his achievement all the more remarkable.
But, they could actually do it!
It would generate vast publicity for the town
(surely it would, at least for the last few games),
and even if they were subsequently relegated after
a season or two, something to remember for ever.
I do follow the Cherries, because of what they
stand for, because of Eddie Howe, but mainly because
I live here. I am an absentee follower, often walking
around the stadium on nature walks, never going
to a match, but I wish them well. I am an absentee
follower of a few clubs.
Arsenal: I like Arsene Wenger, the fact
that he is always willing to be interviewed even
after another crushing morale-busting defeat. I
like his style of playing, do not like his myopia.
Portsmouth: my home town, I used to watch
them – many, many, many years ago, and have
always followed them. I like the town, I like the
people, they did not deserve the near demise of
the club, when for years, they faced bankruptcy,
and only just survived by the skin of their teeth.
They have always had good gates, supporters through
thick and thin, usually the latter. Play up Pompey.
Southampton: I am supposed to hate this
club. Not every supporter of Portsmouth or the Saints
dislike each other, some hate one another –
genuinely. Local derbies show our tribal instincts
to be deeply ingrained in our psyches. But I like
Southampton, I used to watch them, way back in the
First Division, and they have been over-achievers,
long-term over-achievers, and they too tend towards
Oxford Utd: again, I lived hereabouts for
many years, and recall when they arrived in the
old First Division, with the money from the old
fraudster, Robert Maxwell. The over-achieving did
not last, it was another town where football was
not pre-eminent in people’s lifes or discussions,
but they are safely plodding along in the lowest
Oxford City: This is a small club, one of
the first established, and I had big, profound dealings
with the club, about 20 years ago. That is all I
I follow football, and golf, but think they are
all paid too much (why do we never hear a peep from
the left about footballer’s wages?) and it
is all over-hyped. I dislike the chanting - mindless.
Maybe football is a substitute for war. If so, then
This will be my only blog on football, although
may mention Bournemouth FC again, if ‘it’
- 2.3.15 - THE LAKES OF CHAMPAGNE
This may have been the first organised Hampshire
Ornithological Society birdwatching holiday, and
so it was that we travelled from Southampton Airport
on 27th of March, to Orly. I always book at the
last moment to the understandable annoyance of friends
and travel companies, and I was finally persuaded
to go by Caroline French, and Keith Betton, two
long-standing friends. (Luckily Caroline does indeed
speak fluent French, so was to be our translator,
and our driver.) Thence, a 3-hour pretty non-descript
drive south-east, to the Lakes around the Champagne
area, and a visit to the Crane Farm. We were to
spend 4 days, mainly around the vast reservoirs,
man-made, part of the 5,700 hectare nature reserve.
We also frequented the woods, largely plantations,
seeing Nuthatches, Short-toed Treecreepers, but
no Black Woodpeckers.
The principal attraction of this area are the thousands
of Common Cranes, continually flying overhead, but
even at the farm, where they are fed, they are still
distant. We were to meet up with the leader of the
tourist board and also Matthew Merritt, editor of
Bird Watching Magazine (also a poet and a lovely
man), and my own view is that this area is suitable
for holidays for zealous birders, but requires
much planning, telescopes, as the birds are distant,
and requires expertise. It may not be suitable for
the average birder.
Fortunately, we had Keith Betton leading us, whom
I have known for many years, being the Hampshire
Recorder. (He is also an author, lecturer, head
of the African Bird Club, Deputy President of the
BTO, has appeared over 1,000 times on television
as ABTA spokesman, and one of the world’s
most travelled birders, 98 countries (many several
times over), 7,600 species, and has amassed over
2 million miles.)
We were here for 4 days, did not see the White-tailed
Eagles, but did see Willow Tits, Middle-spotted
Woodpeckers, Firecrests, Kingfishers, a White Stork
(that has been permanently here, on its vast nest,
according to the locals either for 7 years or 15,
and does not migrate), Great-white Egrets everywhere
– but not a single Little Egret, and the usual
suspects, totalling about 79 species. Good, but
not great; why so few little birds?
We also witnessed Mad March Hares (on 1st of March)
boxing and chasing, not a single rabbit, close-ups
of Coypus, Roe Deer, and best of all, 2 lots of
Wild Boar, groups of 3 and 7. These were not fleeting
glimpses, but prolonged views as they rooted by
the edge of the lakes. With the holiday in general,
no great photos as everything was distant.
The area was scenic but deserted. To see a person
was rare, no one working the fields, no livestock
anywhere, everywhere closed, difficult to even find
a pit-stop for coffee. The picturesque villages
seemingly devoid of life. I must read up the history
of this place. This is called the Ardennes - Champagne
The locals were all friendly, the hotels were
good (mine, was superb and highly recommended -
La Maison Des Officiers - from our base at Montier-en-Der).
The company was excellent, the food was good, the
weather was good (despite the dire forecast), and
nothing went wrong, rare on a holiday. I would rate
this holiday 9 out of 10, but as stated, needed
considerable planning or you would just be staring
at empty water, with dots in the distance, you do
need an expert at hand, and much driving is required.
- MY YELLOW WAG - PART 3
Here is an update I have submitted
to the Bournemouth Echo - 27.2.15
Early this year, I wrote about the Grey Wagtail
that was frequenting the driveway of my appartment
block in Dean Park Road, central Bournemouth, and
subsequently, I received welcome communication about
this from the readers of the Echo. Surprisingly
- - over 7 weeks later and - - it is still here!
For the second winter running, it is seen by neighbours
and myself, always on the tarmac, never the grass,
often accompanied by a Wren and a Dunnock.
It should not be here, it should be catching insects
on a river or stream, and I am hoping that soon,
a conscious (or is it unconscious?) trigger of the
brain will nudge him, time to be off, time to find
Today for the first time, he allowed me to approach
without scampering away, allowing me close-ups of
this lovely bird that belies its name. I do not
wish it become too accommodating - there are a couple
of cats that will probably salivate at the mere
mention of 'Wagtail'. I hope to be saddened to lose
such a colourful addition to our home, but I wish
it to find its true habitat - for the time being.
- POOLE HARBOUR TRIP
Sunday, went on a Poole Harbour Trip, the third
such trip of January, but this time, landed for
a couple of hours on Brownsea. Did see a Red Squirrel,
2 Kingfishers, and the usual Mergansers, Goldeneye,
Spoonbills, Avocets etc. This time, I went as a
member of HOS, and a colleague totalled 58 species
of birds. Yet another super, 4 hours in all, around
this great harbour.
- THE REFORM CLUB - PALL MALL WESTMINSTER
Monday, by train to London for a working lunch
with Sophie Stafford, editor of WFF Magazine, and
previously 10 years editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine,
together with Mark Avery, Britain’s best known
nature blogger, conservationalist, author, campaigner
for the Hen Harrier, 25 years and ex-Chief Director
of Conservation at the RSPB.
Our meeting place was none other than the Reform
Club of Pall Mall. No photographs allowed unfortunately,
but whatever you envisage such a club looking like,
then rest assured, you are correct. Stunning interior,
pillars, armchairs and sofa, loads of staff rushing
around for you, every room full of books (77,000)
and character and history. It was set up as a result
of the Great Reform Act, Churchill and MPs of the
liberal persuasion have been or are members, and
just an overwhelming experience. It was designed
by Charles Barry, who rebuilt the Palace of Westminster.
We were there for the day, all went well on a
project we shall be working on, and a jolly good
day was had by all three of us, with trains running
on time, good company, good start to the project.
Things certainly better – so far – than
BIRDS, SPRING AND THE RETURN OF AN OLD BUDDY
Yesterday spring kicked off here in Dorset, if
not in most other unfortunate snow covered parts
of Britain. I rarely troll my northern grockle friends,
as it is surely a matter of pity. To Hatch Pond,
where upwards of 50 Snipe were sunbathing in the
open, and we saw Mallards not only courting but
mating, as were a pair of foxes (although of course
this is the usual time of year for them).
On to Sandbanks where the Purple Sandpipers were
so confiding that I had to politely ask them at
one stage, to stop walking towards us, as they were
too close for our cameras to focus.
Then today, on to the Stour, where I had been
told there is a confiding Kingfisher, who comes
to within 10 feet of people, not afraid of cameras
or dogs, and even settles on fishing rods. Multiple
views of the bird were enjoyed, but not that close.
I was discussing with some locals as to why the
Otters are being seen more and more, and during
the day around here, the Granby Road area, when
a large dog Otter popped up 6 feet away, took one
look at us, and he was gone, and I can’t say
I blame him.
Back home to be greeted as usual, by the Grey Wagtail
- see below.
- TRIP WITH THE BOURNEMOUTH 'YOUNG EXPLORERS, AROUND
Last week, I took out over 20 kids and parents,
from the BNSS Young Exploders. Amazing reaction
as it was all organised in 7 days, and just arranged
by giving a talk at their monthly meeting. An email
drop would have probably amassed 100! We embarked
on a boat for a 2-hour trip around Poole Harbour,
organised by Paul Morton and Phyl of Birds of Poole
Harbour Charity, so for us it was all free. It was
a lovely day, crisp but not as cold as forecast
and little wind, so the children were all were behaved
and loved the experience, and the parents were not
too bad either for their ages.
We were given an extra bonus by a continuous commentary
of the birds and the history of the Harbour by Mark
Constantine, who was accompanied by Mo. What a fantastic
day, with Spoonbills, Avocets, and the highlight,
the closest view ever in Dorset of a Black Guillemot
in its winter plumage of - - - white. It was oblivious
of the boat, and came within a few feet. Mark and
Mo not only run 900 Lush shops worldwide, but he
is a multiple author on ornithology, Owls, Poole
Harbour and the science of bird song in particular,
and I am trying to agree a date for him to give
us a talk at the BNSS.
This trip was so successful that we hope to make
it an annual event and next year, I hope to take
a lot more people, if again invited.
Here is a piece published 10 days
ago in the Bournemouth Echo:
- MY VERY OWN GREY WAGTAIL
"On February 16 last year, as I got out of
my car, I was surprised and thrilled to see a Grey
Wagtail on the driveway at my block of flats.
Surprised, because I live in Dean Park Road, in
the centre of Bournemouth, and Grey Wagtails are
birds of streams and rivers.
It flew away and that was it, or so I thought.
A couple of hours later, I went and had another
look, just in case, this time with a 300mm lens,
more in hope than expectation – and there
It was to remain for another six days, always
on the tarmac driveway, never on the grass. The
nearest other Grey Wagtail I have seen was on the
Bourne Stream, at Coy Pond, two miles or so in distance,
and there is no other stream nearby.
I pointed it out to the locals and it became an
attraction with the neighbours. I explained that
it would have been blown away by the great storms
of 2014, and that this sometimes happens during
windy, stormy weather. When it disappeared, that
was it – or so I thought - part 2.
Last Tuesday, a year later, I got out of my car,
and there it was, back in its favourite spot on
the driveway! I have never discovered what it finds
so attractive on tarmac, but there must be some
tiny insects which I cannot detect. Once again it
flew away and again it has returned.
A week later and still it is here. It is often
accompanied by a Dunnock and a Wren. It may surprise
some that so much simple pleasure can be derived
from the return of such a tiny colourful friend
– or maybe we naturalists are just simple".
try and write just a tiny bit more regularly)
CHRISTMAS 2014 BATH AND BRISTOL
NEW YEAR’S DAY BIRD BOAT AROUND POOLE HARBOUR
I have only made fleeting trips to Bath and Bristol
before, but decided Christmas was the time to rectify
all of this. I had visited the SS Great Britain
about 20 years ago – and boy, has it changed.
Yes, at brilliant Christmas at Mercure Hotel in
the heart of Bristol, where I was to do the tourist
trips to Bath, and then Bristol Centre, the SS Great
Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was
all fabulous, and if it was not for the fact that
I love where I live as Dorset is, unarguably the
greatest county, then I would consider moving to
I have always loved the west, but this exceeded
expectations. I managed to visit the tourist hotspots,
but out of season, so few crowds.
Harbourside was impressive. This the area renovated
from the old docks and warehouses. You can walk
along the quayside, and pass the SS Great Britain,
or even catch a ferry across to it. Carry on walking,
just a short distance, and you enter Clifton and
can see impressive houses built upon the side of
the gorge, and then the famous Suspension Bridge
itself. This spans across the main road and the
gorge, and just looks ‘perfect’ in this
I was so impressed with the bridge, that my initial
stay of 4 days, with an escorted holiday company,
was extended by 2 days. One can walk underneath
it or park in or near the pleasant ‘village’
of Clifton and walk, free across both sides. Then
there is the parkland and walk to the Observatory
(which was a little disappointing) and this affords
even more photo opportunities, looking down on the
bridge. This may involve looking into and photographing
into, the sun, but this allows a different and atmospheric
It is in truth, little to do with Brunel’s
design, and there has never been a great economic
justification for its construction, but is a wonderful
tribute to our great engineer and is in my opinion,
one of the most beautiful monuments anywhere. It
just ‘goes’ with the gorge. I photographed
it over 3 days, in different light and different
viewpoints. Superb and beautiful.
The SS Great Britain also exceeded my expectations.
This is modern renovation and presentation at its
best. The boat is wonderful, as is the museum, with
2 hours being insufficient to take it all in. (Admittedly,
it is expensive for a single visit with a family,
about the same as a year’s season ticket.)
The dining room was inviting even by today standards,
but this was for the wealthy. They do not shy away
from the ‘steerage’ class, where somehow,
700 would be crammed in. It brings the Monty Python‘s
4 Yorkshiremen sketch to life.
Tiny trunks of luggage would not only have to suffice
for a trip to Australia, from icebergs to tropical
heat, but would have to contain all their possessions
for their new life. Somehow, don’t think that
a modern day diva would manage this.
The old town centre of Bristol reminded us of the
square mile of the City of London. Merchants in
Bristol enjoyed vast wealth, spent on ornate buildings,
many of which survived the heavy bombing of WW2.
No less than 17 churches, most of which are huge,
means that every corner turned, will reveal views
of gigantic steeples.
A short trip from Bristol will bring you into the
city of Bath, well known for its unique architecture,
the place to be seen at, in bygone times. I think
it’s still the place to be seen at now. Some
places are timeless in their beauty, and it is hard
to imagine anyone not being impressed. I was with
a group, and we did the tourist thing of just being
there for about 5 hours, which means I will have
to call again and again – and probably again.
The Roman baths are sensational, the work done on
restoration superb. It is all original, even the
lead piping, and the lead which covered the pools
to hold in the water, is 2,000 years old (and the
health reason why it cannot be used nowadays). The
hot water still rises from deep in the earth, hence
the steam, hence the Roman God Minerva was worshiped
here. Hard to conceive that the entire edifice was
only discovered in the late 19th century, when it
was accidentally discovered under a street. Bath
was already a city of beauty, the in-place to be,
the Carnaby Street of the Regency, so we can only
imagine the impact this would have added to this
I would love to ramble on – the Pulteney Bridge,
the Royal Crescent – but get a guide book
and go there. Loads of pictures to be added to the
website. Bath and Bristol – don’t know
what it’s like to reside there, but as a pesky
tourist - superb.
New Year’s Day was not too shocking either.
Out on a bird boat, birding in Poole Harbour for
several hours, a special selection of cheeses, homemade
warming soup, great birds, scenery, good company
all paid for by a the generous Mark and Mo Constantine.
What a start to the New Year. Now, just arranged
for a special meeting at the Reform Club in Whitehall
later in the month. This will be a new experience
for me, visiting a posh Gentleman’s club,
having to wear a suit, and very much looking forward
All going too swimmingly at the moment, so expect
to suddenly drop down dead any time now.
Had the flu last week, just 24 hour flu, but do
I moan and suffer. Felt like death. My heart rate
increased from 60 to 100 and I thought my fibrillation
had returned, but after 6 days it returned to 60.
Seems your heart rate increases when ill to help
your body recover. Lesson learned, and for the first
time ever, will book up an anti-flu jab.
Went over the IOW to see the Bee-eaters on 20th
of August. Nice hot summer’s day, well organised
by the NT, and got good views of these eye-catching
birds. Also visited Brading Marshes RSPB Reserve,
but will need to return for a more expensive visit.
Brading Station is something different, with a London
tube train running between Ryde and Shanklin, but
strangely only runs between 10 and 4. You would
have thought this avoids the commuters, the most
customers! Very odd. The station is unlike anything
I have ever seen before with a mannequin sitting
reading a newspaper.
Anyway, the Bee-eaters bred for only the second
time in 62 years in the UK, and they were extremely
successful enjoying perfect weather conditions.
100 years ago today, Martha the last Passenger Pigeon
died in the USA. On 13th of September, Mark Avery
will be presenting his talk on his book at the BNSS.
As far as we know, we are the only organisation
to be presenting such a lecture, so it will indeed
be a keynote event.
To the Bournemouth Air Festival yesterday, and
once again, record numbers in attendance.
– TRIP TO LONDON – CHRIS PACKHAM &
Still taking the pills! However, my latest set
of tests for my heart shows all going okay now,
heartbeat still about 60 (until I see Gordon Brown
on the TV).
Had a few days in central London in late April.
Stayed at South Kensington, so naturally spent a
deal of time in the world’s great museums,
The Natural History, V&A and Science, which
are all grouped together. It would take months to
see most of the objects. At times long queues for
the Natural History Museum, Easter Saturday for
example was 1 hour twenty minutes, but normally,
no queues. Very busy though. Scott, Attenborough
and Packham have much to answer for.
A brief visit to the British Museum. Again there
was a short queue, and it was packed solid, the
heavy rain outside adding to the attraction. Just
arrived, when over the tannoy came the announcement,
‘This is an emergency. Please leave the museum
immediately.’ Wonderful. Some selfish beast**d
ruined the day for children, visitors from Australia
etc. Chaos ensued as the roads clogged up with people,
umbrellas and traffic.
Still, apart from that episode, it was a wonderful
break. London is a great place to visit, before
the summer hordes arrive, but not a place where
I would ever wish to live in again. The concrete,
rushing around, sirens, is all so unnatural and
artificial; but there is so much to see.
Also did the ‘Big Bus Tour’, 3 ½
hours without getting off, and visiting sights in
the west, most of which I knew, and then the east,
most of which I did not know. When I lived in London
for 12 years, I never ventured much into the east
of the city, residents had little recourse to do
so in those days, but there is so much history there.
I believe it is always a good way to initially acquaint
oneself with a city, the get-on get off bus tour.
We also had a coach guide, and every street would
have history ingrained upon it. Fascinating stuff,
although not all accurate information by the guide,
some facts were not facts at all.
I ‘popped’ into Hyde Park, and remained
there until dusk. Photographed a tame, but still
wild Heron from a distance of 6 feet!! Similarly,
Egyptian Geese, ancient escapes from zoos and private
collections, and Great-crested Grebes catching fish.
I wonder how many Londoners ever see the tourist
sights? I would think not many, just as not many
Parisians have ever been up the Eiffel Tower.
It was a welcome break, and I shall visit at least
once or twice a year. I was a member of the London
Zoo when aged about 9, and have not been back there
since!! Then there is Greenwich, the Tower, Docklands
- - - - -
Asked Chris Packham to visit the BNSS on 12th
of April. About to set off for Malta, so I got Jane
to make him a cake. I gave him strict instructions
that this was to be shared with the volunteers on
the Malta campaign. However, I got an email form
him as soon as he arrived home to say he had 'Scoffed
the lot'. I will be guiding him around as usual
at the Bird Trail in the New Forest on 11th of May.
He was quite magnificent in attendance all day long
at the HOS Open Day, of which I have written a couple
of articles. Friends of mine who were reluctant
to come along, and were going to sneak out but stayed
till 5 pm, were amazed at his oratory, something
I and we have come to take for granted over the
years. His depth of knowledge and way with words
must be unsurpassed now on matters concerning British
wildlife, and we are indeed fortunate to have him.
He has just spent a week in Malta trying to put
a stop to the hunting of spring migrant birds. There
are 10,700 hunters on this island, and what they
do every spring is illegal and indefensible. Unlike
global warming (or rather ‘climate change’)
or organic versus pesticides, GM foods, windfarms
etc. this is not a controversial subject. It is
Now the Maltese hunters might say that Europe
owes the island a debt, for holding out in the Second
World War, for being so brave, and being smashed
to pieces by the German Bombers. My response to
this is ‘All very true, but it was a long
time ago, and has nothing to do with the present
Another response is that it is part of their culture.
Well, perhaps we should bring back bear-baiting.
Perhaps the most indefensible aspect is that they
are not even their birds – they are migrating
from Africa to Europe.
Most Maltese themselves would vote for a ban.
It is about time. There are though, complicit or
even corrupt police and politicians. ‘Talking’
has been going on for years and years, it is against
the EU edicts, yet nothing is done. It would actually
be quite easy to stop. The RSPB could ask its members,
of which there are 1,300,000 to boycott the Island.
This would then make the BBC news, everyone would
eventually hear what is going on, and if the tourist
trade suffered as a result, it would have to stop.
Chris probably feels more passionate about this
than any other subject, so good luck to him and
well done indeed.
I now intend to travel more both in the UK and
the world. Have been asked by the BNSS to become
their 'Ornithologist', but do not want to commit
myself. In some respects I love the uniqueness of
the BNSS and its scope, but in others I disagree
with certain aspects. Guess this is the same with
every society. I will however continue to assist
Heather Dixon in her Bournemouth Naturally project,
getting the residents of Bournemouth more involved
in their green spaces, and will get my contacts,
the best birders in Britain, to come and give talks
at the BNSS, and will continue to lead field trips.
As for my flat, Bournemouth and Dorset, I still
think I have struck gold, it is all so perfect.
So, life is good.
Now, I MUST write that book.
UPDATE ON MINOR
HEART TREATMENT - 2 CHEERS
Thank you for your words, cards and messages wishing
me luck for my heart treatment. Gratefully received,
but next time to ensure that I will feel better
and boost my morale, please send me lots of money
instead. I will accept cheques, cash, bankers orders,
dollars, credit cards, IOUs and even Euros.
Yesterday, had the Cardioversion operation/procedure
at Bournemouth Hospital. This is where they stop
your heart and then restart it with a large electrical
These are about 80% successful and sure enough,
it did not work for everyone but I was successful.
I was awoken with shakes by the nurses just a few
minutes after the procedure with cries of “Ian
wake up. It has been successful.” They could
not wait to tell me, which was nice. This was followed
by the all-important tea and biscuits, the first
liquid I was allowed that day. So, I was jubilant,
good news for now, although it took 2 attempts for
it to work.
They had done the usual load of tests, questions
etc. form filling, then wheeled me into the operating
room, and a general anesthetic.
The bad news is that there is a 50% (some say
70%) chance of the heart treatment reverting to
its fibrillation (my heartbeat was both fast and
very irregular) any time in the next few days/months,
so unfortunately, cannot really celebrate, but better
than the alternative. Heart rate now about 60 instead
of 100 - 140 or so.Will continue, perhaps for ever,
with the drugs, now reduced to 5 different pills
daily, including Warfarin, and weekly blood tests.
Unfortunately (2) there were no vacant beds in
the cardiac wards, which have been good stays in
the past few months, so had to spend the night in
the old men’s ward. I felt like a teenager,
they really are old, none capable of walking or
conversing. One patient especially very abusive
and shouting all night long at the nurses. Has he
always been like this or is it just the dementia?
Even the staff do not know when I asked them. He
was just the same last time I was at Bournemouth
Hospital. Staff as usual were great. I managed to
put an escape plan into operation the following
day, and now seeking refugee status at home. I can
now confidently expect to live another 70 years
- 4.30 pm
WORST F***ING CHRISTMAS
SINCE ABOUT THE YEAR 1087
This year, decided not to go away, not even anywhere
for a meal. Stayed in England, stayed in sunny Bournemouth,
declined gratefully friends' invites, friends' ideas,
and stayed home. According to historians, this might
well have been the biggest mistake since Napoleon
No F***ing power for 3 days. I awoke to the power
cut on Christmas Eve and it was restored on the
afternoon of Boxing Day. Occasionally it would come
on, sometimes for 3 seconds, just enough to work
as a 'teaser' and cause a power surge through my
f***ing washing machine/dryer and destroy it. Now
every light flashes, it's like the flight deck on
the f***ing Starship Enterprise (and have you seen
the prices for new washer/dryers?). This ties in
nicely with the continuing saga of my f***ing Fridge/Freezers
packing up time and again in 2013, destroying my
food time and again, sending my morale to rock bottom
time and again. Once again, the f***ing food has
Power finally returned on the afternoon of Boxing
Day, just as was set to book into a f***ing hotel.
Today, 28th of December, have just returned from
an excellent store in Poole, GoOutdoors, which I
never knew existed (it's huge, there's even someone
on the door to welcome you!), where I have purchased
emergency gas heaters, gas, lights etc. Now ready
for the coming storms predicted this week. Come
on weather, throw your f***ing worst at me you f***ing
If ever we have power shortages on a regular basis,
for whatever reason, be it terrorism, solar flares,
energy shortages, society will come to a halt pretty
quickly. It is miserable. We take it so much for
granted. This just about sums up my year, loads
of niggly things. There was no helpline here, only
2 of us in the block of flats had no power due to
the grid system and out of a population of 400,000
in the greater Bournemouth/Poole/Christchurch conurbation,
only 800 of us were affected. I must try praying
to a different God, maybe a Christian God, a Muslim
God, Catholic, Church of England, Church of Outer
Mongolia, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Hindu
Gods, Buddha, Creationists, Gnosticism, Mysticism,
Occult, Pagan Gods, Hare Krishna, Scientology, David
Icke and his Giant Lizards, Jehovah's Witnesses,
Shintos, Vodooism, Sikhism, Jesuits, Spiritualists,
Plymouth Brethren, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox,
Greek Unorthodox, Moonies, Lunies, Loonies, Mormons,
Morons, Unbending Traditionalist Vicars, Happy Clappy
Crappy Trendy Leather-Wearing Motorbike-Riding Vicars,
Evangelists, the Earth God, the Sun God Ra, Druids,
Apollo, I will try sacrificing animals, people,
anyone, primeval screams, Devil Worship, Satanism,
etc. etc. Will try all of these and much much more
as a spread bet (there are at least 30,000 religions
to try, and they all swear that their faith reflects
the only true God, so I can't go wrong). I have
obviously upset someone/something.
- - UPDATE & COPY OF AN EMAIL
WELL I WOKE UP THIS MORNING
Woke up this morning
And the power was off
I say I woke up this morning
And the power was off
No kettle, no Wi-Fi, no telly,
Walked down the stairs in the morning time
But their power was on
I say I walked down at breakfast time
And my neighbours were fine
It was only me and one other
Just one other neighbour and mine
This means bad news for us at Christmas time
Cos just 2 of us aint got the power
I say this is bad news for us at Christmas time
Cos just 2 of us aint got the power
So we get low priority
We couldn't sink much lower
So I'm a sitting-here with no heating
And the light doesn't work
I say a sitting-here with no heating
And the light doesn't work
I can't even send this
So feel a bit like a burke
The Wi-Fi isn't happening
The telly's not on
I say the Wi-Fi isn't happening
The telly's not on
No coffee no tea no Horlicks
Cos the power it's gone
At least my neighbours are good 'uns
And have all rallied around
I say at least my neighbours are good 'uns
And have all rallied around
They have rung and are looking after me
This is the best home I've found
I will catch up on writing and emails
And sit here in the dark
I say I will catch up on writing and emails
And sit here in the dark
In the cold mid-winter tempest
- - Bugger this for a lark
Please enjoy your Christmas
But spare a thought for me
I say please enjoy your Christmas
But spare a thought for me
I'm sure everyone else will be joyful
As merry as can be
Enjoy your Christmas dinner
I hope you'll be well fed
I say enjoy your Christmas dinner
I hope you'll be well fed
I'll just have a sulk in the dark
Then slink off to bed
Do not feel bad as you eat and drink
Life is meant to be bad and cruel
I say do not feel bad as you eat and drink
Life is meant to be bad and cruel
Whilst you're tucking in with lights so bright
I'll be in the dark eatin' weevils and gruel
Just back from sunny Tenerife
And the biggest storm in 30 years
I say just back from sunny Tenerife
And the biggest storm in 30 years
Back to sunny Bournemouth
I was a-hoping for good cheers
It's known as sunny Bournemouth
A name you gotta believe
I say it's known as sunny Bournemouth
A name you gotta believe
Aint too sure about it now
Here on Christmas Eve
The wind it blows and the rain cascades
It couldn't get much worse
I say the wind it blows and the rain cascades
It couldn't get much worse
I'm a gonna change my religion
I must have a curse
Let them discover my body
I'll have nothing more to lose
I say if they discover my body
I'll have nothing more to lose
From when I woke up this morning
And the lonesome power-cut blues
Written 12.53pm - no light, no kettle, no heating
- 24.12.13 - no idea when, if ever, power will be
restored - must feel positive, but that is not my
nature - very grey, windy, pouring with rain here
in sunny Bournemouth, looking forward to a Christmas
dinner of darkness, bread, maybe a sip of water,
wrapped up against the mid-winter - but don't feel
bad - you just go ahead and enjoy yourselves. Back
from Tenerife, and there we experienced the biggest
storm in 30 years. I am doing something wrong.
Only 2 of us without power here, which is the bad
news. The positive news is that - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - I'll come to you on that
one. I would be so happy, happy happy happy, if
all of my neighbours were without power. Not only
would it then be more urgent, but more people would
I'll send this if I make it and power is one day
restored. How did man ever survive without Wi-Fi,
power, heating, telly? Beats me. I am told things
could be worse, stay positive, always, always think
of Shackleton and the greatest example of leadership,
but also Henry V and Shakespeare, Scott and his
dignity in death, Apollo 13 and a 'problem', James
Cook and the Barrier Reef, Alfred Douglas Wallace
dying in the east, England 1941, the hungry, the
oppressed of the world, orphans, this is nothing
in comparison. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and
think of those worse off, think of others for once.
Nope. That doesn't work, now, where's that noose?
www.natureandpictures.com Sunny Bournemouth
(This was a copy of email I sent on Christmas
Eve at 19.01. I had typed it out, sent it when power
came back on - but it was to be a very brief respite).
SUNNY TENERIFE – OH
Having experienced my greatest holiday this year,
the Nile Cruise and Egypt, temples, wildlife, culture
and all that, I felt like a winter sunshine break,
England with the blue skies, wearing shorts in December
(never a pretty sight) and getting away from driving
bans, heart problems and what-not.
So, off to a large hotel near the Playa de las
Americas. Never stayed at a huge hotel before (Iberostar),
but the advantage is there is always an enormous
selection for the buffet. There are disadvantages
of course – noise, impersonal, some good rooms
some grotty rooms.
But it was all about the weather. There is one
reason to go to Tenerife, and only one reason. Blue
skies and constant sunshine - and - for the first
3 1/2 days - - - - - - it hammered down. Then there
was the wind and prolonged thunder and lightning.
The buildings were not designed to withstand such
rainfall, so roofs were collapsing everywhere, taxi
drivers went on strike due to the danger, roads
cut off (and still are), power cuts, people were
homeless. We had floods in our hotels, and water
seeped through the lifts and light fittings. Health
and safety? Que?
It was the biggest storm in 30 years! A few years
ago, I visited Verona, the only day I have done
so, and it was the coldest day in 40 years; heavy
snow, minus 7 degrees, plus wind-chill – in
Verona? I am obviously doing something wrong. 10
of my last 12 holidays have been marred by atrocious
Did not get to see Eduardo the naturalist, due
to the weather, although did manage to get out in
a boat and prolonged views of a pod of 7 Short-finned
Pilot Whales (which are actually Dolphins, now on
my website) including a mother and calf. They were
very tame and accommodating.
Back to blood tests, and still not sufficient
INR, so Warfarin now increased yet again.
Will have a relaxing Christmas and I hope you
all have a good one, and a great 2014.
Off to Tenerife at 4am tomorrow. I have told my
neighbours that I will ensure that they are awake,
in order that they can wish me Bon Voyage.
This is to be a non-cultural, little wildlife, relaxing
holiday, mainly going for the sun, and it is cheap.
Breaks up the winter, and getting away from hospitals,
car smashes, Police etc. May do Mount Teide, and
maybe not, but I certainly shall not be walking
it to the top. Those days are over – in fact
they were never here.
The good news is that I am to write a regular column,
in 2014, for the Bournemouth Echo, Dorset's main
newspaper. Will meet up with the Editor, but it
wil be about the natural world, nature and science,
featuring Bournemouth, Dorset, a bit of Hampshire,
the BNSS, BN, birds, animals, reptiles, insects,
astronomy, scenery, geology, books, photography
and so on, and will be aimed at all age groups.
I will be giving talks and leading field trips next
year, so must remember to keep taking the pills
– all 8 of them.
An update for those interested in my heart treatment.
From the population of western Europe, about 3 of
you at a guess. Was due to have an 'Elective DC
Cardioversion' on 3rd of December. However, my INR
(whatever that is) has suddenly dropped, and has
stayed at 1.8 (whatever that means) so it is put
off until at least January. I have to have 4 blood
tests in 4 weeks with the proper INR before they
risk it and the minimum is 2.5 - whatever that means.
For the many ignorant of you, this is where I
am given a general anaesthetic, then my heart is
stopped and restarted. I have asked the surgeons
to please make sure they remember Part 2. Thinking
about it, there are probably 200 of my 'friends
' who would volunteer to action Part 1, but can
think of not a single soul who would come forward
to do Part 2.
For the one and only time, I have checked on the
internet. The bad news is that the success rate
is only 30%. The goodish news is that it does not
mean a 70% chance that I will snuff it, merely that
the procedure will be unsuccessful.
Off to Tenerife on 9th of December, for a bit
of winter sun - and that's it. Has as much culture
as Luton really. The Canaries are really England
with the sun, but the most reliable European destination
for the sun, probably because they are actually
off the African coast and nothing to do with Europe.
Need to get away for a week. It's all been about
my car, driving ban then smashed into again, then
diagnosed with a heart problem - but still feel
fine. Continue on 5 1/2 Warfarin per day plus 5
other drugs, including 'water' pills. these make
me rush to the toilet to powder my nose. Quite amusing
really, woe betide anyone who gets in my way when
I have to go.
But will it still be amusing as it continues ad-infinitum?
What do I do on holiday? Off to see a doctor to
ask him such questions.
BE STILL MY BEATING
- although on second thoughts, please ignore that!
BUPA, NHS, ATRIAL
FIBRILLATION, CARDIAC ANGIOGRAM & ELECTRICAL
(What a snappy headline grabber - not. So I will
make this short as feasible)
Just had another couple of days in Bourneouth
Hospital, this time for a 'cardiac angiogram'. This
involves a local anaesthetic, then a tube is inserted
into your wrists or groin, according to the surgeon's
preference. Groin sounds more unpleasant and sure
enough, I had it in the groin. Just stung a little
and uncomfortable for the first 5 minutes, and then
fascinating; watching my own arteries and heart
as the tube is inserted (no, you don't feel it travelling
up your body). Next a dye is released. I had to
be told repeatedly to put my head back, as I was
so taken in by watching the monitors, the beating
heart and the arteries.
Immediately, whilst still lying down in the theatre
I was given the results. My arteries and valves
are fine. But the surgeon told me there and then
that I will require an 'electrical cardioversion'
in a few weeks time. Here they will stop and then
restart my heart. As I have mentioned before, let's
hope there is not a power-cut in the middle. That
too should be an interesting experience, but will
be asleep for that one. Hope I wake up again. Maybe
I will see the other side for a few seconds, so
may get rather hot. (I was told to take things easy
following the treatment, no driving or walking,
but no mention of parties, so sneaked out for a
short while to a 60th birthday party at the BNSS
on Saturday. Didn't stay long as felt a little giddy,
but more importantly no orgies or hard drugs available.)
For the first time I have checked the internet
about all of this, and shall not do so again! Apparently,
arterial fibrillation, which I have and is an irregular
heartbeat, increases chances of a stroke by 500%.
The chances of resetting the heart curing this are
just 20 - 30%. So it is good news and bad news and
the drugs should help - they have reduced my fast
heartbeat. Shall not bother with the internet again!
Once again, I am curious about whether to continue
with BUPA. Have been with them for 10 years, have
never used them, and now for the first time I have
an ailment, I am thinking of quitting membership
and save myself the subscriptions.
Basically, the treatment I am getting is good,
I cannot see how it could be improved upon apart
from all procedures being quicker and perhaps more
luxurious surroundings. But, I do not consider any
of this urgent, and I am in no pain. I had a single
room again, actually en-suite, the food and room
service was excellent. Asking friends for their
experiences they said you could be lonely in a BUPA
environment as you are cut-off from the other patients
and staff, and secondly, you cannot switch between
the NHS and BUPA. Once you elect to go with them
for a treatment you have to stick with them. So,
I will probably unsubscribe from BUPA.
Still no mention of my junk food diet, fortunately,
and no pressure on me to do exercise. That is good
news, but the bad news is that I still cannot plan
a holiday abroad yet, as these tests continue -
I keep having blood pressure, ECGs, ultra-sounds,
weekly blood tests, but still feel really good and
never slept better.
THE SS WAVERLEY FROM BOURNEMOUTH
TO LULWORTH COVE
Kay West, a friend of 35 years standing visited
sunny Bournemouth in September (we both shared a
most traumatic experience 1982) and I had arranged
a trip on the SS Waverley, the last ocean going
paddle steamer in the world, along the Jurassic
Coast. With such a boat and such views, nothing
could go wrong.
A trip from Bournemouth Pier, across to Swanage
and thence along the magical Jurassic Coast (and
Britain’s first World Heritage Site), to Lulworth
Cove. Fabulous. Only problem was we could not see
anything due to the fog. This began just after Swanage,
when visibility was down to less than 100 yards
for much of the time.
We saw both the Swanage and the Weymouth lifeboats
who were searching for survivors from a boat that
had sunk due to the fog. Would have been beneficial
if we had sunk as we would then have probably received
refunds on the trip. We were told by tannoy that
we had turned around and were heading back, having
been and gone at Lulworth. For all we knew, this
could have been a Donald Crowhurst trick and we
had simply left Swanage and just treaded water.
Still the boat is lovely, very photogenic, no
queuing for food and drinks as there were 2 kiosks.
Surprisingly busy despite the peak season having
passed, and they do not exactly promote themselves
efficiently. Next year must do Weymouth, round the
IOW, Portsmouth Harbour, and have another bash at
ME, ME, ME, ME CONTINUED
Still attending hospitals and having weekly blood
tests and now booked up for Cardiac Catheter Angioplasty
– this where a tube is inserted into a vein
on the leg or somewhere, from there up to the heart
where dye is inserted. This will occur on the 18th
of October, when I will again become an in-patient.
Should be an interesting experience – not
– as I will be conscious for the 45 minutes.
Can’t wait – not. Still not complaining
though – not much. Have been informed of 4
possible outcomes. No further action just continue
with the drugs, an operation to insert stent(s),
a successful heart operation from Southampton Hospital
and a heart operation resulting in death! I'm so
Today 3.10.13, visited Dr Scott, who did some
tests. Apart from the odd Piriton, Aspirin, or Gaviscon,
have never taken drugs, let alone prescription drugs,
but now on 7, and was today informed these would
definitely be for life. I would also need to see
doctors, visit the hospital on a regular basis,
but have never felt better, slept better and realise
that one day something was bound to go wrong. But
– no pain (unlike most people who brag about
having a high pain threshold – I do not) not
even discomfiture. However, I DO have heart damage
and the forthcoming test will reveal the state of
Being a member of BUPA, I spoke at length to a
representative this week. I have been subscribing
for 10 years and cannot really think how BUPA can
offer much that is not supplied by the NHS. In fact
I have heard from friends that by having your own
room away from others can be lonelier than being
in the mainstream of things. True, things might
work quicker, such as tests and operations, but
as I can see no urgency in my situation, and no
pain is involved, there is no issue here.
The girl was a good representative and said it
would be a bit ironic that I paid in for 10 years
and then when I might need it, I withdrew from the
service, so will wait and see the results of my
test on 15th of October.
NANO CENTRE SOUTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY
Six of us from the BNSS visited Southampton University
Nanofabrication Centre. This is housed in The ‘Mountbatten
Building’. Following a fire, this was rebuilt
at a cost exceeding £100,000,000 The equipment
alone was over fifty million, each electron microscope
costing four, and the ‘cleanrooms’ must
be the cleanest anywhere. When you are dealing with
single atoms a speck of dust is like a continent.
Maybe the foremost centre for research in the
world, and certainly in Britain, we were privileged
and given a wonderful talk, demonstration and guided
walk around the cleanrooms by Dr Harold Chong, Angela
Bamberg and Dr. Simone de Lubevato; mind-boggling
stuff on atomic and quantum physics, my favourite
of all subjects in the natural world. Here scientists
can move around and manipulate individual atoms,
even build atomic motors, but this is early days,
literally cutting edge technology. It is already
revolutionising optical cabling (which we saw being
made by lasers), and the future will be in computing
silicone chips operating at the atomic level, medicine,
cell structures, and who knows what else. I do wonder
at what stage the military will show an interest.
UPDATE ON WILDLIFE
Due to the hot weather during the summer, flora
has been excellent this year. All of the rain for
the previous 16 months meant lush flowers, trees
and shrubs but unlike last year, the sun was able
to ripen the fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. So,
butterfly numbers up 400% on last year (which was
the worst ever), and walks at Durlston and Martin
Down revealed unprecedented numbers of butterflies.
These are the most obvious of insects to see, so
it must have been a boom year and this of course
will benefit all creatures in the food chain.
Having got my driving license back, driving at 20
mph, lost all enjoyment of driving thanks to our
Police, someone then banged into the side of my
car. Several hundred pounds later, a new door from
Ireland etc. I got my car back. Two weeks later,
I found a note on my windscreen at the hospital
car park. Someone left their details, and an apology,
and they had pranged my car in exactly the same
location again. I DO NOT BELIEVE IT. ANYONE RECOMMEND
A GOOD RELIGION, I NEED TO TRY SOMETHING NEW. Now
rushing around getting quotes yet
again. The other party will pay through
insurance and to complicate matters, he had a hire
car. WHATEVER NEXT!! HELP ME SOMEBODY! I HATE USING
EXCLAMATION MARKS BUT WHAT IS A MAN TO DO! I have
using adjectives but this is dreadful, appalling,
cataclysmic. WE'RE ALL DOOMED. DOOMED I TELL YOU.
Now a neighbour has left a note on my car, he has
hit the opposite side! Drugs for life, heart failure,
the Waverley a waste of time thanks to fog, driving
ban, followed by car repairs followed by car repairs,
this is worse than PMT.
EVER STAY IN A HOSPITAL
Finally my decrepit old age has caught up with
me. Once again attended hospital and this time they
more or less insisted I stay, which I did for 5
days, and would still be there had I not requested
going home. Never seen as many doctors as yesterday,
going around in teams of five or so.
This Bournemouth hospital seems massive to me,
like a small city, although of course it is actually
small compared to a big city complex. Obviously,
the most crucial thing is how attractive the nurses
ar,e and there are no complaints from that angle,
and they are still a caring hard-working bunch.
I will be on pills for life now, will have to
have regular blood tests and the most important
medication will be warfarin, an anticoagulant. Basically,
I have a pretty poor functioning heart, with an
irregular but fast heartbeat – highest at
rest about 140. I noticed getting out of breath
during our recent heatwave, but wonder if I have
always had a slight breathing problem, or whether
it came on this year? I guess because I never went
to a doctor, and have never been in hospital, I
will never know.
I have never been ill, apart from the obvious
flu and suchlike, and even if I developed something
serious now, would not complain. Hilary set me the
example, dying of cancer at 18 and not complaining.
In fact as the nurses say and I can testify to,
here at the cardiac unit, there is a cheerful atmosphere.
Patients are admitted and discharged after short
stays, nothing too serious, mainly older gits like
myself, no suffering. How different it must be on
a childs or a cancer ward!
After having what appeared to be circa 200 injections,
80 blood pressure tests, the good news is that I
have been told not to change my diet. So junk food
here I come. I kind of discharged myself last night
after 5 nights, but will be carefully monitored
from hereon in, and that will require many hospital
visits, blood tests etc. From going from no drugs
ever beforehand, now I have 7 different ones daily.
Be an experience when next I attempt to go through
customs. Treatment coming up will probably include
a stopping and then ‘zapping’ my heart
– which should be interesting (knowing my
luck, there will be a powercut in the middle of
this), and a scan to detect the state of my arteries.
My impression of the hospital stay and the NHS?
Mainly good, efficient, hard-working staff, everything
clean, professional and well-run, food good on the
whole, and the general impression is favourable.
I would have liked more communication as to what
was happening with me etc. I had my own room, like
a top-class hotel with everything considered and
at hand, so 8 1/2 out of 10.
By the way, the Air Show was considered the best
ever, and I have pictures on this site under 'Events'.
me, me, me, me - - - - -
Driving again after a 6-month ban, but now ever-cautious.
Becoming neurotic about traffic lights, never go
1 mph past the speed limit, no longer enjoy driving.
Then someone slammed into the side of me!! Woe!
Frizzells had been my insurance for over 40 years,
and despite never making a claim or having an accident,
and them wishing to take me on again when I explained
the circumstances of the ban, they could not do
so by their rules. So, have just had to register
with a new company, and then - bang! The other driver
and myself decided it was the fault of the car parked
on a yellow line right on a corner, and a stranger,
joined us and said he too had nearly had an accident
that day because of it. Such is life.
Had a fantastic geological walk along the Jurassic
Coast at Lulworth, and due to the blue skies, took
many pictures, now on the BNSS category of the website.
The wonderful second half of this summer continues.
Another butterfly walk at Martin Down totalled 29
species, which may be a British record, but no one
knows for sure. It must be close as it included
virtually every possibility. Anyway, this is now
about me, me, me - - - -
A few weeks ago, went to see my doctor in Bournemouth
for the first time. I had had a cough for several
months at night, which often kept me awake. I was
shocked that I had to wait 2 weeks for an appointment.
When last time I saw a doctor in Oxfordshire, 18
years ago, it was a case of seeing him/her that
same day, if my memory serves me right. So, initially,
my negative views of the NHS were being realised.
Anyway, by the time I saw Doctor Scott, the complaint
had gone away, but as I was actually going out of
the door, I was asked if there were any other problems,
I replied casually, that I had noticed that I might
have a breathing problem. Oh dear. This set off
a blood test, ECG and then a quick urgent referral
to hospital. I had an irregular heartbeat, high
blood pressure, and fast heartbeat, liquid in my
ankles. Then a load of tests at the hospital, pharmacy,
ECG, blood, X Ray, saw a doctor then another, who
examined me. All of this was achieved in just over
the hour, incredible really. Bournemouth Hospital
is like a city, but it all seemed so professional
and hardly any waiting anywhere.
Then the shock - I have a heart complaint - my
heart is failing. The X Rays shown to me revealed
that my lungs and body have liquid inside them due
to a weak heartbeat. They wanted me to become an
in-patient there and then for a week of tests and
treatment! We discussed this, as I was unprepared;
so wondered if this could be put off for 2 weeks,
as I have much to do, and also wish to put my house
in order. So, this was agreed, but was warned repeatedly,
to dial 999, if any problem arises. Additionally,
they may decide that when I call next week for a
scan, I may be again asked to stay if it is considered
too urgent to wait another week.
So, as matters stand, I know things are going
to change, I will probably be asked to relinquish
my beloved junk food, and may have to do some ghastly
exercise. But - as one who has never been an in-patient,
never been ill before today, or had prescription
drugs, who distrusts the medical profession, especially
after the death of Hilary my 18 year-old sister,
I can only praise what happened today; the concern
and expertise shown by everyone I encountered. I
know these are professionals, who knew exactly my
condition and possible cures, and most importantly,
are dedicated and specialists. Am most impressed.
I am certainly not complaining, as I have only
seen a doctor about 5 times in 40 years (and they
were largely a waste of time), and despite a pretty
unhealthy lifestyle, I have been blessed, fortunate
and simply lucky with my health until now. So, there
is certainly no' feeling sorry for myself', quite
the reverse actually, as I am in professional hands,
and still I have great friends and live in a great
place. Hope to enjoy the Air Festival tomorrow.
I fully intend to live for at least another 89 1/2
years, and will easily see in the next full Solar
Eclipse of 2090. Now, off for a curry - - -
HEAR IT FOR THE COMMON BIRDS
Pity the poor Dunlin and Knot for they glamourise
not. We see them arrive in late summer and they
are largely ignored; unless being hunted by a fabulous
Peregrine. Then we watch fascinated as the flocks
of a hundred or 5 thousand or more, use tactics
to confuse the predator, weaving, backtracking,
diving, swooping, separating, merging, entwining
across estuaries. But as subjects (and nothing personal),
a wintering Dunlin is a grey, non-descript and extremely
As a photographer, it is difficult to go too far
wrong with Kingfishers, Herons, Egrets, Red Kites,
Peregrines, Eagles, Ospreys, Puffins, all of which
I have captured in the wild in the last year, their
colour and character shines forth not just to photographers
and ornithologists, but just about everyone. From
the other extreme, A Dunlin or Knot has no discernible
character, as it is just one of a large group, and
perhaps evolution has dictated that an ‘individual
character’ would more likely be picked off.
So, what has been my most exciting photographic
birds of the last couple of years? Why, it was 2
Dunlins seen on the BNSS flora walk on Stanpit Marsh,
on 1st of August.
These were on the southern extreme of the reserve,
and never before have I managed to get so close,
down to about 10 feet before they became fidgety,
but they never did not flush, and continued happily
feeding, so affording close-up views. Normally,
about 80 yards is the closest you can get. Why so?
Well, these were by themselves, arriving back earlier
than normal, so I can only assume that if in the
normal flock of a thousand or so, it just needs
one to take off, and they all follow. A second possibility
is that they had literally just arrived back, so
were exhausted and starving, behaviour we have witnessed
before with other species.
But even better, they were not the drab birds
we know and take for granted, but were still in
their summer plumage from their arctic breeding
grounds. So, we were all able to appreciate the
stunning and different hues, a subtle combination
of camouflage for their nesting sites and beauty
for attracting mates. This is something I thought
I would never say, but these 2 ‘glamorous
individualistic accommodating Dunlin’ gave
me greater satisfaction than any birds I have seen
for a long time.
LITTLE ABOUT EGYPT
Having read and watched a great deal about Egypt,
I planned to revisit but the country is in turmoil.
The Muslim Brotherhood were taking the country along
the lines of a fundamentalist religious country,
and whenever and wherever this happens, there is
economic chaos, persecution, stifling of debate,
censorship, a lack of joy and overall, misery for
The problem and paradox is – they were democratically
elected. They might be unpopular now, but at the
time, they secured just over the required 50%. As
I wrote previously, the Egyptians are poor but were
the most pleasant nation I have ever encountered,
although I did exempt Cairo from this observation,
as I spent but about 10 hour here, and did not meet
Now the country is divided down the middle and
there seems no solution to this enigma. The tourist
industry was down 80 % when I visited in February,
now it must be down 100%. Everywhere at the moment,
Arabs are fighting Arabs – Syria, Iraq again
on the boil, Libya again on the boil, Afghanistan.
On a more local level, managed to release an injured
Peregrine together with the RSPCA and the Hawk Conservatory
Trust. The last 3 weeks have finally seen hot weather
for the first time in about 8 years (global warming
having stopped), butterflies are again showing themselves.
Went to the doctor for the first time in 17 years
and the fourth time in 38 years. I get out of breath
very easy these days; just getting old I think,
but having tests. Enough about me. Wonderful win
by Phil Mickelson at The Open. Thrilling finish
by a great bloke. Most of my sporting heroes no
longer play, but my number one of those who do is
PM. Always the gentleman, always 'goes for it',
gracious and 'Phil theThrill' is the most exciting
golfer and most popular in the world. Last but certainly
not least, he won me a good deal of money, in one
of the 2 bets I wager each year.
Britain has now experienced 13 months of rain,
cold, grey skies and a lack of sun to ripen fruits,
nuts, seeds and berries. Last year was considered
to be the worst ever since records began, on insects
and birds, and this year is worse. Not only Britain,
but the rest of Europe has experienced this dreadful
This year, the early arriving Sand Martins were
found dead in March and it is believed that none
of them survived. Swifts, House Martins, Swallows
are right down. Reports are that the New Forest
is virtually devoid of small birds, at the time
of writing, and there seems little doubt that warblers,
chats, heathland birds, in fact most species apart
from those partial to worms (who should od well,
as the soil is so soft) will be taking a big hit.
There is a chronic shortage of insects in 2013.
Is it all dom and gloom? Pity much so. Would like
to say a big "but", but it is difficult
to find too man positives. It is not good for us
humans either, we all of us seem of a merrier disposition
when the sun shines.
As for myself, still angry with the Police over
the driving ban. I now discover that the speed limit
for the road is actually 40 mph, so the amber light
should have been on for at least 4 seconds, preferably
41/2 seconds or more. I have videoed it at 3 seconds
precisely, so this will explain why 1876 prosecutions
resulted at this one junction in 5 months!! This
is surely just entrapment and targeting. When writing
to the Police Commissionaire he replied abruptly,
'nothing to do with me, ask the Police'! So this
begs the question, what does he do? EVeryone I have
told just laugh at this and say they will apply
for this £70,000 a year post.
Of course, I had already asked the Police why 1876
convictions were enacted at this one junction. Answers
came there none. A simple question, and they replied
telling me stopping distances. I could have asked
this on Google, but it was not my question. I too
worked as a 'public servant' for 27 years, and if
asked a question, would attempt to answer it. Still,
never mind. The Bournemouth Echo ran the story on
its front page.
On a cheerier note, have now relinquished my final
editorship and am free to have a go at the book
I have thought about for several years (my final
position, editor of Kingfisher magazine and photo
editor, has just finished after 5 years. I continue
to try and assist Heather Dixon and her 'Bournemouth
Naturally' project, helping on walks, photography
etc. I continue to enjoy the BNSS. Twice in the
last couple of months, have had dealings with Chris
Packham, at our HOS Open Day and with children and
adults at Blashford Lakes on the edge of the New
Forest. We are lucky to have such a devoted naturalist,
in my view Britain's finest all-rounded, a true
expert in so many fields of the natural world, a
wonderful writer, whether it be for me as editor
of HOS with 1600 members, the SNHS with 250 members,
or the National Trust with 3 million members, he
devotes the same amount of time to the article.
The children love him, the adults admire him, and
we are fortunate indeed to have the likes of him
and of course, the great Sir David. Pity though,
habitats continue to disappear, insecticides and
herbicides continue with their destruction and the
world's population just increases evermore.
Report on Egypt
Returned from Egypt, and the best-ever holiday.
10 days sailing the Nile, but including a few days
in Luxor, Aswan, and a one-day touristy trip to
Cairo. By chance, this was on the second anniversary
of Mubarak’s resignation, stopping near Tahrir
Square to visit Cairo Museum, then onto the Pyramids,
and Sphinx and the inevitable camel ride. To this
day no one knows how these pyramids could have been
built. We had a guide who has studied the subject
for 27 years and remains as keen as ever.
The Nile cruise was superb, probably my favourite
part of the holiday, and exceeded best expectations.
Temples included Karnak (the world's largest historic
monument), Luxor Temple, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae
(the Island Temple), Al-Deir Al-Bahari, Colossi
of Memnon, Medinet Habu, there was the Valley of
the Kings with paintings thousands of years old
but still vibrant, and much history was digested.
It does rather put Stonehenge into perspective and
I will never look upon our greatest ancient monument
in quite the same way (although to be fair, we built
our great cathedrals 1,000 years ago, we were
the Industrial Revolution, and there is so much
else besides, so we too have as much to be proud
Our guide Tamer was superb. I never heard before
that Egyptians were such a friendly bunch of people,
but in my experience the friendliest peoples that
I have ever encountered (although Cairo, like other
capitals, may be somewhat different). Most however
are living in abject poverty, many it seems, earning
virtually nothing. A population of 90 million souls
and unlike their wealthy neighbours, they have no
oil. Diesel is subsidised by the government, but
due to the Arab Spring and the present revolution,
the Government cannot afford this, so throughout
the country they queue for 7 hours for their diesel.
Tourists, and those involved in this depleted industry,
go to the front of the queues, and this is accepted.
The question must be asked, where are their neighbours,
why are they not assisting? In 10 days, in Luxor,
Aswan, Cairo, the Nile, not one single tourist was
seen from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, The Emirates,
or any Arab country outside of Egypt. Have they
no interest whatever in their Arab brother's heritage?
Yet they come to London every summer to show off
their wealth, their flashy cars, their jewellery,
their bling. Most of these flashy rich sheiks have
done nothing meritorious to justify their wealth,
they simply have oil underneath them! Something
is amiss here. Could they not help out with some
diesel and tourism?
Tourism is 80% down, which is affecting the country
greatly. Only 30 of the 280 Nile boats are running.
But tourists are perfectly safe, as no side would
dare harm this industry, so I can only urge my friends
to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime. Neither side
has any interest in harming tourists, the country
is perfectly safe for Europeans. The temples are
magnificent, and like the tombs, many still show
colour after thousands of years. The scenes and
hieroglyphics are so beautiful and artistic, the
originators of art-deco which I love, so for the
first time ever, I went overboard and bought the
touristy stuff- papyrus, vases, sketches, paintings,
books, and took 3,500 photos (reduced to about 1800),
by far the most ever. A few of these have been added
to the website under 'Egypt and the Nile'.
2 or 3 things I do not like. Some treat their animals
badly - dogs, donkeys, horses. Secondly everything
gets thrown into the Nile. The Nile has traditionally
been the place for refuse, but this has got to change.
In the past it would not have mattered, but plastic
has changed all of that. The streams are clogged
up with plastic bottles and bags, masses of flotsam
(wrong word but looks good) sweeps down the Nile
into the ocean, where it will last for hundreds
of years, swallowed by whales and dolphins and leading
to deaths of many marine creatures. Unacceptable.
I have pictures of a wheelie-bin full of plastic
being tipped into the Nile. Another minus point,
upon returning, I have read on the internet that
over 90 % of the Egyptian women are circumcised,
and although now illegal, it is continuing to be
practiced. Again, I am surprised and shocked at
this. I had thought this only occurred in sub-Saharan
The famous Egyptian 'hagglers' are a sight to behold,
and bothered some but never bothered me. Due to
the downturn on tourism there is probably desperation
creeping in, but the rule is no eye contact, do
not get into any discussion, head down, avert gaze
and 'No thank you' is all that is required. The
vendors accept this, were never threatening, never
rude, and even wished you well. Having said that,
many of the wares were beautiful. We travelled by
horse and carriage though the markets and the poorest
areas of Luxor and everyone, children and adults,
greeted us with wonderful smiles and waves. It is
so easy and quick to get off the tourist routes,
we saw the poorest of the poor, who all welcomed
us. There was never a single show of anything but
friendliness in Luxor or Aswan.
Not noted for birding, the only guide in Aswan
with an interest in ornithology, took some of us
out for a wonderful few hours on the Nile and the
hills, and I was rewarded and delighted with the
photographic opportunities, as these birds rarely
if ever, are shown any interest. Diaa and his father
are the only 2 individuals with any interest in
Aswan's birds, out of a population of a million,
so I ventured out twice on nature trips. Pied Kingfishers
were seen everywhere on the Nile, Glossy Ibis flew
over several times, as did Marsh Harriers. But the
best pictures had to be Hoopoes, always photogenic
and commonplace here, Night Heron, Straited Heron,
Purple Heron, Falcons, Purple Swamphens and an Osprey
being attacked by 2 Egyptian Hooded Crows.
There was not a single delay in flights, baggage
or excursions and everything went superbly. I am
now redecorating my appartment with papyrus etc.
and will join the Wessex Ancient Egyptian Society.
I am fortunate in that we have our own mummy, Princess
Tahemaa at the BNSS. I am a convert to this country,
Egyptology, its peoples, history, I love its ancient
art and symbols more than any other art form, and
will probably do the same trip, and hope to learn
more, very shortly. One of the main excursions was
the wonderful balloon rides over the Valley of the
Kings, as dawn fired its welcome, so was saddened
by the accident 13 days later and the death of 19.
It will also be another blow to the tourist trade.
Sorrento is one of the most reliable touristy spots,
with Herculaneum, Pompeii, Isle of Capri, Amalfi
Coast and Naples all within an hour, but a trip
on the Nile with the hospitality, the birds, the
temples, the warmest smiles by the poorest people,
the weather and the history exceeds everywhere I
have been to and was the holiday of a lifetime.
February is the peak month for tourists, and probably
the best month. Temperatures every day in the mid-seventies,
totally blue skies (a bit like sunny Bournemouth
at this time of year), whilst the rest of the UK
is freezing. The holiday was educational, magnificent
for photography, relaxing with plenty of sunbathing,
fascinating, and the holiday I would most recommend
(although not so much for young children perhaps).
Not only is my flat being covered in Egyptian art,
papyri and hieroglyphics, but books are being bought.
If you check out the books, there are very few good
ones on this huge subject, of an empire that lasted
3,000 years. (The reason for this was convincingly
explained to me whilst in Egypt, and if true was
to do with corruption under the Mubarak regime,
and someone who always insisted on being on every
programme on ancient Egypt - you will instantly
recognise this chap, he of the wide brimmed hat,
who would insist on writing every foreword
to every book on ancient Egypt, and being very well
paid, and appearing in every TV production, where
he would always overdo the self-promotion - http://suite101.com/article/ancient-history-egypts-firing-of-zahi-hawass-is-long-overdue-a380260
Unfortunately, despite having too little time,
I am now hooked both on Egyptology (the only historical
ology that exists) and the art of ancient Egypt.
Having always loved Art Deco( & Bournemouth
and my flat has many examples), I am now totally
hooked on the art of ancient Egypt, as it is even
better than deco being the 'real thing'. It is full
of colour, symbolism and life, and the most beautiful
art in my mind. It is not so much the art dedicated
to the Pharaohs, great though it is, it is in essence
vain-glorious, making these kings of Egypt into
Gods; no the art that I love, is that depicting
symbolism and the lifes of the people, farmers,
fishermen, dancing girls, craftsmen. My appartment
is now beginning to resemble a tomb from the Valley
of the Kings. Might as well go the full hog and
become a mummy, although as well to wait until I
am dead first.
Now is the time to visit. Whilst tourism is down,
places such as Luxor Temple and the Valley of the
Kings are far less busy than in the past.
Before you die, do a Nile Cruise.
Last Wednesday, I noticed my Kia was slipping the
clutch. The following day put it in for its annual
service and MOT. £700! On Saturday, I dropped
my Nikon SLR camera and it is broken. Yesterday,
was in Bournemouth Magistrates Court, and I have
been banned from driving for 6 months. 2 lots of
speeding - 36 and 37 MPH, and 3 lots of jumping
the red light at the same junction! Strange I have
never been done for this before in 40 years anywhere
else. No accident in 40 years, and I have never
been without a car since I was 17. This will also
cost me a lot of money - solicitors fees, increased
insurance, court fees etc. On the same day, yesterday,
a notable article appears in the Daily Mail about
a similar junction in London that is raking in £2.7m
a year for the same offence - that is one junction!
(Update - my article on Police entrapment took up
the entire front page of the Bournemouth Echo and
there are now repercussions. There were 1876 convictions
in the last 5 months, and others are now writing
to the newspapers.)
This is all about targets for the Police and nothing
to do with safety. Since 1998 there has been just
one serious accident here, no fatalities, yet in
2011 there were 1367 convictions from this one site!
I am writing a full article about all of this. I
also have to attend an 'Awareness' day, and pay
for the privilege. Not a good start to the year,
but have decided that I will see the world this
year. Still have health, a lovely flat, good friends,
live in the centre of town so will not starve, live
in a great place with superb public transport, so
must not feel too sorry for myself - just murderous.
Time to go abroad now.
Today, celebrating my first anniversary of moving
to Bournemouth. New articles on Bournemouth, Dorset,
the BNSS and Bournemouth Naturally, and new picture
galleries on these subjects, plus Events.
This is definitely the best place and it has been
a good year. There is constant activity in the town,
and the county, and the scenery and wildlife is
the best in the Britain, in my opinion. I cannot
believe my fortune, the apartment exceeds all of
my expectations and things at the moment are going
well. This is usually a prelude for a looming disaster.
Bournemouth just gets better. I enjoyed my first
ever Air Festival. What a great atmosphere, the
grockles are so well behaved. I guess this kind
of resort appeals to this type of person.
My intention was to explore the whole of Dorset
this year, but that is on hold. Apart from trips
to Weymouth and Portland Bill, there is too much
to explore here in the east of the county.
Still nothing against this place,
it is all positive apart from a truly dreadful private
car parking company (I received a ticket 6 weeks
ago, and they are now asking £400 plus court
action. Fat chance. PLEASE let them take me court).
Plus, an hostility shown by the Police to car owners.
This place is full of cameras, they are everywhere,
and some of it appears to me as entrapment.
But, that aside, I love the place
more and more. It would have been a good enough
reason moving here just to join the BNSS, and I
kid not. I intend to get more involved, and unfortunately,
will have to start severing my links to Hampshire.
Am now in the process of updating
the website. Times have changed since it all began,
and it is time to delete 23 'Articles'. If these
can be read better elsewhere, why have them here?
Also, Hampshire was good, but Dorset is great, so
just a few additions. The photos meanwhile, continues
No time for travel at the moment,
too much to enjoy here.
- AUGUST 2012
I have returned from 2 weeks touring Britain and
a week in the far north of the Highlands. This was
my first holiday for 16 months and here is a summary.
I was with Sir John Lister-Kaye, who began the
first Field Centre in Scotland - Aigas (I have been
to the Galapagos and the Amazon with him), and the
top Scottish naturalist, Roy Dennis. Roy has been
a professional for 51 years, is known as Mr Osprey
throughout the world as he is the authority. He
was instrumental in the re-establishment of the
Osprey to Britain many years ago at Loch Garten,
and since then it has bred and spread throughout
Scotland. He is now trying to encourage it to stop
and breed at more English and Welsh locations.
Later, he re-introduced the White-tailed Sea Eagle
to Scotland, which again has been a success. Now,
after hundreds of years, he has just re-introduced
the Red Squirrel to Western Scotland, starting from
the estate of Tim Rice where we visited, and this
too is going well.
Sophie Stafford was present for a week,, the editor
of the BBC wildlife magazine, so quite a group.
Also present was Laurie Campbell, probably the best
wildlife photographer, certainly the most pure and
dedicated. The week before, he hauled 85 pound of
equipment on a 2 1/2 mile-trek up a mountain, then
stayed 35 hours without moving in an 8 foot by 4
foot hide/sleeping bag, photographing a Golden Eagle’s
nest from 12 feet distance, and this was the third
time this year. This is ‘pure’ photography,
but most editors are of course happy with a good
picture of a captive bird!
For once, I was lucky with the weather for the
first time in about 10 holidays. Whilst England
was being hammered by rain, it was comparatively
dry up the far north, the best weather in Britain,
although freezing cold on a couple of occasions.
Several Golden Eagles were seen, always at a distance
soaring over mountain tops. On one occasion we observed
at length a skirmish between 2 Eagles and 2 Peregrines
who kept attacking them and then a Buzzard decided
to join in the melee. I watched this with Roy Dennis,
an experience never to be forgotten.
We were fortunate in seeing all 3 species of Diver
in their summer plumage, as were the rare Slavonian
Grebes, a pair of Short-eared Owls hunting, Great
Skuas, Dolphins, Red Grouse, and not forgetting
the early morning sightings of the wild Beavers
on the loch, and the first view for everyone of
this year’s Kit.
I was also able to view and photograph the iconic
Wild Cat of Scotland, a mythical creature I have
read about since I was 9, and never thought I would
ever get to see. Unlike all other viewings, and
all other photos on my website, this was obviously
a captive. Indeed, it has hardly ever been photographed
in the wild, does not come to feeders, and remains
Aigas has 2 pairs with the intention of breeding
and release, and sure enough there has been a kitten
born this year, although just the one. The cats
are totally undisturbed by humans and we were only
allowed to see them from a distance, but fortunately,
the male was sitting out prominently in the daylight,
and photographs were obtained. To actually see one
of these cats meant more to me than any animal on
the Serengeti, as this i the rarest British mammal
and one of the rarest in the world.
In addition to several hundred miles in the Highlands,
and 1,500 miles touring, I was visiting friends
and relatives in Scotland and England. My intention
was to visit friends of my late mother, but alas,
I left it a year too long and 7 have died this year.
Pity I did not do this in 2011, but my move put
paid to that.
This is my 'regular blog', ie now about once a
year. As I lead one of the most boring life's imaginable,
that is about it. Even I am bored reading this.
I have recently joined Facebook (Ian Julian), but
although activated, have not yet researched its
I moved from Hayling Island on 10th November 2011.
After an episode with what I consider to be a rude
neighbour (they are bored) I decided in the space
of 60 seconds that I did not have to live here,
and it was time for a move. I had not considered
it before, but since the incident on 14th May 2011,
I have never regretted the decision for a second.
A chance remark by a friend, got me looking at the
Poole/Bournemouth area and here I am.
I can only say it is fabulous. I shall be writing
on Bournemouth, on Poole and on Dorset and will
be busy with ny cameras. Today I appreciated it
the more, 70 fahrenheit, sunny blue skies, actually
used the balcony for the first time, this, early
spring always my favourite time of the year and
am now just about ready to explore Dorset.
Am presently seeing a chiropractor for an hour
a week, have my own personal trainer for £9
(it is the European Centre), and on Monday will
begin 8 one-to-one swimming lessons for £40
- thanks to Groupon. Last chance to try and learn
to swim properly.
I will be touring Britain this spring and summer,
and will travel to Scotland in June. A week at Aigas
Field Centre near Inverness with Britain's top naturalists.
I will also be visiting my late mother's friends
and relatives, and in a few cases, probably be saying
Here are a couple of messages. The second an email
I sent to friends on my imminent move, the first
my Christmas Message, sent with my cards to my friends.
After 4 months of bother, I’ll
be moving next Thursday, 10th of November. Yeay!
(I have become very friendly with
the estate agents, the solicitors, the buyers, everyone
apart from my solicitors, who were useless. The
moral is – if moving, go to a local solicitor,
not a big company where you are not in direct communication.
In the end, an estate agent had to take over. It
would have gone on for ever otherwise.)
I am on the second floor, and live
down a quiet wooded wide road, a cul-de-sac so no
traffic and look onto Horseshoe Common, a wooded
park. 5 minute walk through this and I am right
in the town centre and the 2 mile-long flower garden.
Another 5 minutes I am on the pier and the 7-mile
long sandy beach. The town centre is the best I
have ever seen, always things going on there, there
must be 6 theatres (including the BIC), art galleries,
the station the bus station – fabulous. I
will never again be short of restaurants, cafes,
take-aways, junk food, good food. There are pages
and pages of ‘What’s On’, and
even the large hotels have continuous events. Am
going to be busy. Probably just watch the telly.
Then, a 15 minute drive to the New Forest, 2 minutes
to the huge Meyrick Park, the cliffs of Boscombe,
a few minutes to Poole and the heathlands, the Harbour,
Swanage, Purbeck, Studland, Christchurch, the Jurassic
coastline – must be the best place in the
UK for photography, wildlife, scenery and photographing
people, what a county, must be the best, and I can’t
wait. It’ll probably be a disaster.
Will also have a photographic studio.
Anyway, it’s easy to find, and unlike other
blocks there is plenty of visitors parking, so hope
to see you all in due course.
Dear All, 16.12.12.
Excuse this message. It is a one-off
due to what will probably be my final change of
address. Can’t see myself ever moving unless
it was to be abroad. So, these sort of messages
are usually called ego messages, most of us are
not really interested, but maybe I can give advise
if any of you ever move. Also, to sing the praises
of Dorset and if you want to visit, then I should
be sorted out come February.
Hayling Island is lovely, but 10 years is enough.
It is scenic, good for wildlife. I have friends
there, but it was 15 minutes just to get off the
island, so tended to stay in at night. The average
age must be approaching 107, there are 2 shops that
sell nothing but motorbility cars, if you do not
wee yourself and dribble people think you are some
kind of animal, and the main pastime is moaning
about the ‘youngsters today.’
Actually, that is a slight exaggeration, but Bournemouth
is full of life, there is so much that goes on here.
‘What’s On’ in Hayling Island
and Portsmouth would amount to ‘Not Very Much
Really’, but here there is so much they have
to cram it into the publications in small print.
There is everything that a large city would have
and it is here in this small town. Every department
store, every bank even an Ann Summers!
I had a row with a neighbour one day, it was 14th
of May actually, and there and then, in the space
of a minute, I decided it was time for a move. It
came out of the blue, having resided on Hayling
for nearly 10 years, I realised I was vegetating.
It really is an old place, I feel sorry for the
youth for apart from the Funfair, there is nothing
My original destination was somewhere just north
of London. The feeling was that I could get anywhere
in the UK from there, and so would travel more to
Scotland and the east and west. A friend of mine
said Berkhamsted was a nice place, the prices were
not too bad there, it was on the Grand Union Canal,
railway, there are nature parks, railway station,
M1 and so on. So, that was my original destination.
Then, during a telephone call to a friend in Poole,
she casually suggested that it was a great place
to live, and the prices were okay. Thank goodness
for the internet. A quick check and a pleasant sup
rise. Prices in Poole were actually very cheap.
I guess we tend to think of Sandbanks, the third
most expensive land in the world.
I have a naturalist friend in Poole and he showed
me around the good areas and bad areas, but it was
all very cheap. The wildlife, scenery, and beauty
of Dorset is superb, in my view the best in the
UK. So began 4 weeks of searching for a purpose-built
flat. I like the idea, you pay a maintenance charge
and have few worries, can just up and go away when
you feel like it, and I got used to that on Hayling
My requirements were 2 double bedrooms, parking
space, quiet and that was about it. I clicked in
Bournemouth and Poole and my price range into ‘Rightmove’
and ‘Zoopla’. The problem is, the internet
is too good, and there were about 100 nice suitable
properties. Originally, Poole was my preference.
Out of the front door and into the heathlands or
the harbour, but Bournemouth had its attractions,
noticeably the social life. Also, surprisingly,
it is a very young place, has more language students
than anywhere else, and is different to the image
of a few years ago.
My flat at Hayling was sold immediately, as it had
a seaview (a USP), and the couple who moved in have
become friends of mine. I learned quite a lot about
the modern ways of buying property. How on earth
did people buy their homes before the internet?
Even the estate agents say they could not imagine
it. Now you get pictures, location, measurements,
information on everything. How on earth did people
view properties before the sat nav? Just punch it
in, and it takes me there. How on earth did people
buy before the mobile? For 4 weeks I became one
of those people I resent, always on the phone, arranging
viewings and meetings.
In all I must have looked at, if not actually viewed,
100 flats in Bournemouth and Poole. I definitely
picked the right one, and did not know at the time
just how good the location was.
I overlook trees and Horseshoe Common, the road
is quiet as it is a dead end, the flat is in great
nick, the neighbours have all been great, and without
doubt, this is the best place I have ever lived
in. I even have a neighbour who loves DIY. He has
built all my furniture kits, put up shelves, built
beds etc. As he loves doing it, I have told him
I will charge him for doing so.
Bournemouth has theatres everywhere (including the
famous BIC), even the big hotels have functions,
there is the 7-mile sandy beach less than 10 minutes
walk for me, the 2-mile long garden 5 minutes away.
I overlook Horseshow Common, a woodland, and walk
a couple of hundred yards through here and I am
in the town centre.
There are no downsides at all. There are restaurants
everywhere, literally hundreds in the centre and
including areas like Charminster, Boscombe, Southbourne
and Winton which are just roads full of restaurants
from every nationality. There is Boscombe and the
cliffs, and Dorset with its heathlands and harbour
famous for its views and wildlife. Brownsea, a magical
place the for its Red Squirrels, the home of boy
scouts, and the Famous 5, Purbeck Hills, Swanage
the quintessential seaside town, Weymouth, Portland,
Dorchester, Poole Harbour, Christchurch, Hengistbury
Head, Wimborne, Wareham, Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach,
Milton Abbas, Blanford Forum, Corfe Castle, Lulworth
Cove, the New Forest and so on. Had I known about
the property prices, would have moved here years
I am still sorting out my flat. The windows are
massive and are the main feature, so will do without
curtains until the January sales. The majority of
my furniture will not be delivered until January
so it is a bit of a mess until then. But, it is
superb, and about 40% bigger than my last flat and
about the same price, plus a garage, plenty of parking
for visitors. In fact is nigh on perfect.
Unfortunately, trying to sort out the flat, with
Christmas coming along, and a wedding with 120 guests
this coming Friday I am up to my ears in it. The
wedding does not start until 3.30 so will be in
the dark. Interesting. Never done an entire wedding
when it’s dark outside.
Bournemouth itself is useless for wildlife. It is
overrun with squirrels; I also get crows, jays,
pigeons and gulls, nothing else on the Common. I
hope no small birds try to nest here as they would
not stand a chance here. But I only have to go a
mile and it is all there.
My advice is that if you ever think of moving, move
to Dorset and the west. But also, go to a small
local solicitor. You must tell yourself at the outset
– ‘Things will go wrong’, we have
all heard the nightmares of people pulling out at
the last minute etc. For the first time though,
I really had a bad experience with a big national
company, who were buying and selling my properties.
It should have taken 2 months for a simple leasehold
transaction, but it took over 4. In the end, one
of the estate agents took over.
Like I said, this will be my only
Christmas message. I will try to use my website
later for updates.
After ignoring this site for a year, time to return
to it, due to the thousands of requests from the
many fans and groupies (?).
October in Sicily in September 2010, produced unseasonal
wet weather followed by Christmas in Malta with
pretty miserable weather. Grenada in February 2010
was hot as expected, but also the unseasonal wet
weather continued for the week I was there. Portugal
in March, was very wet and cold, reflecting the
unseasonal wet spring of 2011. 9 holidays in a row
have been wetter than expected, but the worst was
Costa Rica in November 2009. Supposed to be the
start of the dry season, it rained relentlessly
and heavily for 7 days without stop.
Hampshire was honoured by the presence of a White-tailed
Sea Eagle, the second Eagle recorded in Hampshire,
and on 8.1.11, it flew right over my head, giving
the best views ever seen in Hampshire, of an Eagle.
We were also blessed with a huge influx of Waxwings,
surely amongst the most photogenic of birds. For
an unexplained reason, they seem to welcome urban
environments, more than rural, they are tame, colourful,
in flocks, and on a sunny day, eating Ronan berries,
they are a photographer's dream birds.
Now, I am about to make plans to move from sunny
Hayling Island. This will either be to the Berkhamsted
area, from where I can get to anywhere in Britain,
relatively easily, or the Poole/Bournemouth area.
Dorset has always been my favourite county, scenic,
tremendous for wildlife, and easy access to ferry
ports, airport, west country etc.
After experiencing torrential non-stop rain for
a week in Costa Rica, followed by a holiday in Lake
Garda over Christmas which was the coldest week
for 26 years and the heaviest snow since the last
ice-age, and then a holiday in February in Morocco,
which turned out to be the wettest week for 30 years
(Gibraltar had the wettest week ever) I am now experiencing
what must be the most miserable grey winter and
spring since the Great Plague.
Here is a picture of the famous Spotted Redshank
from Nore Barn, Emsworth. I was with Brian Fellows,
Caroline French and others, when it was first seen
5 years ago, and now it must be the most photographed
of this rare species in the world (the normal Redshank
is a far commoner species). This is because it returns
to the same spot every year, and for some reason,
is very tame, ignoring people, photographers and
countless dogs, who sometimes get within a few feet
Each spring, around about 20th of March it heads
off to its breeding grounds somewhere in the Arctic
Circle, but then will return to us in October, back
as a welcome friend. See also on YouTube - Click
A holiday to Morocco in early March. This was to
Agadir, the main tourist resort and known as 'the
city that never rains'. Dry, arid, beautiful sunshine
guaranteed for 320 days a year. Needless to say,
it rained and then it poured, and then it rained
some more, the most for 30 years, and 3,000 were
made homeless. Nearby Gibraltar had the most rain
It was however, a wonderful holiday. the Moroccans
polite, courteous, lovely smiles, and guaranteeing
a 'good price'. Towns such as Taroudant were a revelation,
a throwback of hundreds of years. An 8 kilometer
castellated wall was home to 300 Swifts, screaming
low over our heads, and a population, largely of
Berber Moroccans, the original inhabitants before
the Arabs, proudly holding on to their traditional
costumes and customs. Just this month, the nation
is starting to compulsory teach the school children
the language, and also the first Berber Television
channel started in March. With a population of 130,000,
we saw just 2 inhabitants using a mobile phone,
during the inevitable stroll through the souk.
A trip to the Massa Nature Reserve was good for
the scenic beauty but bad for the birds. We did
glimpse 3 Glossy Ibis at the estuary but will need
to call again with a guide. Spring or autumn migration
in Morocco would be stunning here. However, the
souks, populace, climate, friends, beaches, food,
wildlife, all jostle for second place, for the trip
was worth it alone, to see the tree climbing goats
of Morocco, unique to this country. See - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luoPih0qpOc
A trip to the scenic Lake Garda over Christmas
was every bit as enjoyable, and unfortunately, is
yet another place that I wish to visit again. I
am going to be busy for the next 60 years. This
too has an enviable climate, mild in winter. I need
hardly say - the day we arrived was the coldest
in 26 years. The majestic Verona, perhaps the most
beautiful of all cities, was minus 7. Then we had
the most snow for 26 years. Whereas in England,
the kids would rush out to play, the dogs would
be yapping in sheer joy, cameras would be commonplace,
here in Italy, everyone stayed in, the roads and
pathways remained stubbornly unsalted, the Italians
shut their doors to this unwelcome presence. Here
is another town slightly further east.
But, the food, people, friends, and scenery made
it another memorable holiday. Photos on the website.
SPRING 2010 - 26.1.10
So, another year of grey skies has passed here
at Sunny Hayling Island. A cold winter in 2009 which
had a grave effect on certain heathland birds, notably
the Dartford Warblers, which tend not to move to
warmer areas like other species of birds. January
2010 saw heavy snow in Hampshire lasting a week,
and this has added to the declining numbers. This
area, Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey is the most important
in Europe for heathlands.
The snow brought unusual birds to Hayling Island,
including hundreds, maybe thousands of Redwings
and Fieldfares, 60 of which visited our communal
garden for 8 days. We threw out chopped up pears,
bags and bags of them. Skylarks were seen on the
beach, and small birds were seen to fly out to sea,
where they will simply perish. It seems birds kept
going south until there was no more. The entire
UK was covered in snow. Fortunately, the weather
forecasts were wrong, and despite warnings of more
snow, there was a major thaw in the nick of time.
It is now several years since we experienced any
lengthy period of sunshine.
- AUTUMN 2009 COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is one of the world's great hotspots
for wildlife. A small country, in central America,
the only nation without an army, friendly, always
and it is also renowned for its coffee. Stretches
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and has just 2
seasons. The 8-month wet season, and the 4-month
dry season. We went during the change-over period,
but unfortunately, the first week was continuous
torrential rain. Not much pleasure in putting on
wet clothing and going out in open boats in the
rainforests. The second week, towards and at the
Pacific was glorious sunshine.
Wildlife is everywhere to be seen, monkeys, raccoons,
iguanas were commonplace, and pretty tame. We had
a good guide and excellent hotels, but the local
wildlife guide was more interested in the bars and
swimming pools so I had to find my own parrots,
macaws, frigate birds and pelicans, birds he cold
easily have shown us. In view of the weather and
the wildlife guide, the pictures could have been
even better, and there is great scope here for photographers.
All in all, a good holiday, but not great for varied
reasons, am pleased with the pictures but will need
to call again one day.
- SPRING 2009 - 15.2.09
A cold wet summer, was followed by
a cold wet autumn, followed by a very cold winter.
Normally here on the seafront at sunny Hayling Island,
we do not experience ice and frost, but for 4 weeks,
it was constant. 2 stunning birds visited us, a
Snow Bunting in November followed by a Waxwing in
There was a flock of 30 Waxwings,
flitting around Hampshire throughout the winter,
splitting up and reforming. We had no native berries
left, these were all consumed in November, so birds
such as Waxwings and Fieldfares, had to make do
with introduced species, such as Cotoneasters.
2008 - 14TH AUGUST 2008
We have had a sensational spring and
summer, with exotic birds such as Black-winged Stilts,
Storks, Bee-eaters, Glossy Ibis and sightings of
Eagles. Once again, a very wet summer, and 2008
is turning out to be a bad year for butterflies,
probably due to the wet summer last year. The Little
Tern colony at the Hayling Oysterbeds, was going
well, until all of the chicks were predated by a
male Kestrel and Black-headed Gulls in a couple
of days - yet another disastrous year for them.
- SPRING 2008 - 19TH APRIL
Global warming has taken a backseat
this winter, insomuch we in Hampshire had average
temperatures and even a little snow. The flora and
wildlife for once, is sticking to its correct timetable.
All of this is reflected throughout the world. Is
this change in rising temperatures, or more likely,
just a pause?
- WINTER 2007/8 - 19TH DECEMBER
An unusual wild bird has settled
in Hampshire for 4 weeks now - a White-tailed Eagle,
better known as a Sea Eagle, the species re-introduced
successfully into the Isle of Mull and spreading
out to other locations on the western seaboard of
the northern Highlands of Scotland. They are now
being re-introduced on the eastern side.
Our Eagle is a juvenile, It has
no 'jesses', it is not an escape, and from its rings,
is believed to be from northern Finland. It is assumed,
it was blown across here, became lost, and has strangely
found its way inland, to a rural part of north Hampshire,
near a village Shipton Bellinger. This is a very
quiet, under-reported part of the county, on the
Wiltshire border. Speaking to a local birder, she
told me she had never seen another birdwatcher in
the area, before November this year! The Eagle may
sometimes be seen feeding from a distance on a field
at the Cholderton Estate - probably the largest
organic farm in Hampshire at nearly 3,000 acres.
I was grateful to Rory Edmunds for offering me opportunities
to photograph this unexpected guest.
Strangely, this has not become
a major 'twitch'. Maybe this is because it cannot
be relied upon. It may be seen, it may not - but
it is a spectacular sight. Continually being mobbed
by Ravens and Buzzards, who look tiny in comparison,
the bird can be seen by the naked eye from a distance
of 3 miles. Today, it remains here, it may move
elsewhere tomorrow or it may remain for years, our
very own Hampshire Eagle.
- AUTUMN 2007 - 25TH OCTOBER
Our wettest ever summer, was followed by a sunny
autumn. Result - best year for fruits, berries and
nuts. The rain fattened, the sun ripened. This should
result in less garden birds this winter, there is
plenty of food in the wild, and many birds may not
need to migrate to us in the south.
Chris Cockburn is our Hampshire RSPB warden and
has supplied us with this extensive report on the
success, or in the case of this year, rather unsuccessful,
of breeding gulls for 2007 in Langstone Harbour,
one of the most important sites in the country.
If you look out towards the harbour, and glimpse
a distant figure in a small dinghy being thrown
about in the sea, that will be Chris, monitoring
the birds, warning off anyone approaching too close
to the islands. The report makes fascinating reading,
illustrating that the more we come to understand
the variables of ecology, the more problems arise.
What makes suitable habitat for one species, is
detrimental to another. Factors such as food supply,
climate, tides, storms, vegetation, disturbance,
predation by other gulls and a fox, all add to a
complicated equation. It also discloses the devastating
effect that a single pair of Peregrines can inflict
on thousands of gulls, and maybe, this year, they
We all like to see Peregrines Falcons, the fastest
living anything on the planet, and now they
are so protected they are thriving, always adaptable
to new environments. However, their mere presence
around the islands, prevented nesting until
the1st of May. Thanks to Chris writing the following
Word document exclusively for this site. To see
the full report - click
- SUMMER 2007 - 1ST AUGUST 2007
This time last year, we were reporting
the continuing 2-year drought. Here on Sunny Hayling
Island, we have escaped all of the floods, the worst
ever recorded in the UK. Hayling drains very well,
especially the sandy areas, and it would seem our
main problem concerns sea water defences being breached,
particularly on the south-eastern shoreline. We
have suffered a grievous lack of sunshine thus far
this summer, whilst southern Europe continues to
experience the hottest summer on record.
Jason Crooks was the warden again
this year at the Hayling Oysterbeds, where, the
breeding season of the Little Terns suffered another
disastrous year - see http://www.natureandpictures.co.uk/littleternsandthehaylingoysterbeds.htm
for full report (scroll down). There will be a full
report of all the birds in the vicinity in the autumn
Spring migration is perhaps the most exciting time
of the year, and just about now is the most favourable
time in which to observe the greatest number of species.
However, the birds are in a hurry to get north in
order to obtain the best nesting sites and mates,
so the birds might recuperate and feed up, but only
for maybe a day, and off they go.
A possible consequence of climate change is a decline
in numbers of species, but others are increasing and
doing well, including Firecrest, Little Egrets and
Avocets, so the news seems to be both good and bad.
This has been the warmest winter that we can recall,
but uninviting for photography. 3 months of grey skies
accompanied with constant heavy winds, meant that
only the hardiest naturalists were out in the field.
There has not been anything of great excitement to
report, the winds drove in Leachs's Petrels, a small,
scarce, largely unreported ocean-going bird, and some
of these were driven inland where they invariably
perished by exhaustion, or were killed by crows and
My garden herbs such as Mint, Sage and Rosemary have
continued to grow and thrive throughout the ‘winter’,
instead of dying back as they should. Daffodils are
now out on Hayling, so just before we are burnt to
a crisp, let us enjoy this global warming.
The drought here in the south, has now lasted for
2 years, so combined with a hot summer, we need a
wet, wet, winter, with luck whilst I am away.
Butterflies and moths have had a sensational season
(here on the seafront there were 13 Painted Ladies
on our one Buddleia). As usual, there are exceptions,
Small Tortoiseshells, are again notable by their absence.
The beavers are doing well at Aigas, and Willow,
the ‘kit’ is also now giving wonderful
photo opportunities. Kate Humble has visited and filmed
with the BBC. For first ever pictures of 'wild' beavers
in Scotland - see picture gallery (at the time these
had to be digiscoped, as the beavers were wary of
There are a few of the wedding photos on the site
of Daryl and Kate. Daryl arranged first pictures of
a wedding on board The Victory and the picturesque
'Commodore's Gardens'. Being a Portsmouth lad, how
could I refuse? Also the couple are good friends of
mine, and finally, they would not accept 'no'. My
one regret is that in 14 hours of photographing her,
I still seek that elusive picture - Kate not smiling.
By all accounts, she is now a star.
After initial wipe out of the Little Terns' nests
and chicks, due to predation and a 10-day continuous
wind, the birds had a second and late, attempt at
nesting. Jason Crooks was the full-time warden, (
I could do no wardening this year), and finally reported
21 fledged chicks here on Hayling Island. Not brilliant,
but the best total for 4 years, so well done Little
Terns, Jason and the volunteers.
Thanks for this report, exclusive to this site, giving
news on our seabirds, by Chris, our south coast RSPB
warden. It has been a very poor year.