ANNUAL SUBS NOW DUE!!
Could those of you yet to renew your membership for 2017, please send a cheque for the requisite amount (£10 for family/joint, £7.50 single, £1 for junior) as soon as possible to John Follett at 8 Buckminster Close, Oakwood, Derby DE21 2EA. Thank you – and happy birding!
THOUGHTS ON OUR CHAIRMAN
We have traditionally included here a ‘Chairman’s Thoughts’ column, which has for the past nine years been written by Peter Gibbon. But Peter’s sad death in late December after a short illness means we now have a big hole to fill – not just in the newsletter but also in our club, which relied so heavily on his thoughtful leadership and hard work spanning nearly a decade, and the local wildlife world that Peter was devoted to for so many years.
Furthermore, the warm tributes at Peter’s funeral on 17 January in his home village of Holloway clearly demonstrated that his passing leaves a huge void in his family and network of friends – and we pass on the club’s collective condolences to wife Jacqueline, son Jamie, stepson Jake and step-daughter Lucy.
Peter was born in Manchester and remained a fervent ‘United’ fan but had spent the latter half of his life in Derbyshire. Here, he made an impression wherever he went – not least as a teacher at Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth. He actively fought against inequality and supported many worthy causes. He packed a lot into a life that lasted just 69 years.
The ‘Thoughts’ he expressed in the newsletter were, it’s fair to say, rather random, but that’s because he pondered deeply on things he’d read, heard about or seen on the TV. He liked to air his thoughts and conclusions with those he thought would be interested. So, for us, he wrote about nature, wildlife and conservation issues … or shared some of the amazing birding experiences and exciting holidays he had. It was often very much like a rather one-side chat with a pal!
This month, our thoughts should be about Peter and the multi-faceted role he played in the club. He had been Chairman for nine years, and his quiet, thoughtful and pragmatic leadership meant we maintain to this day a good solid base, with birding at our core, despite steadily falling membership.
Over the years Peter ‘inherited’ other roles, usually when we lost a committee member and could not fill the gap. Almost unnoticed, he would pick up the reins and do a fine job. For a while he took on the Treasurer’s role, until John Follett joined the committee, and then, following the sad death of Dave Edmonds, he took on the membership secretary’s duties. And all that while he’d also been organising several seasons of indoor meetings, often taking the stage himself when a speaker was unable to turn up at short notice – or, on occasion, just to save the club a fee!
Imagine then, the loss to the club of such a hard-working individual. Not just in terms of the hours spent on CBC duties, but also in the important link – through well-earned mutual respect – that he created with our hosts, Severn Trent, with the county’s birding authority DOS and as the local area WeBS organiser (as well as actually conducting the monthly WeBS surveys in tandem with Jon Bradley).
It’s a lot to lose and while we can’t replace Peter’s unique qualities, we will need help from the membership at large if we’re to find ways of operating the club at anything close to level of activity, efficiency and empathy that we managed under Peter’s leadership. Do, please, let us know if you’re able to help.
KEY COMMITTEE POSTS STILL VACANT FOLLOWING AGM
The Club’s annual general meeting was put back a month when the speaker at our January meeting had to postpone his planned talk until later in the year. When the AGM did take place a month later, those members attending learned that there are still key officer roles in the club to be filled – notably that of Chairman.
Those people who had been on the committee in 2016 were re-elected with the obvious exception of Peter Gibbon, and also that of Peter Oldfield who last year resigned as trips organiser. Gary Atkins said that he’d agreed to undertake the organisation of indoor meetings for the time being, and John Follett had agreed on a temporary basis to pick up the membership secretary’s tasks in addition to his role as treasurer. It would be preferable if permanent replacements could be found for indoor meetings and for membership administration, to lend focus to each role, and it will be important to find a new Chairman in the near future.
One member did volunteer to join the committee: Thanks go to Chris Lamb, who agreed to attend forthcoming meetings to see which tasks need particular attention before committing to a particular role. Once again, let us know if you, too, think you can help on the committee in some capacity.
CETTI’S WARBLER MAKES SITE DEBUT – AND DIVER’S RETURN IS BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!
Towards the end of November, a Cetti’s Warbler turned up on Stones Island, becoming the third new species for the reservoir during 2016 and taking the site’s definitive list since records began to 231. Though this ‘LBJ’ habitually hunkers down, mainly out of sight, it was spotted on occasion and heard more regularly during its long stay over the winter.
Another long-staying winter regular, the Great Northern Diver, gave cause for concern as it failed for the first time in years to turn up in November. An adult bird finally did arrive on 20 December, providing an early Christmas present for local birders, along with the sight of 280 Golden Plover among a flock of nearly 1,000 Lapwings.
A Ruff has been here all winter, too, and Hopton end seems to have become a popular refuge for some of the scarcer birds seen at Carsington. The developing reed bed seemed to have an almost irresistible hold on a Reed Warbler that stayed a month later than any previous record for this species, finally leaving on 20 October, and in succeeding months, Water Rail, Jack Snipe and Woodcock have been seen or heard in the area, along with up to 15 Grey Wagtails recently roosting among the reeds.
Huge flocks of several species were a notable feature of late autumn and winter: top of the flocks were 870 Starlings, several hundred Jackdaws and Fieldfares and many thousands of Woodpigeons, but the No1 daily count goes to our Scandinavian visitor, the Redwing, with 9,270 counted late last November.
Six species of goose were noted in December, when 250 Pink-feet and the regular Greylag, Canada and Barnacle Geese were joined by two White-fronteds (the second occurrence in three months) and a single dark-bellied Brent Goose, three of which turned up the following month, too.
Thirty-eight Whooper Swans swooped in on 20 January, while the previous month saw three-figure totals of Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Wigeon, plus good numbers of Little Grebe (16) and Moorhen (11) – birds that had suffered considerable declines in the past year or two. Little Grebes, in fact, had increased to 19 during February, when a very healthy 45 Great-crested Grebes were also counted.
Among the waders dropping in, most unusual was a Knot on 22 January while earlier that month a very large group of 95 Snipe were seen from the Wildlife Centre. One Oystercatcher returned in January, but by 9 February three pairs were on site and by the 20th nine birds had assembled, so hopefully breeding is about to begin again for this species.
Gulls have not been witnessed in particularly large numbers recently, but 4,000 Black-headed were in the roost on 25 November and, three days later, 900 Lesser Black-backs were counted. In early January, an excellent total of 1,400 Common Gulls were recorded, and for the fourth time in 2016 a Kittiwake dropped in.
As well as Redwings and Fieldfares, other winter visitors have included Brambling and good numbers of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, while in December Crossbill made a sixth appearance of 2016. By February, Skylarks were witnessed flying over several times, and birds were beginning to find their voices.
On 21 February, a count of smaller birds away from the water found 51 Blue Tits, 19 Great Tits, 13 Long-tailed Tits, 10 Coal Tits and four Willow Tits (up to nine were recorded on a different day), three of which were singing, 18 Bullfinches, eight singing Chaffinches and five Reed Buntings. The same walk, from Hopton end to Stones Island also discovered 88 Robins (62 singing), 27 Dunnocks (20 in song), 35 Wren (28 singing), 18 Song Thrush (all but three singing), 28 Blackbirds (mysteriously and in stark contrast, only one of which was singing) and seven Goldcrest (three singing).
“FUN DAY” TO CELEBRATE CARSINGTON WATER’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
It is very nearly a quarter of a century since Her Majesty The Queen opened Carsington Water, and a Fun Day is currently being arranged to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reservoir that is not only a crucial part of the Severn Trent Water system but also an iconic honey pot for visitors from far and wide who enjoy exercise, wildlife and the big outdoors.
On Saturday, May 20, there will be a wide range of games, stalls and attractions on offer to visitors, chiefly adjacent to Visitor Centre, but locations like the Wildlife Centre are also likely to prove popular venues, too. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for brilliant weather on the day.
WONDERS AWAIT ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
Unfortunately, our January indoor meeting had to be postponed (Ken Smith, our planned speaker, will however be returning in the autumn!), but either side of that we were treated to two presentations packed with brilliant photographs, both of which involved a quick trip across the Atlantic.
In December, Tony Davison spoke about ‘winter birding in New Jersey’ and the amazing diversity of birdlife that exists in the 130 miles of heavily ‘lagooned’ coastline along this stretch of America’s eastern seaboard. Though also a prime holiday location for US citizens, the birds don’t seem to mind sharing!
Then, in February, Paul Bingham kindly stepped into the breach at short notice to speak immediately after our postponed AGM about the birdlife of Costa Rica. If New Jersey’s birdlife was exciting, then the wildlife of this small country (about the size of Wales) 3,500 kilometres south is quite simply breathtaking.
Costa Rica is well known for its exotic birds but the sheer volume of species is mind-boggling. Paul said he saw more birds there in two weeks (nearly 400 species!) than he had in 30 years birding in the UK. He slotted in some shots of other wildlife, including two- and three-toed sloths, a reptile or two and some wonderful butterflies (another astounding fact is that Costa Rica has more butterfly species than the whole of Africa). Paul’s mouth-watering talk left most of us in the audience wondering how we could pull together the funds to visit this stupendous country as soon as possible!
An eagerly-anticipated talk by Richard Pittam on 21 March will be the final event of our current indoor schedule, and planning is already underway on an interesting 2017-18 programme of talks.
The final talk in our winter indoor meetings programme in March will see our very own webmaster Richard Pittam delighting us with an enigmatically titled presentation together with a selection of his excellent photos, and the following month the annual ‘wagtail walk’, in collaboration with Severn Trent, will go in search of the main prize, migrating Yellow Wagtails. Details as follows:
21 March Talk by Richard Pittam: ‘What a Year this would be!’ – Henmore Rm, Visitor Centre (7.30pm)
25 April Wagtail walk – Visitor Centre (6pm)
A broader range of events – some regular and either arranged by Severn Trent Water or Derbyshire Wildlife Trust – are also on offer. Below are the offerings from now into spring. Some are chargeable and some are subject to booking, so it’s always worth checking for further details (call Severn Trent on 01629 540696, or Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188):
First Sunday of month – Birdwatching for Beginners – Meet Visitor Centre (10am-12 noon)
First weekend of month – Optics demonstrations – RSPB shop, Visitor Centre (10am-4pm)
Every Tuesday/Sunday – Wildlife Centre volunteers on parade – Wildlife Centre (10am-3pm)
Third Saturday monthly – Family Forest School (charges apply) – Contact DWT to book
Last Saturday monthly – Sheepwash Spinners (wool-craft) – Information at Visitor Centre
6 March – Nature Tots – Owl Babies (charges apply) – Contact DWT to book
3 April – Nature Tots – Spring Flowers (charges apply) – Visitor Centre (10.30am-12noon)
9 April – Walk and cycle ride in aid of Teenage Cancer – For information call 01773 596073 /(organised by Vaillant Group UK) 07767 377968
23 April ‘Collie chaos’ (details to be confirmed) – TBC
20 May – Carsington Water 25th anniversary fun day Visitor Centre (10am-4pm)