Oops, nearly forgot this is the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend - you've still got time all tomorrow (Sunday 31st), when with 'Sleet and a gentle breeze' forecast, what better to do than sit at a window and count birds?
I guess most of us might recognise robins not least from our Xmas cards, but dunnock vs house sparrow? You can see dunnocks (left) are really very pretty, being quite slatey grey with subtler markings generally, while the house sparrow (right) is more in your face. (Click on the photos to enlarge and see the captions)
Just go to the RSPB website here for all you need to know - but you only need to spend an hour. (Personally, I spend my hour and see hardly anything but as soon as my time's up they all arrive so I restart the timer. It's an art, not missing lunch.)
By way of a challenge, here's a link to what Izzy Fry of our Young Nature Watch thinks we might see.
I went out last Saturday, bright and sunny, hoped to see especially a mistle thrush but no luck. But today - grey, gloomy, drizzly - Andrew Graham, who had the same experience, saw no fewer than 27, yes twenty seven! species of birds up on the concrete road (Ox Drove/Monarch's Way) to the east of the Wylye road from Chilmark.
He did see just one Brambling, but also a flock of larks! and lots of others including those famous 'jangling keys' corn buntings (another wonderful scientific name, emberiza calandra), bright yellowhammers getting ready for spring and chaffinches too - maybe refugees from my garden where I've seen none for several years. (Click once on a photo to enlarge and display caption.)
It was our late, lamented Committee member David Rear who suggested this spot, so it's good to have cause to remember him.
For Andrew's full account, go to MoreNews but for wildlife sightings, grey is obviously good, at this time of year at any rate!
Just to remind you of the additional online meeting on Thursday, by Neil Hartley about organic farming in Tisbury.
This will be a useful follow-on to Peter Thompson's November talk (if you missed this, go to talks/what you missed for a summary and the slides he used). We thought it would be relevant and interesting to hear from a neighbouring farmer on a similar topic.
Neil is an experienced farmer from Salisbury Plain who has recently acquired land near the community fields behind the Nadder centre. He will be telling us his exciting plans to bring his organic cattle to Tisbury, about what his farming practice entails and how he manages the impact on wildlife.
If you'd like to 'attend' the talk, email email@example.com for the link. All welcome - free to members, £2 for non-members.
Hope to see you there!
I don't know why or how, but somehow mistle thrushes have taken on some kind of mystic identity for me. I saw one on Tooting Common once - somehow I knew what it was though little about them. Now, thanks to Andrew Graham, it's our 'bird of the month' on our MoreNews page and I know a lot more.
And thanks to Abby Eaton, here's a lovely photo of a fledgling, taken right close to Tisbury.
And, thanks again to the wonderful Wikimedia Commons, whence we source a lot of our lovely photos - though our own library is growing apace and contributions are always welcome - an amazing video of a nest in action which you should be able to access via this link. Don't be put off by the orchestral overture, it passes!
Spring is on its way, no matter what the weather throws at us.
We are so fortunate to have the magnificent Messums gallery in Tisbury, but with the gallery closed for Lockdown throughout January and February, Messums is hosting a weekly series of discussions on the theme, 'Active environmentalism'. The talks are on Wednesday evenings at 6.30 pm and this week Ben Goldsmith will be discussing rewilding and the environment.
Each talk is approximately 30-40 minutes long followed by discussions and questions are welcome in advance to help build the conversation. Full details on Messums website, here. You can join for one talk priced at £10 or take up Online Membership for the entire year and attend as many as you would like. Membership includes an archive of Digital content to catch up on these and other recorded talks as well as online video and research.
They explain that this 'marks the transition from protest to participation. It is a recognition that knowledge is better shared and that when informed our innate moral compasses are all the guide we need. These consecutive discussions that take us from the sea though land and air towards a consideration on the future.'
Talks so far have been by Oliver Steeds, on his mission to genome the ocean; and 'Future ancestor,' an interview with Dr Christian Thompson.
Isn't this just lovely? The Guardian reports on a series of stamps Sweden has produced, one of which features Greta Thunberg with swifts. It's 'part of a set by the artist and illustrator Henning Trollbäck titled Valuable Nature.
'The series ... features some of the 16 environmental quality goals recently drawn up by the Swedish government, including habitats designated as important to protect, said the national postal service, PostNord.' (If only ...)
This came to us via our speaker on Thursday this week (21 January), Edward Mayer, the UK's leading expert on swifts. This will kick off our campaign to increase the number of swift nest sites in our area. Go to Talks for more details, and how to register for the talk.
To get you in the mood, here's an amazing video of how swifts really do live their entire lives on the wing.
Chairman Peter Shallcross comments that mid-winter when everything seems to be asleep seems to get shorter each year so we easily miss the birds who come here to escape even worse weather to our North, some of which like this fringilla montifringilla provide a welcome splash of colour.
But how did it get that name and what do we usually call it? Andrew Graham reveals all on our MoreNews page, and says good places to see them would be beech woods, perhaps near Compton Abbas airfield or nearby Melbury Wood - if only we could get there in the current COVID lockdown.
Chairman Peter Shallcross has commented that January is a time for regeneration and reflection: in the middle of winter trees are at rest and there are very few signs of spring to be seen as yet.
Unlike the trees, we at Tisbury Natural History Society aren't resting at all - in January we have not one but two of our monthly meetings
On Thursday 21 January as Bob Gibbons cannot now tell us why the Isle of Purbeck is so special (but he'll be back next January), we are delighted that Edward Mayer, the UK’s leading expert on the conservation of Swifts (the Common Swift: Apus apus) will be talking to us. And on
Thursday 28 January, we will have a 'Meet a farmer' discussion online at 7.30 pm with Neil Harley, an experienced farmer from the Salisbury Plain who has recently acquired land near the community fields behind the Nadder centre.
Full details on both these and instructions on how to register for Zoom, go to our Talks page.
Just to put our efforts in context, Channel 5 is running a 4-part series on the Natural History Museum in London - full details here. We know all about fossils of course, being next door to the Jurassic Coast, the Etches Museum et al. But getting to see 'the unique and rare pieces too valuable to exhibit' sounds like a bit of a treat.
First of the series is Thursday, 7 January, 8 pm and of course on catch-up.
Then, by way of coming right up to date, Messums Wiltshire's 'Conversations' series includes Isabella Tree, at 6.30pm on Wednesday, 27 January. You can access this via www.messumswiltshire.com/members-area - annual membership is £30 for an individual, £50 for a family. Isabella will talk about her now famous re-wilding of her family estate in West Sussex, described in her book 'Wilding'.
The pages now display photos of fungi taken by members. This one by Andrew Carter - Trametes versicolour.
Please do not eat any of them.
If it's not me, Elizabeth Forbes, website editor (keen but ignorant), I'll say so.