Meeting Reports for 2011

These are the reports (latest first) of our Thursday evening meetings for 2011.  Many thanks to all the contributors.

Thursday 15th December, 2011 – Xmas Social

report by Derek Harvey

A happy crowd of WVBS members surged into Weston Longville village hall to be greeted by a glass of Ray’s traditional punch and to gawp at the amazing tables spread with irresistible Xmas fodder. Any brains still able to function after all the intoxicating liquor were challenged by a selection of quizzes and then a gigantic raffle with prizes that lured even the most timid gamblers. In a separate Special Raffle the prize was a stunning picture donated by none other than the photographer Rebecca Mason.

Yes, the WVBS Xmas party has become an unmissable seasonal treat.

All the best for the New Year!

 

Thursday 17th November, 2011 – A Fair Isle Season by Rebecca Nason

report by Colin Wright          

Over 70 people turned up for, our last talk of the year (a club record) to welcome award winning, freelance wildlife photographer, Rebecca Nason who gave a presentation entitled “A Fair isle Season”.

Fair Isle sits between Orkney and Shetland and 25 miles from the mainland. With a population of 70 souls Fair Isle is described on its website as a jewel of an island, famous for birds, both seabirds and migrants, knitwear and the sea area on the BBC’s shipping forecast. With the aid of some stunning photographs we were taken through the seasons in pictures.

Close up pictures revealed how tame some birds were and this, coupled with the lack of vegetation cover, gave Rebecca lots of photo opportunities to take excellent close-ups of Razorbills, Fulmars, Long Eared Owl and Gannets. We also saw pictures of much rarer birds such as the Rustic Bunting, Thick Billed warbler, Yellow Browed Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler and the Chestnut Eared Bunting. Last picture showed the new £4 million observatory, opened earlier this year.  A far cry from the ex-naval huts which formed the original base for bird watchers in 1948. The new observatory features comfortable en suite accommodation for 20 guests, meals, a visitors centre and illustrated talks.

Rebecca kindly presented the club with a signed print which will be the subject of a special draw at our Christmas Social.

Some of the birds shown:- Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbills, Puffin, Gannet, Glaucous Gull, Twite, Fair Isle Wren, Rock Pipits, Long Eared Owl, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Bluethroat, Rustic Bunting, Thick Billed Warbler, Great Skua, Storm Petrel, Purple Sandpiper, Leachy Petrel, Mealy and Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest, Grey Phalarope, Yellow Browed Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Chestnut Eared Bunting, Rufus Tailed Robin,  Siberian Rubythroat and a Siberian Blue Robin (brought in by the Cat)

 

15th September, 2011: A 1000 Years of Bird-watching in the Castle Rising Area.

report by David Knight

Professor Cooke combined his passions for local history and birds to give an unusual and intriguing talk predicting what birds were or could have been in the Castle Rising area through history. With the aid of historic maps and documents we were taken on a journey with the castle taking centre stage. Built by the Normans on Roman foundations, it became the residence of Queen Isabella in 1330 who lived there until her death in 1358. She was in disgrace because of her affair with Roger, Lord Mortimer and their conspiracy leading to the death of her husband, Edward II, at Berkeley Castle in 1327.  Many other Royals frequented the castle and it became a favourite hunting ground. From ancient records, kitchen accounts and bone analysis, we saw the extensive range of local birds landing up on the menu. One species recorded in the area was the majestic Sea Eagle. Contrary to popular belief this bird was in its natural habitat sustained by the abundant rabbit population of the numerous warrens of Norfolk. It was locally known as the Fen Eagle and Professor Cooke was a strong supporter of its  planned reintroduction to Suffolk  a few years ago.  Another interesting fact was how the geography of the area has changed little over time.  By overlaying ancient and modern maps our speaker demonstrated how the lines of the Saxon sea walls still influence the lie of the land.

A great start to our Autumn programme.

 

Thursday 17th March, 2011: Dragonflies and other Wildlife

 Report by Derek and Rosemary Harvey

At the March meeting of the WVBS, Dr Pam Taylor, president of the BDS, gave a superbly illustrated talk on the subject of dragonflies, their life history and distribution in Norfolk.

Opening with a lovely view of Barton Broad, with herons posing for the camera, Pam showed us that the large number of ponds, lakes, rivers and marshes in this area create ideal conditions for the water dependant life cycle of dragonflies. The larval stage is a wingless free living carnivorous water beetle that forages amongst submerged aquatic plants. When mature, the lava climb up out of the water on a reed stem and pupate. Dramatic pictures showed the adult emerging from the larval skin on which it perches while extending two pairs of wings and also elongates its body. When the wings are dry it launches forth as a fully fledged dragonfly and explores its territory, catching insect prey while in flight.

Pam’s collection of pin-sharp close-up shots of a wide range of dragonfly species showed the wonderful range of distinctive colouration and markings. We saw the differences between sub-groups Darters, Hawkers and Damselflies. The males and females are often very different colours, making species identification more of an exact science than we imagined. On finding a suitable mate, dragonflies link bodies tip to tip in a strange but unmistakable circular configuration. The female lays fertilised eggs, directly from the tip of the abdomen ,on to floating waterlilly leaves in an appropriate stretch of water.

A wide range of other wild life included in Pam’s studies were highlighted. Such as deer, hares, otters, swans with cygnets, terns with camouflaged chicks on a pebble raft, cormorant, herons, slow worms, grass snakes plus a rare shot of a snake swallowing a toad. After a brief mention of other expeditions, such as a study of wild life in Bulgaria, the evening closed with a round of applause from a very appreciative full house.

 

Thursday 17th February, 2011: Lundy – a personal view by Richard Campey

Report by Colin Wright

Richard Campey was ‘grabbed’ by the island of Lundy when on a trip during his student years at Cardiff university. So much so that he became warden for two years following his degree in Zoology.
Owned by the National Trust, Lundy (Norse for Puffin) lies off the coast of North Devon. A granite outcrop aligned north/south with two contrasting coastlines, the calm and sheltered east coast and the rugged, Atlantic beaten west coast. A variety of en-route migrants and breeding birds can be found on the island as well as a variety of flora and fauna such as the Soay sheep, Sika deer, Lundy ponies and the unique Lundy Cabbage, complete with its own resident flea beetle.
Excellent pictures of the island and the visitor accommodation, run by the Landmark Trust, and birds such as the Water Rail, Lapland Bunting, Eastern and Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Yellow Browed Warbler, Common Rose Finch, Hawfinch, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Snow Bunting, Guillemot, Razorbill, Peregrine, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Auks, and not forgetting the Puffin, but sadly the number of breeding pairs have reduced dramatically over the past 20 years. More about the island can be found on www.Lundyisland.co.uk .

 

20th January, 2011: The Wildlife on a Breckland Farm by Chris Knights

Report by Colin Wright

The Brecks is a landscape of forest, heath and agricultural land bordering parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. One of the driest parts of Britain this area is home to many distinctive birds, plants and animals. Chris Knights, several times winner of the Bird Photographer of the Year, runs a farm in the Brecks, and his talk described how he manages to maintain a fine balance between the demands of modern farming methods and wildlife conservation. Lots of fine pictures of the flora and fauna of the area and the star of the show, the Stone Curlew, only seen in this part of Norfolk and parts of Wiltshire. Remarkable pictures of Stone Curlews confronting a pig and a curious sheep in order to protect its nest, which is nothing more than a scrape in rocky ground. An excellent talk interspersed with some good old Norfolk humour.

 

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