Meeting reports 2012

These are the reports (latest first) of our Thursday evening meetings for 2012.  Many thanks to all the contributors.

Thursday, December 13th – Christmas Social

report by Liz Bridge

Western Longville Village Hall

What a huge amount of food and such a fantastic variety.  A really good punch, either alcoholic or not.  How could we fail to enjoy ourselves?  Everyone arrived, greeting each other cheerily and wishing all goodwill for the festive season.  But, before we could indulge our appetites, the ornithological quizzes came out.  Did we know the names of these birds with the vowels left out in the spelling?  Brain work required for some of these, and none of us will forget that our Teal is really The Eurasian Teal!   How Alwyn had teased us with that one.  Pictures of birds for us to name; that did stretch our ID skills.  Then, at last, we were let loose on the food.  It really was very good.

All this with a background of relaxing music.  What a way to enter the Christmas season!


Thursday 15th November:  A Birding Trip to Ethiopia  – Guest speaker Allan

report by Liz Bridge

Western Longville Village Hall

What fun these talks are when Allan is giving them and the travelling members of the ‘Bus Pass Boys’ are in attendance, passing comments and giving additional information. Nor do they mind fun photo’s of them being mixed in with the more serious. Who will forget the photo of Ray and Allan – I shall say no more, you should have been at the meeting!

The visit was made in 2006 and it is amazing how many of the birds can be seen round the hotels, even if it is a tented hotel in the middle of nowhere with primitive facilities. Arrival was in a very modern airport in Addis Ababa but there are two sides to that city – the modern face and the very poor, older areas, as with most of the country. The countryside is so dry apart from the few yards either side of water or on the higher slopes of the mountains where you start to see green. What a lot of birds have amazingly long tails. We saw superbly coloured Starlings, Black Kites which are associated with ‘death and squalor’. Several birds which visit our own country were seen, emphasising how far some of them travel. Some gorgeous birds, the Spur-winged Plover, the Bee-eaters to name but two. Imagine a Kingfisher as small as a Blue Tit – the Malachite Kingfisher; then we were shown an even smaller one – the African Pygmy Kingfisher. The Honey Guide birds that lead the locals to honey; they always leave some for the birds. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening with much laughter. Many thanks to Allan and his ‘gang’.


Thursday 18th October, 2012 : The Western Isles, guest speaker David Mason

report by Liz Bridge

We had a fantastic turn-out for our return to Weston Longville Village Hall.  The brand new building took a bit of getting used to but we are delighted to be there. Our speaker this evening was David Mason. His talk on the Western Isles really gave us a feel for the islands, and his photographs of the wildlife and landscapes were outstanding. It was interesting also to have a brief outline of the history of the islands. We visited the islands in turn. Mull where the cattle eat seaweed, the crows are hooded not carrion and Golden and White-tailed Eagles can be seen. Islay – Queen of the Isles – desolate and wild, wind blown trees, salt burn on the leaves, Choughs, where 2/3 of the world population of Barnacle Geese winter, fantastic photo’s of frolicking lambs. Then we moved on to Jura – an island of distilleries, cattle and geese. The Butt of Lewis showed another wild area, lots of rocks and very boggy. An island that still runs a croft system, each croft about 25 acres. On to Harris and then Berneray, North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula and Ericksay. Lots of Corncrakes and Cuckoos. Barra where the airport is on the beach, the only such in Britain. A golf course where the putting green is surrounded by an electric fence to keep the sheep off. Machair with its wonderful wild flowers in spring/summer and breeding waders. We were surprised to learn that there is now a shortage of sites for Golden Eagles on the Western Isles. A great start to our return to Weston Longville.


Thursday 20th September, 2012: Bears, Bison, Butterflies, Beavers and Bald Eagles, guest speaker Julia Burton

report by Liz Bridge

North Elmham Village Hall. Our September meeting saw Julia Burton return to give us one of her absorbing and inspiring talks. Her subject was ‘Bears, Bison, Butterflies, Beavers and Bald Eagles’. This covered a journey she had taken in the Great Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Julia’s talks are very well researched and we had lessons on the history, science, geology and wildlife. The scene was set with stunning photographs of mountains, salt lakes, bubbling mud pools and, of course, birds, plants and mammals. No-one will forget the short video of a mother Grizzly Bear with her 2 cubs only yards from the main road. This bear would be in the region of 7 foot long and weighing about 400 lbs.


Thursday 17th July, 2012: Members’ Summer Social BBQ

report by Liz Bridge

Over 40 members attended the BBQ held this year at North Elmham Village Hall, our temporary home. Inclement weather meant that the stalwart ‘chefs’ laboured outside whilst the rest of us kept warm and dry. The hall was abuzz with greetings of friends and the subsequent chatter. Mountains of salads, nibbles and puddings, along with the BBQ, were quickly devoured. The raffle, as usual, was very popular. Reports of much enjoyment and food appreciation were received.


Thursday 17th May, 2012:  A Look at some of Sri Lanka’s Birds and Wildlife guest speaker David Pelling

reporter David Knight

Member, Dave Pelling gave an account of his recent trip to Sri Lanka with wife Daphne. They flew to Colombo then onto Habarana and Cinnamon Lodge. Most of his photos were taken In and around the grounds comprising 27 acres of natural habitat with an adjoining lake which was bursting with wildlife. There were organised Elephant Safaris and a trip to Sigiriya Rock- a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Daphne took advantage of these but David’s mission was to concentrate on the wildlife. Despite some torrential downpours restricting access to some of the parks some good birds were recorded such as Layard’s Parakeet, Red- backed Woodpecker, Jerdon’s Leaf-bird, Black-naped Oriole, Indian Pitta, both Sri Lankan and Indian Paradise Flycatchers, Tickell’s Flycatcher, Little Green Bee-eater, Stork-billed Kingfisher, a good selection of Heron/Egret Sp., birds of prey, loads of Babblers and Prinias, to name but a few. Also both Grey Langur, and Red faced (Macaque) Monkeys,Indian Elephants, Water Buffalo, Mongoose, Giant and Palm Squirrels. The talk concluded with David telling us that “the trip was with Saga, and was an ideal way of getting some good wildlife watching, and for the less inclined an opportunity to just ‘chill’ out. The Lodge accommodation was excellent, gourmet food, and most importantly a free well stocked bar !!! Well worth a return visit.”

Many thanks David,for an excellent talk and for stepping in at short notice.


Thursday 15th March, 2012: The Art of Birds guest speaker Steve Cale

report by Colin Wright

Our last indoor talk at the old Weston Longville Village Hall was given by Norfolk based artist, and Society member, Steve Cale. Steve started drawing birds when he was a voluntary warden at Minsmere some 18 years ago when his original idea was that if he sketched a bird it would help him remember the details. In a fascinating talk we were shown how he initiates a field sketch. Using only a 2B pencil and a shaped rubber we were taken stage by stage through a drawing of a Little Ringed Plover. He started by drawing with an arrangement of rectangular boxes to approximate the shape and pose of the bird. Various vertical and horizontal datum lines were then added and we watched as a technical drawing was transformed into the rounded outline of the bird. Emphasising the importance of detailed observation, particularly noting where the light falls on the subject, a few zigzag lines were added to delineate the feathers and the lightest and simplest of pencil lines used to represent feathers in the wind and reflections in the water. It all looked very easy (until I tried it at home).

After the break we had an in-depth look at drawing and identifying different Nightjar species showing how drawing birds and meticulous attention to detail helps the identification process. Finally a close look at various birds of prey which included a Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Hawk Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Zone Tailed Hawk, Black Shouldered Kite, and details of the Lander Falcon whose feather arrangement has been copied in the design of fighter aircraft. The final picture was of Steve’s paint palette which he uses in the field. It looked a bit basic but is all one needs to start a picture – he forgot of course to mention that one also needs talent. Lots more on his website about tours, art classes and a selection of his paintings. A fitting talk to wind up our use of the Weston Longville Village Hall


Thursday 16th February: WWT Reserve at Welney guest speaker Samantha Lee

report by Colin Wright

One of the visitor highlights at the World Wildlife Trust’s Reserve at Welney, near Wisbech, is watching a warden with a wheelbarrow full of grain feeding thousands of overwintering swans and ducks. We were fortunate to welcome Samantha Lee, less wheelbarrow but complete with boundless enthusiasm for her work, to our indoor talk. Samantha talked about the World Wildlife Trust which was founded by Sir Peter Scott in 1946 and is dedicated to the creation, restoration and management of wetlands throughout the UK. A new eco- friendly visitor centre was opened at Welney in 2006 where visitors can watch, from the comfort of the main observatory, the thousands of Whooper and Berwick swans that arrive from Iceland and Russia for the winter. The Ouse washes has the largest roost of whooper and Bewick swans in the UK, many of which return to Welney each year. Last year a Whooper swan, named Julietta, was injured and unable to make the 1,000-mile journey back to the breeding ground. Her mate Romeo, stayed by her side and they became the first Whooper swans to breed in Norfolk since 1928. In 2011, 48 species were observed on the reserve which included waders, birds of prey, geese, owls, cranes and 19 duck species who arrive in their thousands from the Arctic region. As to be expected Welney has an excellent website with lots of visitor information and publishes daily wildlife sightings. A delightful presentation by an eloquent and enthusiastic speaker. Samantha kindly donated some complimentary entrance tickets for Welney for our raffle .


Thursday 19th January 2012: Galapagos – In the Footprints of Darwin guest speaker Dr. Kevin Elsby

report by Colin Wright

Dr Kevin Elsby is a world travelled naturalist with a particular interest in the wildlife of the Arctic, the Antarctic and tropical rainforests. He is also a wildlife tour guide and has a Masters Degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation and, if that was not enough, he is also a full time Norfolk GP (who says’ men can’t multitask!).

Dr Kevin’s talk described a visit to the Galapagos, a world heritage site of thirteen islands situated 1000Km off Ecuador. The Galapagos were visited by Darwin in 1845 and are thought to have been the inspiration for his publication ‘The origins of Species’. The islands are fed by the nutrient rich Humbolt Current which travels up the coast of South America from Antarctica and are home to some of the world’s rarest species, many endemic to individual islands.

We were shown unusual birds such as the nocturnal swallow tailed gull, the red billed tropic bird and the comic courtship dance of the blue foot Booby and of course the different species of Galapagos finches who have adapted in order to survive the different habitats of each island. We also saw land and marine iguanas, lizards, tortoises and thousands of sea lions who can be seen snoozing in various places in town. In all it was easy to see why the Galapagos attracts over 100,000 visitors a year. An interesting and informative talk which attracted a record attendance of well over 70 members.

Some of the birds: waved albatross, red and blue footed booby, red billed tropic bird, several species of petrel’ finches and heron, frigate bird, Galapagos dove, flamingos, white cheek pintail, brown pelican and mocking bird

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