Speaker: Allan Hale
Reporter: Sue Gale
Covid-19 has prevented much of our normal club activity, but thankfully not all of it. In June, Allan Hale had promised another of his near-annual presentations, and he kindly, and bravely, agreed to go ahead via Zoom. I am sure this was a new experience for many WVBS members as well as for Allan himself, but it was a great success. Around 50 devices were signed in to the event, and as many of these had
more than one person watching, there was a very good turnout. Lots of us are becoming more proficient with on-line events, and this went well.
True, there were a few unscheduled noises off, but the pictures were clear and Allan was always audible.
The presentation itself was something of a departure from the norm, as we have come to expect an account of exotic travel with wonderful photographs of unfamiliar birds. This presentation was about the local birdlife, but the photos were still wonderful. Much of the activity described took place at Boughton Fen and Swaffham Forest – sites in Norfolk that I am not familiar with but which I must visit in future. Allan knows it very well as part of his local ‘patch’. Indeed, his presentation was a strong recommendation for the benefits of patch birding. Only by visiting regularly can you know as much about the progress of local birds. Allan began with a local success story – Peregrine Falcons breeding locally in Kings Lynn and before the more famous ones at Norwich Cathedral had started. These dramatic raptors have been one of the great recent conservation successes, mostly due to their own adaptability to new habitats. Birds of prey are often the stars of the show, and there are many species nesting in the region. As a ringer, Allan has privileged views of many young birds in the nest, but sometimes the nests are too high and a tree climber has to be brought in to help. The lovely pictures of Goshawk chicks were taken by him. Marsh
Harriers are more accommodating, nesting on the ground. And owls are often in nest boxes so access has been arranged. Allan showed us owl boxes made by a friend from plastic piping- much cheaper than the ready-made kind!
Kingfishers need a different kind of nest, but a nesting wall set up for them had only limited success, as they didn’t return to it after the first year. On one occasion the ringers were really pleased to catch and ring a Water Rail – not a frequent occurrence. But while they were celebrating that catch another ringer saw a Spotted Crake, an even rarer find. Allan had to bring Ray in to describe the occasion as he had not seen the Crake.
Some pieces of information Allan was not at liberty to disclose. He had been sworn to secrecy about the site where the splendid images of Hawfinches – up to a dozen of them – had been taken. Other birds can be elusive for different reasons. Each Autumn there is a gathering of Stone Curlew in the Brecks, up to 100 of them in a single field before they set out on their migration. But they are never in the same field. You have to keep your ear to the ground to find out where to look each year. Other species are difficult because identification is hard. We nearly all find it hard to distinguish Marsh and Willow Tits, so Allan gave a short tutorial on the differences.
In all we saw lovely images of about 36 species, all viewable in the Wensum Valley area and all with interesting tales to accompany the pictures. Very many thanks to Allan for a stimulating and informative evening.