Between the slow times of the winter (filled this year by the Northeast Cetacean Project) and the start of our busy season comes a week that is exhausting but enjoyable.
Sarah was away on Sunday so I took myself off for a walk in Harwood. Lots of Siskins and Crossbills were calling throughout the entire 10 miles, and I managed to capture some images. The howling wind made my other intention, recording their calls, a bit trickier. A couple of Common Buzzards were braving the breeze, and a female Goshawk appeared and disappeared before I could get the camera on to her. I’m not sure whether carrying a dSLR, 500mm lens and heavy tripod around 10 miles of, partially snow-covered, forest tracks is an indication of dedication or insanity. Whichever, it was certainly good exercise.
Tuesday was an extraordinary day; first the Hadrian’s Wall Trade Fair and Tynedale Tourism Day, then I drove to Matfen Hall for an Outdoor Show training session and from there up to the Gun Inn at Ridsdale for a pre-breeding season Hen Harrier volunteer meeting. Wednesday was the tourism fair in Berwick, organised by the NNTA, and yesterday I attended the Sustainable Tourism Conference at the Rivergreen Centre in Durham.
Now, at the end of the week, it’s the Alnwick Tourism Fair, followed by a SENTA member event at The Old Ship in Newbiggin.
I’ve had another week of meetings (and late-cancellations of meetings as well) with a wide enough range of topics to keep me on my toes. I’ve enrolled on the Natural History Society of Northumbria ‘Lichens and Bryophytes’ course and the first session was on Monday; my use of dichotomous keys as an aid to identification has been sporadic previously, but now I’ve got to learn. A one-to-one clinic on Wednesday, discussing the new Northumberland brand and ways to enhance our own marketing, gave me lots of new ideas. Most valuable of all though was a meeting later that afternoon with one of Northumberland’s major land owners, discussing species conservation, land management, nature tourism and access to the prime natural history areas of his estate. New NEWT products are on the way…
As I sat in the office yesterday afternoon, staring at the cold gloom outside, I had a call from my good friend, and bird race team-mate, Iain. He was complaining about being stuck in his office on such a lovely sunny afternoon. His office is only 20 miles up the road from ours, but was blessed with much better weather.
One thing that unpromising weather does give me time for is processing a few images from the last month. With the launch of our new website Northern Experience Images I needed to do a reasonable amount of uploading. Here a just a few from last Saturday, when the temperature was somewhat lower than it is now and myself, Sarah and Andy had a walk along the coast from Embleton towards Dunstanburgh Castle.
It was cold, really cold. As we walked back through the dunes in the dark, there was a bitter northerly wind and it felt like a real wilderness. Winter, my favourite time of the year (until the green shoots of spring begin to appear anyway…).
Yesterday saw me doing a lot of travelling in some pretty dire weather (although thankfully not as awful as the events in Cumbria). First was a long journey up to Perth to attend the Wild Scotland annual conference. Luckily I was able to travel up to the conference with someone who was travelling even further to get there. The presentations on Scottish Wildcats, Deer-watching and a Tourism Survey in Scotland were all very interesting, but personally I thought the best part of the day was when the delegates were separated out into focus groups. Now, this isn’t usually something I would find too thrilling but, with wildlife tourism being a fairly well developed industry in Scotland it was an opportunity to hear the thoughts of the people that are at the sharp-end of it. The networking opportunities presented by attending the conference were a real bonus as well, and our ongoing planning for 2010 has been informed (for the better, we hope!) by some of the discussions I was involved in.
After Perth we had to negotiate the frustration that is the A720 at rush-hour…
Eventually, and just in the nick of time, we arrived at The Maltings theatre in Berwick for a presentation by Laurie Campbell, entitled ‘Taking Stock’. It was enthralling to sit and listen to a professional wildlife photographer describing how certain images were obtained…while projected on to the screen were some mouth-watering examples of his art. A very nice glass of red wine during the interval (ok, it was a plastic tumbler but that’s the only way they’ll allow you to take liquids back into the auditorium) was enjoyed while chatting with several friends, mainly wildlife and birdwatching photographers from various areas of Northumberland and the Borders.
I like days where everything is thought-provoking and inspirational.