Tag: Natural History Society of Northumbria
Yesterday involved a real mixture of my favourite places, and a wide range of activities.
Starting just after 07:00 I checked the 12 Longworth traps that we set on pre-bait in Choppington Woods earlier in the week. With 9 of the 12 having been emptied of food, the small mammals we’re interested in had obviously found the bait. The one slight problem was that initially I could only find 11 traps! Despite having a GPS location for each, and marking adjacent vegetation with tags, it took 20 minutes to locate one of them. Veronica Carnell, who is supervising me while I gain sufficient experience to run a trapping programme on my own, had warned me that this would happen
Then I had a short drive across to Blyth for the second day of the Netgain regional hub meeting. It’s been incredibly educational to listen to the views and concerns of other stakeholders, who don’t necessarily approach things from a conservation point of view. Equally, it was impressive to see such wide and varied viewpoints coalescing into a concensus by the end of the meeting. Although I have an interest in the project from a nature tourism angle, my main input was on the distribution and seasonality of cetaceans and seabirds off the Northumberland coast. The protection of the marine habitat is so important to us that, as a business, we’ll keep making my time available for Netgain meetings until the conclusion of the project.
After the meeting I drove to Seahouses and collected a journalist from the Edinburgh Evening News, for a trip across to the Farne Islands. We occasionally run press trips where the journalist will be accompanied by wife/husband/partner, but 2 adults, a 6-year old, a 3-year old and a baby was pretty much a first (apart from a guy from a local paper in Cumbria who managed to blag a free holiday, for himself and his family, from accommodation providers, activity providers and attractions in Northumberland in 2008…and then never wrote the article that was used as the hook for getting all the freebies – ah well, live and learn). The trip across to the Farnes was everything I would expect in late October; breezy, cold and a fantastic wildlife experience. The Grey Seal pups were predictably cute, and at least 3 Peregrines were hunting the Feral Pigeons that live on the islands. We’ve got a Seal Safari next Friday, which includes a trip around the Farne Islands (weather permitting), a Landrover safari and picnic so give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details or to book (especially if you are a family – it’s 1/2 term week so we’re offering generous discounts on family bookings). With 5 trips out with clients over the next 5 days (including 2 days where we’re fully booked already) it’s going to be a busy week.
All of that would have a been a busy day…but there was one thing left, and it was something that I was really looking forward to. As Newcastle University graduates, myself and Sarah both have an emotional attachment to the Hancock Museum (or Great North Museum:Hancock as it’s now named…but you won’t find either of us, or many other local naturalists, calling it that). So, yesterday evening I felt quite honoured to be standing in the Clore Learning Centre at the museum giving a lecture about the Northeast Cetacean Project to the Natural History Society of Northumbria. With an attendance of over 100 at the lecture it’s a subject that people are really interested by. One of the question asked at the end of the talk was “how will the data be used? what value does it have?”. Which took us nicely back round the loop to the day and a half of Netgain meetings.
Monday was the second classroom session of the NHSN Lichens and Bryophytes course. On Sunday, while I was out with Sarah on a walk through three atlas tetrads in Harwood, we found some interesting colonies of Cladonias lichens on the upturned root edges of some windblown Spruce. As the lichens course is currently looking at Heath and Moorland, and specifically at Cladonias, this was a chance to put the classroom practice into a fieldwork context. The two most frequent species were C. macilenta (‘Devils Matches’), and C.sulphurina (‘Greater Sulphur-cup’). Unfortunately, the weather was a bit on the harsh side, so it wasn’t possible to take any photographs of the lichens in the field. Never mind, that’s just a reason to go back and have another look on a brighter day
The atlassing itself was a bit esoteric. During the entire 9 miles through the forest we only came across 6 different species;
Common Buzzard 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Common Crossbill 103
With temperatures hovering around freezing and 8″ of snow still covering over a mile of the footpaths and tracks, it was no great surprise that there were so few birds. Also unsurprising, throughout those 9 miles of beautiful, windswept, snow-covered Northumberland we didn’t encounter any other walkers. They don’t know what they were missing
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…).
If there’s a prize for worst blogpost title then I must be in the running with this one. What makes it even worse is that I thought of it on Friday night last week and have only just got round to using it now. Perhaps my subconscious was suppressing it?
Anyhow, last Friday I attended one of the Natural History Society of Northumbria’s indoor meetings. The speaker for the evening was Janet Simkin, a lichenologist. Now that’s quite a thing…lichens are widespread, they can be studied all year round and they are fascinating indicators of the cleanliness, or otherwise, of the air around us, yet some of my clients who have deep interests in many branches of natural history have always issued dire warnings about lichenologists; “they’re a bit strange”, “if you have one on one of your trips, you’ll be lucky if they leave the carpark”, “they move in a geological timeframe” are some of the kinder words spoken.
So why am I blogging about lichens? Well, a few weeks ago I was visiting an elderly friend, who has a remarkable personal library, and we were looking through his collection of books on lower plants. Tucked in amongst them was a guide to identifying lichens, which he removed from the shelf, handed to me and said “here, life’s too short…if I’d started 50 years ago this may have been some use”. I’d started to take notice of the lichens report in the excellent British Wildlife as well, some mouth-watering images and tales of rare and remote species stimulating my interest.
Dr Simkin’s talk was fascinating , detailing how lichen species have appeared and then vanished with changes in air quality. There was then a short presentation by Katy Barnard about the OPAL Air Survey. Now this is a bit of fieldwork/research that anyone can participate in. The results can be viewed online, and it gives you an excuse to get outdoors and get some fresh air (assuming that’s what the lichens you find indicate…)