Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Visit Planet Gannet

With Gannets galore on jaw-dropping cliffs that plunge 400 feet straight into the sea, now’s the time to get a taste of one of Britain’s best wildlife spectacles. The Gannet colony at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, between Bridlington and Filey, is at its peak between now and September — so staff and volunteers at the nature reserve have organised a series of events to bring visitors closer to these amazing seabirds.

First up is Tea with Gannets, which takes in a guided tour of the reserve, followed by tea and cakes served in the marquee.  The event runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays from July 24 to Sept 29. Cost: £3 for RSPB members, £6 for non-members. Booking essential, call 01262 851179.

Glorious Gannet Evening Walks, accompanied by experts from Yorkshire Coast Nature, give a wonderful insight into the life and loves of the bird. A stroll along the cliffs in the fading light will make the perfect end to a day. Walks take place on Mondays and Thursdays in August at 6.30pm.  Cost: £2. Booking essential, call 01262 851179.

For younger visitors, the Greedy Gannet Club is a great way to spend a fun-filled hour or so in the company of Seabird Steve and his crew. Making Gannet masks, creating Gannet finger puppets, folding Gannet paper darts and going on Gannet walks are just some of the things they’ll be getting up to. The Club is every Thursday in August, 10.00am – 4.00pm, There is no charge for the activities.

And for those with a passion — or just a passing interest — in photography, the RSPB Gannet Photography Workshops, led by Yorkshire Coast Photographer Steve Race, are a must-do. As well as offering those taking part the chance to capture incredible up-close images of Gannets, Steve’s experience and expertise offers a real opportunity to improve your skills.  RSPB/Yorkshire Coast Nature Gannet Photography Workshops run every Monday and Friday in August, 10.00am.  Cost: £10. Booking essential on 01262 850959.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Chris is in Africa

Chris — the BTO tagged Cuckoo — has made very rapid progress over the past few days. Having been still near Antwerp on 7th July, an unconfirmed location on Thursday 12th July placed him in the Po watershed, near the river Po itself northeast of Parma. We assumed he would be set in for a prolonged stop-over in preparation for his Sahara crossing but the expected confirmation of this location never came. Instead, we received a series of locations on Sunday 15th July showing that he had passed straight over mainland Italy and had stopped in Sicily!

But amazingly, just a week since he was last in Antwerp, locations received last night (16th/17th July) indicated that he was in the latter stages of his Sahara crossing. He was in the Tenéré Desert, a vast expanse of sandy desert in eastern Niger. The locations placed him about 500km (310 miles) north of Lake Chad. Last year Clement, the first Cuckoo to cross the desert, did so from 14th July so, assuming Chris left Sicily in the evening of 15th July, the timing of his crossing is very similar. This remarkable development means that Chris has now moved about 3,800km (2,360 miles) since we last received a location for him in Belgium ten days ago (7th July). We don’t know precisely when he left there but we received unconfirmed locations for him in northern Italy on 12th July and Sicily on 15th July so clearly he has not made any significant stop-overs other than the one in Belgium. He spent about a month there after leaving the UK so presumably this is where he did his preparation for the desert crossing — he's due to transmit again in two days; check out the BTO Cuckoo pages to see if he has managed to complete his amazing marathon from northern Europe to the savannahs south of the Sahara.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Batumi Raptor Count and Festival 2012

Last autumn I visited Batumi on the Georgian Black Sea coast and it was seriously great. Plenty of migrating raptors, lots of interesting species from the edge of the Western Palearctic, and some great interaction with the locals. The Batumi Raptor Count is running again this autumn for its fifth year and, to mark this milestone, BRC are celebrating with the Batumi Bird Festival. The festival runs from 19th to 23rd September — more details can be found on the BRC website:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Ornithological Society of the Middle East summer meeting

Saturday 7 July, BTO Headquarters, Thetford, Norfolk — all welcome.

This year’s Summer Meeting Programme has ‘Migration through the OSME Region’ as a theme and as usual we have a wide range of countries and topics. Doors open at 10.00 — join us for refreshments and a talk with old friends before the meeting. In addition, following last year’s successful outing on the Sunday, Chris Mills of Norfolk Birding will be leading a similar walk with the possibility of seeing a number of Breckland specialities. Once again we have also arranged a meal after the meeting — this year we will be returning to the Mulberry, which we last visited in 2008. We hope you will be able to join us for one or both of these extra events — please let Ian Harrison know on 01545 571022 or at

Finally, please note that all profits from the 2012 OSME Raffle will go to the endangered White-headed Duck conservation project administered by the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK). Give generously to this worthwhile project!

The Programme is as follows.

11.00 Introduction – Geoff Welch, Chairman
11.15 Tracking Migrants into Africa Paul Stancliffe
12.00 Lebanon - an Important Bird Country Helen Demopoulos
12.45 Lunch break
13.45 34th Annual General Meeting
14.15 Bird Survey and Ringing in the Western Desert, Egypt, 2010 (part of a longer term study of the south-eastern migration route) Przemyslaw Busse, Krzysztof Stepniewski & Matt White
15.00 Short break
15.15 Egyptian Vulture Conservation Challenges along the Eastern Mediterranean Migration Flyway. Stoyan Nikolov
16.00 Migration through Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Nick Moran & Oscar Campbell
16.45 Drawing of raffle and closing remarks.
17.00 Close of meeting