Dear Rimrose Valley Friends
On April 10th we heard the song of the Chiffchaff. We came up close and saw the delicate majesty of the Robin – one having a ring on his leg. And 3 Buzzards is, after all, better than one – or even none. On another day we may have seen such uncommon delights as Redstart, Whinchat, even a tiny Firecrest or Ring Ouzel masquerading as a Blackbird.
Such sights are a birder’s joy but it is worth remembering that there are now 30% less birds in Europe than there were some 40 years ago. That is a drop of one third of the total population, not of species. So, for every 3 Chiffchaffs 40 years ago there are now only 2, and so on.
Environments such as the Rimrose are special for birds as they take years to reach the stage where birds can thrive within them. Hence the wise stewardship of such environments is particularly important.
Many of you will be happy to develop your interest generally in birdwatching and some might be keen to develop your birding skills and might have a keen interest in spotting relatively rare species.
So whatever your motivation, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the things I have learned, from personal experience and gleaned from others, over my many years as a keen birder. So, Terry’s Top Tips for Birding
1. Binoculars – choose yourself a decent pair. The best would be 8 x 30, 8 x 40, 8 x 42 or 10 x 50. Good reasonably priced ones might be Hawke or Opticron. Try to resist a zoom model. Get yourself a decent scope (when you feel you really have got the bug!)
2. The Sun – NEVER look at the sun through the binoculars. You can go blind
3. Water – always take a bottle with you for a drink
4. Be quiet! Birds have ears. Move diligently! Birds have eyes
5. Golden rule: Work the area – or your ‘patch’ – regularly. We were only out for 2 hours on each of the occasions I have been with you last October and last week. I visit Marshside RSPB Reserve just past Southport regularly and last week I saw 8 Mediterranean Gulls *
6. Weather – really important. When one prepares for a birdwatch months in advance, we never know what the weather will be like. Wind is particularly important. On 10th April we had cold south easterlies generated by a south west to north east front. Best winds would have been a light easterly blowing straight over from the Med, which is ideal for the Rimrose Valley, in both Spring and Autumn, which is when birds are migrating. In previous years, with those ideal south easterlies, I have seen male Red Backed Shrike and Greenish Warbler at Hightown Dunes. A light south easterly wind, allied with a shower of rain, is the most likely conditions to bring migrants to earth for a rest along their way.
7. Naked Eye – whenever you look for birds, look with the naked eye and when you spot one as quick as you can, get the binocs on to it. You can pick up a wider field of movement with the naked eye.
8. Lastly – go out and look as OFTEN as you can. We cant be expected to catch rare sights in a few hours. The rarest bird I have seen over the years on Rimrose Valley is a Marsh Harrier. Early mornings in the Rimrose , late April and early May, are superb. A light shower, a gentle south easterly … and, who knows what delights you might spot.
From Terry J Meehan
*Mediterranean Gull – A very rare UK bird until the 1950s, it is widespread in winter and breeding in ever increasing numbers. Its present UK breeding population makes it an Amber List species.