Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Friday 25 April 2014

Simple pleasure

There are a couple of old earthenware pots which have been placed on the roof of our garden storage shed. They've seen no attention and the wild flowers that grow inside them are a total accident; there is certainly no planning involved. The roof is gently sloping, thus any plants angle themselves accordingly. A couple of days ago I noticed a Goldfinch feeding on the seed heads of a dandelion-type plant - my camera was in another room and the bird had flown before I could get it.

This morning, however, luck was on my side as the bird (or another?) returned and I had my camera to hand, with the 170 - 500 mm lens already fitted. Light wasn't brilliant, but I was able to open the kitchen door and grab a series of images as the Goldfinch fed. It is a stunning little bird and, I feel, we'd pay the species a lot more attention if it were rare. But then again, I'm sure that is true of many of our native birds - "familiarity breeds contempt"; and of that I am certainly guilty!

I've just finished playing around with my photo-shop editing program and can't believe how intricate the plumage detail is. If I were given a black and white outline to, colour in, I'm not too sure I'd get it right?

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Time flies when I'm not at work!

This Easter weekend has fallen just right; I finished at 14.00 hrs Thursday and return, today, at 14.00 hrs - in effect getting a five day break. Only thing is I can't ever remember a week, at work, passing as quickly as this holiday period has done?
A smart male Yellow Wagtail - one of several that I located around the marsh during my wandering
In spite of our domestic upheaval, I did manage to catch up with a few summer migrants and also grabbed an early Monday morning session out on the Minster Marshes. A real bonus - enjoyed in bright sunshine and solitude, just the ticket! Birds dominated proceedings - Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warbler plus Cuckoo making it onto my 2014 list. At one point the gulls went up, but I failed to locate the cause. Butterflies were rather limited; Peacock, Green-veined White and Small Torts being my only sightings, although I did record Holly Blue and Hummingbird Hawk-moth in our garden later in the day - both new for the year.
Good numbers of Sedge, and Reed, Warblers are now back on territory along the
R. Stour and surrounding drainage channels
The camera has been kept active as I continue to find new subjects, purely because I am looking in places I've not done previously. Andrena and Nomada bee species were plentiful along the hedgerows and riverside pathway causing me to continually get distracted. It was nice to record a number of Ashy Mining Bees, nectaring on Dandelions, having only ever seen this species, in our garden, once before!

Common Bee Wasp (Nomada ruficornis

Gooden's Nomad Bee (Nomada goodeniana)
I'm sure that there was much more to be found, but my time quickly passed and I headed home for a spot of gardening (perish the thought!) It was while I was clearing away some grass cuttings that I noticed a tiny hover-fly - the like of which I'd not seen previously. A thin body, with a bulbous tail which was rather tactile. I grabbed the camera and managed to secure a couple of images that have allowed me to ID the insect as Baccha elongata, a common woodland species apparently?

The Hover-fly (Baccha elongata) - completely unlike any other species I've ever seen.
My appologies for the image quality - it really was very mobile and  I struggled big time!
My only other sighting, of any possible interest, was a female Marsh Harrier - high over Whiteness Point and out to sea - at 08.00 hrs on Easter Sunday.

Quite what would possess a Marsh Harrier to head out to sea in the gloomy
conditions that prevailed? Bev said that it must have known what was coming,
as we sat looking at the pouring rain ,later in the day!

Sunday 20 April 2014

That same old dilemma?

Every year, certainly since the advent of Internet news services, there have been various attempts at " A code of conduct" with reference to reporting schedule 1 bird species deemed,  by the self-righteous custodians of these organisations, to be at risk of disturbance during their breeding season. I am sure that all of these measures are undertaken with the well-being of our wild birds being the paramount consideration.
I have recently been made aware of a new web group - Birders Against Wildlife Crime - whose stated aim is to co-ordinate all relevant regulations, regulatory authorities, what to do and who to report it to should an individual see anything suspicious which they could directly attribute to illegal actions against our wild life.
Seemingly, this is an ambitious project with the support of some very prominent individuals (and organisations) - surely they can do no more than assist the Wildlife Crime Officers of the various Police Authorities around the UK? I'm glad it wasn't called Entomologists against wildlife crime; they being responsible for more rare (Red Data Book) species being deliberately removed from the eco-system than any rouge gamekeeper and for no better reason than to ensure that the id is correct as another specimen gets pinned to a board inside some darkened drawer. I digress (again!)
Before these guys sally forth into the wilderness looking for poisoned raptors or illicit activity near Golden Eagle nest sites they should perhaps turn up at the next twitch and observe the activities of their own. Camera wielding birders seeking to get ever closer to their subjects - if that doesn't constitute deliberate disturbance then what does?
Yes, of course I am just as appalled by the flagrant abuse of privilege that some of these huge estates continually demonstrate; the state of English Hen Harrier numbers being a direct consequence of these business enterprises, which masquerade as guardians of our countryside and associated traditional outdoor pursuits, yet show blatant disregard to the Wildlife legislation of the UK and EU. Will the advent of this latest initiative make any difference? I'm sure that the membership are very committed to their cause and very enthusiastic about the challenge ahead. Good luck guys - you're gonna need it!
A quick scan of Birdguides, this past week, reveals the presence of a "singing" Spotted Crake at Grove Ferry, Black-winged Stilts at various sites, Osprey and Garganey from all across the UK, all fully protected under our laws and all present at suitable breeding habitat - yet this info, thus an invitation to go and look, remains freely available. Are birders the only people who access this information? If Birdguides are serious about their responsibilities to birds and their welfare, none of this stuff should be reported. I once tried to post a photo of a summer plumage Black-throated Diver from an "undisclosed site" Highland Scotland (so pretty much anywhere) to have it refused because it contravened their stated policy of publication of info during the breeding season, other guys have had similar experiences with Peregrine and Barn Owl photos. I have to say that I was a little confused by this stance when the same service was announcing the presence of a singing Marsh Warbler (for its' third day) . I suppose what we'd all like is consistency - a bit like the standard of refereeing in the Premiership?

Disturbed by a dog walker, but photographed by a birder (without a schedule 1 license).
If this was at a nest site it would be me breaking the wildlife laws!
I was back along the Thanet coastline this morning for another bash at photographing the local Peregrines. I'm sure that the majority of local birders know where I was, but I will not make this news public via my blog (my version of censorship). That I was carrying a camera, and knew where to look, means that my actions were wilful. The two birds were present, perched distantly on the chalk-cliffs. With gloomy conditions, prior to impending rain, the best I could do was to sit and watch through my binoculars. Suddenly they were both airborne, there was a dog walker on the beach directly below their favoured spot. The guy was totally oblivious to the birds or the fact that his actions had caused disturbance, therefore they were not wilful and, thus, not in contravention of any law? I grabbed my chance to get a few images, but I have no schedule 1 licence to do so - I would need one if this were an "active" nest site or would be in contravention of the law despite my position being much further away than any individuals who legitimately use the beach for recreational purposes.

Wildlife crime is a massive subject. Do we now decide that badgers are to be poisoned/gassed en mass to eradicate bovine TB yet still seek prosecution of any individuals engaged in that barbaric pastime of "badger baiting" - yes I agree - let's also seek to prosecute the politicians, that supported the cull, for crimes against our indigenous wildlife. What of hare coursing? A sight that I witnessed a couple of winters ago, out on Worth Marshes. A spectacular contest between "long dogs" and wild hares - but now decreed an illegal country sport, alongside Otter, Deer and Fox hunting with dogs. People can still go rabbiting with ferrets and fly "captive" birds of prey at foxes, deer and hares; so the law has made the decision to play "God"? A bloke with a Goshawk can kill a hare without problem; use a greyhound, big trouble - where's the difference? There's still a dead hare! An emotive subject that will never find a consensus among educated people - opinions on both sides being held with equal vigour and passion.
I've no time for those selfish individuals who target the eggs of our rarest breeding birds - but can't help feel that we've lost sight of punishment fitting the crime? I read comments like "he should be locked up for life - fined £10,000 per egg" - ludicrous when two young drug addicts can slash a shop-keeper across the face, with a Stanley knife, and simply receive a caution. (This incident actually happened within 200 m of my front door!)
Will we ever be in a situation where the multi-nationals are found guilty of corporate wildlife crime? The decimation of habitat to build houses, airports, shopping centres, the introduction of mono-culture farming techniques to satisfy the demand for cheap food, the degradation of water quality due to modern effluent treatment techniques - it goes on and on. These institutions are massive players in the political world and legislation is just as much designed to protect their interests as it is to protect us and our wildlife. So, in conclusion, I don't think that we'll ever do anything more than scratch the surface of deliberate raptor persecution until the organisations, behind the massive shooting industry, are able to be held directly responsible for the actions undertaken, on their behalf, by any employees involved in this criminal activity. Only when the breaking of wildlife laws has a direct bearing on profitability will any of these organisations pay any heed to this aspect of our legal system. Until such times, small victories against individuals will do little more than serve to paper over the cracks of a very flawed system - after all said and done - money talks!

Saturday 19 April 2014

The more I look; the less I know!

I have endured (enjoyed?) yet another week of patch-watching, work and playing guardian to two, very young and lively, grand-children. I have no grounds for complaint - the bottom line being that you can choose you friends, but not your family! The situation that now prevails is something that comes with the territory - so I just have to make the most of it. Yes it is stressful and, yes it is "cramping my style" - I don't have the freedom that I've previously enjoyed. My time, outdoors, is now at a premium and I have to make the most of any free time that presents itself. It might mean that Emily is in tow; then so be it! Her simple, yet inquiring, mind is a great leveler! "What's that?" and "Why?" being familiar questions when we venture outside on our short wanderings. Sadly, my predictable answers usually contain the phrase "... I don't know ...." despite my limited id skills being enough to allow Emily to recognize a spider, beetle, bumble-bee; my own short-comings are very obvious as I look more closely at various invertebrate life forms which come into my consciousness as we go "bug hunting" around the fields and hedgerows of Newland's Farm. The availability of macro imaging has allowed odd specimens to be id'd, via the wonders of the Internet.

I'd managed to grab an hour and went in search of our local Peregrines.
They were not on site, but Fulmars gave me a chance to play around with camera settings -
so not a wasted effort.
Funny thing is that I rather enjoy this type of research - quite often I find myself drifting off at tangents as something, or other, catches my attention. The diversity of this unfamiliar group is astounding, so much so that I am in no way going to allow it to develop from a casual interest into a mainstream hobby - for the majority of my sightings I am lucky if I'm able to assign them to a family group, let alone the individual species involved! (I am certainly not prepared to kill something purely for the purpose of identification - a concept that I find obscene - yet as an angler I will stick a hook in a maggot or worm; so I'm also a hypocrite; "Guilty as charged Your Honour")

This centipede sp. was discovered in leaf debris on our decking.
Emily said "that it tickled" as it crawled over her hand.
With this simplistic outlook, I have discovered many creatures that are way beyond my experience/knowledge. From a very personal perspective; the more I look - there is the realization that I know so little about the creatures that share my world. It's no big deal - surely it's better to look and be amazed than not bother looking at all?
A Mason Bee that has been investigating some holes in the bungalow brickwork -
where rawl plugs have pulled out as a result of the winter gales
The images that accompany this post have been taken during the past week and reflect the diversity of subjects that have crossed my path. Nothing to get excited about, just simple photos of some of the creatures that make natural history the greatest show on earth and freely available, to each and everyone of us, should we choose to look.

An Ichnuemon Wasp (Hepiopelmus melanogaster) ? - photographed in the front garden

Is this a wasp or a "Nomada" bee? A fascinating encounter, but not one that will cause loss of sleep as
the id is unresolved.

Sunday 13 April 2014

A little bit of patch gold!

An early morning stroll around the patch was a rather tedious affair if the truth is told. A female Wheatear flitted along the track towards Broadstairs and five Rooks (3 west, 2 north) were the early highlights as I wandered around. Odd Meadow Pipits and a small flock of Linnets were flushed from the cauliflower field and a couple of pairs of Greenfinches were noisily engaged in display flights along the Vine Close hedgerow. It was whilst I was watching one of these males that I noticed a chunky-looking passerine drop into the top of a lone sycamore. Raising my bins, its id was revealed as a Corn Bunting - only the second patch sighting of this species in fourteen years - real patch-watching treasure. I managed a token record image before it was off; flying strongly northward.

It's crazy to think that a nondescript brown bird could cause such an adrenaline rush, yet that is the beauty of patch watching I guess. The ordinary can take on a whole new dimension when viewed from a very local perspective?
The rather spectacular looking Incurvaria masculella
I took Emily across to Ash, yesterday, and spent a while in the children's play area before nipping in to Dad's (Tim, Julie, Luke and Josh are down for the weekend) for an hour or so. I managed to grab a few shots of another micro moth (Incurvaria masculella) and a tiny (approx 3mm) fly sp. which posed nicely on my finger.
Don't have the first idea where to start looking for the id of this smart little insect.
We're all off out for a family lunch, so any thoughts of wetting a line will have to go on hold for another week - it's a tough life being a Wrathall!

Thursday 10 April 2014

It's savage out there!

As I was wandering around the patch, a couple of days ago, one of the local dog-walkers told me of her horror as she'd seen a Sparrowhawk (probably the same individual that visits my aviary) eating a Blackbird in her back garden, so much so that she pulled the curtains! I tried to offer the alternative opinion - it being a privilege to witness such drama from the comfort of home without the requirement of Sir David Attenborough, or Simon King, fronting a documentary on the T/V. She wasn't entirely convinced by this, but could see where I was coming from - I think?
I was out again this morning, my reward being two more Wheatears, 6+ Chiffchaff and my first Willow Warbler of the Spring. It looked really good for some raptor movement, early on, but clouded over before 11.00 hrs and that put pay to my hopes.
A singing male Willow Warbler in the Plum blossom at the end of Vine Close.
The garden continues to produce sighting which are of interest; my major frustration being that I've usually the wrong lens fitted when I see something avian! A Speckled Wood was my first of 2014 - it enjoying the sunshine in the shelter of the aviary. Spiders have been very conspicuous and rather amusing. A Zebra Spider has taken to hunting around the ivy-clad spars of our decking. They are amazing little creatures with loads of character.
Predator and prey! I wonder if that lady dog-walker would be as repulsed by this sight?
It is going on all around us, the vast majority on a scale that is easily over-looked.
The other spider sighting, of which I am most intrigued, is the large, and rather flat, female which is guarding her nest (?) that has been partially covered with strands of moss; these she must have deliberately carried to the silken construction. I initially assumed that it would be a Garden Spider but, its' markings don't seem to fit the bill so, have absolutely no idea as to the id - for once the Garden Safari website was of no help at all.

This spider is about the size of a 5 pence piece. Her nest being on a post around our decking.
The various bit of debris that cover the web/cocoon must have been placed there deliberately
as some form of camouflage.
 Walnut Orb Weaver - Nuctenea umbratica  (Many thanks to Seth Gibson for supplying the correct id)

Wednesday 9 April 2014

A Newland's duo

I was out and about before 06.30hrs wandering the field boundaries looking for newly arrived migrants. There was a Chiffchaff singing in the garden, with another individual over by the farm. It had been clear overnight and I wasn't particularly hopeful so it was a very pleasant surprise when I flushed a male Ring Ouzel from the edge of the Old Rose Garden. I followed it with my binoculars, watching it land in the Sycamore by the Scaffolder's Yard before dropping down onto the school playing field. I made my way, some 200m, to a position where I could get a record shot as it fed out on the grass. Extreme distance and shooting through the fence did little to assist my cause but I managed to get a record image.

Onward; I only had 45 minutes to spare before I needed to be back home in order to get Bev's early morning tea and sort out an e-mail she needed printing off. A quick sortie around the concrete reservoir - BINGO! There it was, my first Wheatear of the Spring. It flew from the top of a small tree and dropped down onto the recently ploughed field. A short stalk, along the hedgerow and my photo was in the bag!

Home in good time for my chores. The sun is shining and the skies are clear - might be a bit of raptor movement?

This Chiffchaff was one, of two, in our garden yesterday morning. The colour balance being well off
the mark due to my forgetting to reset the camera after some experiments the previous day.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

The magical draw of Scottish pike fishing

If there's a better sight, for an angler to awaken to, I've not seen it!
In a few weeks time; we are back off, north of the border, to do battle with the pike of Loch Awe. The we being my bother Simon, my son Benno, his mate Luke and my good self. The planning for this trip has been meticulous; we've got the bloody lot! Generators, gas-powered freezers, bait boats, braided line (miles of the stuff), Japanese hooks, American trace wire and the finest bait that can be acquired from any source around the globe! Yes indeed; we've never been in better shape to tackle this magnificent fishery. With a loch of 26 miles in which to prove ourselves - our technology is well capable of identifying "holding areas/features" without having to spend a life-time learning  the skills of a local. I think that the real question will be; "are we up to using this gear to our best advantage?"

Benno with his (my) first Scottish twenty 
I've been travelling to go pike fishing, in Scotland, since 1982. Not always serious, but a bait in the water is better than not going fishing at all? In all of these trips (17 in total) I have landed just 22 pike in excess of 10 lbs (doubles) ; I took 11 of these last year! So it isn't too difficult to understand where my yearning for a big fish comes from - Scotland owes me a twenty - if that's possible? I've now seen three - actually placing the landing-net under two of them!

Tom with our best pike so far - 21 lbs 2 oz. 
If pounds and ounces were the bottom line, Scotland isn't the place; well not anymore. The trout stocked, commercial, fisheries of southern/south western England will provide a far better chance of that "fish of a lifetime". For me, enjoyment is the over-riding consideration - if I'm there and not having fun, then something has gone seriously wrong! Obviously, the fishing is priority number one, yet not to such an extent that it excludes all other experiences. To watch an Osprey plunge into the loch,  scope Red Deer, away up on the adjacent mountain slopes, fall asleep listening to the haunting calls of Black-throated Diver, awaken to a dawn chorus of Common Sandpiper, Redstart, Tree pipit and Willow Warbler - pike fishing - what's that all about?

Simon with his first Scottish twenty - it only took thirty one years!
We'll sink a few "light ales" and have a laugh; hopefully Luke will get to experience the thrill of a hard fighting Scottish pike - this is his first trip! Whatever the outcome, I am sure that we will return home feeling good - the experience of spending time in such a magnificent place being the complete antidote to our everyday lives?
Where else, but Scotland, do you have the chance to watch an Oystercatcher walk under your rods?

Monday 7 April 2014

Times when choice is not an option!

Bev hails from Yorkshire, although she (and her parents) moved "down south" some thirty years ago. When news arrived of the death of her best friend's (Jayne) father - Peter Higgins - it was never up for discussion that we wouldn't go. Ron and Denise (Bev's parents) were also determined to make the effort, they had lived next door, to Peter and his wife, Molly, for many years. Of course I'd rather have gone fishing, birding or simply wander around with my camera - not gonna happen! My place was with Bev and her parents to pay my respects to a guy that I'd never met. My loss apparently - the funeral service providing me with a picture of a fun-loving, dedicated, family man, a devout and robust christian and a very loyal husband. His grand-daughter, Rebecca paying a particularly moving tribute as she recalled memories of her grand-father during her childhood.

I have to give credit to the "God Squad" - they certainly know how to put on a show and play games with, even the hardest and most cynical individuals' emotions. Being in the Holy Trinity Church (Thorpe Hesley) today, was to be in company with a tight knit community who find great solace within their faith. I have nothing but admiration for those who are so certain, whose faith allows them to believe in the writings of the scriptures. Whilst I was in this superb little church, I have to admit that a tear, or two, were shed but not for Peter, or for his family, I found myself thinking of Mum and her devotion to this stoic belief in a guy whose story certainly didn't get written down, in English, as it happened. The book that forms the basis of their faith being, at best, a series of "Chinese whispers"; meanings lost in translation as the individual scholars interpreted the writings of a previous generation. Yeah, I really, really do want to believe in something, something bigger and better but, even in my darkest hours, I can't find any comfort in the teachings of this type of church. It was, however, a lovely service and provided a great tribute and send off for a man whose life enriched many of those with whom he came in contact - sleep well Peter Higgins.

Esperia sulphurella - a nice distraction whilst cleaning the car!
We all traveled up, to Rotherham, on Saturday and stayed for two nights in the Brentwood Hotel, Moorgate Road. It is a "Flaming Grill" pub and, as such, can be recommended as an eatery - the hotel part of the operation is barely adequate. My own slant is that it's "tired" - Denise just said it was "crap!"
No point dwelling on this, we were only there for a funeral, and the accommodation was purely a base for the important bits of our itinerary. We drove into Brinsworth, had a beer and a bite to eat in The Three Magpies - Bev and her parents having fond memories of this pub.We also went to Rotherham town centre, on Sunday morning and I was absolutely amazed at the dominance, and stunning appearance, of Rotherham Utd FC's ground - a mind blowing, visionary, statement of the vibrancy within the local community (They'd all been down to Kent, on the Saturday, and beaten The Gills 3 - 4!)

Birch Shieldbug - Elasmostethus interstinctus
Thorpe Hesley - South Yorkshire
The weekend hasn't been totally devoid of natural history - there were two Red Kites moving purposely, west, high over Herne Bay, as Bev and I picked up Ron and Denise on Saturday morning - a year tick!
I'd given the car a full clean, inside and out, earlier and had been fortunate enough to get to opportunity to photograph the micro-moth Esperia sulphurella in our driveway. Sunday afternoon, some 250 miles further north (via the motorway net-work - not a straight line!) I grabbed the chance to spend an hour, or so, wandering the wooded footpath besides the M1 at Thorpe Hesley.  A decent number of Andrena sp. were actively feeding around the football pitch/park and the woodland beyond provided me with a chance to grab a few images of Birch Shield-bug and the micro-moth Eriocrania subpurpurellia. There were Common Buzzards, Nuthcatch, Coal Tit  and Mistle Thrush on view but, because I had the extension tubes fitted, my photographic efforts are very macro biased. We arrived home just around 18.00hrs and I must admit that it's nice to be back!

Yet another micro moth (Eriocrania subpurpurella) - just demonstrating the power of lighting?

Friday 4 April 2014

Life in a non-descript hedge

My routine, for the majority of my working days, involves me walking to and fro between our West Dumpton bungalow and Pyson's Road Industrial Estate, via the footpaths; and excepted field boundary tracks. Just at the end of Vine Close is a the remnants of a hedgerow which consists of Ivy clad blackthorn and wild privet, for the most part. There are a few plum trees, at the very start, but they are well past their best. An under layer of umbelifers (Alexander is what I'm led to believe) has just started to flower and is attracting insects in decent numbers. Although it wasn't sunny today my walk home, at 13.00 hrs, allowed me to note good numbers of Tawny Mining Bees and other Andrena sp. taking full advantage of the bounty along this very short section, being sheltered, as it is, from the gentle westerly that was blowing.
Tawny Mining Bee 

The opportunity being too good to pass by, I grabbed my camera gear from indoors and returned within a few minutes. With more time it was amazing to discover the array of species utilizing the food source and my camera was kept busy as I sought to get a few shots for this blog. I am still, very much, at the beginning of this particular project and my results are far removed from the standards set by many of my fellow "Bloggers".

I'm not sure if these two aren't male and female of the same species?
It was a "bad hair day" for both of them!
I was probably out for 40 minutes; and took 146 images - of which most were total crap! It matters not a jot; I was outside and enjoying the experience (photos are a bonus) Given my reticence, the id of, much that I encountered, will remain a mystery. I did, however, make a few cyber enquiries and have managed to get a "best guess" for a couple of the subjects. Whatever the result - it was really good fun!

A sawfly sp. - I'm sticking my neck out with Dolerus gonager as my conclusion?

The distance I walked was probably no more than 300m (and that is from our front door!) - it is simply mind-blowing to spend time looking into this micro world that co-exists within my local patch. The "Pan-Listers" of the UK rejoice - Dylan has just signed up? Not a chance - I'll just continue to do what I've always done - look and be amazed!

What am I doing looking at this?
The beautifully marked Caloptilia syringella - a very common micro (Wild Privet being the local key7?)

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Where are we headed?

I had started this offering with the thought of the title - "Digital imagery = the new guns!" but, since reading a post on Birding Frontiers about "Icelandic" Meadow Pipits am happy to use the question, rather than a statement.
1st winter  "Arctic" Peregrine - North Foreland March 2011
Don't these guys understand the very basis of evolution? By definition it is a never ending process by which natural selection will allow life forms to adapt to their changing environments. I am very capable of recognising a Newcastle United supporter, with or without their black and white striped plumage - they don't look, or sound like me, however, they don't belong to a different race - let alone species, just because of the obvious regional differences (sorry guys - no offence intended). Some of this stuff, being done, in the name of bio-diversity, is getting very dangerous - it will take just one crazy scientist to claim more than one species of Homo sapiens ( you tell me if the native populations of Africa, America, Australasia, Polynesia, Asia or the Middle and Far East aren't identifiable because of their language and "field characteristics") - we will embark on the road to no-where as one "species" attempts to assert its' domination. Sound familiar? - you've got it - cheers Adolf!
Assumedly the same individual over our garden - April 2011
What is wrong with racial differences? Why is there such a mad desire to specify every subtle nuance in our natural world?
Kumlien's Gull (?) at North Foreland - March 2011
I have no problem with the quest for answers, I seek many myself, yet I fear that we are loosing sight of why the natural world is such a magical place - a place where we can derive immense pleasure yet never be quite sure why? We don't need ALL the answers - we need to know that we've done all we can to to care for and conserve this heritage for our future generations - splitting Meadow Pipits won't achieve anything to assist this cause; although it might help one work-shy, ecology, student avoid getting a proper job?

Probably the best image I obtained, from a series of seven.
Are digital cameras the new guns - or do they cause as many problems as they solve?
Kumlien's Gull - or not? 
Racial variation is something which has dominated my birding since the start of 2000 - Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Yellow Wagtails and Crossbills have all provide me with fantastic learning opportunities. The discovery of a Kumlien's Gull, in Dover Harbour, was instrumental in my appreciation of the complexities involved - a 1st winter Peregrine which spent a few weeks around Thanet, in March/April 2011, just aided the understanding. I am not against anyone attempting to push the boundaries of their (our) knowledge beyond the present state of understanding - it's what makes our species so unique. My problem is that I'm unable to accept that everything can be so "black and white" whilst the evolutionary process has to reach its' conclusion - surely there have to be grey areas where our understanding is still way off the mark?