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 19 February 2016

Rarity and perception

As we're all doing it - this is my first slant on the hoarding of old books (aka my library!) and the part they play in my continued enjoyment of natural history. It has got to be an age thing? Let's remember that during my lifetime the status of Collared Doves (first recorded UK breeding record in 1956 - North Norfolk) has changed from "BB rarity" to a top 20 RSPB Garden Bird List species. I remember twitching a Little Egret (Pegwell Bay - Sept 1993!) for my early Kent list - modern birders/twitchers will wonder what all the fuss is about?

In these modern times, it appears that many of those species which I could take for granted,in my formative years, have been severely affected by climate/habitat change and, as a result, have become very scarce or localised?  Once this happens, by the very nature of definition, these species have become rare. I can personally use Song Thrush, Grey Partridge, Tree Sparrow and Turtle Dove as examples of birds whose status has changed dramatically for the worse during my lifetime. But what about the reverse side of this demographic - what about the winners? Cetti's Warbler, Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Raven, Red Kite and "sinensis" Cormorant - all species that are reaping the benefits of whatever these changes are providing.

Spot the common denominator? Rare birds by any chance!
No sign of Collared Dove in any of these tomes - Serin and Cattle Egret; you'd better believe it!
My library contains all the usual suspects, the Poyser Monographs, BWP - all nine volumes and the "concise" edition. I've a 1963 edition of "The Handbook" - still the best id guide for us simpletons.
One other factor, about these old books, is that the authors have the ability to use the written word to enhance the reading experience. Some of the text is superb, conveying mystery and excitement, whilst attempting to assist the reader in their own efforts.

Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) - a major rarity?
I've found two (the same one twice?) since moving to Thanet.
Suppression rules!  Bottom line is they're not rare!
If you want to see Fan-tailed Warbler - go to Mallorca - easy and cheap!
This species will be as common as Collared Doves in the next 60 years - and no-one wanted to know
when the last one of them visited my feeding station.
Our natural world is undergoing a massive shift in direct correlation to the influence of modern life choices of mankind. I can't say that I agree with the situation, but as a beneficiary of many of these advances -  cheap food, travel and foreign holidays - I'd be a hypocrite, in the extreme, to find fault.

Cypress Tip Moth (Argyresthia cupressella) - first discovered in the UK
in 1997 - trapped in my garden MV in 2015.
Insects are able to provide a fantastic barometer to what's happening in our eco-system. We can continue to gripe about what's no longer here or, enjoy what is? It doesn't matter whether it's moths, birds, fish or mammals, the whole dynamic of population distribution is being influenced by the actions of humanity. I have yet to see anyone blogging about the negative aspect of a "first for UK" discovery - we can't have it both ways! If there is a niche for a coloniser then it has been vacated, by a previous tenant, for what ever reason?
It's a very individual perspective - you either seek the positives or align with"Non-stop Whinging" where everything is a downer? From where I sit - the world ain't such a bad place  - warts and all!


  1. Yes Dyl, Niche for a coloniser. I look at Swifts and most Hirundines and wonder what their number would be if forced to use natural nesting sites.
    As for the demise of some birds, as you know, for my area it's House Sparrows along with a couple of other species. By comparison, I've noted that the number of other species has increased along with an increase in basic numbers.
    From the perspective of my 12 year old self, Song Thrush remains a common bird whereas others were absolute rarities. If I'd had a Common Buzzard, Red Kite and a Little Egret fly over my house in those days, I'd have been rendered unconscious. Not so now, they are almost an everyday bird. But, I view their existence with enhanced appreciation. That's from the perspective of an old self.
    Keep well.

  2. Dyl, you've done it again - written a post on one subject, but really it opens up a dialogue on several more! If you don't hurry up and build on those I might just have to nick them for myself...

    1. Feel free dear boy, I've used enough material from your efforts over the years - Fill your boots!

  3. One of the most interesting books that I have is entitled "British Birds in their Haunts" by Charles Alexander Johns, Wolf, Wymper.
    It was first published in 1862. It is 600 pages long and was re-published in recent years. Each bird has several pages written about it and it's a real eye-opener to see the change in both the birds' status and protection. In those days virtually ant bird was shot at some stage

    1. Although I haven't any knowledge of that particular book, I also have many older publications which shed light on the distribution and populations of our native birds which are at complete odds with the situation we are in today. My joy, however, isn't in this particular aspect but, instead, the very high standard of writing employed by the various authors and contributors. These early offerings are not simply a collection of hard facts - they are filled with a genuine enthusiasm to share the knowledge and experiences with the reader; something that seems to be missing from modern publications?

  4. My own favourite bird book is the one which my mother bought me at the age of nine. Birds of The British Isles And Their Eggs by T.A. Coward and J.A.G. Barnes (1969). Each bird gets a description of life and habits.
    Checking up on the internet to see what it's status was as a collectable revealed that a hard copy was worth as much as, £3.

    1. Rich, I also have a copy of that book somewhere on the shelves in my study. I have to admit, although not mainstream, that some of my favourite bird books are those Ladybird books from my childhood. The wonderful illustrations by John Leigh-Pemberton are stunning and somehow seem to capture the essence of the species depicted. I'm looking at one right now and the memories it induces are a powerful link back to my early years in Hemel Hempstead and the start of my own journey of discovery! Money can't buy that - Dyl

  5. There are of course, also the Observers books, of which I have several. I think the ones on birds and also eggs, are quite brilliant for their times.

  6. Dyl, I have somewhere the Ladybird book of Garden Birds and Heath and Woodland Birds. This separation of habitats led to some confusion with my first Goldcrest which was in the garden.
    The whole series of 'What to Look For In ...'was a favourite. Butterflies, Moths and Other Insects, also.