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19th February: Reflections: Under the weather!

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Long-billed Dowitcher at RSPB Lodmoor in Weymouth - January 2012 - the sort of vagrant from the USA that can arrive in Dorset in exceptional weather conditions
When I started ‘birding’ it did not take long to understand that the weather was an important factor in determining what one might see at each part of the year; some birds fly south for the winter whilst others come to us for the winter months from much further north. We call this ‘migration’! 
What took some time to work out is that things are more complicated and that the weather is a major influence on the lives of all birds, not just swallows and Brent geese. Looking back I find it ridiculous that it took time to find this out! After all, birds can fly and birds need to eat so birds will constantly move to find available food supplies if the weather makes feeding impossible where they are. When the going gets tough all birds get going, not just those we associate with long distance migration.
This is clearly evident if you spe…

30th January 2020: Reflections: Tick or Freak?

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The Canada goose - introduced in to parks in Britain so definitely 'plastic'? Reviewing tweets for nature sightings in Dorset each day to add to my Nature of Dorset database I detect that some birds are treated with a degree of disdain by experienced birders who consider them to be, amongst other printable adjectives, “plastic”. In other words, they are not real birds, they are not real ticks for a list.
I want to say at the outset that I have no problem with birders keeping lists; it is what birders do and is part of the excitement of bird watching and, whilst I have never been a lister myself, I can understand the motivation behind it. My reflections here are whether these “plastics” should be included in records, in particular, should I include them in the Nature of Dorset database.
I would suggest that there are three categories of “plastics”; releases, reintroductions and escapes. What qualifies a bird to be included in one of these categories is a moot point.
Releases are th…

Reflections: A Winter Warbler Land

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The presence of a blackcap feeding on fat balls in our garden today set me thinking about why there seem to be so many being recorded this winter. Along with chiffchaff rarely a day goes by without reports of these two warblers that in general you would expect to be in Africa by now.
When I first got interested in nature back in the 1970’s the issue of why most blackcap and chiffchaff migrated south for the winter while some chose to remain here was the subject of some speculation. I remember that one theory was that the rise in the popularity of feeding birds in gardens meant there was an increasingly adequate food supply for these species and there was no need for them to risk life and limb making the perilous journey south.
After a lot of research we seem to be far wiser now and have established that the birds we see here in winter are not the same ones that spend the summer here. Our summer birds do migrate south and are replaced by incoming birds from north-eastern Europe, especial…