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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Goodbye Dave

David Ireland 1974 - 2017

If you've come along to a Devon Wildlife Trust Exeter Local Group event in the last year, chances are you would have met Dave, whether it was the peregrine watch, stream dipping, or bat walk in the October weather. Or dropping in on the Respect Festival. Or to a recent Cricklepit milling or open day. He would have been there, greeting, introducing, chatting, welcoming.

Or otherwise if you signed up to the Exeter LG newsletter, followed any local wildlife twitter feeds, saw an event poster in the library, came along to Cricklepit gardening group, watched Devon beaver video footage, donated to a DWT campaign, or attended a nature reserve open day, seen a DWT photograph, or appeared in a DWT photograph .... 

Devon Wildlife Trust was a big part of Dave's life; and Dave was a big part of DWT, as a volunteer, then DWT press officer for many years, then once again as a volunteer. For some activities there wasn't a distinction: even on days off, I remember weekends joining in practical tasks, hedgelaying, or building ever more sophisticated nestbox designs. More recently he was busy and very active for the Exeter Local Group.

And not just DWT: also for Devon Local Nature Partnership, helping engineer e-newsletters and 'pollinator palaces' for the Get Devon Buzzing! project. And setting up wildflower planting and bird feeders back home in the communal grounds of his flat.

If ecology is about connections, Dave was a keystone person. The creativity ranged over a whole variety of ways and ideas for bringing wildlife to people and vice versa: interpretation displays, publicity, fundraising, community engagement events. A New Year's resolution to get in shape was a typical example, characteristically developed into a larger DWT fundraising and publicity opportunity. His enthusiasm was the catalyst which lifted plans off the drawing board and made other things happen.

Added value of £ for pounds - from the Express & Echo (original photo: M Parker)

Dave died suddenly in February, the indirect result of a long term illness which he seemed to be conquering.

I have strong memories of the shared times and interests as a colleague and valued friend: wildlife events, fossil hunting, 5 aside football, music (another substantial part of Dave's life), cinema, those all important supportive cups of tea, to recalibrate, discuss and make next plans. Exeter feels a lonelier place without him.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Barley boxes

With thanks to Exeter City Council, we installed 12 nestboxes around Barley Valley Local Nature Reserve, as part of National Nestbox Week in February, ready for the new nesting season.

Hopefully 9 blue or great tit, 2 robin and 1 spotted flycatcher families are now in the process of setting up home. Look out for a follow up event in May when we'll carry out a bit of a survey of the new nestboxes.

Thanks to everyone who joined us to help out on the day.

All about location: north-facing, tilted slightly downwards, clear flight path, 2-5m high

Barley Valley nestbox team   (photo A Slade)

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Small Garden Birdwatch

Results in from my hour's bird spotting vigil for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2017 at the end of January. Not wishing to be repetitive (c.f. The Watching Hour post from last year), though the repeated gathering of data is part of the accumulating value of the survey.

(James Alexander Gordon voice) House sparrow 13; robin 2; blackbird 2; wood pigeon and dunnock 1.

And it occurred to me, how often would I otherwise spend an hour observing the tiny front garden space, really an hour, and really watching? More than casual glimpses, the hour revealed some behaviour being played out among the feathered visitors. 

House sparrows dominated the survey count, as in previous years and generally for the survey as a whole (in 88% of gardens, according to reported results so far). I wonder if their gang monopolising of the fatball feeder kept the blue tits and great tits at bay. However, as last year, the regular rain of pecked fatball fragments encouraged robins, blackbirds, the dunnock and an ambling pigeon to benefit from the reliable spillage below.

It shows the advantage of providing more than a single food type and location, at different heights, for different species. The blackbirds had read the same book and fed at the windfall apples left out for them.

Mrs Blackbird has spoken (blurry picture taken through window)
The appearance of same species pairs was interesting: a male and female blackbird and two robins present and tolerating each other suggests pairing up as a prelude to the breeding season; spring on the way?

STOP PRESS: 2017 results now posted on the RSPB website.

The Top 10 species in 2017 Big Garden Birdwatch:
Bird species - average number per garden (% of gardens species recorded in)
  1. House sparrow - 4.3 (67%)
  2. Starling - 3.2 (48%)
  3. Blackbird - 2.9 (93%)
  4. Blue tit - 2.5 (80%)
  5. Woodpigeon - 2.3 (78%)
  6. Goldfinch - 1.6 (34%)
  7. Robin - 1.6 (89%)
  8. Great tit - 1.4 (40%)
  9. Chaffinch - 1.3 (40%)
  10. Long-tailed tit - 1.2 (30%)