Sunday, 23 July 2017

Desert Island Discs - Chris Packham

DESERT ISLAND DISCS - CHRIS PACKHAM (320kbs-m4a/40mb/43mins)
BBC Radio 4 broadcast: 18th October 2013


Kirsty Young's castaway is the naturalist, Chris Packham.

TV presenter, filmmaker, writer, photographer, every bit of his work revolves around wildlife. If he's not busy telling us why we should love midges he's enthusing about the hearing capacity of a barn owl. His passion for animals is clear, what they think of him remains a little more uncertain; he's been attacked by a baboon, charged by lions and bitten by a puff adder.

His obsession with the natural world began early when a predictable boyhood fascination for tadpoles and ladybirds grew to encompass mosquito larvae, lizards, snakes and bats. As a teenager he collected badger droppings by day and pogoed with electric blue hair at Clash gigs by night.

These days he distinguishes himself by his impressive knowledge of his subject and his outspoken views on everything from countryside culls to the problems with cat owners.

He says, "I'll never rest until I've tried to do my own small bit in terms of changing the environment so it's a better place. I won't do it for my grandchildren because I won't have any and I won't do it for yours. I'll do it because it's the right thing to do."

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Desert Island Discs - Eric Hosking

DESERT ISLAND DISCS - ERIC HOSKING (47kbs-m4a/3mb/9mins)
BBC Radio 4 broadcast: 4th June 1962


Roy Plomley's castaway is ornithologist Eric Hosking.

Favourite track: Nimrod by Edward Elgar
Book: Field guide to the island's birds
Luxury: Camera and film

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Iberian Chiffchaff, Kelsall 3rd June 2017


The second record of Iberian Chiffchaff for Cheshire & Wirral was found by local birder Luke Ozsanlav-Harris at Primrose Wood, Kelsall on Wednesday 31st May 2017. I made my way over to Kelsall this morning.

Upon arrival a couple of birders just about to leave informed me the Iberian Chiffchaff was located beyond the second, sharp bend. A short distance along the main path beyond the bend, a smaller path headed off to the left up a bank, just before a sign about forestry work being carried out. The path quickly opened out into a small glade where the bird was located. There were three other birders on site when I arrived & the Iberian Chiffchaff soon showed in the small Birch in the centre of the glade. It was too close for me to focus my bins on, so I edged back further up the hill.


The Iberian Chiffchaff moved about the whole area, circling round, but returned to the Birch several times, giving excellent views. Most of the time it was singing, although not always the full song, sometimes leaving out the final trill.

Video by Pete Hines.


Previous record:
2004 Dibbinsdale, male in song, 29th April to 20th May (P. Brewster, P. S. Woollen).

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Science In Action - Counting Birds From Space

SCIENCE IN ACTION - COUNTING BIRDS FROM SPACE (96kbs-m4a/19mb/26mins)
BBC World Service broadcast: 5th May 2017

For the first time conservationists can monitor and count birds from space. Using the next-generation Earth observation satellites, scientists count Northern Royal Albatrosses on their breeding grounds on the remote Chatham Islands, off New Zealand. Many of these large, majestic seabirds are threatened, not least by long-line fishing. But they are rarely on land, and often nest in difficult to get to places. But because they’re big and white, high-resolution satellite images can spot them.

Insect Flight
With wings that flap up to 600 times per second, watching the precise movements of mosquitos in flight is impossible for the human eye. Somehow, these and other tiny insects are able to fly through the heavy turbulence of wind and rain. Research out this month has uncovered unexpected aerodynamic techniques that keep the miniscule creatures airborne, the understanding of which can aid the development of smaller and better drone technology. But how do you film a 4mm mosquito’s individual wing beats in slow motion?

Cassini Reveals Saturn’s Secrets
20 years ago the Cassini-Huygens mission set off to Saturn, the gas giant with its iconic rings. Since its arrival in 2004, Saturn, its moons and its rings have been revealing their secrets to NASA-ESA’s ‘Discovery Machine’ which bristles with instruments and scientific equipment. Among the main discoveries are ice-plumes erupting from the moon Enceladus, and the identification of rain, rivers, lakes and oceans on the Earth-like Titan. From its launch to its bitter-sweet grand finale, the Cassini-Huygens mission will have racked up a remarkable list of achievements.

Image: Bobbie Lakhera © BBC

Presenter: Bobbie Lakhera
Producer: Fiona Roberts

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Breakfast: The Birdsong Mixtape

BBC Radio 3 broadcast: 19th June 2016

A relaxing, seamless mix of British birdsong and music inspired by the natural world.

Radio 3's Birdsong Mixtape brings together the best of British birdsong with music inspired by the natural world in a seamless, relaxing mix.

As you listen, you'll hear the calls of birds who start singing before sunrise (in particular the Blackbird and Redstart) before bursting into the dawn chorus with Chaffinch and Goldfinch in starring roles. As the day progresses, we hear from the Skylark, Willow Warbler, Song Thrush and Robin. Then, as dusk descends, we eavesdrop on the peerless song of the Nightingale.

Inspired by the Birdsong on Breakfast feature (Sundays around 8.10am), some of the music in our Birdsong music was selected for its connection with birds; others for the time of day they evoke. Some tracks have been chosen simply for their beauty.

Blackbird birdsong
Franck: Sonata in A major for piano and violin - Jennifer Pike (violin) and Tom Blach (piano)
Redstart birdsong
Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 excerpt from Lever du jour - BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, Andrew Davis (conductor)
Chaffinch birdsong
Britten: Early one morning - Elizabeth Watts (soprano) and Paul Turner (piano)
Goldfinch birdsong
Tippett: Dance, Clarion air - BBC Singers, Bo Holton (director)
Willow Warbler birdsong
Delius: In a Summer Garden - BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Davis (conductor)
Skylark birdsong
Vaughan Williams: Lark Ascending (excerpt) - Yuri Torchinsky (violin), BBC Philharmonic and Vassily Sinaisky (conductor)
Robin birdsong
Debussy: Syrinx - Adam Walker (flute)
Song Thrush birdsong
Wilbye: Draw on Sweet Night - BBC Singers and Bo Holten (director)
Nightingale birdsong
Respighi: 3rd movt from Pines of Rome - BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda (conductor)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Black Scoter, Goswick 4th February 2017


An adut drake Black Scoter has been present at Goswick in Northumberland since Thursday 29th December 2016. Probably the same bird which has been returning annually to the same general area since 2011. There have been thirteen UK records of this trans-Atlantic vagrant previously.

From Druridge Bay Country Park/East Chevington it's not far to Goswick. Myself & Dave arrived mid-afternoon. Another couple of birders had just arrived at the golf club car park, so we all headed north beyond the dunes & set up our 'scopes, scanning for flocks of Scoter.

After only a few minutes one of the other birders exclaimed, "I think I've got it! Yes, that's it!". Although there were large flocks further out, the Black Scoter was in a small flock of maybe a dozen or so birds, reasonably close. The flock was very active, repeatedly all diving together, then easily disappearing behind waves, but when good views were obtained the bright sunlight from behind us lit up the extensive yellow on the bill of the Black Scoter like a beacon.

Goswick is within sight of Bamburgh, where i saw my first Surf Scoter in 1973. It's probably about that long ago I had two new birds in one day!

Pacific Diver, East Chevington 4th February 2017


A first-winter Pacific Diver has been present at Druridge Bay Country Park/East Chevington in Northumberland since Friday 20th January 2017. The UK total stands at seven for this trans-Atlantic vagrant, with few records outside the south-west Cornwall area. I set out yesterday morning & arrived on site around midday.

The first-winter Pacific Diver was on view soon after entering the second hide on the eastern side of the lake at East Chevington. It was feeding the whole time I was there, so diving frequently on the far side.

Having dipped the first-winter White-billed Diver at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire twice earlier in the week, it was somewhat of a relief to connect.

A birder who set up his 'scope right next to me in the hide turned out to be old birding friend Dave Willis. Dave was heading next to try for the Black Scoter at Goswick. Since I was also planning on this Dave invited me to join him & then return me to my car at Druridge Bay, so we headed North.

Video by Alex H-Jones.