Thursday, 27 September 2012

Session 1 - 27th September 2012

Great Crested Grebe at Pennington Flash - Martyn Jones
Today was the first session of the 2012-13 academic year for the very popular 'Birds And Their Habitats' course run by Peter Baron in Bury at Whitefield, Prestwich and Ramsbottom Libraries.

The Whitefield class was attended by 10 people including myself, for whom it was the first ever session.  Most of the other members seemed to know each other from previous years and at least one person had joined this class from one of the partner groups. They're a friendly bunch of people, so that's a good start.

After the initial formalities of signing the learning agreements, reading the aims of the course and other general course administration, Peter began the session by talking about the weather, a very topical subject due to the adverse conditions the UK has been experiencing over the last week, if not the whole 2012 summer.

No wonder we're depressed !
This week there has been a very deep depression over the country (not only in people's minds!) and this has brought heavy rainfall and flooding to many parts of the country.  Here in Manchester however, we have got away with it on the whole, as we were at the centre of the depression or anticyclone where things are fairly calm.

In particular he talked about how weather conditions and affect birds and bird sightings. In a low pressure system (depression or anticyclone), the winds move in an anti-clockwise direction this bringing birds in from the Atlantic Ocean on to our western shores and sometimes inland.

In a high pressure system or cyclone, the winds move in a clockwise direction and thus bring birds from the North Sea on to our eastern coastlines.  Therefore it is very important to watch the weather when trying to predict what may be seen in a specific area.

From this discussion we went on to have a short quiz about two birds Peter saw recently in Mallorca - this was an exercise in using the field guides to match descriptions and localities.  The two birds were both named after people: Auduoin's Gull and Eleonora's Falcon. This work came under the title of 'Birds in History and Culture'. Click the links above for a summary.

After reading through some handouts on habitats and discussing the best places to observe birds in autumn and winter, we went on to examine the shape and structure of the five species of Grebe that can be seen in the UK, a summary of which can be found here.

Marsh Tit - RSPB Website
Finally, the session finished with Peter giving us some homework on finding out the similarities and differences between the Marsh Tit and the Willow Tit, both of which are very similar and quite hard to tell apart, especially for an inexperienced birder.

Willow Tit - RSPB Website

This is an example of what Peter calls 'twin species' and which an underlying theme of all the sessions this year. Other examples include Greenshank and Spotted Redshank

A very informative and enjoyable session with a group of friendly and sociable birders whom I hope to get to know better over the coming months.

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