Open Day - 2015
The Big Event and an Exclusive - report by Ian Julian
You are probably aware that Twitter has been aflame this week on the big event, so congratulations to all involved on another successful AGM/Open Day. We are awaiting the returning Officer results but an exit poll reveals that there was a new world record in attendance numbers.
3 disappointments: First, problems reported on the overflow car parking; being looked into. Secondly, no chocolate cakes this year; an official enquiry is under way. Thirdly, no Chris Packham. But did we miss him? Er, yes actually. It is only the second time he has been unable to attend, he has been good for the Society, and part of the reason for our huge attendance figures. He was unanimously elected for a further 5 years as President.
He had a sickie from the BBC to say he was filming a Easter Special at Bempton Cliffs and then Panama. Bempton is one of my favourite places, easier to spot the birds than attempting Firecrests and Hawfinches deep in the canopy of the New Forest, so he was excused, but it calls into question the BBC Charter. Final straw, it will now have to go. (HOS Exclusive - On TV last night, he signed off by having a dig at some of us by saying he was off for some chocolate cake. We can now officially confirm – there was none available. It was bluff.)
Also unanimously, Glynne Evans was elected as an honourable Life Member, well deserved for the time he has given to the Society, so many projects for so many years.
John Eyre gave an update on the Hampshire Bird Atlas, and the considerable amount of work involved. As a co-author of Birds of Hampshire * and 20 years as Chairman of HOS, if he says it is a lot of work, then it is, and far more than expected. Incidentally, his co-author *, John Clark, has produced another excellent Bird Report, a beautiful production and another mammoth undertaking by all involved, recorders, the Records Panel, editors - everyone, to produce this annual scientific/artistic report.
Next up, Marcus Ward who is undertaking the largest surveys ever on Hawfinches and Firecrests (he clocked up 505 Firecrest nests last year) in the New Forest. If anyone ever wishes to help him, just get up at 4am, that is before heading off to work, then coming home in the evening, recording the work, enjoying a full family life, then early to bed, setting alarm clock to 4 am, 6 days a week throughout the summer. Simples. If you prefer, simply join him on one of his HOS walks.
Both of these species are amongst the most difficult to survey for so many reasons, not least their size and unwillingness to cooperate, which is why I will stick to peacocks. Well done Marcus, rather you than me.
This talk was followed by Mark Cocker, prolific author, but most famously, ‘Birds and People’. There was not a negative review. It took 10 years to write. This rightfully is considered one of the greatest nature books ever written, it won the Daily Mail Book of the Year amongst a multitude of other honours, and is full of wonderful picture . Oh, and 400,000 words.
In my mind, we are going through a golden age in nature writing, and Mark is generally regarded as being our finest exponent. He talked about his magnus opus, and it was gratifying to know that he was as accomplished a speaker as he is an author, which is not always the case. Birds of Paradise, Hummingbirds, these were shown in their magnificence, but it was also satisfying for him to devote time to what he emphasised is the most important bird in the world - the chicken - and how we should respect it a bit more. I am also of this mind. I sometimes remind friends of mine who campaign for the hen Harrier, that they enjoy their chicken nuggets, and in sheer numbers of exploitation, there is no comparison. The chicken gets a raw deal throughout the world, its tragedy is its taste. Cock fighting at least is now banned here, but used to be a huge commercial sport, and the names given to those organising the events were Cockers.
Mark came a long way from his beloved Claxton, and it was not a hindrance that Jonathan Mycock, in overall charge of our Open Day, is an old pal of his, enjoying foreign birding holidays from way back.
Dr. Dick Potts gave the John Taverner Lecture, and having spent 47 studying the Grey Partridge, so is beginning to know a thing or two about them, too detailed to go into here. The Grey Partridge is perhaps the greatest illustration of the decline of farmland birds. Even where fields have set aside strips, insecticides are still sometimes used on them (!), which makes it all somewhat pointless. I remember when as a boy I happened upon a family of Grey Partridges, displaying the broken wing mimicry by a parent to lure me away. This enchanted me and has stuck forever, cementing my admiration of these birds.
So thanks to the speakers, thanks to each and every stallholder, to Jonathan and the committees for organising it all again (not bad value for free), but next year do try to do something about the chocolate cake crisis.