Thursday 1 July 2010

Bird numbers.

Last winter was quite severe for our flora and fauna and this year I expected that the number of wild birds breeding within our immediate area would have been noticeably lower. However, that seems not to be the case. We have more than the usual number of Blackbirds and Thrush around the garden than we have had in previous years. Dunnocks and House Sparrows are at least at their previous level. Wrens a plenty and our resident Robin has raised a brood already in the hedgerow. Doves have been bolstered in numbers and we even have a Woodpigeon and a female Blackbird who have figured out how to get on the seed and fatball feeders. Fat balls are disappearing at a fair old rate as some birds are also using them to feed their chicks.

Some information about breeding success see the British Trust for Ornithology BTO website.

Thinking back, we did not get any unusual bird visitors like Bullfinch, Woodpecker or Jays into the feeding station at all this last winter. The hard winters are usually the ones that bring the more shy woodland birds to the feeders.

The government water quango have issued drought warnings across significant parts of the UK as 2010 has proved to have the driest start to the year since 1964. This in itself is an interesting observation as the year prior (1963) was one of the hardest winters in recent memory. So a hard 1963 & 2009 winter is followed by a hot 1964 & 2010 summer!!

You can see some of the UK weather trends between 1970 and 2000 here.

My unplanned dip in the river Don just a few days ago was made all the more memorable by the fact that the water was not at all cold. This month marks the 34th anniversary of the greatest heatwave in the record-breaking summer of 1976.  From June 22 until August 26, a period of nine weeks, the weather was consistently dry, sunny and hot. When the temperature regularly reached 30C!

There is however, already a challenge facing the Fire Service as the situation is getting steadily worse and will continue to get worse until significant rainfall occurs. Everything is tinder dry, we reported this week a grass fire on the other side of the valley from our house. The particular difficulty not faced by the fire service this weekend, was that the damping down was helped by almost no wind.

If everything runs to form the drought should come to an end when the traditional August Bank Holiday deluge will soak the country from top to bottom.

There is also a risk that standpipes might be needed if water levels remain low this autumn after an exceptionally hot summer. So will the general lack of available water also curtail our boating activities on some canals and river systems later in the summer. This could see not only hosepipe bans but also the imposition of a curfew on locking between certain hours. It has started in a few select areas already.

I wonder who will be appointed as the minister for drought. Back in 1976 it was Denis Howell, the then sports minister, who was appointed as the 'Drought Supremo' or Drought Czar. Cloud seeding and even shipping in water by tanker from Norway or down a pipe laid under the north sea were among ideas considered by the Government of the day.

I have the view that compulsory water metering will be the new pick-and-mix con-a-lib government answer to the problem. There is no way that the con-a-lib government will want to make water companies do more than minimal work to plug leaks.



  1. When you make it to Swinton, may i suggest a visit to my mother in laws cafe (The Rest and Be Thankful) It is located about a 5 or 10 minute walk from the lock on the main road through Swinton (head back along the road towards Mexbrough and it is opposite the old church). They run a biker cafe and im sure the place will be right up your street (so to speak) Ronnie and Jim are lovely hosts and there are pictures of bikes and the boat all over the walls.

    Once they find out you are boaters and bikers you will be friends for life.

  2. Ha! it's a small world. We passed through Swinton at about 6:30am. We know Ronnie and Jim (Gorbals Mick) quite well. We sometimes pop in for a quick snack when we are out on the bike. Saying that we have not been for a few months, mmm starting to feel hungry...

  3. What a very small world indeed. We will mention it when we see them tomorrow. We may call in for a nosey at Rosie as well on our way home from work one day once you have made it to Tinsley. We dont live a million miles away.


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