Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. (Thucydides)
For those who believe in democracy, this is one of the worst things which can happen. Normal communication is undermined, along with trust in the institutions upon which we rely. Yet this is precisely what we face in both Britain and America: academic endeavour and the pursuit of truth are being replaced by wilful misrepresentation. Those who oppose the abuse of power are accused of the very actions which they condemn. The next logical step will be to replace a free press with state-run media.
On a slightly lighter note, here is some real news. There really is a Bluethroat wintering in south Lincolnshire, because the climate really is changing.
Rutland Butterfly Atlas
The Rutland Butterfly Atlas is now printing and should be available at the end of February or beginning of March. It will be available from the AWBC/Egleton Reserve, Rutland Museum, and Walkers Bookshop, Oakham and costs just £12.
The Atlas has 92 pages, and includes distribution maps and discussion for all 35 regularly recorded butterflies, over 90 colour photographs taken in Rutland, detailed information about scarce migrants and former Rutland butterflies, and a section on key sites as well as tips on where to find each species.
In his foreword, Adrian Russell describes it as ‘an invaluable insight into Rutland’s butterflies’.
Blue Rock Thrush, Stow, January 2017
Stow-on-the-Wold on a freezing January day is not the first place one might associate with Blue Rock Thrush (which I normally see on warm rocky slopes). Nor is a suburban back garden typical habitat, even allowing for the known use of olive groves by wintering birds. Yet these are precisely the circumstances in which I saw the much-discussed Stow (Gloucs) bird yesterday.
During the period of observation (a good hour) it spent most of its time sitting quite still in small trees. Occasionally it dropped out of sight into the garden, possibly to feed. Compared with local resident birds around the garden it was noticeably less active.
Whist on the subject of Blue Rock Thrush records, here’s a reminder of the 1996 bird (from BW 9: 298). For individual observers, decisions about whether or not to list birds of questionable origin are of relatively minor importance. For county and national committees, however, a cautious approach is desirable.
Blue Rock Thrush, Greece
Blue Rock Thrush, Herts, August 1996
RBA cover mock-up
Followers of progress with the the Rutland Butterfly Atlas will be pleased to hear that it is nearing completion and should be available in March unless there are unforeseen problems.
One purpose of the RBA is to stimulate more interest in and recording of butterflies, so I hope that many of you will use it and contribute additional records.
In the meantime, if you are interested in the wildlife of Shetland you might like to try: https://birdingontheedge.wordpress.com
Surf Scoter (with Tufted Ducks), Rutland
One of my New Year rituals involves going round favourite sites to see how the wildlife changes from year to year. As if to underline how things change, today I saw three former rarities.
At Rutland Water, the Surf Scoter was still off the dam with Tufted Ducks. Inland records are exceptional, though I can remember two records from Cambridgeshire.
At Deeping Lakes, the highlights included male Red-crested Pochard (presumably from the local feral population) and five Long-eared Owls (the highest number I have seen together for many years).
At the Nene Washes and Eldernell, hundreds of Bewicks and Whooper Swans in mixed flocks were an impressive sight but the highlights were a Cattle Egret (associating with sheep) and three Cranes. Also of note were two groups of Roe Deer, which seem to be increasing.
This winter at least four Chiffchaffs are wintering at Geeston STW, where a Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis) was present last winter (see https://rutlandbutterflies.wordpress.com/tag/siberian-chiffchaff/ ).
Three of them look like typical collybita (below), but one is different and either confusing or interesting depending on your point of view (left). Its upperparts are noticeably more grey/brown, the yellowish tones in the supercilium are much more subtle, and the underparts are whiter with pale yellow undertail-coverts.
Its appearance does not correspond with our understanding of tristis, yet it is sufficiently different from typical collybita to command attention. I have seen a few birds like this previously, but remain unsure what they are. They might be intergrades, or they might be Scandinavian Chiffchaffs (abietinus), the status of which needs re-evaluation.
Any informed comments will be welcome.
Cape May Warbler, Cuba
This year I have chosen one highlight from spring, one from summer, and one from autumn.
The Cape May Warbler in Cuba at Easter was one of several colourful wood warblers which we saw. It epitomises how birds and other wildlife regulate their lives independently of the political and other ‘boundaries’ created by Homo sapiens.
The Purple Emperor in Rutland in July was one of the discoveries I made during fieldwork for the Rutland Butterfly Atlas. Although this species receives more than its fair share of attention, it is undeniably exciting to discover at new sites.
The Lanceolated Warbler on Fair Isle in September was an example of the quintessential autumn rarities which draw visitors to Shetland, and performed admirably for all present. It was a new bird for several experienced birders.
What will 2017 bring?
Purple Emperor, Rutland
Lanceolated Warbler, Fair Isle