AGM report

This evening’s meeting was the society’s AGM and our president John Gardner breezed through this formality with his usual speed and good humour. There was some discussion about increasing the annual subscriptions due to the speakers fees and there was general agreement by the members that there should be an increase from next year. Also discussed was the peregrine nestbox that was attached to the tower on Wakefield Cathedral by seven of our own members bringing the project to a successful  conclusion. More details will follow on the website. We hope that the single peregrine, which has been using the spire as a perch for many months, can attract a mate. The box can easily be seen on the east side of the tower from the Kirkgate precinct. Thanks go to Sheffield University for all their help and advice and donation of the nestbox.

Following the AGM, one of our own members Francis Hickenbottom very kindly stepped in to replace the advertised speaker, who had to pull out due to ill health. Francis is a keen and very knowledgeable astronomer, and gave us an interesting talk based on his own photographs of the stars and planets taken while on holiday in Wales. It was very much an audience participation evening, where everyone had to work out where the various constellations were, and identify some of the brightest stars in the night sky .

October meeting: Manitoba by Ron Marshall

 Thanks to Ron Marshall from Barnsley for standing in at short notice at the October meeting. As always,  Ron gave us a most interesting talk illustrated with his professional grade photos of a trip he took with his wife to Manitoba in June. He flew to Winnipeg and visited the Ridings National Park, a huge reserve covering 1148 sq. miles of unspoilt forests, lakes and streams. The park is famous for its black bears, and holds one of the  largest concentrations in North America. Ron took some excellent shots while being careful not to get too close, as black bears can run extremely fast if they feel threatened. Also seen in the park, were nesting great northern divers in their beautiful summer plumage, Bonaparte’s gull, and perhaps most spectacular of all, the scarce great grey owl, a huge bird with bright yellow eyes set in large feathered facial discs.

Wanting to visit Churchill near the Arctic circle, Ron had to take the two day journey on the sleeper train as there are no roads to this remote town. Churchill grew from a remote outpost to a bustling seaport with the construction of the Hudson Bay railroad and port in the 1920s, but its now a world renowned hotspot for bird and wildlife watching in spring and autumn. In June many of the breeding birds are in full summer plumage particularly the black throated diver and red necked phalarope both photographed with a stunning backdrop of wildflower blossom.


March Meeting: Birds of Cuba

Glyn Hudson from Rotherham was our guest speaker at the  March 12th meeting. His talk was about the birds of Cuba, an island that he has visited several times, attracted by the wonderful birdlife and the cheerful laid back attitude of its friendly people, despite being ruled over by a communist regime. Cuba boasts a variety of landscapes and habitats, including the huge Zapata swamp with its 3,000 Cuban crocodiles and huge numbers of Caribbean flamingos.

Glyn showed us a range of excellent images of the 21 endemic species on Cuba, including the Zapata Sparrow and Bee Hummingbird, reputedly the smallest bird in the world at just 5-6cm in length. The Cuban trogon is the national bird of the island; with its red, white and blue feathers that correspond to the colours of the Cuban flag. Many of the very colourful North American warblers migrate through the island to their wintering grounds in South America or stay to breed on the island where Glyn had the opportunity to take some superb shots of the aptly named yellow warbler, hooded warbler and black and white warbler. An interesting talk appreciated by everyone present.

 Recent sightings in March:  The grim weather has clearly delayed the arrival of spring migrants, but the long-staying smew and long-tailed duck are still with us on local waters. Several flocks of common scoter have been moving through the area with 23 on Pugneys lake on the 18th.  and  2 black-tailed godwit and 2 avocet also. At Anglers, 6 whooper swans dropped in briefly on 22nd and 12 buzzards have been counted in the air. A barn owl has been regularly at Wintersett village.

Eddie Andrassy

February meeting: ‘Flight’ by Francis Hickenbottom

Tonight, our very own professor Brian Cox aka Francis Hickenbottom was our speaker for the February meeting.  Entitled ‘Flight’ Francis gave us an interesting talk about how birds wings are designed to help them live in specific habitats. He explained the dynamics of bird flight using graphics and images in layman’s terms so that we got a basic understanding of the complex forces in play for flight, whether it be birds or aircraft!  Albatross wings are a perfect example of how they are adapted to fly many hundreds of miles, using their very long wings for gliding close to the surface of the sea, and use small changes in wind direction to maximum advantage .  Francis gave us several other examples including the Humming birds which, unlike other birds which only produce lift when they flap their wings downwards, they can do so on their up stroke by inverting their wings rather like flying insects. They are also the only birds with the abilities to fly backwards and to conserve energy while they sleep or food is scarce they are able to go into a hibernation-like state.