It was a cold Saturday morning and there weren’t many other people setting off from my street at 0650.
Heading up the M1 I noticed that the trees, leafless, were pin sharp against the lightening blue sky. They looked as if they were drawn with a very fine pen. It’s difficult to get all dreamy when you are doing 70 up the motorway but I almost did.
The nest of cooling towers near the River Trent also looked spectacular as I passed them in the distance on my right. Plumes of steam and those lovely curves against a pellucid blue sky. I guess it was about a minute, and about a mile, further on, that I gave them another glance and the orange of the sunrise was now behind them and they looked a different form of spectacular.
Two Pheasants, both males actually, flew across the motorway at lorry cab height and the lorry to which they were heading swerved into the next lane to avoid them. There wasn’t much traffic but under other circumstances it could have been nasty. A couple of telegraph poles onwards, a Buzzard was sitting, looking cold but resigned, and I almost thought I saw him shrug and say ‘Bloody Pheasants! I’m voting UKIP’.
I arrived at the Hayes conference centre for the BTO conference in time for breakfast and before the frost had stopped scrunching under foot. A Nuthatch called as though it didn’t feel the cold.
My main reason for coming to Swanwick was to meet people – and there were plenty of people, and I met them. One of those meetings was with Keith Betton and Nigel Massen to finalise a few things about this book that Keith and I have thrown together (very slowly!).
It will be out in the spring provided I do the things that I said I would do (so I’d better get on with them).
I had a chat with Findlay Wilde who looked very smart in his BTO sweatshirt, and Toby Carter, Ben Moyes and quite a few other young people – I mean seriously young, not just a few years younger than me.
I told Ian Newton something he didn’t know, and which he will find useful, and I haven’t done that very often in my life.
Chis Packham told me some gossip – which was nice of him.
I was told off, quite rightly, by one of the ‘Sodden 570’ for not wearing my Hen Harrier Day t-shirt so I went and got one from the car and wore it for the rest of the day.
I saw Keith Cowieson and we exchanged pleasantries. Always nice to see Songbird Survival.
I arranged to meet someone in London for lunch next week.
There were, of course, talks. Some were brilliant. Two of my favourite talks were Mark Thomas’s about the RSPB’s investigation work (simply because he is a very good speaker) and Dave Leech’s about the subject of his Guest Blog of last week (because, he too, is a very good speaker).
The conference hall is big and holds a lot of people, but that means the back row is quite a long way from the screens. And there are two screens (with the same images on them). There are some consequences of this – the speaker can’t point to both screens at once so some of their audience can’t see what the speaker is pointing out, and lots of ‘busy’ slides are pretty much worthless in that room – you just can’t see them well enough.
Some speakers conspire, through cleverness, to make it even more difficult to interpret what they are saying by superimposing their graphs or tables on amazing images of birds. This isn’t very clever when the bird is more interesting than the data – which is bound to happen now and again. Even worse when the background bird image is a similar colour to the points on your graph and the labels that tell you what they are.
And a slide (I know they aren’t slides really) with 26 tiny graphs on is pretty pointless under any circumstances but if you then say ‘you don’t have to read all these’ then it makes me wonder why on earth you are showing them to me then.
Am I sounding like a grumpy old man? Sorry – I really enjoyed the day and almost all of the talks. By the time I left I was wishing I was staying overnight for the Sunday morning too.Did you see that woman’s bathroom with the swift nests behind the bathroom wall? Amazing! I want a bathroom from which I can watch nesting Swifts!
Someone told me something interesting about UKIP which will find its way onto this blog one day.
Someone got me to sign a copy of a Message from Martha for them.
I met a few ex-RSPB colleagues.
I saw several people with whom I wished to talk but didn’t get the chance.
Lunch was OK – the company was better than the food, and that is how I would always like it to be.
Slipping out of the hall a bit early, two of us heard and then saw a Ring-necked Parakeet which is my northernmost British record and it’s now on Birdtrack.
By the time I had to go, I really wanted to stay for more. It was well worth the commute and it merely confirmed what I know to be true, that the BTO is in pretty good shape and I feel very fond of it.