Reflections on a day at Brandon Marsh nature reserve

Brandon Marsh - Oct 2006Today I decided to have a day out at Brandon Marsh on the edge of Coventry. This is a reserve that I like to visit occassionally, just because it is a nice place to go (despite having to get in the car to get there). I was perhaps hopeful that I would see the osprey that seems to have been mentioned on the bird sitings page of the Brandon Marsh for the last few weeks. Needless to say that I did not see the elusive bird. However, what I sometimes like about birdwatching is looking at the more common birds up close and the behaviour that they exhibit. I could never be a twitcher, imagine rushing up and down the country to see something that could fly away at any moment – how much pollution would I cause doing that.

So, what did I see, mainly lots of ducks (including the grey and brown, but incredibly beautiful Gadwall), lots of lapwing and jays, and also (sorry Nick I know that you have always wanted to see one) at least six sitings of kingfishers.

But, thanks to a very nice man in one of the hides who owned a spotting scope, I also saw snipe for the first time ever. I will be eternally grateful to him, especially for his stories about how he seems to be the last person to see the birds in the sitings book, despite being there on the same day!! I am not the only one that this happens to then!! (Someone allegedly saw the Osprey about 5 minutes after I left the East Marsh hide.)

Is it usual to have butterflies in the middle of October?

I have been holiday from work for the past few days and so have spent some time looking around. One thing that I noticed, and I am not sure if is unusal for this time of year is the number of red admiral butterflies still around. I know that they are attracted to the ivy flowering in my neighbours garden (as mentioned on Autumnwatch – the attraction of butterflies to ivy flowers that is, not my neighbour’s garden), but it is the middle of October.

Is this something that is usual, or is it in part due to the very warm weather we are having at the moment?

Whatever the reason, these butterflies are definitely a welcome site on a sunny October morning. Perhaps we should all follow Bill Oddie’s lead and plant some more ivy!

Renewable Energy

The question of wind farms and solar power has been brought closer to home this week with the announcement in the local paper that a company is looking at placing eight wind turbines and 50 solar panels in an area close to the M1 near to Watford Gap services. According to the paper there would be between 2 and 4 MegaWatts of power generated by each of the turbines, and 150 Watts from each of the solar arrays.

There has been the obvious statement by local councillors regarding the ‘blot on the landscape’, and a picture in the paper showing a picture of the area with 8 turbines superimposed on it.

I have never been able to make up my mind about wind power, I can see the advantages of it, and should society wish to continue its power consumption then we need to look at alternative ways. I can also see some of the disadvantages, the huge amount of power and concrete used to make the turbines, and the noise that they make.

In terms of the proposed constructions close to the M1 I have less of a problem. The area is just a few miles away from the Rugby transmitters which are being dismantled, but can be seen for miles around. Indeed, not long after I moved to the area I remember seeing an article in a local paper suggesting that the transmitters should be replaced by another landmark, firstly to make the area memorable, and secondly because motorists apparently like to have something noticeable every now and again.

As far as the environemental impact goes, the smog that is generated by the traffic on the M1 can often be seen from Daventry as a brown cloud over the horizon.

However, as far as the solar panels go I am more certain about the ratio of advantages to disadvantages. These also take a fair amount of energy to produce, and I am not sure that 150 Watts of electricity, a couple of light bulbs, is really worthwhile. Perhaps they should consider planting some trees to absorb some of the pollution and noise and provide a wildlife habitat instead.


One of the topics that periodically appears in the media is the cost of petrol, the state of public transport and the state of the British roads. In the discussions that follow there are usually the same suggestions, more working from home (not possible for the vast majority of workers whether for practical reasons or due to paranoid employers) and more use of public transport – this is not going to happen until there is an improvement outside of the capital rather than the reduction in services currently seen in the majority of the country.

I have a different approach – I have beaten the traffic problems, don’t really care what the Chancellor does to the tax on petrol (and I do believe that it is a resource that is way too important to burn), and never have to worry about the bad weather in the winter.

I have done the commuting thing, spent 2 hours in the metal box every day, filled up with petrol every four days. Despite spending seven years in University getting a PhD I gave up a career in this area for a job that I can walk to. I hear people on the radio saying that it is all very well people living close to their work, but it is not possible for them. I disagree, and have proved that it is possible, it all depends on your priorities. I can honestly say that walking to work is one of the best financial decisions I ahve ever made, not to mention the changes it has enabled me to make in my lifestyle.

I don’t think that I could go back to a job that I have to commute to any more, I would miss listening to the birds sing as I walk to work. I even thought of applying for an environment-related job in a nearby town, but stopped when I realised that the positive impact I made in that job would be in part negated by the effects of a 60 mile round trip!