Why bother? Friday 19th November proved to be a snowy day and the Field Club expected few attendances at their evening meeting, however they were pleasantly surprised by the turn-out – sufficient to hold a raffle of one of Roy Harris’s videos which, fortuitously, was won by Keith Fairclough, this evening’s narrator.
Keith spent some weeks of 2003 in California – his RSPB sabbatical – studying a local species of condor, a vulture Gymnogyps Californianus, other North American species, Andean and Turkey, being less endangered. The Californian Condor has been bred in captivity from a mere 22 individuals to a current 218, but they are by no means out of the wood yet and possibly never will be, in Keith’s opinion. Because of their breeding they become far too habituated to human presence and, as a consequence, can die from lead poisoning by taking in ring pulls, other metals, or even glass – anything shiny is attractive! – or else being electrocuted when they land on power lines. This huge bird with its three metre wingspan would, naturally, avoid human contact and breed successfully in the wild, but only one of the original birds has actually done this, and even the two pairs living in the Grand Canyon stay close to human tourists for what they offer. We have a lot to answer for with our easy pickings!
On Sunday 21st November the weather was expected to be a lot better. Wrong! It started dry but windy on Birsay’s Brough where eleven stalwart folk met to look at Robert Rendall’s favourite beach and compare the Common Limpet Patella vulgata with the Grooved Topshell callistoma striatum. Not everybody can do that. But Christine and Alistair Skene lead us through descriptions of various types of sea shell and then Christine asked: “Do you know your wracks?” We didn’t, of course, except Bladder Wrack. Christine showed us Saw Wrack, Knotted, Channelled, Spiral and Thong Weed as well. Now we do know! We then spent time at the Links where a good number of interesting shells were found as well as, to some delight, groattie buckies, the European Cowrie Trivia Europaea, but soon wind and weather and bitter cold obliged us to head for home leaving the Links to themselves.
Why bother? Despite the snow, wind, rain, everything Orkney threw at us over this last weekend it was well worth the doing; we learned a lot, met some fresh air and good company – well worth the bother.