Author Archive

Watercolour Workshop with Darren Woodhead

“For Darren Woodhead, a sheet of paper is a pool of light on which paints dance”,

Julian Spalding, Former Director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries

 

A rare opportunity to join the Swarovski / Birdwatch magazine Artist of the Year 2009 for a day’s painting and tuition.

*Places are limited to a maximum of ten participants to ensure significant 1:1 time with Darren*.

Overview:

The morning session will be devoted to a brief talk and demonstration, before the group puts brush to paper. After lunch (weather permitting), Darren will take participants painting outdoors to be inspired by the surroundings of Aberlady /Gosford, or alternatively, within and around the Club’s beautifully situated Headquarters which overlook Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve.

Directions/timing:

The workshop will commence at SOC HQ, Waterston House, Aberlady at 10am and last till 3.30pm approx. Tea and coffee will be served from 9.45am.

What to bring:

* Your own watercolour paints, brushes, paper (watercolour is ideal), water pot, drawing board and clips or tapes to hold the paper down.
* A packed lunch. Hot drinks will be provided at the Centre throughout the day.
* Something to sit on (e.g. a mat, stool, rug) for when painting outdoors.
* Warm clothing. Do please dress according to the weather forecast and come prepared with waterproof footwear.

Payment:

We regret that we are only able to take cash or cheque payments (please make cheques payable to ‘Darren Woodhead’) and payment is required in advance. To book please see a member of staff at Waterston House or post a cheque to Jane Cleaver, SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

 

Watercolour Workshop with Darren Woodhead

“For Darren Woodhead, a sheet of paper is a pool of light on which paints dance”,

Julian Spalding, Former Director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries

 

A rare opportunity to join the Swarovski / Birdwatch magazine Artist of the Year 2009 for a day’s painting and tuition.

*Places are limited to a maximum of ten participants to ensure significant 1:1 time with Darren*.

Overview:

The morning session will be devoted to a brief talk and demonstration, before the group puts brush to paper. After lunch (weather permitting), Darren will take participants painting outdoors to be inspired by the surroundings of Aberlady /Gosford, or alternatively, within and around the Club’s beautifully situated Headquarters which overlook Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve.

Directions/timing:

The workshop will commence at SOC HQ, Waterston House, Aberlady at 10am and last till 3.30pm approx. Tea and coffee will be served from 9.45am.

What to bring:

* Your own watercolour paints, brushes, paper (watercolour is ideal), water pot, drawing board and clips or tapes to hold the paper down.
* A packed lunch. Hot drinks will be provided at the Centre throughout the day.
* Something to sit on (e.g. a mat, stool, rug) for when painting outdoors.
* Warm clothing. Do please dress according to the weather forecast and come prepared with waterproof footwear.

Payment:

We regret that we are only able to take cash or cheque payments (please make cheques payable to ‘Darren Woodhead’) and payment is required in advance. To book please see a member of staff at Waterston House or post a cheque to Jane Cleaver, SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

 

AN EXHIBITION OF ARTWORK BY DARREN WOODHEAD

Top wildlife artist Darren Woodhead returns to exhibit at Waterston House with his new collection of artwork…

This new collection of work is mostly inspired by the East Lothian landscape and its natural history but also by recent trips to Norway to paint the Scandinavian Owls. The show will consist exclusively of watercolours, all painted in brush and on location. By working direct from life like this, Darren aims to retain the freshness and energy that working purely outdoors brings, often in extreme weather conditions.

The new work further explores the artist’s fascination of colour, shape and pattern, as well as the life, character and energy of the birds and insects found on his days out in the field, achieving movement and life with the minimal of marks: “The works are narrations and events, stories on show from time spent observing in this world of uncertainty for our natural environment; it is a celebration of the delicate beauty that we have on our doorstep”.

Darren was born in West Yorkshire in 1971 but has lived in East Lothian for over ten years, since moving to Scotland in 1996.  He is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London. His work is held in many public and private collections including a commission for The Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th Birthday in June 2011. He has twice won the prestigious Swarovski/Birdwatch magazine Artist of the Year award and was invited to appear on BBC ‘Springwatch’, demonstrating his painting techniques live on the ‘Unsprung’ show in June 2013. Subsequently, he was made Artist In Residence for the following ‘Autumnwatch’ and ‘Winterwatch’ programmes, working and demonstrating live on BBC2, Internet and BBC Red Button. He has also featured on the BBC’s ‘Landward’ as well as BBC Radio Scotland and STV.

Darren was also appointed Artist in Residence for The Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, working with and alongside the RSPB and several other cooperating organisations. He has recently won The Wildlife Trusts’ Undersea Art Award, which has seen him take his watercolour work under water, a unique and ground- breaking way of working that was featured on the BBC’s Springwatch programme in June 2017. He has also just been awarded the Roger Clarke Award at The Mall Galleries in London.

He is a member of The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) and served on the Society’s council in 2006/2007. In addition to his many awards, he has been invited to join expeditions with The Artists for Nature Foundation, which has allowed him to take his painting skills to India, Peru, Ecuador, Israel, Sark, Portugal and the Spanish Pyrenees. He recently spent time working in Arctic Norway around the Varanger Fjord.

Darren’s exhibition opens in the Donald Watson Gallery at Waterston House on Saturday 18th November and runs until 10th January 2018. The cerntre is open daily from 10am-4pm (closed 25th December to 1st January).

Spring binoculars & telescopes demo

In addition  to the wide range of optical equipment available for sale all year round at Waterston House, we also host demonstration days where experts are on hand to offer free advice on a wide range of binoculars, telescopes and tripods. This is a great opportunity to compare models and try them out under field conditions. If there are any particular models you would like to try out on the day, please contact us in advance to let us know.

The SOC is recruiting: Bookkeeper/Finance Officer

£21,000-£23,000 per annum pro rata

Part time (3-4 days per week- negotiable)

The SOC’s current bookkeeping clerk will retire at the end of 2017 so we are seeking a qualified and/or highly experienced individual to take on the day-to-day accounts but also fulfil a wider financial management role, working closely with the Club’s Honorary Treasurer. The additional responsibilities would initially involve a review of the current accounting software (QuickBooks) and the setting up of a budgeting and cash flow system.

The post is based at the SOC’s HQ in East Lothian, overlooking Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve.

As well as a room with a view, we can offer a competitive salary, NEST pension scheme and the opportunity to form part of a small, friendly, dedicated admin team, all passionate about birds and wildlife.

For further details and information on how to apply, please email mail@the-soc.org.uk

Interviews: Wednesday 25th October 2017

Recording Rare Breeding Birds in Scotland

With spring on the doorstep thoughts are turning to the breeding season and the chance to chart the progress of the breeding birds of Scotland. Many of you will be out monitoring your favourite species or sites, and hopefully submitting all your records to the local SOC bird recorder.

The UK Rare Breeding Birds Panel collates and reports on the status of the rarer breeding birds across the UK. A rare breeder is classified as a species with fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs in the UK. You may have seen the Panel’s annual reports in British Birds; the most recent covered 2014 was published in September 2016. The RBBP Secretary is currently (March 2017) busy processing all the data received for 2015, ready for the next report, and come the summer calls will be made to SOC recorders for their 2016 data, so if you have not sent your records for last breeding season in yet, please do it soon so that they are available to the recorders for inclusion in their annual submission.

But back to this year. Both SOC and the RBBP encourage you to submit all your records on BirdTrack and this recommendation includes records of rare breeding birds. (Note that if you feel a species or site is sensitive and you want the recorder to know that, you can flag the record as sensitive). We are not only looking for records of confirmed breeding (such as nests with young, recently fledged young or adults carrying food for young) but also records of probable breeding (pairs in breeding habitat, nest building, territorial or display behaviour) and possible breeding (singing birds or simply individuals in breeding habitat during the breeding season). Migrating birds, clearly on passage, would not be counted as breeding but with rare species remember anything can happen and a migrant may choose to stay and hold a territory (Marsh Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes have done this in recent years). So even though a pair of Garganey in April or early May are likely to be birds on passage, a single male later on at a site where a pair was present earlier might indicate possible breeding, and other records later in May or June might be sufficient to raise the level to probable breeding. The same criteria go for ‘resident’ species such as Wigeon, Shoveler and Pochard – lone males seen in late May or early June when a pair was present earlier, could well represent a breeding pair. Go back and look for a brood with the female later! To help the recorder interpret these records, you can see how important it is to give a separate count of both sexes, and of small young – BirdTrack has facilities to enter this, or if you are using the BirdTrack app on a smartphone, you can put the details in a comment.

It is also incredibly useful to recorders to understand the level of breeding evidence and to determine how many pairs are breeding, or potentially breeding, at a site, if the breeding evidence code is entered on BirdTrack – these are the same codes as used in Atlas projects so will be familiar to most of you, and in any case BirdTrack offers you a choice from drop-down menu, even on the app.

Not all of the species on the list are rare from a Scottish perspective and although many of them receive extra protection during the breeding season through Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, their presence in breeding habitat can often be monitored from a safe distance without disturbing the birds. As always, follow the Birdwatchers’ Code of Conduct and put the welfare of the birds and their nests first. There is absolutely no need to approach the birds closely to take a photograph, and anyone deliberately going close to a nest is in contravention of the law and could face prosecution.

A final comment. There are some species which, though on the RBBP list, are poorly recorded, and Scotland holds important populations of these birds. For birders in SW Scotland, any record of Willow Tit from March through to July is relevant (and can be at least assigned to birds in breeding habitat) and early spring in any wooded part of Scotland is the best time to locate displaying Goshawks. Our knowledge of the population of Goshawks is limited because most records received by the RBBP relate to nesting pairs monitored by licensed raptor workers, but any birdwatcher can help by reporting any bird seen in nesting habitat. And then there is a suite of species which are under-recorded in the breeding season. Wigeon has been mentioned but other poorly recorded water birds are Goldeneye, Red- and Black-throated Divers, waders such as Greenshank and Whimbrel, and Snow Bunting. All records of both Long- and Short-eared Owls in breeding habitat from April to July are also invaluable in assessing the total breeding population.

Diligent observers may be the first to find breeding Little Egrets or Cetti’s Warbler in Scotland!

We wish you all the best in your endeavours to track breeding birds in Scotland and the RBBP looks forward to including the results of your time in the field in our annual summaries. Mark Holling, the RBBP Secretary, would like to thank all birdwatchers and SOC recorders in Scotland for their important contributions – without your efforts the RBBP could not do its important work for the conservation of birds. If you would like to know more about the work of the RBBP, take a look at www.rbbp.org.uk, where you can find a full list of species covered by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel.

Mark Holling, RBBP Secretary

Short-eared Owl by Laurie Campbell
Red-throated Diver and Greenshank by Angus Hogg
Wigeon by Davie Abraham

Summer migrants table 2017

Every spring/summer, Angus Murray of Birdline Scotland provides Headquarters with an often daily (or even more frequent!) update of the latest migrant birds to touch down on Scottish soil, by recording area.

The information is copied to an online table available to view on the website here , where you’ll also find details of how to submit your migrant sightings.

Now in its 14th year of running, the table is a useful tool in allowing comparisons between years and allows you to find out dates for when the first Swallow or Osprey was reported for example, and in which area. Details of particularly interesting or notable arrivals are often posted as small news pieces on the Club’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Spring migrants, 2017

Winter 2016-17 was overall fairly mild and benign in Scotland with wintering migrants reported including Manx Shearwater and Sandwich Tern both in the Firth of Forth, Whimbrel (Argyll, D&G and Fife), Common Sandpiper (Argyll), several Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroat (Highland).

Spring migration started off with some very early records with the first migrants being around two weeks earlier than normal. South/southwesterly winds on the weekend of 11th-12th March especially saw some early dates, most notably up to seven Garganey at WWT Caerlaverock (D&G). A remarkable series of House Martin reports also resulted from this between the 12th-15th with four birds seen, all on west coast islands and all being the earliest ever for their respective recording areas, Clyde Islands, Argyll, Highland and Outer Hebrides. Indeed the one on Arran (Clyde Islands) on 12th equals the previous early date for Scotland, three at Tweedbank (Borders) on 12th March 2006. The only other published mid March records of House Martin in Scotland are three different birds in Ayrshire on 15th March 1990 and one at RSPB Baron’s Haugh (Clyde) 16th March 1981. This is a species most Scottish birdwatchers wouldn’t normally expect to see until mid-late April though in recent years the first birds have been appearing earlier, in the last week of March/first week of April.

SOC & Isle of May Bird Observatory, Young Birders’ Training Course 2017

Young Birders’ Training Course

Investing in the future of wild bird conservation

1 – 7 July 2017, Isle of May

It’s that time of year again when Scotland’s largest bird club, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) and Britain’s oldest continuously accredited bird observatory, the Isle of May Bird Observatory (IoMBO) seek a further six promising young birdwatchers to take part in their Young Birders’ Training Course, a week-long funded training course, run by the SOC and the IoMBO, on the Isle of May this July.

Open to individuals aged 16–25 years, the Young Birders’ Training Course is the only course of its kind in the UK. It presents a unique opportunity for budding ornithologists’, both in its setting and teaching options. The successful applicants will gain invaluable first-hand practical experience of a wide range of bird survey skills and techniques and participants will be able to draw on the talents and knowledge of highly experienced bird ringers, researchers and surveyors.

The course itself will include a thorough introduction to the practice of recording birds and other wildlife, experience of species counts, monitoring, ringing, trapping, ageing and sexing birds, as well as opportunities to participate in activities such as visible migration watches and co-ordinated sea-watching counts. Outwith the scope of most university curricula, these skills are essential attributes for those embarking on a career or role in wildlife recording, surveying and conservation.

The Isle of May, which lies five miles off the Fife coast, nestles in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, and is a wonderful backdrop for the course. The island is one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and protected by European and UK legislation because of its internationally and nationally important seabird and Grey Seal colonies.

The lucky participants will have the chance to find out more about the island’s rich cultural history and to sample bird observatory life, with accommodation for the duration of their stay being provided within the refurbished ‘Low Light’, a former lighthouse.

This course will not only provide a platform for participants to pursue a future in wildlife monitoring and conservation, but a network of contacts to assist the students on their journey.

The application form for the course can be downloaded from the SOC website here or obtained by emailing jane.cleaver@the-soc.org.uk . The closing date for completed applications is 5pm, Monday 1st May 2017. Completed forms should be emailed to jane.cleaver@the-soc.org.uk  or posted to: Jane Cleaver (Confidential), SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

Images courtesy of Harry Martin (top), Radina Atanasova (middle) and Stuart Rivers (bottom).

DONALD WATSON – WILDLIFE ARTIST

Eleven of famed wildlife artist Donald Watson’s paintings have been made public for the first time as a group on a new webpage, on this site.

They are from the SOC’s Library and Archive and the subject matter ranges from the Western Isles to the Isle of May and Aberlady Bay, and from evocative landscapes to bird portraiture.

Donald Watson (1918-2005) was an acclaimed author and bird artist, one of the founding members of the SOC in 1936, and a great friend of the Club throughout his life. The art gallery at Waterston House is named in his honour.

You can see the paintings and read more here http://www.the-soc.org.uk/donald-watson-wildlife-artist/

Image © Watson family

Colour-ringed Waxwings and an old friend returns

The UK is having its largest Waxwing invasion in 3 winters just now with birds being reported up and down the country during November and December, 2016.

We have colour-ringed over 300 birds in and around Aberdeenshire so far this winter, including 140 in Ballater. We would be very grateful for any reports of these birds so please check all Waxwings (AND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS) and report them to http://grampianringing.blogspot.com/ or raymond@waxwing.fsnet.co.uk.

We were delighted to hear from Shetland photographer and birder, Hugh Harrop recently about a returning Waxwing we had colour-ringed in a previous invasion

NW49165, colour rings red over white right leg, metal over red left leg (see top photo) was ringed as an adult male on 03/12/2013 in Burnett Place, Aberdeen. Hugh had it in his garden at Hillwell, Shetland on 12/11/16. So it was very interesting to hear about this bird again, returning to the UK 3 winters later!

We get a lot of resightings of colour-ringed birds throughout the winter of an invasion (mainly in the UK) but this is only our 8th ringed bird recorded returning to the UK in a subsequent invasion out of the several thousands we have ringed over the years.

As an added bonus, this Waxwing (right) had a little bit of history during its visit in 2013/14. It was resighted still in Aberdeen at the end of December 2013 before making a trip across the North Sea at some point and turning up in Hilversum in the Netherlands towards the end of February 2014.

Results from Waxwing ringing in previous winters can be found on the Blog, the BTO Online ringing reports or (specifically ringing in Ballater in 2010) a PDF summary can be emailed.

Thanks very much from Grampian Ringing Group.

Images: Top: Hugh Harrop © Hillwell, Shetland 12/11/16, bottom: Harry de Klein © Hilversum, Netherlands 26/02/14

Young Birders CTA

Download the young Birder Application form - Word Doc
Download the training course application form - PDF
Contact Us
Find Out More