Northumberland, Bird Club

Mandarin duck on the river Wansbeck
Mandarin duck on the river Wansbeck

An audience of club regulars and visitors were treated to a fascinating slide show by Graham Wren, which illustrated his interest in the nests and eggs of Britain’s birds.

Like many of his generation, Graham’s interest in this subject matter was kindled by an egg collecting hobby when he was a young boy. During his national service in the Middle East, he came to the conclusion that he would be better off making a record of the birds and their eggs and so bought his first camera. Initially he took photographs of the nests and eggs he found but advice from Bruce Campbell, an ornithologist he met whilst working on a dairy farm on the Thames Valley, made him realise that the photo collection would have more meaning if he also recorded the habitat in which he found the nests.

Graham’s slides were mainly taken in the 1970s and he told tales of the people he met, including gamekeepers, who would ring him to tell of a new nest they had found so that he could add another species to his ever-growing collection. He was at pains to point out that he always sought the required permissions and permits before embarking on a photographic mission.

Most of the habitats he recorded were in Scotland and the slides are a testament to the beauty of the northern land and seascapes. What came across in such detail was the ability of birds to utilise almost any surface for the laying of their eggs and the hatching of their chicks. From bare rock ledges and pebble beaches, through mountain, moorland, grassland and trees, to man-made features like walls, hedges, rooftops and window sills we were able to see in Graham’s slides the ability of different species to find a place that would best protect their eggs and young.

What also came across was the many and various avian interpretations of the “nest”. We saw nests that were little more than bare rock, we saw careless constructions of twigs and grass and we saw intricate, carefully woven and beautifully lined constructions that seemed to fulfil all the meanings of the word “nest” that we use in everyday life.

The next meeting is on Friday, May 11, at 7.30pm in The Hub, Seahouses, and is entitled ‘Artists and Albatrosses’ by Chris Rose, a much respected artist.