Wednesday 28 October 2009

BDS Members' Day 2009, Edinburgh

The opportunity to travel north of the border (a very Englo-centric term, sorry) for the 2009 BDS Members' Day was too good to miss. However, we decided against the "mad dash" plan and opted instead for a leisurely trip, taking in some wildlife sights along the way and visiting relatives near Edinburgh.

The day prior to the meeting, we visited the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Caerlaverock to see the 1, 2, 3, 4... 9868, 9869, 9870 Barnacle Geese who had recently arrived from the high Arctic to overwinter on the Solway Firth. It was a cool, showery day but we managed to briefly spot a Common Darter between hides and rain squalls. As dusk approached, we parked near the mouth of the River Nith and were treated to a pair of Peregrines spooking waterfowl and waders alike. This resulted in a wonderful spectacle as a flock of waders swooped and swirled in the low sunlight, their burnished plumage literally producing some golden moments.

Arriving at Napier University's Craiglockhart campus on Saturday morning, we could not help but notice the juxtaposition of traditional buildings and contemporary designs, with what at first appeared to be a spacecraft docked in the middle of the university. This turned out to be the Lindsay Stewart Lecture Theatre which, as the brochure says, "is oval in shape and titanium clad, elevated by stilts and with amazing views over the city". And also our home for the day.

During the morning, the Scottish flavour of the talks was to the fore (without once mentioning whisky or haggis) as we were introduced to the concept of guddling, colanders and plastic spoons. Combined, these utensils are the means by which Caledonian dragons are revealed in some of the more remote, rain-lashed wildernesses (personally, we enjoyed 12 gloriously sunny days in Orkney in June, on a colander-free, carefree holiday, so perhaps Pat, Craig and Jonathan were only joking about the weather).

In the afternoon, it was Odonata International, starting with a relocation scheme for White-faced Darters in Cumbria, then taking in some Norwegian Beavers (released in Scotland), after which we ventured to Belize and Texas for 110 species in four weeks, before settling in Sweden for Professor Ulf Norling's talk on cold climate adaptation of larvae.

The day was a heady mixture of facts and fun, information thoughtfully delivered with humour and a love for the subject. Our personal thanks to the hosts, organisers and speakers for a fantastic Members' Day. If there was any disappointment, it was that the keynote speaker was not allowed sufficient time for his talk, but we marvelled at his skill to tailor the content to the time available.

The following day, we visited the RSPB reserve at Vane Farm on Loch Leven, though the strong wind and heavy rain would have vexed even the most colander-hardened odonatologist. Fortunately, we did see a skein of Pink-footed Geese fly over during a brief sunny spell, and there was a tea room, dear reader, so all was well.

Whilst new to this lark, I find the Members' Day to be a fitting finale to the flight season, providing food for thought during the long winter evenings and a healthy dose of feelgood factor too. Time to plan for next year!

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