Thursday, 26 June 2008

Orchard Hill

I was asked by my sister to meet some of her students at the special needs college she works in to talk to them about tree work. I thought sounds like a good photo opportunity- one for PR. Anyway I had a great time and a great chat with Anthony (above) who is intersted in working in horticulture.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Shortest night

Spent the evening with Laura on a photo event in central London, trying to capture london under the mid summer evening light. Got this photo above. Click on it for full impact. The lines in the Thames are passing boats and the lights on the bridge are bicycles. Thanks to a guy (who looked liked a cross between Alan Carr and Aled Jones) for showing me how to take a shot like that. This is the original with no photo shop enhancement at all.

Monday, 16 June 2008

House prices and birding

Just over a year ago, (with the support of my accountant and much to the disapproval of my family), I decided to sell my house and rent instead. Well, luckily the market has moved in the way I was hoping and hopefully in a year or two I can snap up a bargain. Anyway, to the point, the apartment I rented was very affordable, which is a nice way of saying- located in a pretty rough area. The gentleman upstairs, who has a serious anger management problem, has just settled down after a moderate episode of call centre rage which is very audible to everyone in the block (I should get Darryl here with his sound approach equipment to record these particularly interesting vocalisations).

Anyway, back to the point. There is next to nothing round here in the way of habitat for birds. Just a strip of lawn, a 2 ft hawthorn hedge border and a cherry tree. Not to be dissuaded by this small fact I went ahead and set up my bird feeding equipment which came from my old house and garden (in a rural area). It was slow at first but now I have managed to attract quite a few garden birds. In fact, the other neighbours have decided to join in and even 'anger management man' on the top floor is throwing out bread on the lawn. He stopped me a while ago and at first I thought I was going to get a confrontation. However much to my relief he wanted to know why we only got Woodpiegeons on the lawn, so I put up some peanut feeders and now we have got Blue and Great Tits, Greenfinches and House Sparrows too. Well I was quite surprised that the feeders are being used (considering they are located next to a main footpath and road), which came as a relief as it not only means birds can be attracted to the most unlikely areas, but also helps to keep the nieghbours happy.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Little Oak

We are currently working on plans to diversify our services at Little Oak. The general idea is to create a one-stop shop for all aspects of garden services. I am a big believer in specialisation- master of one, rather than jack of all trades, so it will involve organising specialist teams to take care of several main areas: tree work, landscape gardening, garden design and garden maintenance. My personal role in this will be to co-ordinate the teams (probably through some kind of franchise), deal with the marketing, accounting, pricing, quality control, project management, health and safety, administration etc.

As our main target customers are private housing and considering the ongoing moderate slide in property equity, it is probably a very bad time to be attempting such a project. However if we can get it to work now, things can only get better in the future.

Within this network of garden services we would like to promote the generation and maintenance of aesthetically pleasing, practical, garden-wildlife friendly environments.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What is the price of a singing Blackbird?


The UK economy (and probably the world) continues to edge towards recession. The link between the welfare of wildlife and the welfare of the economy may appear to be a tentative one but there are important implications for birds and wildlife. During a recession, development slows down which could mean less building on green sites- a good thing for wildlife. However there also appears to be negative impacts. For example there are negative implications to eco-tourism- people spending less money on eco-holidays, depriving fragile eco-tourist economies of revenue to manage their habitats.

Environmental economists have long argued that one important way of protecting birds and wildlife is to put a value on them and bring these values into cost calculations of development. There are measures which are currently being introduced in the tree care industry to apply this kind of thinking. Some trees in London (and maybe elsewhere) are being valued in terms of what price they are worth as an asset to a property. Some trees, such as a large London Plane in a premier London property have been valued at several tens of thousands of pounds which are added to the price of the property; in essence, you buy the tree at a certain price (in the same way that bricks and mortar are priced- one room, two rooms etc). By removing the tree, the owner would then incur a loss of value of their property. The hope is that rather than removing a tree (because it is causing root damage) and loosing, for example. 10K off the property value, it makes more economic sense to, for instance, replace a few of the slabs on the patio for 2K.

This kind of environmental economic approach may well be making a head way into current mainstream economic thinking. I was wondering, how might this be applied to birds. For instance there is certainly a value to garden birds and for many people they add a much desired living element to their garden environments. However you cant buy wild birds in the garden centre as you can shrubs and trees. But this does not mean that they are not valuable and they must have a hypothetical price- although I will admit to having little idea how to price a Blue Tit or a singing Blackbird. Perhaps if there was an index that estate agents could use, an attempt to add a value to aesthetically pleasing wildlife friendly gardens it would help to curb the degeneration of these environments- e.g by hedge removal to be replaced by fences, pond removal to be replaced by patios, lawns replaced by driveways. Perhaps if this was backed up by central planning restrictions-making it illegal to degenerate garden environments e..g by the extension of tree preservation order type restrictions, it would be effective in controlling the environmental demise of many urban areas. Something which I encounter as a garden management company partner on a daily basis.

Of course one of the main problems such an approach will encounter is the perspective of value. Some people have very little appreciation of garden birds, wildlife, shrubs and trees. In these cases they will not be prepared to pay for them. I consider this is a problem of ignorance.

Under-valuing- not only wildlife but also people, is considered by environmental economists to be one of the main reasons for market failure. Market failure is where the free market fails to create a desirable human environment. Often where there are environmental and social problems- it is because certain aspects of that environment have not been properly valued. It therefore appears quite obvious that the value of wildlife and birds needs to be taught in the education system, enforced by the legal system and encouraged by the economic system. It follows therefore that to effectively protect wildlife and birds it is important to understand these systems.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Non-stop birding

Photo by Vincent Le Grande- exploration birders on the island of Corvo, Azores

I have decided to try and get down to business with this blog. Birding has been like a window to the rest of the world for me. Just by trying to understand birds I have been led into reading about meteorology, genetics, taxonomy, geography, politics, history etc etc. I have discovered that my interest in birds has basically uncovered an interest in the whole world. I have also discovered that to understand birds, and perhaps more importantly to protect them, it is important to understand how birds fit in to the rest of the world.

I have been watching birds since I was very young. Making observations, taking notes in my notebook, keeping diaries of what I have seen, notes on behaviour, coming up with theories, taking photographs etc. 'Unfortunately' these early experiences have imprinted on me and now I just can't stop. I take notes, observe behaviour and take photographs of everything. This is non-stop birding. I just can't stop.

My hope through these observations is to develop a better understanding of birds within the context of wider considerations and implications. My hope is that this will lead to knowledge and knowledge to the ability to be more effective in understanding, protecting and conserving something which I have been passionate about my whole life.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Tuesday, 3 June 2008



I updated my photo galleries today for the first time in a while (peteralfreynature.co.uk). Found these shots which I like.