Sunday, 16 November 2014

A chat or two...

For various reasons, I haven't been out ringing in Bedfordshire for 6 weeks, so it was nice to be out again. Quality was the order of the day and it took some patience. At Sandy Smith Nature Reserve, 6 birds were ringed between dawn and 2pm when the rain came.

Above & Below: A female Stonechat

This pair of Stonechats have been around the reserve for 6 weeks or more and are probably overwintering there. Both were youngsters. To put this in some perspective, the Ivel Ringing Group have only ever ringed 3 - the last one 20 years ago. I don't think many have been ringed in the county by other ringers either.

Above & Below: A male Stonechat

Two Wrens were ringed either side of the Stonechats. But as the nets were located in an area not conducive to catching lots of birds, I thought I'd try for other species I wouldn't normally catch. One Meadow Pipit was ringed (the last ones I caught here was in 2011), and a species I've never ringed before:

Above & Below: A Pied Wagtail 

The Stonechats and the Pied Wagtail are new species ringed for the site. I have now ringed 52 species here. I packed up when the rain came, but didn't leave as my net rides needed a trim and the feeders topping up. Now I am home, I can reflect on a enjoyable days work well done!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Wagtail delight

In the period since my last post, I have been busy ringing (and entering data!) but the numbers ringed haven't topped the heights of August. However, quality has been in evidence.
We are well into peak migration time for our summer breeders. Some species are largely gone already, whilst some are still in full flow and Blackcap migration seems to have peaked already but will continue for a little while yet.
At Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (SSNR) I've caught a couple of late Reed Warblers (12/09/14), a late Sedge Warbler (13/09/14) and 15 Blackcaps so far in September. Favoured natural food for Blackcaps are the purple Elderberries which have been in abundance in my ringing area - though it was noted the other day that the berries are wilting & dying (perhaps because of age, perhaps continued heat!). 10 Chiffchaffs have accompanied the tit flocks so far in September and just 1 Whitethroat has made an appearance (compared to 3 in 2013, 0 in 2012, 4 in 2011 and 4 in 2010).
And then there's the quality:

Above & Below: A juvenile Yellow Wagtail.

A flock of Yellow Wagtails were in amongst the sheep and cattle on SSNR. A roost session produced just the 1 bird - the first of this species ringed here. The site list is now up to 50 species ringed, with one other species - Mute Swan - ringed elsewhere.
The main species missing from the ringing list  at SSNR (because they haven't been targeted and might prove more difficult to catch) are Skylark, Woodpigeon, Snipe, Swallow, Stonechat and Whinchat.

The following day, in my usual ringing area, a surprise in the nets (it wasn't seen beforehand) was:

Above: A juvenile Spotted Flycatcher (3rd ringed on site following singles in 2011 & 2013).

On Monday 22nd, on a walk around the reserve, a large number of Meadow Pipits were observed (50+), as were a number of Skylarks but best of all - 2 Stonechats in the mist (they were gone by lunch time). I later observed a fox at quite a distance, hunting for food in broad daylight.

My other site - Priory Country Park (PCP) - has been producing good numbers too now that the CES restrictions are lifted. In September, of the migrants, we've ringed 3 more Reed Warblers, 36 Blackcap, 18 Chiffchaff and 2 Willow Warblers. Of the birds coming to the feeding station, 42 have been new Blue Tits and 37 of the Great Tit variety whilst 11 have been Chaffinches. Our first two juvenile Bullfinches of the year were ringed too - surprising that we didn't ring any juveniles during the CES season.

I have commented previously that it has been a good year for Goldcrest - 6 juveniles have been ringed this month so far at PCP (making 10 for the year).

It won't be long now until we are graced with species that migrate to our country to spend winter with us (some may already be here). I personally look forward to Lesser Redpoll and Siskin migration most. Lets hope for favourable weather to bring them to our shores!

I hope to run another ringing session at Priory on Sunday 28th September - with a demonstration for the Guided Bird Walk - meeting 9am at the visitor centre.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The last two weekends...

Since my last post, I have made 2 ringing visits to Priory Country Park and 2 to Sandy Smith Nature Reserve.
The visits to Priory Country Park have been the last two of the Constant Effort Survey season. All 12 visits were made again this year for the 4th year in a row. Each one of the 12 visits can be compared to the corresponding visit on previous years allowing us to monitor breeding success and abundance by taking standardised population 'samples'.
The final CES totals for 2014 are:
Woodpigeon 2 (0)
Green Woodpecker 3 (2)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (0)
Wren 19 (14)
Dunnock 21 (13)
Robin 22 (13)
Blackbird 24 (15)
Song Thrush 7 (0)
Reed Warbler 10 (0)
Whitethroat 15 (8)
Garden Warbler 26 (6)
Blackcap 104 (8)
Chiffchaff 16 (4)
Goldcrest 4 (0)
Long-Tailed Tit 2 (1)
Blue Tit 23 (3)
Great Tit 13 (6)
Treecreeper 2 (0)
Magpie 2 (0)
Chaffinch 2 (0)
Goldfinch 4 (1)
Bullfinch 4 (2)
A total of 326 new birds and 89 retraps (415 total handlings) of 22 species. N.B. Totals include an extra visit (April pre-CES), extra nets on all visits and some 'after official hours' captures.
Blackcap (as is usual for this site) had most captures and it seems as though this was a good year for them. Disappointing was the lack of Bullfinch juveniles (none were ringed). A control Chiffchaff early in the season was a highlight as were 3 new and 2 recaptured Green Woodpeckers (involving 4 birds and including 2 juveniles) - usually one a year is what we might expect. 2 juvenile Magpies were unusual for CES and Goldcrests seem to have had a good year (benefitting from higher survival rates due to a very mild winter).
Away from Priory Country Park, the 2 visits to Sandy Smith Nature Reserve were particularly productive with 130 captures on 24th and 151 on 31st August!
There were some notables amongst the catches:

Above: A juvenile Green Woodpecker - the first juvenile to be ringed here

Above: A Chiffchaff - this one was a little reluctant to leave my hand after being set free, allowing me a unique photograph opportunity. It soon flew off strongly when gently encouraged to do so.

Above: The Mute Swans in this photograph were both ringed, but only one was colour ringed (the top one) thus allowing me to read the ring no. This bird was ringed on The Embankment in Bedford last year. It represents the first Mute Swan in the database for SSNR. Until the other one is colour ringed, I probably won't get a good enough sight of the metal ring to read it.

Other notables were:

Treecreeper - a recapture at 344 days setting a new longevity record for the site (90 days previously).

Blackcap - a British ringed control was caught on 31st August. It'll be nice to find out where this (a juvenile) came from.

Reed Warbler - 3 juveniles represent the first 3 juveniles ringed on site (the only other records of this species being 2 adults in previous years. I don't think they breed on site so these must be passage migrants.

Kingfisher - a single bird became the 3rd juvenile of the year (an adult was also ringed earlier in the year).

As the session on 31/08/14 was my largest for the site - here are the details:

Mute Swan 0 (1)
Kingfisher 1 (0)
Wren 2 (1)
Dunnock 4 (3)
Robin 0 (1)
Blackbird 1 (0)
Song Thrush 1 (0)
Reed Warbler 2 (0)
Whitethroat 2 (0)
Blackcap 11 (9)
Chiffchaff 4 (0)
Willow Warbler 4 (0)
Goldcrest 1 (0)
Long Tailed TIt 11 (3)
Blue Tit 21 (22)
Great Tit 15 (25)
Treecreeper 0 (1)
Chaffinch 0 (1)
Goldfinch 4 (0) - the first at this site all year (despite the food I put out)

I suspect September is going to be a very good month as passage migration continues. Watch this space!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A cracking day...

Yesterday, Saturday 16th August, I made a visit to Sandy Smith Nature Reserve - same as I do most weekends. Starting at the crack of dawn, I set up my nets and I was well rewarded for my efforts.

The weather conditions and time of year, all play their part in the presence (or absence) and abundance of birds and the species I might catch. This year Blue Tit juveniles have been rather thin on the ground, as have Common Whitethroats despite what appears to have been a good year weather wise for breeding.

Yesterday, the ringing results showed 2 things - no Common Whitethroats (I should still be catching them) and a marked increase in the no. of Blue Tits ringed. This increase is probably as a result of birds from 'further afield' arriving on site.

In the end, I caught 111 birds of 15 species. This being the joint highest ringing total for a single day at this site.
Of course, I took some photographs...

Above: A juvenile Jay (3rd youngster ringed this year) 

Having caught 1 Jay (2013) previous to this year, it has been a pleasant surprise to catch 5 so far this year (3 adults, 2 juvs). My main ringing area is being left to mature into (mainly Alder) woodland, with some planting to speed up the process - so perhaps this is a sign that Jays are finding the habitat more to their liking. Or they may have just found a way to take advantage of my feeding station!

Above: Juvenile Kingisher (1 of 2 ringed)

The Kingfishers have been bombing around up and down the river on a regular basis throughout this year (the mild winter benefitting this species as survival is greater). Kingfisher breeding is also prone to being devastated by floods but that trouble, thankfully, has been avoided this year. Not a species I catch regularly, but two juveniles were ringed today (the brown tops to their legs giving their age away - adults have crayon red legs).

But as the breeding season is coming to an end, I am starting to see evidence of migration in the ringing results. Migrants need places to stop and refuel before continuing their journey. They might choose a site to stop at for the habitat and food they find there or simply because they are forced down by bad weather conditions. Either way, it's that time of year. The star bird of the day - and definitely a migrant was...

...this Lesser Whitethroat. It is a cracking bird in the hand. It stole star bird status away from the 2 Kingfishers, the Jay, 2 Magpies, Nuthatch, Willow Warbler and Goldcrest because it is the first of this species to be ringed at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve. The Magpies only made it onto the list because they were the 3rd and 4th to be ringed here - definitely coming to the feeders. On the last session, it was Ringer 1, Magpie 5. This time it was Ringer 2, Magpie 0 but I lost 3-5 on an aggregate score! Joking aside, that makes 3 this year - the only previous one came in 2012.

Another migrant was a juvenile Willow Warbler. The only other one I've caught this year was an adult undergoing moult (and presumably on migration too) back in June.

A juvenile Goldcrest, was the fourth of the year! This is a fairly short lived species because of their size and vulnerability in the winter to cold weather - so good winter survival and a good breeding season for this species too.

It is worth mentioning Nuthatches too - they are heard near my ringing area regularly at the moment (probably 2 yesterday) and with only 1 previous to this year in 2012 and 4 so far this year they would appear to be increasing in numbers. Hopefully some retrap data will provide some more knowledge about this species use of the reserve.

Kingfisher 2 (0)
Wren 2 (1)
Dunnock 3 (4)
Robin 4 (0)
Lesser Whitethroat 1 (0)
Blackcap 8 (0)
Chiffchaff 3 (0)
Willow Warbler 1 (0)
Goldcrest 1 (0)
Blue Tit 18 (14)
Great Tit 9 (32)
Nuthatch 0 (1) - this retrap increases the site longevity for this species from 8 to 13 days!
Jay 1 (0)
Magpie 2 (0)
Chaffinch 0 (4)

I was pooped by the time I got home, but it was a cracking adventure Gromit!

Monday, 7 July 2014

A year ago to the day...

... I was ringing at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve and caught 51 birds of 11 species. The standout birds were a single Jackdaw and 16 new Whitethroats.

Today (7th July 2014), I set about putting the same nets up in the same places (something I do almost every time I'm there). Today I ended up with 59 birds of 14 species as follows (retraps in brackets):

Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (1)
Wren 4 (1)
Dunnock 2 (2)
Robin 1 (0)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Whitethroat 1 (0)
Blackcap 9 (1)
Chiff 1 (0)
Goldcrest 1 (0)
Coal Tit 1 (0)
Blue Tit 2 (0)
Great Tit 7 (21)
Jackdaw 1 (0)
Chaffinch 1 (0)

The highlight one year later was, again, a Jackdaw - the last one I ringed was exactly a year ago today. Funny how things work out!

Above: An adult Jackdaw

Lacking in numbers so far this year (and today), at SSNR, are juvenile Whitethroats. Given the weather conditions have largely been good and food prey species numerous, I can only think that either I've missed them (they're around but just not today) or more likely the heavy rain in May didn't help the breeding success for first broods. The latter may also explain why there is a lack of juvenile Blue Tits around at the moment too as, for the first time at SSNR, Great Tits are far outnumbering Blue Tits. I did, however, catch a Coal Tit today...

Above: A juvenile Coal Tit (one of my favourite birds)

and a ...

Above: A juvenile Goldcrest

Of course, the point of ringing on this day exactly a year later, was because it is the anniversary of the passing of my dad. I wanted time to remember that day and to remember him and give myself some time to grieve a bit. It was a nice day, I got what I wanted and I was pleased with the Jackdaw (truth be told I was hoping to catch one today).

The sale of his house is almost complete. Contracts are exchanged and Thursday 10th July is down as completion day. On Saturday, I took my last things from his house, which included this poem from my childhood:

My Dog

I've got a dog as thin as a rail,
He's got fleas all over his tail;
Every time his tail goes flop,
The fleas at the bottom all jump to the top!

I can't tell you whether I came up with it myself or just copied it, but there's a dodgy drawing of a fat (not thin), out of proportion, dog with fleas jumping around the tail!

Yesterday was the Constant Effort Site ringing at Priory Country Park. Overall numbers seem to be picking up & are certainly better than last year. A new Green Woodpecker (my favourite) was a welcome addition and the oddities came in the form of 2 juvenile Magpies (a species not often caught in mist nets here).

Above: A juvenile Magpie

Finally, I had a bit of a red letter day last week at SSNR (1st July) when I caught 3 Jays. It's unusual to catch Jays here (2 singles have been ringed previously) but I think it may become more common as the surrounding vegetation & young alders become more mature. They may also be taking advantage of my feeding routine. I think I'll let them, don't you?!?

Above: A juvenile Jay. The fluffyness of the underparts being the giveaway to ageing this bird.

All the other Jays now ringed here (4 others) were all adults. The ringing tally was 71 birds ringed of 12 species. This included the first juvenile Reed Bunting to be ringed on site.

Now that the sale of my dad's house is completing, and everything is moved, I am hopeful of having more time to update this blog. Sorry if you've been checking it to find no updates. It's been a long hard slog this year and I now hope to turn my efforts into happier endeavours. But without doubt, that will include more ringing!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A few wild flowers

I spend a good deal of my working life working to protect and improve grassland sites for wildflowers (amongst other taxa). They take a lot of looking after as we need to keep nutrient levels low enough for the wildflowers to thrive. We protect and enhance existing meadows by cutting & removing the grass once a year and removing scrub regrowth and we increase grassland areas by removing nutrient loving brambles and scrub.

I thought I'd share with you a few of the flowers I've seen this year:

Above: A Bee Orchid

Above: A Pyramidal Orchid (not yet fully in bloom)

Wild orchids are the signature species of many a grassland site and a site stuffed full of them is a sure sign that it is in healthy condition. The Bee Orchid is rarer than the Pyramidal Orchid on the site I took these photographs at.

Above: Common Toadflax

The Common Toadflax is a later flowering plant that, this year, benefitted from an early cut when we removed a lot of coarse grass that would have outcompeted this plant otherwise. A colony of 30+ plants this year were the first I've ever seen. They're not flowering now but if you want a tip for things to look at this time of year, this very wet weather is good for autumn fungi forays.

Moving on though, a Green Wood Ringer post would not be complete without the mention of birds and ringing. There has been nothing out of the ordinary to report of late except for two good catches of birds ringed at Priory Country Park (93 and 73) and the reaching of 1000 captures for the year at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (including the 2000th new bird for the site).

I am awaiting official reports of recoveries & controls from the Ivel Ringing Group secretary that should include a Lesser Redpoll ringed by me and controlled in Northumberland.

A weekend trip to my Dad's in October to clear out his loft left little time for ringing but a gap in the weather and an early start produced a nice bird.

Above: A grinning Bald Coot (my brother Mark) meets a young Sparrowhawk!

Enthusing other people (family, friends, the wider public) about wildlife and birds is part of what I do and I hope it makes people more appreciative of the world we live in and inspires them to take better care of it. I do my little bit by monitoring birds and taking practical action to create, protect and improve habitats. Embarrasing my little brother along the way is a rare bonus!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A lengthy round up!

Firstly, a quick note to say sorry about the incorrect formatting on my last post - I don't know what Blogger did, but it certainly wasn't written in one big block!

It's been a while since I posted some photogrpahs and accounts of my ringing activities. I have been out ringing, in between scattering my Dad's ashes, dealing with his stuff, bad weather and taking well earned rests!

Scattering my Dad's ashes went as well as could be hoped for. Everything went smoothly, it didn't rain although the clouds did look threatening! My dad would have liked the moody skies, the location, how we did it and that we were joined by a pair of Ravens, a Sparrowhawk and with near perfect timing and as I'd hoped, just after the last scattering - a Red Kite. He would have liked that too.

I also did some ringing at my dad's house. There were few birds about but I did manage to catch 20+ House Sparrows (more than I've ringed there before in total) and a new species - Chiffchaff. Elsewhere, however, the best day started thus:

Sunrise at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve, above, on 20th August 2013. The sunrise was good as I drove into the site but as I walked round the corner carrying my equipment, I had one of those moments where you just have to stop and say 'wow' and drink in the beauty of the moment.

The day continued well with 78 birds in total (retraps in brackets):

Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1)
Dunnock 4 (1)
Robin 3 (1)
Whitethroat 3 (0)
Blackcap 3 (0)
Chiffchaff 4 (1)
Willow Warbler 6 (0)
Coal Tit 1 (0)
Blue Tit 5 (13)
Great Tit 3 (20)
Chaffinch 3 (1)
Goldfinch 4 (0)

and best of all...

Above: Spotted Flycather (2nd ringing record for the site, previous being in 2011). A juvenile, presumably on migration or a local roaming around.

A session previous to this, on 10th August, again at Sandy Smith NR, exactly 100 birds were caught of 14 species:

Wren 4 (1)
Dunnock 3 (2)
Robin 1 (1)
Reed Warbler 1 (0) - 2nd this year and only the third ringed for the site
Whitethroat 8 (1)
Blackcap 3 (1)
Chiffchaff 9 (0)
Willow Warbler 2 (0)
Long Tailed Tit 3 (1)
Marsh Tit 1 (0) - only 3rd ringed for the site
Blue Tit 8 (8)
Great Tit 7 (29)
Treecreeper 1 (0)
Chaffinch 4 (1) - there are a LOT of juv chaffinches this year!

Above: Marsh Tit

It's been an interesting year so far at SSNR. New for year totals of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper and Chaffinch are all higher than in previous years (operating since 2010) whilst Redwing and Jay have been added to the ringing list this year.

Last year, I set myself a goal of reaching 1000 captures at SSNR for the year (and just made it). This year, I have been keeping tabs on my progress and (adding yesterdays total of 41) I have reached 870 captures (of 30 species), putting me ahead of schedule in comparison to the previous two years.

Breaking this down into effort, I reckon I've had 1 or 2 more nets up and they've been up for longer rather than making more visits. I've also got wiser about the catching some species, but then some species are more abundant this year and some are less so. So, a bit of swings and roundabouts then!

Before reaching 1000 for this year though, I think the next milestone will be the 2000th new bird ringed as 39 more new birds are needed for this.

A quick mention for Priory Country Park - with the help of other members of the Ivel Ringing Group & visitors, we completed all 12 visits of the Constant Effort Survey. I haven't studied the results in any depth but I can tell you that overall, this is one of the worst recorded years since it started in 1992. I will put something up soon about this on the Ivel Ringing Group Blog.

Lastly, I can now share a photograph with you from a ringing session on 7th July, 2013. 

Above: A Juvenile Jackdaw

This is the second Jackdaw (both juveniles) ringed at SSNR following one last year (when I didn't have my camera with me). This was caught on the day my dad passed away. A day which, apart from the obvious, was a perfectly nice and enjoyable day.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

More recoveries and a surprise in the nets!

News of other recoveries have now reached me and are as follows: LESSER REDPOLL, ringed Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (Bedfordshire) 24/11/12, controlled Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire 05/05/13. 275 km, 162 days, NNW direction. SISKIN, ringed Sandy Smith Nature Reserve 08/12/12, controlled Callander, Stirling 530 km, 154 days, NNW direction. REED BUNTING, ringed Sandy Smith Nature Reserve 26/05/12, field observation Southill, (Bedfordshire) 12/04/13. 6 km, 321 days, NE direction. A ringing session on Tuesday of this week in my normal ringing area at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve produced a surprise Spotted Flycatcher! When my photograph downloading capability has been restored, I will share a photograph with you. It was a lovely day, starting with a spectacular sunrise (also photographed), a flyover Red Kite and included ringing a number of willow warblers (always nice) and Chiffchaffs as welll as a Coal Tit and several Goldfinches. A total of 78 birds. A days ringing at Priory Country Park on Monday produced just 23 birds on the Constant Effort Survey but did include the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year and a juvenile Woodpigeon! Also of note (but a sad occasion), I found a dead mole near the ringing area. I took a few photographs. I didn't realise they had such big teeth! CES totals have been in the 20's for the latter half of the season (apart from one exceptional total of 51) and this year is going to go down as one of the worst in 20 + years. Just one more visit is needed to complete the full collection of 12 visits. More information about CES visit totals can be found here (or just click on the Constant Effort Survey link at the top of the page).

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Latest news

I'll start with the best bit of news:

The original ringing details for the Siskin I caught in December last year (see here for original blog post) with a Bruxelles ring on it have come through.

It was ringed in Wibrin, Luxembourg, Belgium on 24th February 2012 as an adult female (Euring code 6) and was recaptured by me 288 days later (on 08/08/12) at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve. A movement of 474km in a WNW direction.

I'm pleased with that one.

I always like to attach a few photographs but because of more 'technical issues' I can't share them at the moment. So that has stopped me sharing my other ringing news with you. A quick review of the highlights are:

52 birds caught on CES visit 8 at Priory Country Park - an excellent total in a good year let alone in an average/poor year. 26 birds on CES visit 9 was more expected, but did include a juvenile Green Woodpecker.

At Sandy Smith Nature Reserve my last 4 or 5 catches have all been over 50 (with one of 86). Lots of juveniles have been caught including good numbers of Great Tit, Blue Tit and Chaffinch. Juvenile Willow Warblers have been caught as well as a couple of Chiffchaffs. Juvenile Blackcaps have been caught but not in good numbers. Whitethroats have also produced a few juveniles - more than last year, but still numbers are low. A juvenile Jackdaw was a highlight.

One remarkable achievement - including juveniles and adults, I have now ringed/recaptured 16 different Great Spotted Woodpeckers this year! The multiple recapture data is helping construct a good picture of what is happening locally with this species.

I'll restore the picture feed, hopefully, and will have further news soon. Ta ta for now.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A tribute

David Keith Green

25/02/1947 to 07/07/2013

My dad is pictured here outside his house in the Cotswolds with a Goldfinch I had just ringed. He was always feeding the birds at his house and very much enjoyed watching them. He was particularly interested in the comings and goings (mostly the latter) of the Goldfinches.

He died of a heart attack 2 weeks ago today. His funeral was on Wednesday 17th July 2013 at Cheltenham Crematorium where I gave this tribute to him:

Some of you will recognise this tie [I am wearing] - Dad knitted it himself to show the colours of the Spanish flag and he had no hesitation in wearing it at school. Knowledge, learning and languages were some of his passions and he certainly did his best to pass them on.

When we were kids, he would always speak in Spanish and by the age of 7, I was translating into English for my mum. I also remember at around the same age, marking Spanish Exam papers with him. I guess he was proud that his young son knew more Spanish than teenagers who were supposedly studying the language! The teacher in him was never far from the surface.

He taught me whilst at [Cheltenham] Bournside [School & Sixth Form Centre] so I also got to see his classroom techniques that included looking at his watch and asking people what the weather was like in French or Spanish. For the next person, he'd look out the window and ask them what the time was!

Since he retired, he was learning to relax and enjoy life more and actually spending some of the money he'd fought tooth and nail to hold onto! At every opportunity, he'd go on holiday abroad and I went with him to Menorca twice, Spain and Sardinia twice. I'd drag him around the bird watching sites and he'd drag me around the cultural sites. They'd always involve a lot of walking which we both enjoyed and we walked a lot of miles and we both managed to get a lot of mileage out of sharing our experiences with others.

He was well known to most, if not all of you for his money saving exploits. There are too many stories under this subject to decide what to tell you about. I will share a unique moment I shared with him whilst on holiday in Sardinia this year. We were at a restaurant and he was trying to make up his mind as to whether he wanted a glass of wine or not with his meal. I couldn't believe my ears when he actually used the words (and forgive my language here) "bugger the cost!"

I got my phone out and texted the news to my brother - warning him first to sit down before reading further. The reply from Mark came back to say that he was [lying down at the time] currently watching Dr Who, so anything in time and space was possible!

Back in this country, he would call every Sunday to hear my news and to share his. He would regularly mention many people who are sat here in front of me today; people who he cared about and called his friends. I think that sharing life is what brings us closer together.

I shall miss those phone calls, the walks and the holidays, the visits to his house, the sharing of news and much more. But most of all Dad, I'll miss you.

Mark (left) and myself after the funeral wearing the ties our Dad knitted.