• View From the Shed by Volunteer Shaun - HOW DOES THE COUNT COUNT?

    HOW DOES THE COUNT COUNT?

    Do you remember the Muppets? Of course you do, they’ve been on our screens for over 50 years. What about Sesame Street? My favourite character wasn’t Kermit or Big Bird or any of the other ‘star’ names. I loved Count von Count, the purple Muppet vampire and, with his great love of numbers, I’m sure he’d like this week’s blog. It starts off a little dry (as many reports of numbers do) but by the…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - LITTLE STARS

    LITTLE STARS

    My sister and I have had quite a few full and frank discussions over the years, as brothers and sisters have been in the habit of doing since time began. One of our most memorable contretemps was when she asked me if I liked her new dress. Who knew that she didn’t want an honest answer? Certainly not a twelve year-old me.

    Whilst by no means as obsessed with birdlife as myself, she does appreciate a…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - DON'T BORE US

    DON’T BORE US

    If you’re of a certain age (like me) you might remember a popular Swedish pop/rock duo by the name of Roxette. They performed catchy tunes such as ‘Joyride’, ‘The Look’ and ‘Dressed For Success’. These all had catchy melodies and were incredibly easy to sing-along with. Fittingly, when it came to releasing a greatest hits album they named it, ‘Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus!’ and it sold by the shedload…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - A BIRD OF GOOD TASTE

    A BIRD OF GOOD TASTE

    …and still it keeps raining. It’s been wetter than a submarine’s number plate here in the Dearne Valley for months. I’m sure that it’s been the same wherever you live. Those nice people at the Met Office tell me that the last eighteen months have been officially the wettest since records began, and I can believe it. 

    This week I was working at Old Moor when yet another…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - IT'S POO-POO TIME!

    IT’S POO-POO TIME!

    This week’s blog is dedicated to inquisitive children of all ages. It covers a series of questions that we’ve all probably asked ourselves at some time or other (and if not, why not?) and it’s a recognised stage of childhood development which some of us never fully grow out of. I’ve never been one to shy away from the baser aspects of life so let’s get on with it.…

  • View From the Shed by Volunteer Shaun - A MOMENTARY PAUSE

    A MOMENTARY PAUSE

    “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”

    So wrote the Welsh poet William Henry Davies, an ardent admirer of nature and the outdoors life, in his classic work, ‘Leisure’. Its basic theme is that the usual hectic business of our lives means that we suffer from an inability to enjoy the simple things around us. I’d urge you to read it in full as it’s as relevant…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - WHO KNOWS THE NOSE?

    WHO KNOWS THE NOSE?

    In last week’s VIEW FROM THE SHED I looked at evolution and how there’s usually a cause for the changes that improve a bird's chances of survival, however large or small. Yet there was a bit I missed out (I did say that I’d simplified it somewhat) and one reader left a great comment which, to me, summed it up perfectly. They said, “Evolution as a process has no idea of purpose. Changes are made…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - NEEDS MUST

    NEEDS MUST

    You may have heard me tell my Chiffchaff evolution story before. If not, it goes something like this…

    Mr and Mrs Chiffchaff have had a lovely Summer in the Dearne Valley but they notice that the weather is turning colder as Autumn kicks in. “Let’s head off to Asia or Africa where the Winters are warmer, as our ancestors have done for centuries”, says Mr C. His beloved female has a better idea though…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - IT WAS DEFINITELY NOT ALL FIELDS ROUND HERE

    IT WAS DEFINITELY NOT ALL FIELDS ‘ROUND HERE

    Nature reserves tend to fall into two distinct categories. Firstly there are the ones that are all about preservation - they try to maintain the natural health of a particular landscape and habitat that has been in place since time immemorial and, without which, certain species might not survive. A few examples that immediately spring to mind are ancient woodland, salt…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!

    DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!

    If you’re as old as me you might remember an old TV advertisement for bread. I can’t remember the brand that commissioned it but I do remember the advert, which must say something about the effectiveness of that particular campaign. It featured some young mothers and their children feeding ducks at their local pond. They were throwing bread to the ducks which we now know as bad for their digestion. I…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - MEET THE FLOCKERS

    MEET THE FLOCKERS

    “Birds of a feather flock together.”  

    We all know that saying, don’t we? It means, ‘all creatures like to congregate with those of their own kind’. Lots of birds and animals naturally gather together for breeding and companionship. That goes for people too. I’ll actively gravitate towards other bird watchers, guitarists or writers while studiously avoiding folks whose passions and pastimes…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS

    MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS

    I have a notoriously bad memory. Directions are especially difficult for me. I’ve travelled to many of Yorkshire’s nature reserves since I worra lad yet I still find myself unsure as to how to get to most of them. I rely on my SatNav for even the simplest journeys. Or I rely on my wife. She can find her way to places on other continents that she’s only ever glimpsed briefly on a hand-sketched…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - PRETTY GREEN

    PRETTY GREEN

    Depending on your age and musical preference, you might know this week’s title as either a song by The Jam or a clothing brand originated by Liam Gallagher (though it’s now been purchased outright by J. D. Sports). You might not be aware of either, and that’s fine too. It’s irrelevant really. A title is required and I only used this one because I like to make mention of music or films as a bit of fun for…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - WETTER THAN AN OTTER'S POCKET

    WETTER THAN AN OTTER’S POCKET

    Winter 2023/24 hasn’t been a winter. It’s been one extended autumn and a very soggy one at that.

    It’s been so wet here at RSPB Old Moor’s aptly named wetlands that I swear I saw a Coot with a case of trench foot. Our birdwatching reports now include observations like "Eurasian Wigeon attempting synchronised swimming routine" and "Common Starlings forming a water ballet troupe…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - GREEN FOR GO

    GREEN FOR GO

    The more observant visitor to RSPB Old Moor will have noticed that I’ve been absent from my usual post at the Welcome Shed for the last few months. I’d love to say that I’ve been on a round-the-world cruise, searching for exotic new birds to add to my life list in far-flung, sunkissed locations. I’d love to, but I can’t. The sad truth is that I’ve been on carer duties, looking after my wife. She was seriously…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

    IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

    Hello again, it’s Volunteer Shaun here. You might remember me as the big bloke with the big hat who works as an RSPB Welcome volunteer at the Old Moor reserve in South Yorkshire’s beautiful Dearne Valley. You might also remember that towards the end of last year I put my View From The Shed blogs on indefinite hiatus. This was due to several issues but I’m very pleased to report that all is…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - END OF THE ROAD

    END OF THE ROAD

    One of my favourite bands, KISS, is finally retiring. After 50 years of touring, they're calling it quits. They've named their final live dates 'The End of the Road Tour'.

    Dear reader, I'm not quite as old as those guys in the face paint but I too am calling time on my work. This week's blog will be the last, although, much like KISS after their numerous previous retirements, I wou…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - THAT'S NOT MY CHAFFINCH!

    THAT'S NOT MY CHAFFINCH!

    Autumn is my favourite time of the year. Not only have we got rid of the stifling heat which makes it uncomfortable for all of us big blokes during peak summer sweaty season, but we also see much more variation in the colours of the trees around us. Their summer costume of uniform green has been replaced by reds, browns and yellows yet with still a bit of green to add variety to the view. And…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY

    ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY

    Many of you will recognise today's title as the opening line of that most Halloweeny of classic poems, THE RAVEN by Edgar Allan Poe. If you haven't read it yet, it's readily available online. Get comfortable and treat yourself. It's not an easy read – don't skim it – and it's not for everyone but if you "get it", if you have access to that darkness in your soul at which it probes and tickles…

  • View From The Shed by Volunteer Shaun - LAUGH, I NEARLY DID

    LAUGH? I NEARLY DID

    The world can be a pretty tough place to live in at the moment, even for us humans. Wars, political unrest and the decimation of the natural world dominate our news feeds and so many aspects of our everyday lives, it can all too easily get us down. These things are all important and it's right that we're aware of them, but sometimes we just need to lighten the mood with a little fun and frivolity …

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - HOW DOES IT FEEL

    HOW DOES IT FEEL

    How has your week been? Good, I hope. Healthy, at least. If not, then you have my sympathy and my best wishes for the future.

    That's what we do, isn't it? We wish each other well. We hope that good things happen to people we like. We feel sad when things don't work out as we'd hoped for our loved ones and might even put our own lives on hold to help others who are in need. Sympathy. Empathy. Altruism…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - THE MORSE CODE BIRD

    THE MORSE CODE BIRD

    You know how pedantic I am about getting the right word for the right occasion. 'It's and its', for example, or 'their, there and they're', to name just two of the obvious ones. Well, here I go again, using big words when a normal one would suffice. But it's important to keep the language going, to make use of the words that would otherwise become extinct. Use it or lose it. So...…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - IT'S A NUMBERS GAME

    IT'S A NUMBERS GAME

    I've written several times in these blogs about the wonderful Kingfishers that can be seen here at RSPB Old Moor. One of my earliest pieces was about why it's called the Halcyon Bird, I've written about how their feathers aren't really blue (honestly) and I will maintain until my final breath that, whatever else may happen, it's always a good day when you see a Kingfisher.

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - IT'S NOT THERE

    IT'S NOT THERE

    I've recently been listening to an excellent podcast about an expedition to the Himalayas in search of the fabled Yeti, the Abominable Snowman. It's a great series but I don't think that I need a spoiler alert when I say that they don't come back with indisputable film, pelts or even a tame Yeti on a lead at the end of it. After all, that kind of thing would have been all over the media, don't you think…

  • View From The Shed by Shaun Finnie - LOCAL HEROES

    LOCAL HEROES

    Do not believe everything you read on the internet. I'm generally suspicious of any 'facts' I find on the 'net and I particularly always check online 'quotes' that are attributed to famous people. Case in point; I saw a meme this week quoting Benjamin Franklin as saying “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

    As usual, I dug deep into this attribution and found…