Thursday, 4 August 2011

Philately will get you everywhere!

Birdwatchers are often compared to stamp collectors, well the compulsive listers and twitchers are anyway. Why not throw on your anorak and be both birder and stamp collector.

An interest in ornithology can lead you in many directions. If anyone had asked me twelve months ago where Henderson Island was I wouldn’t have had a clue. I do know now. Henderson Island is part of the Pitcairn Group of Islands. Ok, so those of you with a good knowledge of geography will be asking yourselves why on earth I didn’t know that anyway! Henderson has the largest pristine raised coral atoll in the world and is home to a number of endemic species. Several of them threatened. The Henderson Petrel Pterodroma atreta breeds there, but is heading towards extinction. 95% of the petrel chicks are killed by rats within one week of hatching and that’s over 25,000 chicks every year. The plight of the petrel has captured the attention of the RSPB and the society has initiated the Henderson Island Restoration Project which involves the eradication of introduced rats. Those rats may be squealing as I type, as the RSPB operational vessel will be at Henderson during August and September of this year. Two helicopters will use GPS technology to methodically drop poison bait across the island. Unless you’re an appreciator of rats I’m sure you will agree that this is a good project to undertake. I visited Ailsa Craig off the coast of Scotland last year and it too had a problem with rats, although on a smaller scale. Success in getting rid of the rats has brought benefits to birds there.

Problems of biodiversity loss cannot be ignored, although I’m sure it is easy to bury heads in the sand, and I think it important to be aware of conservation around the world and not just ‘at home.’ This is the reason I sent for my First Day Cover of ‘Rare Birds of Henderson,’ I received it, and another I have for a good friend of mine just the other day inside an envelope with a rather nice Pitcairn Islands postage stamp on it. As well as the Henderson Petrel, the Henderson Crake, Fruit Dove, Reed Warbler and Lorikeet are all featured on the stamps. The Pitcairn Philatelic Bureau has agreed to donate a small amount to the RSPB for every First Day Cover Sold.

I also being looking at some of the postage stamps that feature birds, available from around the world and I’m beginning to think I ought never to have giving my boyhood stamp collecting up! I do still have a small stamp collection that was passed on to me by my elder brother when he gave the hobby up. I’ll have to have a look at it just in case I happen to own a rare postage stamp worth £1.000s!

I did find another recent first day cover featuring birds, including the Balearic Shearwater. This one is from Alderney. It caught the eye as I visited Alderney as a teenager on an Ocean Youth Club trip (I’d won a place in a Daily Mirror Competition, but that’s another story). This one should be in the post now!

As someone comments on the Birdlife International site…….. ‘What a great way to introduce youngsters to birds and conservation’. I’d only add never mind the youngsters, what about the oldies too? If you’re interested take a look at

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