Holme Bird Observatory – a Year

OUR VERDICT: It is apparent that a good deal of thought and planning went into the production of this DVD and the end result is very pleasing.

Holme Bird Observatory, currently the only official British bird observatory in Norfolk, celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2012 by releasing this DVD. Subtitled Twelve Months in the Life of a British Bird Observatory, it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is apparent that a good deal of thought and planning went into its production and the end result is very pleasing.

Founded in September 1962 by Peter Clarke and Graham Byford, two of Richard Richardson’s ‘Stalwarts’, the ‘obs’ was at least some compensation after the closure of Cley Bird Observatory the following year. Holme took over the daily recording of visible migration along the north Norfolk coast, a function that continues to this day. But bird recording is only part of the daily life at the site, as this DVD clearly shows.

The year at Holme is played out in 31 scenes divided into four sections, covering a wide diversity of topics such as bird ringing, moth recording, the study of visible migration and, in more recent years, the systematic recording of birds passing offshore.

One of the most important functions of a bird observatory is the trapping and ringing of migrant birds, and many species are shown being processed in the hand by the current warden, Sophie Barker. Her commentary while examining the birds provides an excellent introduction to aspects of bird ringing such as ageing and sexing, the recording of biometrics and moult timing.

As would be expected, still photographs of many of the rarer migrants are included, such as the famous – or perhaps infamous – Rose-breasted Grosbeak ringed in May 2006, but disappointingly there are no video recordings of any of the rarities.

For those with a more general interest in wildlife, images of moths, butterflies, dragonflies and flowers are also included, as are recordings of the various habitats and general birdlife around the observatory area. For me, some of the best and most atmospheric footage was that taken during a mid-winter snow storm and featuring skeins of Pink-footed Geese landing in the surrounding fields. Finally, Julia Hess does a fine job with the commentary.

Holme Bird Observatory – a Year narrated by Julia Hess (Norfolk Ornithologists’ Association, Norfolk, 2012).
• 73 minutes running time.
• £14.99. Order from www.noa.org.uk.