Sunday, 9 May 2010

Careless Swans and Ill Thought Action

On Friday evening there were five cygnets with the Mute Swan pair on the Ivy Lake silt pond, by Saturday morning they were down to only three. The picture shows them on the path next to the Ivy South hide and I suspect this habit of sitting out on the path may have been their downfall as they can be easily surprised by a predator such as a fox. The defense of the cygnets is not helped by the cob spending a lot of time away on the main lake chasing Canada Geese.
In general Saturday was pretty dismal and birds were few, the only sign of passage was a single Bar-tailed Godwit on the western shore of Ibsley Water and even this might have been the same bird recorded last week. There was also a Common Sandpiper and a drake Pochard. The poor weather did produce a great display of aerial feeders, about 350 Swallows and a mix of martins and at times 300+ Swifts.

Scare of the day was caused by someone walking out onto the shingle in front of the Tern hide, I had just got to the Lapwing hide at the time and had to run all the way there whilst trying to contact the police on an iffy mobile connection. The concern is that this area has nesting Little Ringed Plovers and these are specially protected birds, it is an offense to disturb them when they are nesting added to which they are still a potential target for egg collectors - yes there are still some out there! It turned out that he had gone out because he was worried about an injured Lesser Black-backed Gull. He did not retrieve the gull so this was not helped in any way and would have put any eggs of plovers at risk of both being trod on by him or chilling, as it was raining at the time.

What it does highlight is that even the most well meaning and moderately informed, he was a birder, can put birds at risk. He was not meaning any harm but this would not have reduced the effect of what was done. Over the last four years I know we have lost several nests of Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and Common Tern chicks from the reserve and other nearby lakes as a result of non-malicious action by people intent on doing one thing without considering the unintended consequences of their actions. With long-lived species that rarely produce young a slight increase in nest failure can make a large difference over time to population size. We are seeing this most obviously with the populations of our coastal waders and terns, now so squeezed to few sites that they are very vulnerable to casual losses and all are in big trouble. It seems not unlikely that Little Terns will disappear from the south coast within a few decades and species such as Ringed Plover, Redshank and Oystercatcher are under great threat.

Let's hope the weather starts to warm up next week, I have had enough of this reprise of winter.

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