Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Stuff of Life and Death (and Ducklings)

I opened up the Tern hide to be greeted by a very chilly north wind blowing straight into the hide. The lake was swarming with Swallows, perhaps 400 or more and about 100 House Martins with 300 or more Swifts a little higher in the sky. There was also a brood of Mallard, eight ducklings in all and pictured below. A close look will show that one of the brood, the nearest to the duck, is larger than the rest, in fact it is clearly not from this brood at all. It has got adopted, probably having got lost. Normally Mallard ducks will chase off ducklings from other broods, but there can be advantages to adding to your brood.
It has been found that for some species "stealing" ducklings is common and seems to be advantageous, although the reasons for this are not entirely obvious. The duck's own offspring might be hidden in the crowd if a predator strikes, but then a larger brood might attract more attention, so the gain is perhaps debatable.

Various warblers were in good voice as I opened up the other hides. At Ivy North a Garden Warbler was singing strongly by the entrance and a pair of Reed Warblers were carefully picking off newly hatched damselflies from the reed stems. Towards the Ivy South hide a singing Sedge Warbler was a bonus and both Blackcap and another Garden Warbler singing and showing well.

The Common Terns were seem to be taking over the rafts now, six pairs were present and the one Black-headed Gull trying to tough if out was being given a very hard time.

I was off to the main office at Beechcroft in the afternoon for a meeting about the Wader and Brent Goose project, something I tried for years to get started and that once it did I promptly left almost all contact with waders and Brent behind. In essence it is attempting to identify what are the resource these birds use at present and how to maintain the necessary mix of habitat so that they might survive into an increasingly uncertain future. It is aimed at achieving a long-term future for species at real risk and for which this part of the world is truly globally important. We have very little wildlife that is in this category but our shorebirds are firmly there and changes going on along the coast mean that they are also just about our most threatened wildlife. This is real life an death stuff, what nature conservation is all about, it is not that we cannot do something to help these species survive it is just trying to get the right actions taken in a timely fashion. If we can understand what they need and there is the will, we can do things to help these species survive.

Blashford is a great project, but it is in a different category altogether. Blashford is about making the most of a site to provide the most for wildlife and people. Any environment can be managed to enhance the potential for wildlife and this is what we have aimed for at Blashford. On the coast we are going to lose some of our most wildlife rich habitats. If we are not to be one of the last generations to see the marvel of a mass of whirling waders we will need to apply the same potential maximising approach to the coast as we have been given the chance to do at Blashford.

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