Saturday, 3 July 2010

Hope Goes Up in Flames?

A delay in posting yesterday's news, in fact I would rather not post about it at all, but what happened, happened. I arrived to open the Tern hide and it was plain that the dead hedge beside the hide had been pulled apart. Entering the hide it had been obvious we had received unwanted visitors in the night. Just to the west of the hide on the shore there was a fire with cans and broken glass. The immediate thought was that if there had been people on the shore, the Little Ringed Plovers, so recently sitting on eggs just near the eastern end of the hide, would have left their nest. In fact both sitting birds visible from the hide were still there, although the nearest must have been disturbed from the nest while the people were there, the nest is not 15m away. There is a small chance the eggs will survive, the female had only started sitting hard the day before, so perhaps the eggs were not "set", only time will tell. I cannot go an clear up the mess because the birds are still sitting and so I would disturb them, so we have to look out at it for some time yet.

Information received, as they say, suggest some seven persons were involved and I have established where the cars were parked. The disturbance of a Little Ringed Plover at a nest is a criminal offence as there are "schedule 1 species" given special legal protection. However I don't expect we will ever bring anyone to book.We often think of predators as a risk to these birds but people are still one of the greatest direct risks. Indirectly, of course, we have completely modified just about every habitat in Britain thereby radically influencing the range of survival opportunities available. This includes the creation of the gravel pits, upon which Little Ringed Plovers depend.
In general Blashford has been a story of gains in opportunities, but there have been and will be set backs. When access is encouraged and it has been at the heart of the project from the start, it has to be expected that some of the access will be abusive. Still the plovers have not given up despite losing their brood and there is a lesson for us there, we will carry on and try to improve the chances for wildlife on the reserve and the opportunities for people to get close. The challenge is to do this without increasing the risks unacceptably and this evidently needs more work.
On a more positive note, another warm night produced a good range of moths in the trap, including a Kent Black Arches, I think new for the reserve (but I have not looked it up yet). Perhaps not the most accurately named moth as it does not have black arches nor is it in Kent, but it is related to the "Black Arches" moths and is presumably a moth of Kent. I particularly liked the small tufts of scales sticking up form the wings, these would indicate that it is a freshly emerged moth, as they are prone to wearing off with age.
There was also a Burnished Brass, or perhaps one of the "Burnished Brasses" as there is now a suggestion that there might be two or even three species lurking under this one name. Whichever it might be they are very smart moths and common as the caterpillars feed on nettles, although a common food plant does not always mean a common moth.
Another species that was new for the year was Beautiful Golden Y, again a very fresh individual.
For really good news on the breeding bird front we need go no further than the Common Terns, more young are flying every day now and I would expect there to be some twenty flying by the end of the weekend. So far we have had no repeat of the last two years incursions by canoes which have cost us several young each year, when they have jumped from the rafts and paddled away in panic.
Lastly a sign of approaching autumn, there were at least 3 Common Sandpiper about, a real indication that the southward wader passage is underway.

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