Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Small Steps in the Wreckage

A proper winter day, frost, a clear sky and no wind, the kind of day that cannot fail to make you glad to be out and about. The lack of wind made it a good day for bird ringing, which was fortunate as they ringers were in this morning. The main target birds to catch are finches, we know these travel a good distance and as they are quiet often caught there is scope for getting what are called controls, that is repeat catching of the same bird at a different location. Several finch species have also been suffering increased mortality for a variety of reasons in recent years and ringing offers a way to study this. The main birds caught today were siskin, with a few brambling, chaffinch and lesser redpoll. Every bird is ringed, but also aged, sexed measured and weighed. Even if the bird is never seen again this information tells something of the age structure of the population and the condition of the birds. The two picture below show two siskin in the hand, the first a male.
and then a female.
The most interesting bird was a lesser redpoll that had already been ringed, what is more not at Blashford so it was a control, it will be interesting to see where it has come from and how long ago it was ringed.
When I opened up the Ivy North hide I once again saw the bittern, I had thought it might stand out against the heavy white frost on the vegetation, it did but not as much as I had expected as it's back was quite heavily frosted. This is testament to the amazing insulating properties of the feathers, a bird maintains a higher body temperature than we do and yet a frost could form on the back feathers, quite remarkable.
I spent much of the day burning up rhododendron, I do not often have fires, in fact I almost never have them, most cut trees etc are just too useful to waste in this way and burning sterilises the ground and results in nutrient rich patches that tend to grow nettles and little else.
One of the ringers mentioned the Avon Diary website this morning, it is based around Somerley Estate and although with fishing as it's main focus, interesting in itself as it gives a different perspective, it also has a lot about wildlife and bird sightings. A recent post has a good bit to say about alien species, something I had covered here on occasion. They are a huge problem in the valley as almost the world over and man made habitats often encourage them, a lot are very good colonists so disturbed habitats are often full of aliens. Of course some arrive by accident, but most were originally brought here deliberately even if they "escaped" thereafter. The rhododendron I was clearing today was planted, probably as ornamental game cover, during the early years of the last century as it was on estates all over the country.
The various plants were all imported and sold by the horticultural trade and later thrown out when they outgrew their space. Canada and greylag geese were released for shooting but managed to avoid the guns, Egyptian geese escaped ornamental collections, American mink were set free in protest. American signal crayfish were released for profit, but not retrievable when the business proved uneconomic and lots of fish species were introduced officially and less so, for sport and profit. One thing that is sure is that those responsible for introductions or who profited by the importations tend to absent themselves when the problems arise.
We are now dealing with an environment that has been treated with reckless carelessness for generations and the costs are now becoming increasingly clear. We cannot turn back the clock, but we can surely learn some lessons and where possible push against the tide, that is why I was burning up rhododendron today and will probably be doing so tomorrow, a small step, but in the right direction.


  1. Dear Bob,

    You have only given a small part of what has been written on The Avon Diary Report on Alien Species - please see for full details under the entry for 15th January.
    The alien species include birds attracted to the lakes eg cormorants,goosanders canada geese and grey lag geese.
    Clearly we would not have had this problem if the landowners had not sold the land or mineral rights so readily to the gravel companies.Also,cormorants have been attracted inland partly due to fish farms and the stocking of many lakes with fish(often without permission).
    I see there also complaints about tern rafts,gull island and shingle banks.

    People should be aware that extensive tree work is underway by the river Avon on the Somerley Estate between Ellingham and Ibsley Bridge.Many trees will be pollarded or removed below Ibsley Weir where we are allowed to walk on the Avon Valley Path.


  2. Avon diary is quite interesting,thanks for the pointer. Very helpful to see local issues from another viewpoint.
    It's strange that I can't find any indication of who is writing the diary and with what authority.

  3. "Clearly we would not have had this problem if the landowners had not sold the land or mineral rights so readily to the gravel companies" so writes a recent poster.

    This NIMBY attitude deprives the nation of much needed aggregates
    for building and road works, which he benefits from.

    Many of us are now additionally enjoying the benefits of a wonderful wildlife reserve thanks
    to the far sdightedness of Wildlife trusts, and further more leaving a rich legacy for our children.

  4. Thank you for your comments Peregrine.
    Hopefully in future we will not rely so much on minerals taken out of the ground or sea and instead use recycled materials.
    I do not class myself as a NIMBY as I supported the gravel application at the end of my garden.I must point out that as far as I can recall,we were never given a chance to comment on plans for mining at the former Ibsley Airfied site,as permission was granted by Central Government.
    People seem to overlook the loss of native wildlife when praising the birds attracted to these flooded pits.We used to have sky larks,nightingales,partridges,hares,even a corncrake where there are now lakes.We have lost several farms to mining and there is now a shortfall in backup grazing for commoners.The geese are grazing and polluting local meadows and some cattle have contacted avian tb,passed on to them by the geese,according to the vet.
    The cormorants and goosanders are known to be taking fish from the Avon and ponds in the New Forest.
    The lakes have changed are micro climate in that it feels colder and seems more humid.
    The bunds around the lakes have increased the flooding problems in the Parish,as the valley floor is flat and the large volumes of water coming from the New Forest no longer have free access to the flood plain.
    Deer and rabbits are now are a major issue,as they have invaded our gardens due to the loss of land and poor fencing around the flooded pits.
    We may have permissive paths at the lakes but we need paths and cycle ways so that local residents can have safe access to schools,shops,work,church and the New Forest.We were promised a path between Ibsley Water and Mockbeggar Lake under the review of planning permissions at Hanson,Ibsley Quarry in February 2003 but it has still not been completed and even when it is,it may well be only open in summer months.
    I note your remarks about leaving a rich legacy for our children but I hope that there is enough land left to provide them with food.