Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stop DEFRA's Plans To Control Buzzards

A Common Buzzard in Scotland.
A Common Buzzard in Scotland. 
Like many I am "outraged of Sussex" at DEFRA's recent announcement to use taxpayers money (that's yours and mine) to control buzzards predation of what is laughingly called a 'sport'.  Not only is the buzzard, like many wild birds, a protected species but it's native to this country, unlike the pheasant which was introduced as a gamebird.

Buzzards take a mere fraction of the 40 million gamebirds released into the countryside each year and the reasons why they should be controlled are shaky to say the least.  We're not talking about protecting pheasants, this is about a commercial enterprise out simply to make money.

There is absolutely no way that any measures should be taken against a natural, wild predator who is allegedly (as yet, unproven) killing captive.y reared birds.  Birds bred purely for sport, for commercial purposes, intensively reared, released and then slaughtered in large numbers.  Especially when - as quite clearly stated in the DEFRA project proposal - the effect of predation is 'unclear' and statements like "It is claimed that the shoots have suffered significant losses from buzzard predation ..." don't exactly give a definitive case for the buzzards being the cause of loss.  (Many other natural predators are also frequently killed by gamekeepers, whose only interested is to keep the birds until they're ready for the guns.)

In fact over 3 million pheasant poults are killed on the road, so shouldn't the game keepers be seeking to ban motor vehicles which account for the loss of far more birds!  Or perhaps if these birds weren't so intensively reared, they wouldn't make such easy pickings for natural, wild predators.

You always know when it's coming up to the shooting season, as large numbers of bemused young birds are released, only to end up victims of Roadkill Alley, as I've named one particular stretch of road which is littered with bodies and piles of feathers.  How anyone can call this 'sport' - it's more like shooting fish in a barrel.

I would hope there are rather more people who would prefer to see a wild bird soaring in our skies than the few who get their pleasure from shooting a reared bird, intensively bred, simply for the purpose of being blasted out of the skies within a few short weeks of being hatched.

If you want to stop this totally ludicrous state of affairs then write to your local MP and ask them to forward it to Richard Benyon the MP responsible for this decision.

You may like to highlight;
- Predation by buzzards is a relatively small cause of loss of pheasants
- Buzzards are a native and recovering species, while pheasants are a non-native gamebird
- The good that £400,000 could do for species of highest conservation concern, such as the hen harrier.

If they get the OK on buzzards - what species will be next?
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bluebells in Dover Wood

A lovely place to view the bluebells in the Spring and a walk around Dover Wood near Worthing.

Wafts of their scent every now and then when the breeze was in the right direction.  Plenty of warblers in the tree tops and occasional calls from spotted woodpeckers.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Masses Of Martins, Swarms Of Swallows

It didn't start out as the most promising of days - a persistent greyness and dampness to the day with scattered showers forecast.  Wrapped up warm against the cold - over at Pulborough today, not only to drop off my faulty camera but to see what migrants might have blown in.

There were several groups of Wildlife Explorers around on the reserve for a sponsored birdwatch.  Noisy but enthusiastic, although I hope it's not starting a nation of twitchers.

There were plenty of birds for them to see - both in numbers of species and physical numbers.  With the fields as flooded as they are there were several local 'rarities' - diving ducks such as the tufted ducks, a pair of great crested grebe and even a solitary pochard.

The nightingales were singing really well and although some people got good views of them, I only managed a fleeting glimpse of one on the ground.  I also tracked down singing nightingales for a lady and her Dad, who'd never heard them.  Tip for listening to nightingales - stay where you are when you're in the right place and they'll start singing again (particularly at this time of year).  Every time I moved they'd start up singing where I'd just been!

Rufous-chested Swallow
Rufous-chested Swallow (Photo credit: dermoidhome)
A really amazing sight was the hundreds and hundreds of house-martins and swallows flying over every available surface of water and up above the hedges and treetops.  I don't think I've ever seen so many.

In amongst them were groups of sand-martins and several swift.  I also spotted a very russet/red swallow sitting on the fence with the other swallows.  Most definitely different from the others and a Levant/Egyptian variation - probably got caught up with the others on their northwards migration and now wondering what the heck it's doing in this cold, wet climate!

Another fleeting glimpse was a hobby flashing past below the Hanger.

I also spotted a Comic (Common or Arctic) Tern - that was a new one on me but now I know.  It certainly helps going out with someone who knows their birds, particularly the subtle differences between similar species.

I notched a very respectable 58 species - which is possibly a record for me at Pulborough and there were a few of the obvious ones I missed, as well as three unidentified waders and a fleeting flash of a hobby, which I didn't log as I didn't get a good sighting of it.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Garden Rarity

A singing bird in scrub. Image taken near Culr...
A singing bird in scrub.
It's not every day that I get a rare visitor to my garden.  After all, my little patch of greenery is pretty much surrounded by houses, although it does have a clear run through to the small, local park a hundred yards away (although not planted up with much in the way of native species).  It's a few hundred yards away from farmland and the local common land (Telscombe Tye), part of the South Downs National Park.

However, every now and then a 'rarity' does turn up.  Today it was a whitethroat.  Now I can't recall ever having seen one of these in the garden but when it returned later the same afternoon it was even more of a pleasant surprise.  Distracting me from work for several minutes as it hopped about in the bushes and sat preening on a twig.

They're not that rare locally, they're found up on the Tye and I spotted my first Summer arrival there yesterday.  It may have just stopped off for refuelling before moving on.

 Image taken near Culross, Fife, Scotland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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