Saturday 27 April 2013

Crows and Things

Pairs of Carrion Crows continue to plague the reserve at the moment and all the time that they do, few of the  marshland breeding birds stand much chance of being successful.
One day last week another ex-vol. warden and myself sat in the Seawall Hide watching a Lapwing sitting on eggs in a nest on top of the bund around The Flood field. Several yards away from the Lapwing a Carrion Crow also sat on top of the bund, it wasn't hard to work out what was likely to happen. Two days later, having not seen the Lapwing at the nest both days, I investigated and lo, no eggs - another Lapwing nest failure that the lessening local population could ill afford. A few weeks ago, I posted a photograph of a Coot's nest and eggs, that too was robbed of all it's eggs soon after. At the moment it has a second nest within feet of the last but with crows using the nearby barn roof as an observation post, I don't hold out much  hope for it being successful.
For the last three years the number of breeding pairs of Lapwings on the reserve has been reducing each year, with the successful fledging of chicks seeing an even more dramatic fall, so these lovely birds badly need any help they can get. Legal trapping of corvids is one vital and now necessary way of reducing the threat from the crows, a method used far more widely on reserves than some people might like to accept. The above poster on the reserve spells out the alternatives quite simply - a crow stealing eggs or a successful brood of chicks - You Choose!
What I still find hard to accept, is that there are still many dedicated birdwatchers out there that continue to campaign against the culling of crows, in other words, they choose the first option! People who with one hand would enthusiastically campaign against houses being built on vital bird nesting habitat such as Lodge Hill, will with the other hand also campaign to allow pest species to still systematically reduce threatened species even further. The two don't go together, there's no point saving the habitat if you then turn a blind eye and deaf ear to what is killing the birds, simply blaming everything on farming methods is not the whole answer.

Spring migrants are arriving on the reserve, helped by the recent warm and sunny weather, but as is usual most Springs, it's only at a trickle, we never get the rush and great variety that the likes of Reculver get. Wheatears have been a classic example, despite visiting the reserve six days a week, I have only seen four in three weeks and most other species have been the same, we still only 3-4 singing Sedge Warblers, although I did have 12 Swifts one morning.
One promising sign however, has been the regular sighting of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies this week, dare we hope for a much needed recovery, we will have to wait a few months for signs of that.

Along the Harty Road, a couple of large fields were unable to be sown with winter corn last autumn due to the wet weather. Several weeks ago they were instead sown with what appears to be spring corn, which is now growing quite well, due no doubt, as has the winter corn also, copious amounts of nitrogenous fertilizer being applied. It's many a long year since I've seen spring corn sown and it will be interesting to see how far behind, if any, the spring version is at harvest time.

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