Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Pigeon's Off The Menu

Today I visited Dearne Valley, Old Moor RSPB reserve in South Yorkshire for the first time. I only had an hour or so to spare on the reserve itself but did manage to see a good selection of birds while there.
The place was alive with waders and wildfowl. Among the former were green and common sandpiper, greenshank, spotted redshank, ruff, ringed plover, golden plover, dunlin and even a turnstone.
The in-residence spoonbill put in an appearance, as did a little egret and I even got to see the back of a juvenile night heron's head. This bird has been around for a few weeks now and has been frequently playing hard to get, so I was pleased to have even shoddy views of the bird during my whistle-stop tour!      

Once again I spent a good few hours trawling around the patch yesterday morning in the hope of turning up something autumnal. Unfortunately the blustery westerly winds were doing their best to make it feel like a total waste of time.
And to be honest, it just about was.
I could only find 2 green sandpiper on the Wildfowlers' Pools and none elsewhere around Aldcliffe. A few snipe were spotted here and there but otherwise it was a relatively wader-less vista. Of course the lapwing and curlew numbers continue to build up on the marsh and a handful of golden plover can be found here and there but there was no sign of anything off-passage.
There were still good numbers of phylloscs moving through and both chiffchaff and willow warblers were seen and heard all along the cycle track hedgerows.
The only thing really of note was a kingfisher that flew out from the trackside ditch near reedy corner and onto the Wildfowlers' Pools.
Up at Freeman's Pools coot numbers have started to increase notably, and wildfowl included 4 wigeon along with the expected mallard and teal.

A vehicle parked at the bottom of Aldcliffe Hall Lane (I've seen it here a number of times) had the sticker seen here proudly displayed in its rear window. Aside of the rather laughable and naff rhyme, it struck me just how misinformed and dangerous this piece of anti-raptor propaganda is. Imagine if normal people read this and actually think that there is some validity in it? No sooner have birds of prey recovered from decades of persecution than certain elements feel the need to start killing them en masse again, simply to protect their minority past time.
It's a shame that mere anecdotal 'evidence' and a lack of basic predator/prey relationship understanding can help influence such Draconian thinking. If you wish to see just how keen this lot are on saving songbirds, have a look at their website and see what scientific papers and extensive research you can find to support a nationwide cull of raptors (good luck).
I'm not against pigeon racing particularly, nor am I especially for it, and I appreciate that it must be galling to have a prize bird scoffed by a wild predator but I find using the rather disingenuous argument that raptors are responsible for the decline in songbirds extremely frustrating. Not only does this theory have more holes in it than a secondhand dartboard but it also tries to patronisingly disguise the real reason that the RPRA are calling for the destruction of wild birds of prey; to protect their precious pigeons.



ray said...

They might be selling a second-hand dartboard because they didn't play darts and had therefore never used it ... so it wouldn't have any holes in it. This is merely a pedantic and flippant comment of course but you don't want to give the opposition any ammunition do you .... both lierally and metaphorically. Hang on, I'm a bit worried that I might not be able to prove that I'm not a robot.... after all, robot is just the Russian word for work .... best wishes from non-robotic ray.

ray said...

Just to clarify, I was using the word "lierally" to save diminishing world resources. That "t" that I didn't type has saved a small but not insignificant amount of energy, and I'm starting a campaign to get everyone to do this routinely in every messag they type from now on.

Christian said...

It is potentially dangerous, I agree because like you say, people without a knowledge of wildlife could be easily swayed with this propaganda.

A Sparrowhawk is an indication of a thriving eco-system and I am thrilled to report that I have two visit my garden, a male and a female.

Domestic cats kill multitudes more song birds than birds of prey - do you see stickers proclaiming this message? No. It would be interesting to learn if those particular people owned a cat.

Brock said...

I'm not the bloke with the car sticker but he does have a point.

Cambridge University has done a study into the decline in House Sparrow numbers and found that 60% of the decline can be accounted for by Sparrowhawks. It is quite obvious that increasing numbers of their predators has a detrimental effect on any predated species. Yes, we all love raptors - but it is folly to ignore the fact that they kill millions of smaller birds every year.
People need to realise that all the odds are stacked against songbirds and other prey species. Their habitat is diminished, (yes, Christian, cats kill them too), their food resources are diminished and worst of all, their predators are burgeoning after being almost eliminated. Nobody shoots corvids or raptors anymore and in a bad winter when the song-birds struggle to survive, the magpies and crows just go to Salt Ayre tip and stuff themselves on our waste. So, when the depleted number of songbirds (and Lapwings etc) nest in the spring, the corvids - unaffected by the harsh weather - are there to feast on their eggs and young.

Face facts. If there were Avocets nesting on Aldcliffe Marsh, the magpies, the crows and the ravens would probably exterminate them.

I, for one, do not like to see crows picking off young Lapwings - when crows are burgeoning in numbers and Lapwings are in steep decline. And as for foxes... well, have you seen the Lapwing feathers around a fox's earth?

Unfortunately, the propaganda is at present all in the predators' favour. The truth is that if we want songbirds' numbers to recover - we must at least cull corvids.

People used to say that if you saw a flock of crows they were rooks. Not anymore! I've seen 20 crows together in a field next to the marsh. Their numbers are out of control and completely unchecked.

Think about it.