Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A BIT OF A CONCERN

Last night I headed up to Moulton Quarry I only had late afternoon/evening to squander so went for the Sandmartins. I arrived and was the only person present for a short time. I was joined by two teachers and some students from the nearby private school at Pitsford. They were just doing that all important 'thing' of being outdoors sliding down the mounds on sheets of plastic etc. It was quite amusing to watch, something I thought schools didn't do anymore. But something wasn't right I wasn't seeing any Sandmartins at all. The students left so decided to look a bit closer at the colony. A few of the holes showed evidence of small'ish scratch marks at/near the entrance of the nest holes, maybe the stoat had a feast?
I waited a whole hour, nothing, normally you wait 2 minutes maximum before seeing the flock. I started to search their preferred hunting areas, two birds! But mostly Swallows/Swifts/House Martins. I rechecked the House Martins just in case, nope. By the time I left the site I had seen three Sandmartins 1 adult 2 juveniles. It was getting dark (10:05pm)nothing! This ain't right. Normally Sandmartins have just one brood some have two broods. But that varies within their breeding range, this is only my second season at the quarry so don't have enough notes to compare what the 'norm' is.
So given the threat from Stoats/Sparrowhawk/Crows etc and general disturbance have they taken their brood to safety? Again typically here at this site the young normally sit out on the phone wires being fed and don't normally leave until back end of August so it's either mass evacuation of the site or mass predation, weirdly currently as I type I have a flock of Swallows/Housemartins over my house, only ever see them over my house on migration, last night I had circa 30 Swifts screaming over my house which is the first Swifts sighting over my house this summer, normally we get loads so is there an early movement of these birds?
My biggest concern however are the Hobbies at Quarry Walk. I and a few others haven't seen them since my last post. I had 8 birds on site and 3 nests. On one easy to view nest at the start of June I saw a female hunkering down and start what appeared to incubating duties. Now, nest empty. I  really can't check the other two nests properly without trespassing but going from seeing 8 birds then 3 (plus 3 incubating) then zero is a genuine worry. The nest that was easy to view the bird wasn't present on my last visit (remember battle re-enactment?) Disturbance? Nest failure? Persecution? I did hear AGAIN coming from the railway line section of the quarry a "silenced riffle" being used. These guys apparently are after things on the quarry list.  From what I've seen rabbits and rats being killed. I've seen Kestrel/Sparrowhawk/Buzzard/Red Kite all successfully breed here so I'm not 100% it's persecution or it's these guys doing the nasty deed BUT we've had Cormorants killed here in 2013 so there's history. Can't blame lack of food neither plenty of it around, maybe they were immature breeders and just going through the motion. IT JUST SEEMS ODD THAT ONCE THEY STARTED TO NEST THEY VANISHED! I guess it's easier to hit a Hobby sat on a nest then in flight.....I'm hoping I'm fussing over nothing

14 comments:

  1. That is a worry Doug.
    Not knowing the area you speak of, is it possible that it could be marked for building purposes? Getting rid of nesting birds would make things easier in that department.
    Or maybe just some nasty people having target practice?
    Might be worth informing the local police of your concerns, especially if they have a wildlife unit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In regards to the Sandmartins the quarry originally put in an application to restart extraction but that was removed even when the quarry was working a builder/birder who picked up sandstone from the site said Sandmartins was always present, I reckon it's a mix of moving to safety and predation on the site as for the Hobbies at Quarry Walk there's no housing planned the site can be prone to flooding in winter, part of the reason Quarry Walk was created was to ease winter flooding etc, I sadly fear the worse for the Hobbies

      Delete
  2. I hope so too Douglas. The only way to stop folk regarding other inhabitants of the planet as sport is to educate them, with a big stick if necessary.
    Wild life has to be culled sometimes but not without proper consultation with people far more knowledgeable than me or the RSPB.
    Only interested in wages and bonuses are the latter. Their record on Hen Harriers is dismal. Their oposition to driven shoots is worse.
    Did you know that Barn Owls steal babies from prams? Neither did I but I don't think I'm more important than a little insect even if it could bite and kill me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Sorry I am not the biggest fan of the rspb but sadly some of the things you say are incorrect Adrian. They do have answer questions why they didn't support certain epetitons but they're shackled by their royal chatter, for example if you check their website they state they don't oppose field sports as long as it's done legally. When it comes to Harriers in the UK most of the moors are privately owned making it impossible to monitor 24/7. Recently the rspb had two video evidence thrown out of court as the footage was obtained on private land without permission which makes things incredibly difficult. Satellite tagged (by the rspb) have 'vanished' this summer we've even seen grouse moor owners placing those pigeon scarers in am attempt to stop nesting. Anyone speaking against the industry has been rounded on, Ian Botham and the game industry fronted a campaign 'you forgot the birds' tried and failed to take the rspb to the charity commission, Simon Barnes a highly respected journalist tried writing about Hen Harriers in The Times was promptly sacked for doing so. It's too easy bring critical of the rspb, but the rspb have campaigned on protecting birds since I was a kid however if the criminals are powerful/wealthy and just placate and don't change NO charity or organisation can ever be successful on this issue.
      I agree in reality some species in the UK do need culling especially non native, mink, grey squirrels and signal crayfish etc however birds of prey aren't on that list and never should be, we mess around with nature imposing what we deem as acceptable numbers and sadly we get it wrong or make things worse

      Delete
    3. Douglas, the RSPB lack any credibility as far as I am concerned. They paid for a 20/4/7 watch on a harriers nest in the Forest of Bowland and the thick sods let the mother desert her eggs when the father went missing. They could have fed her instead of just watching.
      To be credible they have to ditch the royal charter. The queen races pigeons, something else I don't like....Don't like pigeons much but they are preferable to the Queen and the RSPB.

      Delete
    4. It's quite easy I suppose to blame the rspb for failing to protect and nesting raptor rather the ask the question why and where the male bird had gone or the last year's satellite tagged juvniles that vanished in the same area please read the post dated 27th here http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2015/06/27/disaster-stalks-the-forest-of-bowland-is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-this-regions-protected-raptors-2/ one thing I will defend to the hilt is the rspb's investigation/prevention team. I'm not sure on the legality of them feeding the female (diversionary feeding) and if they did would they themselves be breaking the laws, but equally should we be intervening with nature or as I believe letting nature taking its course regardless how harsh that may seem. It's the 'human meddling with nature " scenario I referred to in my previous comment, the REAL crime was the vanishing of the male, something that has happened near Red Grouse moors 5 times this year a definite and concerted criminal activity/tactic devoted by the grouse industry to force the rspb and other wildlife ngo's to adopt their 'Hen Harrier management plan' that I guess the Tory led press aren't reporting on.
      I actually agree the RSPB should drop the royal charter it would I believe untie their hands and be more effective on this issue after all they weren't the ones seeking to ban driven grouse shooting that was started actually by Mark Avery http://markavery.info and he rather have walk up shooting not a complete ban. Also on the rspb the 'forgot the birds brigade' did as I previously stated take the rspb to the charity commission saying they pay more money to top executives then on actual birds what wasn't reported in the Tory led press was the charity commission judgement 'no case to answer' in summary and threw the complaint out. There's a lot of misinformation and black propaganda from both sides Adrian.

      Delete
  3. I hope your concerns are not confirmed Douglas but by what you're saying about the goings on around the quarry it could be the reason that the birds have disappeared. Let's hope that they've just relocated to a safer place?...[;o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disturbance could be an issue but around the colony there's no evidence of human activity etc. Sandmartins generally are quite tolerant for example the man made colony at Summer Leys sits on the public footpath/railway line, I'm a bit list as what to do to be honest, I have a plan for the Hobbies but won't mention what that is at the moment.

      Delete
  4. HI Douglas Oh dear that is worrying. I do hope the birds left on their own accord and not be human intervention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Problem is typically they don't leave the colony until they migrate it's a 'safety shelter' if a predator turns up the young glee back to the holes, looking at the evidence around the colony I'm suspecting stoat

      Delete
  5. Very worrying Doug ...... commercial interests or ill educated youth ? ... either way this needs publicity ..... do you have any contacts in the media ? ...... and education, education and education to raise the profile and challenges that our dwindling bird species are facing ....... makes me see red !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unless I can satisfy myself it's criminality and not 'other' factors at play then I cannot provide any further I'm doing two more site visits for the Hobby and then I will use a contact I know in our local wildlife crime unit, are your Sandmartins/Hobbies still at your patch?

      Delete
    2. Not as visible as they have been Doug, I think we have two pairs of sitting Hobby on the fringes of the reserve on the Titchmarsh side and the sand martins are best seen from the Peter Scott hide on the Aldwincle side ......

      Delete