Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Shooters, Strimmers & Young Waterfowl

The sky was once again leaded this morning and a quick look north to the Ridgeway Hill showed there was every chance of rain. With little, if any, wind and a clear atmosphere, for me these are the ideal bird watching conditions so I continued and made my rounds of the cemetery. With little of note there it was straight on to Radipole, with the male Blackcap once again singing behind me, I encountered a small swarm of House and Sand Martins, the total number being about 50. At the kissing gate I was met by c4 of the 'white ducks' shown below, which in earlier days may well have been referred to as 'Call Ducks'. These are likely Aylesbury or farmyard birds that someone has gotten fed up with and 'dumped' at the lake, but years ago would have had a very important purpose.

As the name implies they 'call' and in the days of active 'duck decoys' they would have been used to attract their 'wild' cousins which eventually ended up on a plate.

As this picture shows the duck decoy was a long tunnel of wire mesh decreasing in height along its full length. The calling birds would be placed at the entrance and when the wild ducks alighted they would be chased down the funnel to easy capture. In the picture a small dag is being used, which would run between the palings, appearing and disappearing to the intrigue of the wild bird. Invariably, they would follow the dog and once again face easy capture. There is still an active duck decoy at Abbotsbury Swannery, but these days it is used solely to catch birds to be 'ringed' and released.

You don't have to walk far on either of our reserves these days to find 'legalised' damage by the RSPB, the so called Managers of these precious areas, so it was no surprise to find that in the last few days someone, not content with 'strimming' the verges of the paths, have now climbed into the reed-beds and started mechanical cutting there. Just how long is everyone going to sit idly by and watch this wanton desecration go on???? Don't worry the day is rapidly approaching when the real CONSERVATIONISTS will have their moment!

Over at Lodmoor, it seemed the who area was awash with juvenile birds, literally dozens of young birds, but before arrival I bumped into this 'colour ringed'

Pied Wagtail. It would be useful if any of our readers could get this record to the relevant authority and report its whereabouts. It was seen feeding on pavement insects right outside the Pier Bandstand, Weymouth Sea-Front.

adult Canada Goose with juveniles.

Others included this young Carrion Crow, not quite flying yet, 4 or 5 broods of Mute Swan cygnets plus the newborn of Mallard, Shelduck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and Great Crested Grebe.

This elegant Grey Heron was simply worth a shot as being so close, while also on the Moor Marsh Harrier, Lesser & Common Whitethroat, Dunlin, Lapwing and Redshank were seen, and later I was informed of a 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler at the northern edge.

At Ferry Bridge, the fore-shore was once again devoid of birds, but the long-staying pair of Red-breasted Merganser where still in the Fleet as a dozen or so Little Terns were still feeding and 'fish passing' (part of their courtship ritual).

Great Britain's smallest Tern

the aptly named Little Tern is an adept

fisherman, and so good to watch making these pre-plunge hovers.

and so to Portland

where I caught this Meadow Pipit busily constructing a nest, and it was obvious there had been an emergence / influx of Butterflies and Moths.

This Common Blue

and Dingy Skipper were among a good variety which included Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Small Heath, Large White and my first of the year Meadow Brown (all butterflies) and a few Silver Y moths.

This Kestrel perched obligingly on the old Admiralty fence, but it was now time for a coffee at the Bird Observatory. Not a lot reported there except for singles of Manx Shearwater and Reed Warbler, so it was quickly on to the bushes of Culverwell.

On the way this fine looking (probably converted) trawler passed the Bill, and by the looks of what must be added accommodation amidships, and the 'A' frame aft, I would guess she is probably employed on trials or research of some description? You'll note she's under a Swedish flag.

What might be considered the 'best till last' I entered the Culverwell bushes and immediately encountered the singing of what could only have been an Acrocephalus Warbler. The song was not as familiar as the daily heard Reed and Sedge Warblers, nor did it sound like the Blyth's Reed Warbler I had recently heard at length in Estonia. I had to dig deep into my memory of birdsong, realising this was indeed a Marsh Warbler (I have heard a few in the past, but all abroad). There was a Marsh Warbler caught and ringed at the Portland Bird Observatory, and during just 2 brief glimpses (one in flight) I did note this individual bearing a 'ring'. Not that this confirms an identification, as most small birds here are ringed, but in my mind everything leads me to make this a positive identification on song alone.

and finally a story that met my ears today which I hope our new PM reads this evening.

On the very day (yesterday) David Cameron, our brand new Prime Minister, got on his hind legs and told the Nation how his measures to redress the financial deficit will 'hurt us all', c2 'Marksmen' arrived in the town from Nottingham. The gunmen, reputedly employees of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) a Government Department, arrived in what was described as a 'top of the range Rapper's 4 x 4 and immediately decanter into the Premier Inn for a 2 night stay. At 05-00 (a good time not to raise public awareness) they drove to Lodmoor, unveiled their 'Purdy' shotguns and blasted to death a single Ruddy Duck. One of them then plunged into the reed-bed, disturbing everything before him, to recover the body of the hapless bird. Apparently, they then headed back to Nottingham! Let's hope for the sake of man and duck-kind the first round of 'cuts' include these 2 'Herberts' and the tools of their trade.