Monday, March 26, 2007

Heron Heights

Breeding is in full swing at the Regent's Park Grey Heron colony. While some chicks are now fledging, other pairs are still at the nest construction stage. I managed another lunch break to observe these superb birds in action.

The female from the pair below appears more experienced at nest building than her mate.

While the female selects twigs of the correct size, the male arrives and gets in the way, or is he just showing her how to do it?

Then he spies an ideal branch, a little out of reach, but worth the effort...

Struggling with his contribution the female looks away, unimpressed by his bravado.

He realises he has bitten off more than he can chew - unable to fly off with the cumbersome branch...

...he eventually selects a smaller, fallen twig and flies off...

Meanwhile back at the nest, the female finds an intruder... a prehistoric-looking fledgling from a nearby nest, temporarily resting on the developing structure following a practice flight around the canopy.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Green Issues

The government (Defra) and certain conservation organisations are looking for a new scapegoat. Why? Songbird populations are declining. Here, now, is an obvious choice; the Ring-necked Parakeet. They are worried there is now too many of them and now, typically after the horse has bolted, are pointing the finger at these adaptable parakeets. We’ve had Magpies and raptors blamed in the past, but there still no evidence against these apparently nasty birds. If the much-maligned street pigeon looked just a little more aggressive, it would be on the list too. No, let’s choose a non-native, non-natural, invasive, foreign species and one most likely to be seen by the great British public in London and the Southeast, and apply these descriptive terms so loved by pseudo-environmental journalists. To put it more bluntly; they are angling for a cull.

Ironically, one conservation organisation in particular has probably inadvertently done more to aid the survival and spread of the parakeets that any other factor. Encouraging us to feed the birds with their safe nuts, birds cakes and the rest of the products available from the now big business that is the garden feeding market, it’s no wonder the parakeet has become so successful. There is no evidence for this, but then again, there is no published evidence that the Ring-necked Parakeet is causing a decline in hole-nesting species. So after feeding them up on your hard-earned money, the government may now in future use more of your hard-earned money to cull the population. But, we will have to wait for the results of the CSL study, by which time there will be several thousand more. A cull will never work. How could you remove a population consisting of thousands of parakeets whose current distribution is centred on the largest metropolitan area in Europe?

Targeting other birds is really just an excuse to avoid looking at the real issues here. A bit like the Ruddy Duck scenario. The primary causes of species extinction and decline are due to the effects resulting from an explosive increase in the human population on the planet. Of course, you’d never here anyone mention the word ‘over-population’. If saving native songbirds is the priority and culling is the way to go about it, then let’s start on the free range domestic cat!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Walthamstow Reservoirs

The inital signs of spring in the bird world seemed to have faltered today after the sudden change in weather. Not one Sand Martin was seen over the reservoirs in the southern complex and it was quiet in general with the stiff wind blowing. Not many interesting species around so I resorted to photographing the geese; feral birds which many birders turn their nose up at. The reservoir complex holds some of the largest inland Cormorant and Grey Heron colonies in the British Isles with rookeries on four wooded islands. The nests are a little distant so not the best of subjects for photography but excellent scope views can be had of the nests. I know some birders/fisherman with dual interests who get more than a little iritated by these Pelecaniforms. Obviously not ecologists then as Cormorants are quite entitled to eat fish, being obligate piscivores. Fishing is no hobby for these birds.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

London Wetland Centre

The Wetland Centre is getting a little crowded these days. Some sunshine, and crowds of pushchairs and screaming weans arrive from Barnes in four wheel drives. I am for encourage appreciation of the natural world from a young age, but most of them are just here to let there offspring run around the playground (yes, a playground in a nature reserve!) Today some even let their children climb up on to the artificial Sand Martin bank! I managed to make the last bus (even named the Duck Bus) that calls in to the reserve around 5:00pm. At least I thought I had but the driver had probably given up due to the massive queue from the reserve's car park. Was this tailback due to some rare attraction? If only. No this was the buggy brigade departing. Perhaps something could be done to encourage more people to utilise public transport for their journey to the reserve. The first thing the staff ask you when you arrive is, "Do you need a token for the car park?". The log jam of 4x4s meant I had to walk into Barnes (no great hassle there) to get a bus while the budding, motorised naturalists sat idiling. I know that the centre attracts many visitors from far and wide and, of course, a car is required but I just wondered how many were driving home just 10 minutes away. And the car park is pretty huge... perhaps another lake/marsh/wet meadow could be created here in it's place:-) Ok, grumble over. I'm much less of a moan in real life.... and I can hear a few people disagreeing already :-) The Little Grebes don't like too much disturbance and were keeping a low pofile today. No great arrival of migrants yet. Only two Sand Martins, several singing Chiffchaffs present and several Redshank, although yesterday a Wheatear had touched down.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tawny Owls, Kensington Gardens

Dedicated patch worker Des McKenzie discovered a brood of three Tawny Owls in Kensington Gardens in central London on Monday. On Tuesday morning one owlet had fallen out of the tree and was rescued by the Royal Parks department and was later returned to the site after dark, to avoid disturbance from the many dogs in the area. After my two day trip back home to Scotland with two overnight coach journeys at the weekend, I slept in and missed the excitement. However, I managed down early this morning before work and located the owlets which were being severely harassed by up to 100 Carrion Crows and over 30 Ring-necked Parakeets at times. Meanwhile I was being harassed by up to 12 unleashed dogs accompanied by professional (I use that term very loosely) dog walkers who had no control over them as they lept up at the tripod and me with their dirty paws. The adult owl which had ignored me up until now was getting bored with the mobbing and even took time to look down at the commotion below. Still, this was a rather minor inconvenience compared with say, getting stoned by the local neds at Brent Reservoir in North London. Oh, the joys of big city birding... Many thanks to Des for the gen and directions.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

London Lunch

A few photos from a quick lunchbreak in Regent's Park today. The Bar-headed Geese, part of the collection, are free-roaming on the main lake and I couldn't resist shooting them in the golden light.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Glaucous Gull, Irvine Harbour

Back up in Ayrshire for a short weekend and back down in London this morning on the overnight coach. Hung around Irvine Harbour trying to get shots of the 1st-winter Glaucous Gull there. It was a miserable weekend weather-wise with almost continuous rain on Sunday, not helped by the fact the weather was cracking down south!