Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Industrial wildlife harvesting/exploiting

The safari has no news from Patch 1 this morning but at Base Camp late last night there was a Slug, not sure which species – the green speckly one, feeding on one of the apples put out for the Blackbirds during the hard weather. A quick check on the thermometer told us it was 6.7°C. So we are back to the normal topsy-turvy temperatures – that is the normal maximum for a January day around these parts. (Since the thaw we have heard of two reports of Frogs out and about too.)
Back to this morning’s very gloomy and therefore brief patch 2 visit. At first glance there seemed to be more bait diggers out collecting Lugworms than there were birds. Eight of them, with a couple of dogs for good measure, spread out over half a mile or so of beach. Those new siphon things they use to suck the worms out of their burrows are so much easier and more effective than the old fashioned digging with a narrow spade so consequently the harvest is far bigger. Is it sustainable? That is the big question, when you venture down to the low water mark there is plenty of worm activity to be seen all along the beach. But it is a big disturbance with large areas of beach devoid of birds. We could only get partial counts of at least 40 Sanderlings and over 80 Oystercatchers. Just when we were getting up to decent figures someone would come along and flush the lot…annoying. Very few gulls on the beach today, a Great Black Back sitting on the crest of a sandbank and another sat out at sea just behind the surf – if you could call it that; the tiny wavelets were struggling to reach the beach it was that calm. Out in the middle distance was a small flock of Common Scoters, no more than a dozen or so. The flat sea and grey murky conditions would have made spotting the black rolling back of a Harbour Porpoise or the head of a bottling Grey Seal very easy to see – but there weren’t any.
Later the safari escaped the confines of the desk and had some site visits to do up the north end of town. We called in along the prom to have a quick look at the rising tide. A flotilla of a dozen Eiders (85) were soon bagged, all but one were males, as were three Great Crested Grebes. A diver at the limit of the scope out in the swell couldn’t be clinched…wonder if the recent Black Throated Diver still around? (This is one of the two [three?] mentioned in yesterday’s post which may have done a bunk from the Fylde area.)
The big surprise was a small passerine which bounced over the sea wall and landed on the opposite side of the road. Tricky to get the scope on it at an angle through the Land Rover’s windscreen but blow me down - a Snow Bunting (86), that’ll do very nicely…We like surprises. Before we turned on the engine to leave a small flock of Dunlin (87) whizzed past low over the water.
With fuel running low it was time to get the passport stamped and shimmy over the border to fill up at the nearest petrol station – no biodiesel in these cold conditions, it goes too waxy. After that we decided to have a sneaky look at the nearby ‘goose fields’. Nothing there just blank green grass. So we turned by the farm to head back towards the prom and the afternoon’s site visits and immediately spotted a lone Whooper Swan (88) in one of the horse paddocks…a very worthwhile detour.

Chatting to the local Posty he told us that it had been there since the weekend and although it appeared to be grazing normally he thought it was probably ill or injured. It certainly made no attempt to fly when he walked up to the fence no more than 50 metres from it, although it did whoop a bit.
High tailing it back down south we stopped off at the far southern end of Patch 2 where we hit lucky again. In the distance a few Black Headed Gulls sat out the high tide and with them was a female duck, running down the prom in the last few minutes of lunchtime to get a better view revealed it was a Pintail (89)…having a great session now! A male Red Breasted Merganser was fishing in the shallows, showing very nicely. But still no marine mammals…
Where to next? More patch news probably.
In the meantime let us know what was surprising and unexpected that you found in your outback. Nothing quite like this I hope!


Monika said...

Sounds like you've still been finding some great birds despite the gloom and having to work at the desk!

I thought I might catch up to you in species at some point, but as I'm nearing 70 you're closing in on 90. We'll see where we stand at the end of the year! I hope to get out to the coast this weekend, that will help boost the totals.

Warren Baker said...

89 already Dave, when is the 100 likely to come up, March ?