The Safari struggled for news for you yesterday. A heavy sea looked far more interesting then it was. It hadn't blown long enough or hard enough to bring any errant seabirds close inshore. A second winter Gannet was the only thing of note other than a drake Eider hugging the waves as it flew towards the relative shelter of the estuary. The Common Scoters don't bother with wussy stuff like shelter they just tough it out amongst the white horses; the shellfish they eat must be loaded with calories as they are the only means by which the scoters have to keep warm (no heaters to sit besides out there in the churning turmoil) and they seem to use lot of energy flying this way and that and diving under the waves before they break over them. There were about 250 of them at a guesstimate but there could have been many many more.
This morning ticking Robin activity seemed to be up a bit and not long after dawn we had both Blue and Great Tits on the feeder, no sign of any of the erupting Coal Tits here at Base Camp yet.
A Blackbird was giving the Pyracantha berries a hard time, one of next door's Rowan trees has been stripped bare but the other, in the front very close to the house, still has plenty of berries left. Which brings us neatly on to one of our high horses...are there any berries for our winter thrushes and other overwintering wildlife. This year the weather seems to have taken it's toll on pollinating invertebrates, in Safari-land at least. Hundreds of yards of hawthorn hedge are berryless apart from odd freak bushes every few hundred yards - what made them so different? Did they flower at a slightly different time to the others and just caught a snippet of good weather? But worse is the amount of useful food and cover that has already been lost to the tidy brigade. We understand the need for sight-lines along roads particularly at junctions though there is some suggestion that not having good visibility forces drivers to slow down which is no bad thing if we're trying to avoid accidents, but mile after mile of necessary flailing has already taken place. 'They' even pruned the shrubs at work while we were away? WHY??? The winter winds prune them anyway all they need is a light trim in the spring and now those same winter winds can whistle through the open vegetation offering no shelter at all to our Robins, Dunnocks etc and come the spring there'll no doubt be a lot more die-back so less cover for the nesting season...nightnare! The trouble with the flail is that it is too easy to use, if the hedges still had to be trimmed by hand you can bet your bottom dollar there'd still be plenty of habitat left for our struggling winter wildlife. Hedgelaying should be complusory
OK you do lose a lot of material but it is a slow and steady process in keeping with the rhythms of the seasons rather than the annual total hedge butchery we see today. Trouble with slow and steady is that costs ££££££ more than a bloke in a tractor. Even the bloke in the tractor needn't butcher the hedges if he just changed the angle of his flail a little and didn't cut so deep - simple stuff so why isn't the message getting through...and we wonder why many of our farmland birds aren't doing so well. Surely a slight change in hedgerow 'management' would benefit Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Corn Buntings, Grey Partridge, Song Thrush, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Linnets, Bullfinches and good old Dunnocks from the Red and Amber lists - wouldn't solve all their problems but we sure it would go a long way to alleviating some of the pressure on them and would help small mammals and overwintering invertebrates too.
Enough high horse...when we're Prime Minister eh...
Where to next? Bit of a mish-mash day today with Wifey being away on business we've got Frank to look after and some chores and errands to do but we'll be out n about if never too far from Base Camp.
In the meantime let us know what's getting you in to the saddle in your outback