Sunday, 1 December 2013

A good reason for being such a long way from safari-land

The Safari shocked Frank yesterday by getting him up a whole English hour before he normally gets us up. The reason we shocked him was to get to the train station for an early train to London - crikey that's a long way from Safari-land!
It was pitch black for at least the first half hour of the journey before a glimmer of pale blue fading to ochre low on the horizon was seen from the carriage window as we sped through the dawn at over 100 mph on our way south.
After two stops close together the rest of the journey was a full pelt to the capital through the lightening morning. The Cheshire Plain came and went, the rolling Midlands too.
Flights of geese were silhouetted against the sky, two Roe Deer and a Brown Hare were seen as it became light enough. steam rose from the backs of grazing cattle as green fields emerged ffrom the grey half light.
Inside the carriage the passengers slept or listened to music on the almost ubiquitous headphones, all oblivious to world outside. A land of pleasant greenery; but looking closer we saw aging pollarded Willow trees collapsing in to small streams, mile upon mile of hedgerows flailed to within an inch of their lives, new housing estates crept out from the edges of almost every village each looking each like the others.
Here and there isolated rows of trees stood lonely in the fields indicating where once hedgerows had been. The white plastic guards of newly planted trees was a positive sign as was a herd of Roe Deer grazing on a football field; the players later in the afternoon probaly having no idea who kkeps their grass in tip-top playing condition.
Corvids and Woodpigeons are big and easy to see as were the Mute Swans that have taken advantage of the numerous fishing lakes we passed, prime Otter habitat too but they're certainly not as welcome! Well if you will overstock something else other than anglers is going to take advantage.
We saw surprisingly few of the 36,000,000 Pheasants released for shooting - is it really true that their biomass surpasses that of all other birds put together in the English countryside at this time of year?
Pitiful remnant hedges, gappy and bare at the base along with an almost total lack of field 'headland' combined with the vast acreages of 'improved' monoculture Rye-grass pasture showed why much of our lovely wildlife has disappeared. Most of the remaining 'habitat' along field margins had  canisters of grain for feeding all those Pheasants
We didn't realise how fast we were traveling until we passed a motorway. given that the fasted cars would have been doing more than the permitted 70mph and we left them going seemingly backwards, it was obvious we were fairly tanking along.
Noting the shortage of woodland along the route and those we saw seeming to be more or less unmanaged/neglected/abandoned it does make us wonder if HS2 and its destruction of a significant number of irreplaceable Ancient woodlands - is it really worth the few minutes shaved off the journey times particularly that by the time it's completed communications technology will have advanced so much more than train technology.
Looking at our landscape through a naturalists eyes it appears that our green and pleasant land is a pretty dire place for wildlife although a farmer would no doubt view the same scene and see very different things. most people waking up to their weekend of buying Christmas tat wont give their environment or their effect on it a second thought as they grapple for the latest 'must have' pick that 'no need for' plastic thingy from China off the shelf.
The answer to some species of Farmland Birds' Hedgehogs, bats and other small mammals problems would be to far less intensive with the hedgerow 'management' - think how much time, fuel and carbon could be saved too!
We had a rendezvous across town with our AFON member TP, who we've been paired with as a mentor, which meant we had to go well out of our comfort zone and go into the bowels of the earth on those moving excalatory stairs-type things emerging at Hammersmith to meet our contact by the statue at the entrance to the station.
From there we took the short bus ride to the London Wetland Centre.
Once through the entry formalities we headed into the 'wilds' of central London - amazing to think that the shopping hordes hammering their credit cards were only 20 minutes away and here we were in a tranquil wetland wilderness.
The Shard - tallest building in the  European Union
The tame display geese gave us some good photo opportunities for our cameras. TP is in to textures and patterns in nature so keep an eye on her Flickr site for something a little different.
We on the other hand just took our usual type shots.
Barnacle Geese never look mean - or do they?
 Someone gets everywhere - Even on the interpretive signs!

Is there no escape from Kane Brides?
So between us what did we see? Lots of noisy Ring Necked Parakeets and these...
Can you see the Bittern?
Of course you could
 A short spell of sunshine gave some splendid lighting effects.
We can never resist sunshine through fluffy Reed flowers
The most remarkable sighting was probably the unidentified dragonfly, probably a Common Darter or a Migrant Hawker.
We were pleased that the talk at feeding time for the Asian Short Clawed Otters (above) told us much about the conservation work WWT does for them in their natural habitats and about our native Otter in some depth.
All to soon it was time to say goodbye and re-negotiate the underground to Euston and away back oopp norff. T'was a great day out in the capital!
TP has a blog coming up on the AFON site so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Where to next? We've run out of steam with that little lot so we'll tell you about today tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's meeting who in your outback

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