Friday, 3 October 2014

A change in the weather

The Safari was shocked, but not surprised, to learn earlier this week when it was announced that half the world’s wildlife had vanished in the last 50 years, or our lifetime! We understand that to mean ‘just’ vertebrates and not extinctions per se but total populations. The 2012 State of the UK’s Birds Report shows a decline of 44 million breeding pairs of birds (20%) since 1966 in the UK alone. That’s 1 in five of the all the birds that were around for us to spot and enjoy when we started bird-watching now no longer exist! Some of the figures for larger mammals are truly shocking, and there used to be fish in the sea too, anyone remember the ‘impossible to fish out’ numbers of Cod on the Grand Banks in Canada?
It makes us both angry and sad that in our life time that has happened, and in the same time the human population has more than doubled – wonder if the two are linked???
Today’s announcement is that international targets for improving biodiversity by 2020 are going to missed unless serious investment is given to the issue. I can’t, and don’t particularly want to, imagine a world in which our young nephews, nieces and ‘grandchildren’ will get to the age we are now and will no longer have Tigers burning bright in the forests of the night, the roar of Lions wont break the savannah dawn, lazy hot summer days wont be punctuated by the soporific purr of Turtle Doves and only Google and history books will have pictures of giant Bluefin Tuna. A few commensals will live alongside us and our domesticated farm animals and pets, but you can bet your bottom dollar they will be called pests or vermin, think Cockroaches, Rats and Feral Pigeons, each a fascinating species in its own right but not everyone’s cup of tea. But it goes deeper than that, the (perhaps imminent!) extinction of iconic species like Elephants and Rhinoceroses would be a disgrace but we could probably live without them but Humans will probably not be able to survive the extinction or reduction of similar numbers of invertebrates, fungi and plants – we mess with their populations at our peril!
What have we done to the former paradise known as earth? There is no Planet B!
It’s time for everyone to take note and start to make a difference before it’s too late. The big problem is how to achieve that, there are copious numbers of wildlife blogs just like this one showing how marvelous the natural world is and how it has a value way beyond price but are we largely preaching to the converted – how many non-naturalists (or only very slightly interested in nature people) read this rubbish wot we rite...if you think you’re one of those please leave a comment and let us know what kept your interest to read this far down the page...and more importantly will you read wot we rite tomorrow too?
People will say there’s far more important stuff than a few animals, there’s the economy, there’s ISIS (other dough-brained extremist groups are available) , there’s Saturday’s footy results, there’s getting a top score on the X-Box game – well actually there isn’t. It’s not possible to have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet especially if much of that economy is based on the natural world which we are destroying at an ever increasing rate; you can’t have limitless Human population growth, sooner or later we will hit the environment’s ‘carrying capacity’ its inevitable; you can’t put limitless increases of CO2 in the atmosphere, the additional absorbed energy from the sun has to manifest itself somewhere sometime.
But we fear that being human short term greed will continue to rule supreme and it will take something seriously shocking to bring all 7 billion plus of us back to our communal senses.

Enough of the doom and gloom.

A wind with a bit of east in it was blowing spume back over the top of the breakers this morning, not a sight we see often on our drive in to work. It would seem that the warm and exceptionally dry conditions we enjoyed in September are coming to an end.
A jaunt over the wall for a shuffy at the sea gave us the nearest full summer plumaged Red Throated Diver we’ve seen from here not far beyond the surf and the sea was still touching the wall. It dived and we lost it. Within a minute or so it was sat hundreds of yards further out just in front of a small flock of Common Scoters bobbing about on the chop. That was quick – how fast can they go under water?
A scan of the horizon gave us a couple of heat hazy Gannets but nothing like as bad the other day when the haze was that bad we could barely ID Black Headed Gulls over the tide line, never seen it that bad before, truly weird.
A Razorbill came from the north and landed close to another small flock of Common Scoters, followed by two more that passed straight through. Then we briefly saw a ‘periscope’ close in front of us. Watching the patch of sea closely we expected a Cormorant to show, there’s been a few passing by going towards the estuary to roost, but no it was the Red Throated Diver again, the distant one we’d assumed was the same bird was a second one. The close one did its disappearing act again and we scanned the sea in the north westerly distance picking up a couple more passing Razorbills. Looking almost tight north along the seawall two ducks caught our attention coming towards us, a flash of white on their wings and bellies showed they were a couple of drake Wigeon, the first of the year for us here (P2 #72).
Walking back to the office we heard a Robin singing from the tiny clump of bushes on the seaward side of the road, very seldom do we get anything other than the odd House Sparrow or Dunnock in these bushes. Two more Robins were singing from the hedge round the front garden at work and we could hear others calling from the rear of the building, all suggestive of a bit of an overnight fall.
This is bizarre – this site and this site are only a few miles apart across the bay!
The natural world has the uncanny ability to throw up some real conundrums. We noted a small number of Meadow Pipits moving on our Patch 2 watches yesterday, both overhead and quite a way out to sea.
We had a conundrum of our own yesterday. A decidedly dodgy gull. We picked it up swimming in the water and followed it intently until it came out and started preening. We just didn't like the look of it but the light was far from the best for looking at gulls. On the water it showed enormously long white P10s which was what caught our eye and massive white tips to the other primaries compared to the 'normal' Herring Gulls . Once it was out of the water it showed a big hanging 'nappy' but not excessively long legs, the bill was a bit longer than the others but deffo not snouty - not 'gull that looks like a Redshank'. On the beach that primary projection was ginormous, the other adults around barely presenting any primary projection at all.
Not the best phone-scoped pic in the world to aid an ID
We reckon it's just a Herring Gull but an oddball interesting one at that.
Not a bad sunrise this morning
Where to next? A wild wwet and windy weekend looks likely, how much safari-ing we'll get done is anyomes guess.
In the meantime let us know what if anything is left off the wildlife in your outback.


cliff said...

Well the first half of that makes for depressing reading Dave, makes you wonder how it'll all end up.

The sunrise shot lifted my spirits again, shame it's not like that now it's weekend though.

Warren Baker said...

Bashing your head against the wall there Davyman! Nothing short of of a full on Ebola x flu pandemic will make people sit a realise there is more to life than the mentioned list od mindlessness you then it will be too late!!

Enjoy what you can, where you can, whilst you can mate :-(

Linda said...

Lovely photos.