4 September 2016:
Eight fledged Ringed Plover chicks this year just pips the 2014 total of seven. This despite the Kestrel pair that nested in the gap between containers at the Port picking off around eleven Ringed Plover chicks in quick succession. The four chicks that were ringed and reported on in the previous blog all managed to fledge, as the Kestrels that had been happy to hunt on the southern half of the Reserve turned their attentions to the northern half where the Ringed Plovers nest. The reasons for this fantastic success are the more than doubled size of beach enclosures but more importantly the compliance of visitors respecting these no-go areas and other visitor requests such as dogs on leads and no fishing in front of the enclosures until the end of June. For ground nesting birds to be successful in an area so close to urbanity requires a high degree of visitor co-operation which we have had so a massive thanks to the vast majority of visitors that are happy and not so happy sometimes, in helping us achieve these great results with this now red listed bird. The following statements are made by individuals that have researched Ringed Plovers.
"Ringed Plovers that choose beaches for nesting are especially vulnerable to disturbance, however, and already in 1984 were largely confined in some regions to wardened reserves (Prater 1989). Human usage of beach areas severely restricts the availability of this habitat to nesting plovers (Liley & Sutherland 2007). The marked increase in nest failures at the egg stage has earned Ringed Plover a place on the NRS concern list (Leech & Barimore 2008). Wintering numbers have been in decline since the late 1980s (WeBS: Holt et al. 2015). Through these winter declines, the species moved from amber to being red listed in the latest review (Eaton et al. 2015)".
David Kitchener from the RSPB Headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire was a great help while undertaking his sabbatical on the Reserve. I was determined to finish off the picnic bench, constructed from two cable reels donated from the Port and David gave the added impetus to completing this task. The picnic bench is now sited on the western boundary of Manor Terrace car park. The picnic bench can be used by people in wheelchairs as two sides are left free for either wheelchairs or camp chairs. An extra pair of hands when cutting back vegetation halves the time of the job as you don’t have to stop and rake it all up yourself. David also helped with a museum event one weekend and was introduced to the Fort. I’m sure David has returned to his RSPB job fully refreshed.
Our Bug and Beastie Day was a sell out and attendees enjoyed activities including, studying pond life, catching Grass Hoppers, making bug masks and finding answers on the Bug Trail Quiz. Good weather and holding the event a little earlier than last year meant that plenty of bugs were about especially good numbers of butterflies.
These events especially aimed at primary school aged children can really spark off a lifetime’s interest in the natural world. I became interested in birdlife at this age because someone gave me a Lady Bird book of Garden Bird’s, now look where it’s got me! Sometimes wish that it had been a book on how to accumulate wealth.
One afternoon I returned to the Bungalow to find a young Herring Gull in the garden, probably a recent fledgling. It had obviously injured one wing and leg on the same side. I was wondering how it had got there until I listened to a message on the office phone. A young girl’s voice told me that she had picked it up out of the road near the Pier and not knowing what to do with it left it in the garden. I phoned the RSPCA and they advised me to take it to a vet. Nigel Odin from the Bird Observatory happened to pop in to the office the next day and said it might be best to dispatch it but he declined my offer for him to do it. He is just a big softy really. I decided that it could take its chances in the garden and after feeding it for a few weeks the wing and leg got slowly better, much to my amazement.
The bird, by then named Rosie by my daughter and now regularly exercising its wings looked as if it wanted to fly. One morning we walked the bird out of the gate as it seemed the garden fence might be putting it off from trying to take-off. I wasn’t wrong as after a look around it took its first flight for some weeks. How would it get on in the wild, realistically I thought it wouldn’t last long and thought that Nigel may have been right, that the kindest thing would really have been to dispatch it. The good news is that it has now returned to and flown out of the garden several times since then and every time it must be becoming more self sufficient in the wild. One thing I have found out is don’t feed bread to Gulls as it fills them up but doesn’t do them much good and can make them sick it up again. Lidl is doing well out of us as we are on our fourth bag of frozen Pollock! Please, please don’t bring any more injured Gulls for me to look after otherwise option two may be regrettably, taken up!
The rare Stinking Goosefoot plant has only been located in only one area this year and that is in the same Rabbit scrape as it was in last year! A total of nineteen plants as opposed to the six the year before might indicate that the deliberate ground disturbance in early April has helped more seeds to germinate. It really is a fickle plant and has the potential to come up almost anywhere on the Reserve but in the last two years has appeared in an area that it has historically done so before. The plants appeared around the beginning of July and while other plants had made the best of a really good growing season up until then the Stinking Goosefoot plants haven’t done so well in the dry back end of this summer. One plant that has been particularly prolific is Rest Harrow, carpeting some parts of the Nature Reserve with its pink flowers. The Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) in the garden seemed particularly empty of Butterflies when they were at the height of their flowering. Bill Stone a Suffolk Butterfly Recorder mentioned that this had been due to a relatively warm winter and a cold spring upsetting breeding cycles. The numbers did pick up towards the end of the Buddleia flowering. Common Blue Butterflies really did buck the trend and I have never seen so many.
The increase in people owning drones has meant that we have had to spell it out to visitors to the Reserve that their use is prohibited on the Reserve. Bye laws are posted on the site and a prospective drone flyer acquainting themselves would read that the flying of model aircraft is prohibited, alternatively the major do’s and don'ts at the main entrances clearly show that kite flying on the Reserve is also prohibited. This alone really should be enough to let the prospective drone flyer know that drone flying is a no-no here. Legally drone flyers must attain the permission of the land-owner. One guy has even returned at least once in the early morning to fly his drone after being asked not to. I might be still safely in the land of nod at that time, but don’t forget the members at the Bird Observatory are ever vigilant! I was, though quick enough to film two power gliders buzzing the Reserve at a very low level to the ground. Inconsiderate is the word that comes to mind along with few more less palatable expletives!
Sad to report that we probably have a new fungus on the Reserve, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. Sad because this is the fungi that causes Chalara Ash die-back disease. After sending photos to the Forestry Commission they have said that it is almost certainly the disease but they will have to examine material to positively say that it is. There are only a few young Ash trees growing on the Reserves perimeters and at some distance to any other Ash trees, this being a reminder that fungal spores are airborne and can crop up anywhere.
As I write the Autumn bird migration is well under way and well known young birder Ben Moyes paid a visit to the Reserve to capture this picture of an Icterine Warbler one of only a 130 or so individuals on passage in the UK, well done Ben you did better than me!