Tuesday, 21 April 2015

On Larsen traps and garden moth ticks

Getting my goat this week is the fact that the countryside can be an unsavory place, as well as a beautiful one, and I am periodically reminded of this whenever I see Larsen traps on a local large landowners' land. For the unaware Larsen traps are a legal method of trapping, for the purposes of pest control, corvids by using a decoy bird in the trap to attract other curious individuals who are then also trapped. They are legal in England as long as certain criteria are met which include providing a perch, shade, food, and water, plus the trap must always be visited at least once every twenty four hours to despatch the unfortunates caught and release any bycatch. All very unpleasant and whilst legal one wonders exactly how much pest control this actually results in.
I grew up in the country and still enjoy fishing and whilst I do not shoot have no issues with people who do, apart from the idiot classes with more money than sense who stand still in various places while game is driven over their heads. Indeed there is far more skill and fieldcraft exercised in wildfowling or shooting game using a pointer or spaniel than you will see in the typical birder. I am also a passionate supporter of national hunt racing. Notwithstanding these statements I do not believe in control because it has always been done that way, nor because it is perceived to be of assistance to ground nesting birds, and can this actually be demonstrated?
In one of my favorite books John Marchingtons' "Sportsmans' Bag" he recounts how, when Woodpigeon cartridges were subsidised in the 1950's, in an effort to prevent crop damage, the net result was an increase in the number of Woodpigeon surviving the winter to breed the following spring. So what evidence is there that Larsen traps' are an effective method of crow control?
In any event I find it unpleasant to scan the levels and see these traps as invariably I do at this time of year. So what can I, or you if you care, do about it? The answer is lobby your MP to stop this practice. What you cannot do under any circumstances is interfere with a trap as in doing so you would be committing an offence, and neither can you leave a public right of way to check that a trap is legal. If you see a trap that you believe is illegal you should report it to the police or the RSPCA and allow them to deal with it.
Anyway enough said on that subject and on to happier things. Highlight of the week was a new moth for the garden in the form of the Brindled Beauty pictured above on the night of the 15th, the fact that this is not an uncommon moth makes it a little surprising that I have had to wait over ten years to add it to the garden list! On the same night my first Double-striped Pug of the year was also trapped as was the micro Monopis obviella. A nil catch on the night of the 18th was followed by just a single Early Thorn on the night of the 20th.
Butterflies are also picking up with my lunchtime walk around the industrial estate in St Leonards producing Holly Blue on the 14th and Comma, Brimstone, and Large White on the 21st.
Back on the levels the WEBS count on the 19th confirmed that winter is well and truly over with the only duck present being Mallard. Spring arrivals continue to trickle in though and Cuckoo, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, and 7 Sedge Warblers were all singing at various points. Redshank remain on site as do at least 10 pairs of Lapwing that I could see and a couple of Snipe.
Finally a couple of mammal sightings in the form of 11 Fallow Deer on the edge of Manxey level on the 18th and a Brown Hare on Down on the 19th. Take care out there and keep it real.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Grip backs and year ticks

The beauty of working a local patch is that birds which would not usually excite can be the highlight of a visit. So it proved last weekend on the 5th when, having been slightly gripped by Mike having a Brent Goose the previous day on his patch, what was presumably the same bird put in an appearance on Down Level - patch tick - excellent! Also on Down was a second Blackwit of the spring, a more summer plumaged individual than the one seen on the 4th, and a Red Fox. Moth trapping in the week has seen little variety with the regulation Hebrew Characters, Common Quakers, and Early Greys' trapped in very small numbers. While the weather has been pleasantly spring like during the day, the temperatures overnight have been quite low which probably explains the low numbers.
Today (12th) dawned light and bright encouraging me to get the wheels out. Cycling along the lanes is the best way to get around the levels, the low hum of tyre on tarmac enabling you to listen and look whilst covering more ground than by foot alone in the usually limited time available. The usual hedgerow residents were all in good voice this morning with the added bonus of a singing Willow Warbler near Rickney. When it comes to bird song this has always been top of the pile for me ever since first hearing the descending cadence of notes, reminiscent of the trickle of water in a brook, whilst walking in the high weald as a ten year old.
At Rickney half a dozen or so Swallows were on the wing and in song, their curious mix of whistles, clicks, and chirps a happy reminder that spring is well and truly under way, and on Down Level further evidence of spring in the form of a couple of visually opulent Yellow Wagtail their shrill calls penetrating the cool breeze with strident ease.
Of the residents my first Mute Swan nest of the year was under construction near Downash today and the first brood of Mallard duckling was seen on Down on the 5th with 6 day or so old duckling. On the butterfly front Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell were on the wing on White Dyke this morning although no sign as yet of any Orange tips despite Cuckoo flower being in bloom - maybe later today...

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Spring is in the air

Lambing is in full swing at the moment and every day sees new additions to the burgeoning sheep population. Indeed everything is turned on to the changing season with Chiffchaffs aplenty in the lanes, the occassional Blackcap singing since the 29th of March, Stockies collecting nesting material and courting, Skylarks ascending all over the levels, and the return of the Redshank. Today, Easter Sunday, dawned light and bright so I took myself off for the usual meander in the hope of a hirundine or two. In contrast to yesterdays mooch in a cold northerly birds were much more in evidence with all the residents singing or patrolling their territories. The Ravens are always easiest to see at lambing due to the easy pickings on offer and this morning there guttural croaks were an accompaniment to my walk. As I reached my favorite scrapes I was not to be disappointed, no hirundines but a quality alternative in the form of a male Little Ringed Plover feeding amongst the grassy pools, bold head pattern and yellow eye ring gleaming in the early morning sunshine. Nearby a Black-tailed Godwit was feeding, also my first of this spring, and a flock of 16 Shoveler and 2 Gadwall rounded my walk off nicely.
The moth trap has been kept under wraps mainly due to the inclement overnight weather and temperatures, however I managed an Ingrailed Clay, not common for the garden, on the night of the 28th, and the night of the 3rd of April produced singles of Early Grey, Small Quaker, and Light-brown Apple Moth.