Reg Snook's "park jottings" have been a special feature of the friends' noticeboard since early in 2010. He publishes a new one each fortnight, providing a naturalist's insights into the lives of the birds and animals of our park.
Jottings – 4 September 2018 – It must be sunstroke … Reg Snook
Hawthorn bushes are now 'dripping' with red berries. Pierre's ospreys are ready to migrate and 'Strictly' is back on the box! It's autumn.
You will probably have noticed that our swifts have departed. It is strange since I say “our swifts” despite the fact that swifts spend 9 months of the year elsewhere. We use the word “our” because the swifts nest here. Winter visitors ie waders, ducks, geese etc., breed in northern Europe but, despite spending many months here, they are not “ours”. Waxwings, fieldfares and redwings also breed in northern Europe but despite them spending 7 months or so here they are I suppose still “theirs”. Does that make sense? Probably not or am I suffering from sunstroke. However, I look forward to seeing our winter thrushes.
I have in the past (as you may already know) had a big moan about lesser black-backed gulls. Yes, I know that they are beautiful, very smart gulls and much loved by many birders. We in Ipswich have for some years now seen an increase in these scavenging birds. They are fearless, always seeking an opportunity to snatch food especially near fast food outlets. These gulls spend the winter months floating around the coasts of western Spain and Africa. They come here to breed on the rooftops of industrial areas, supermarkets and indeed on chimney pots near the town centre. Gradually, they have expanded their range and now nest far from the centre of town. Usually, at this time of the year, the air is filled with the cries of fledglings as they follow the adults in the skies above begging for food. This year the skies are relatively silent. Thousands of young gulls on open rooftops succumbed to the relentless sun during our very hot summer. Many young gulls with 'burnt feet' were rescued. I know of one person who looked after 250 young lesser black-backed and herring gulls. Praiseworthy indeed. However, what do you do with these youngsters? What a nightmare to feed this lot and when and where are they to be released? They migrate of course but will these young birds have the inbuilt knowledge to depart from our winter? I have no idea but I just hope that they don't hang around here.
There was an interesting item on Radio 4's 'Farming Today' programme. Because of the damage stoats are causing to bird species such as hen harrier and short-eared owl on the Orkneys, an effort is now being made to eradicate this species from the islands. In charge is a naturalist from New Zealand where they are in the process of trying to rid the island of rats to conserve the dwindling numbers of kiwis. Apparently stoats are capable of swimming from one Orkney island to another. Well, did you ever! What will RSPB members think of that?
Recently in an article Sir David Attenborough wrote that he thought “the young of today are missing something – the freedom he enjoyed as a boy to wander through the natural world just looking and learning. Are the kids now disconnected from nature? There is the physical reason of getting out there and the legal one of being able to do what you want to do. If it is not Health and Safety telling you that you have got to wear a gas mask, it is someone telling you that it is illegal to pick up a bird's feather. It is certainly illegal to peer into a bird's nest. The interaction between humans and the natural world has been constrained. It could ultimately be a loss to the natural world because people will not be interested in it any more”.