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 – 12 March 2019 – Dog walkers, dog runners – Reg Snook
Many people travel to the Landguard Fort area of Felixstowe, maybe to enjoy the view and watch the container ships at close quarters. What is it about Felixstowe Docks? Why is there always a full car park with people sitting in their vehicles, staring at a few large ships loaded with metal boxes? Usually there is little activity apart from sliding cranes that go backwards and forwards with a container slung below (you can't actually see the other activities of the busy dock area). Now, if some of those people were to stroll around the North Sea side of Languard, they would discover an area of waste-ground, some would say a headland of natural shingle with scrubby plants, a part of which, at this time of year, is about to be roped off to protect nesting birds. The most important nesting bird here is the ringed plover, a beautiful little wader that has always been a favourite of mine. Unfortunately, the roping off of this area, with accompanying notices stating the reason why, sees many dog walkers still choosing to ignore this advice during the breeding season. This is not the only place that this happens as I have noticed dogs running amok causing disturbance to ringed plovers at other 'protected' sites, Sadly, I only saw one pair of ringed plovers at Landguard at the weekend and it joins the list of species in decline. Perhaps the roping off of this area might soon no longer be needed. Incidentally, there are permanent noticeboards asking dog-owners to keep their dogs on a short lead in this area together with the reason for this request!
For the last four Saturdays, I have watched the Park Run in Christchurch Park. More and more runners have joined in this weekly event to negotiate the ups and downs of our Park. They run, jog or walk 5k. Some are experienced runners but others jog or walk to keep fit or get back into good shape. The social atmosphere is marvellous. It is quite a sight seeing runners stride up the hill near the RDVC, they are colourful, of all ages and abilities overseen by many excellent volunteer marshals. At the head of these five hundred odd runners, I saw a man attached to a dog. This trim spaniel happily 'towed' his master around the course attached to him by a long lead. Wonderful!
Last week I attended the AGM of the Suffolk Ornithologists' Group. It was well-attended but this was the last time, after about 40 odd years, that the SOG will meet under that title. It was unanimously agreed to change the name to the Suffolk Bird Group (SBG) as for some time it was felt that the word 'ornithologist' was too old-fashioned/high-brow and it should be replaced by 'bird' in the hope that this might encourage more people, especially youngsters, to become members. At this event, I renewed acquaintance with Peter Merchant, a man of my own age. We attended the same schools, Priory Heath Primary and Northgate GS. Peter spends his 'retirement' caring for injured birds of prey and building hides for various reserves as well as nest-boxes for peregrines to encourage them to breed. He has just succeeded, after many years of trying, to get permission to place a nest box on the high building at BT Martlesham. Almost immediately a pair of these superb birds of prey have been seen in residence.
I noticed a headline in the local newspaper (EADT) on 2 March which read: “MP criticised by wildlife sanctuary after getting behind grey squirrel law”. The author of this article seemed to be on the side of Carol Harris, founder of Jaybeth's Animal Sanctuary near Haverhill. Ms Harris cares for grey squirrels and muntjac and had offered her view that it is totally wrong that they are not allowed to be released back into the wild as she thinks they are entertaining and very sweet. I have to agree with the MP, Theresa Coffey, who thinks that the law is right, grey squirrels are a threat to song birds and the environment and should not be here – as with muntjac. Luckily, the law is on our side.