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 – 10 July 2018 – Are we barking up the wrong tree? Reg Snook
Michael Gove, the Minister for the Environment, is determined to rid this country of bovine TB. Many people, who know far more about bTB than I do, consider that badgers give this terrible disease to cattle (and not the other way around). Gove, meanwhile, is pushing on with the cull of badgers – so far over 35,000 'brocks' have been executed. If badgers are indeed responsible for passing on this disease to cattle, then fair enough – something has to be done. However, I have just read an article by Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor of the Sunday Times, which states that new research has shown – wait for it – that foxes also carry the disease. Leake says that if this scientific challenge is confirmed, (research carried out by French Government scientists) then Gove's cull of badgers is pointless and the chances of eradicating bTB would be nil. Not only that, dogs are known to be prone to bTB as well as sheep, goats, pigs, cats and wild deer. DEFRA does not agree with this report but, in areas where badgers have been culled, Leake says fox populations have doubled. Have we carried out enough research into bTB in cattle and its causes, I ask?
Are oyster catchers the most stupid of all birds or perhaps the most sensible. When I was young I used to find oyster catchers nesting in the most ridiculous places. I pondered this during the past couple of weeks when, first of all, I saw a black and white wader sitting on top of a post at Waldringfield on the river Deben. This female oyster catcher was sitting on a clutch of eggs in a depression of the post in about six feet of water on the saltings. It looked lonely on the post and quite silly. I hope the young managed to jump down safely when the tide was out. Also on the roof of the Woodbridge Community Centre next to the swimming pool, a pair of oyster catchers have hatched two young. Whilst one parent guards the chicks, the other bird seeks food from the mud of the Deben. The young will run around on this high roof until they have feathers but until then they will not be able to get to the river Deben. Yet another pair have produced young on the roof of Farlingaye High School. Clever birds or stupid creatures – I don't suppose I'll ever know.
Many birds had a disastrous start to the breeding season and because of adverse weather our song birds appear to have either lost their young or abandoned their first clutch of eggs. This means that many species are still trying to raise youngsters. I have not seen great tit young still in the nest in July before but there they were in a nest just above my kitchen door behind a drain pipe. There is a pair of blackbirds nest-building in the rafters of a barn near to my studio. A pair of moorhens have a third clutch of eggs, as have a pair of wrens and my local skylarks and yellowhammers are also busy feeding youngsters. As I cycle along the bridle path to my place of work, I easily outpace the floppy meadow browns and gatekeepers but where are the small tortoiseshells, peacocks and red admirals? There is however a plague of large whites so farmer Keith is busy putting nets over his young cabbage plants. Sadly no spotted flycatchers this year.
I received an interesting item from butterfly expert, Richard Stewart. On the 22 June he found a white admiral on the pavement in Westerfield Road close to the Park gates. It was in perfect condition but must have been caught by the draught of a passing car. Richard caught this beautiful insect in cupped hands and released it into our Park. Can it be counted as a new species for our Park – not really, but a very near miss.