So, my second week on the Nene Washes was wonderful. Its still not really sunk in yet that I am actually truly a paid employee of the RSPB. I’ve done so much voluntary conservation work that I still feel a bit like a volunteer. No doubt it will sink in properly when I receive my first pay cheque!
I spent most of last week surveying for marsh harriers. The purpose of the surveys is to see where they are hunting, and what they are eating. As so much time and resources are spent on managing the reserve to be an ideal habitat for certain species, we need to know if any other species are having a negative impact on them. For example, we have here on the Nene Washes the majority of the UK’s breeding population of black-tailed godwits (all forty pairs of them!). If something was eating all the eggs or chicks that they produced, then all this habitat management would be for nothing.
Nature on its own would balance everything out. The right number of animals on every level of the food chain. Unfortunately for nature, humans always mess up that natural balance. Big style. So we drained all the wetlands, depriving birds that depended on them of breeding and foraging grounds. We drastically and suddenly changed farming methods and timings, without warning birds nor teaching them how to cope. We changed the whole landscape, making it harder for birds to hide from predators. We used pesticides and killed all their foods. We used large machinery to better harvest hay or silage and killed lots of confused birds hiding iin the fields with their chicks.
And we continue to do all of the above.
A reserve like the Nene Washes uses old farming methods at the old times of the year. Everything is kept old school. Just the way the birds like it.
Natures balance is impossible to recreate though. The marsh harriers breed, they raise young on the bounty of voles and chicks. The young fledge. They leave home. But where do they go? If I was a young marsh harrier I’d stick around. I’d stay on this oasis. This reserve teaming with food. And so potentially arises the problem of too many marsh harriers!
My bird list for week commencing 29th April:
Marsh harrier, Greylag goose, Mute swan, Swallow, Sedge warbler, Black-headed gull, Skylark, Starling, Yellow wagtail, Crow, Lapwing, Widgeon, Grey heron, Eurasian crane, Lesser black-backed gull, Shelduck, Coot, Red kite, Reed bunting, Mallard, Little egret, Green woodpecker, Redshank, Snipe, Buzzard, Shoveler, Tufted duck, Meadow pippit, Cormorant, Wheatear, Bittern, Oystercatcher, Barn owl, Tawny owl, Spotted crake, Black-tailed godwit.
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