Monday, 9 December 2013

Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th December

Three Whoopers in flight (c) Bark
two of the juveniles (c) Mark Chivers
The family group (c) Mark Chivers

Flying off to feed (c) Bark
Portrait (c) Mark Chivers

The berries will soon be gone (c) Bark
My delight last week at having a family of four Whooper Swans on the moor evaporated on Sunday morning when we realised that by then they had been reduced to three. The family group, of two adults and two second winter juveniles, looked very settled and comfortable, commuting between an arable field to the north of the reserve and the northern lagoon. On Sunday morning there were just the juveniles and one adult remaining, the body of the other adult was in the field and already being scavenged by Magpies ,Carrion Crows, Buzzard and Kites. It was not possible to get access to the bird to ascertain how it died but one must presume fox predation or some kind of illness. All four had seemed fit and well on Saturday and if it was disease it came on very quickly. It is very hard not be anthropomorphic about it. The fracturing of the family unit of a long lived iconic species is depressing but as a wise friend commented yesterday “We admire them because they are big and beautiful and remind us of aspects of ourselves. Remember that every day the raptors on the moor are taking out several dozen starlings from the roost and this is all a part of the same process”
Elsewhere the aforementioned raptors were very much in evidence with at least two Peregrines present one of which, probably a juvenile male, has several primaries missing from its left wing. The Hen Harrier was seen from time to time and there is a strong possibility that there are two. Kestrels are post sitting on Greenaways and I was fortunate to see a Merlin on Sunday as I drove up the lane towards Beckley.
The raptors are present and thriving because of the abundance of prey. Lapwing numbers on Sunday were nudging the thousand mark and Wigeon numbers are also approaching the same figure. The Starling roost is estimated at between forty and fifty thousand birds. There are still only smaller numbers of Golden Plover present but usually their numbers peak later on in the winter. Winter Thrushes are also very abundant but the hedgerow food supply is becoming very depleted and it will not be long before all the haws have been eaten. There has been an increase in the number of finches and buntings on the reserve with a count of fifty Yellowhammers last week near the hide and a population of Greenfinches that seems to have recovered from the slump of the last few years. It seems appropriate to end this week on that more positive note.

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