Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sexual mimicry: the Eddie Izzard of the Marsh Harrier population!

Brian, Norman, 'journalist Liz' and I met up for a few hours at the Fen before the wintry showers set in. To be honest, there was little about, although I'm 85% confident I heard a Penduline calling from the right of the hide: to me (and I've heard the call a hundred times in France) it sounds like a Wood Warbler's song speeded up on a tape deck!

Main birds of interest were a pair of apparent female Marsh Harriers: after scooting about a bit, they met up and began to display, even food-passing a couple of times! Marshies are, I know, famous for this survival stratagem, but it was interesting to observe at quite close range: I think the male is pretty obvious, even in my average photos!

A Buzzard sailed through south and a Jack Snipe dropped into the cut reeds, but that was about it....

For those of you who like to take natural photos of woodland birds at the Fen, it's become more difficult. To stop photographers taking such shots at the hollow stump in the woodland, the wardens have piled up an unsightly heap of branches in front of it. For years some of the best Strumpshaw photos of Marsh Tit, GS Woodie, Nuthatch etc  - many of which have appeared in print and on the RSPB website - have been taken around the stump using a few mealworms or sunflower seeds to attract them. (I hasten to say I've never actually done this, but that's chiefly because someone else already has before I arrived!) We are told that this practice may be 'harmful to birds' (see notice below) Presumably it's not harmful if the birds get their food from the feeders by Reception, nor, indeed in our gardens - the last paragraph appears in the RSPB's advice for bird feeding on their own website!

Now I think most of us are aware of the danger of, say, peanuts to fledgling birds, but the stump has generally been popular with people who knew what and when to feed. It's difficult to construe this as anything other than an attack on photographers: a little counter-productive for attendance, because every single person I met this morning was carrying a camera and lens! Surely the signs (and barricade!) could have gone up at the same time as the Reception feeders came down? Then we'd be more likely to accept that the rationale was bird welfare.

How different to the approach of popular sites like Lynford, where photographers and walkers enjoy close views of some excellent birds at the numerous feeding points...

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