Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Old Green Eyes

The sound of happy visitors!

The Carsington Aren't Birds Brilliant events continue their success, and I was on duty twice this week.
We had some pleasant weekend winter sunshine on the Sunday and how the crowds flocked in. Somewhere in the region of 600! Plenty of adults and delightfully plenty of kids too, several very eager to use our scopes. The technique I've developed is to encourage the children to describe the bird they're viewing so that I might identify the species. 'It's a big goose like bird, lots of black on its head and neck, and a bit of white on its face', that sort of procedure. They're usually very good at it, and happy to be told so!

Tuesday was quieter due to the horrendous weather and the onset of the new school term. Walkers and a handful of caravan enthusiasts made up the visitor numbers, both arriving at the centre for the indoor heating more than the birds, but I'll wager they were warmed by both.

As for the birdlife, the Great Northern Diver is still an enigmatic and elusive presence, while the regular Peregrine sets pulses racing. We're low on waders with odd Redshanks joining the skittish flock of 200-300 Lapwing. The treat of the week was the very quiet afternoon when we volunteers were able to scoot down the opposite reaches of the reservoir to view a pair of roosting Tawny Owls. Talk about childlike excitement, I found myself saying, "I saw it blink!". Oh you really can't beat a good view of a true wild owl.

The girlfriend shot the above video at the end of Sunday's event. We'd lately had a conversation over whether any of the British species of birds are ugly, and I confess, I nominated the Cormorant. That prehistoric appearance they have, they're closer to be to dinosaurs than Blue Tits, as if evolution scarcely finished the job on these birds. Sure the green shine of their plumage can be attractive in good light, but really, where was nature's artistic flair? With that said they are fascinating birds, skilled hunters of fish that will coordinate in teams of a dozen or more, and their always entertaining, if clumsy, courtship dance owes something to David Brent
Do they devastate fish numbers on inland waters? Sometimes, in isolated cases, but not at all often. Ask a fisherman and they will tell you Cormorant eat 1 kilo of fish per day, ask a birdwatcher and their answer will be half that. The truth? It probably lies somewhere in between. Therein begins an argument any conservationist would be brave to venture into. Instead, here's another marvellous Youtube video, this time we're watching the famous Li River fishermen, who've found a mutually agreeable coexistence with their Cormorants. Beautiful stuff.

Back at Carsington, in front of the Wildlife Centre Mallards were mating, while Coots built a nest and fiercely defending a territory. Roll on spring, the birds are ready!

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