Monday, 24 February 2014

Maybe We Should Cull Fishermen ?

I have just read a most outrageous piece in The Carmarthen Journal where some fishermen are calling for a cull on Goosanders and Cormorants.

Fisherman - photo David Miller

When are this minority of the public going to understand that these birds are not "damaging fish stocks" it is what they do.  Unlike us where game fish are a luxury for the few, they have to eat fish to stay alive.  In other words they should come first.  These birds and many other species have been eating fish for thousands of years and because of the predator prey relationship there is always sufficient for both to survive.  It is only fishermen who interfere with this balance.

Pair of Goosanders

Now I have nothing against fishermen who go out to get a few trout, salmon or sea trout on the Tywi.  I know many of these people and they are happy to observe the extraordinary wildlife around them as they fish.  They find that all part of the experience.  What I do object to is those who call for the slaughter of our wildlife to further their hobby or sport as some call it without any scientific back up for their actions.  In the article it is stated that these birds eat one to two pound of fish a day. I would not argue with that but where do they get the figure of 1,000 tonnes from and is that for Carmarthenshire or the UK.

Otter on the Tywi River

Through the Angling Trust these ignorant people are lobbying for relaxing the licences for killing these birds.  I hope the many more conservationists and wildlife fanatics will similarly lobby for maintaining the status quo.  In the Tywi Valley fishermen are a minority and must remember that far more people really enjoy watching Goosanders on the river.  How long will it be before these people turn their attention Otters or even Kingfishers?  No you chaps are going to have to enjoy your fishing alongside the wildlife that is being restored at a great cost to wildlife charities and indeed the public purse. If you care protest at every opportunity the killing of wildlife for financial gain.

Merlin by Colin Jones

Merlin by Colin Jones

Here is a photo of the Mynydd Llanllwni Merlin taken by Colin Jones which I failed to get on my last visit.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

New Bird For Carmarthenshire

I decided to spend the morning at WWT Penclacwydd as I was feeling in need of some air.  I made my way to the Heron's Wing Hide where I met up with Wendell and others and then we proceeded to the Scott Hide to see if there had been any Bittern sightings.  Well there had and we did not have to wait long before a Bittern appeared on the reed edge but keeping pretty much concealed amongst reedmace and small bushes. We must have watched it for ten minutes at least.  I found my 150-500mm lens would not focus on the bird because of vegetation but my learned companions with their bridge cameras seemed to get good results.  I must get one.

Bittern photographed at Minsmere, Suffolk
Not much else to report except that ducks were looking good in breeding plumage and beginning to gather in pairs.  Gadwall, Tufted, Pochard and Teal all looking good but a male Shoveler was especially superb showing off his enormous bill.

Shoveler - What a bill!
The Bittern was species 199 on my Carmarthenshire List - what will be number 200 I wonder.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Essential Books if you are heading for the Serengeti

Animals of the Serengeti - and Ngorongoro Conservation Area by Adam Scott Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy. Princeton Wildlife Explorer Guide  £17.95  ISBN 9780691159089  152 pages, 146 colour illustrations.

Anyone who remembers the BBC black and white TV wildlife programmes headed up by Armand & Michaela Dennis will have heard of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater in Northern Tanzania.  Now Princeton University Press bring us two excellent guides to help experience that fantastic place.

This new title describes and illustrates the 89 species most likely to be encountered in this splendid area of Tanzania. It is very much a photographic field guide and there is a section on how to use the book and a real first in a section of biographies with photos of the "Top Six" safari guides in the region. The book also contains a helpful section of the geography of the area and a helpful seasonal map of the animal migrations. Another large map shows the context of Serengeti and Ngorongoro with the Masai Mara in neighbouring Kenya. The preliminary section of the book ends with a gazetteer of the best places to look for wildlife in the area.

The book deals not only with the mammals of the area but also reptiles as well.  Each species is lavishly illustrated with superb photographs as well as information on size, gestation, identification, habits, location and food. I particularly loved the inserted comments from the safari guides already mentioned.

You will find all the familiar species such as the Big Five of Lion, Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Leopard and Cape Buffalo but also smaller and less familiar creatures too.  Aarvark would really be worth catching up with.

A full index and suggestions for further reading complete the book.

Birds of the Serengeti - and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. by Adam Scott Kennedy. Princeton Wildlife Explorer Guide £17.95  ISBN 9780691159102 224 pages, 480 colour illustrations.

This slightly bigger companion volumes is structured in the same way but has some differences.  There is a section on the habitats of the birds which is also utilised when setting out the species order in the book.  I found this slightly irritating to begin with but can imagine that in fact this method would be helpful when actually in the field.

Once again the photographs are of the highest quality and cover more than 270 species of birds likely to be found in the area.  The habitats dealt with are in the main predictable but I loved the separate sections on Birds in the Air (species you always see flying above you) and Night Birds.  The book concludes with a list of all scientific names of the species included as well as a full index.

East African birds are truly spectacular with chances of amazing raptors as well as other interesting wetland, grassland and forest species. 

The experienced authors Adam Scott Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy have managed remote safari camps in Tanzania and now work as private safari guides specialising in photographic and wildlife safaris in East Africa.

If you are contemplating visiting this wonderful area of Tanzania then you will find these handy sized guides essential.  They will easily pop into a small bag or a jacket pocket. All the wildlife you are likely to come across will be included and the additional information will add to what will be an unforgettable experience.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Up high in the Sunshine

Mynydd Llanllwni

I am feeling much better just now and sunshine after lunch enticed me up onto Mynydd Llanllwni and area of high moorland.  I was hoping for raptors and was not disappointed.  On arrival I found a female Merlin sitting on a stone pillar but she would not pose for a picture.  Further on the sky was very busy with 10 Red Kites, 7 Ravens and a Common Buzzard.  Two of the Red Kites were sparring above the road.

Red Kites sparring

I moved on to Talley and found 6 Goldeneye on the lake, a Grey wagtail by a farm and  5 Red Kites and a Buzzard soaring above the village.  So nice to be out.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Glutton For Punishment

A beautiful day!  Bright sunshine and little wind. After breakfast we packed some lunch and set off once again for Aberavon Beach.  The Ross's Gull had performed well on Saturday so we were very hopeful.  We arrived just after 10am to be told it had been seen just before 9am but had flown off.  It is bound to return like it did yesterday was the advice.  We decided to sit it out.  We saw a Little Gull, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, c20 Turnstone, 6 Oystercatchers and 15 Lapwing. I met lots of birders I had not seen for a while and lots of inquisitive locals who wondered what several dozen people with optics were doing.  They seemed very interested in their rare visitor.

Adult Mediterranean Gull photographed last year

By 3pm exhilarated by the sunshine but tired of waiting around I finally gave up and left.  I have not heard of it being seen since that time.  Now I have a big decision. Shall I get up really early and hope that little bird is hanging around that beach before 9am again?  Maybe third time lucky.  Maybe not.  By the way 3 Lesser Redpolls on my feeders early in the morning in my garden.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

I Really Should Know Better

The last two days have seen improvement again with the pain now just about gone.  I had to go and give a blood sample at the local surgery this morning and having done so successfully got back home and the sun came out.  Beryl and I agreed that if we were to have a chance to see a Ross's Gull now was the time to go.  It took us less than an hour to get to Aberavon Beach near Port Talbot and the news was promising as the Ross's Gull had been seen around 10am.  We walked out on the jetty and saw plenty of gulls but not the one we were looking for.

Juvenile Little Gull

We returned and I spent a couple of hours with many others in the lea of the jetty hoping the Arctic waif would appear.  False hopes were raised by the appearance of 2 juvenile Little Gulls together with an adult.  An Oystercatcher and 20 Turnstones briefly showed themselves and a few Kittiwakes were also around.  At 3.20pm and with squally showers now established we left no wiser as to what a Ross's Gull looks like in the flesh.  Getting home I read online that the gull was seen briefly at 4.02pm.  When will I learn?  I did appreciate the 2 Lesser Redpolls on the niger seed in the garden this morning.  There's always another day!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Frustration Galore!

I spoke too soon about my improvement last week.  Fierce stomach pains have returned as have Doctors and I have been confined to home for the last few days and the foreseeable future.  I am due to see a consultant in Carmarthen next Thursday.  Thoughts, dreams etc of birds have kept me sane but all I have seen in the garden apart from the residents is a super Treecreeper climbing up a cherry tree outside my bedroom window.


Talking of dreams like many people I have longed to see a Ross's Gull.  This diminutive and attractive species rarely wanders from its Arctic home and when it does I am rarely in the right place.  I once twitched one to Holland but arrived too late.  Another time I was in Holland when another was found at Cley but returned to late for that one too.  Again after I moved to Wales one was found briefly in Lowestoft Harbour.  I seemed destined never to see this species.  But now the astute Mark Hipkin has found one in nearby Glamorgan.  Will it winter?  Will I recover enough to try and see it?  I have no idea but that little bird will be much on my mind in coming days.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Back in the Real World

At last I am feeling much better and so decided to go to Cardiff for the first meeting of 2014 of the RSPB Wales Advisory Committee meeting.  It was a really nice cold sunny morning driving to Cardiff and as I walked between the car park at the Cricket Stadium and the office I was struck by the birds singing in the park.  I heard Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit and perhaps most gladdening of all a couple of Goldcrests.  Good news too that hearing the latter means I am not going deaf in advanced years.

Dunnock - one the species whose song brightened up my morning

It was good to meet my colleagues on the committee and get stuck into discussions on issues of nature conservation and management of the charity.  The process was stimulating and I hope will keep me on the mend.  Now for Gary Harper's talk on Iceland at the Carmarthenshire Bird Club tomorrow evening.