Nothing much happened locally in June – in fact it was very quiet, for the most part, partly as expected, but boy did it rain again. If it was not for a couple of trips out to the coast, there would not be much to blog, to be honest.
As I write this blog, in early July, the rain has continued and most local places are at least 3 feet under water this morning.
June started off brilliantly @ Willington DWT. We were at platform 4 and it was pretty quiet, when Richard James appeared round the corner looking sheepish. “I’m afraid I’ve got some news for you guys”, he said solemnly. We all braced ourselves – “what is it?” I said. “Oh, there’s a male Red Footed Falcon [ Falco vespertinus], but it’s on the fisherman’s side and not visible from here – sorry”, he replied. Well despite this, we all rushed round to the top platform to see if we could see it, but to no avail. We waited for an hour or so, but no show. The bird was put out on the pagers, as it was too good to suppress, even though it still remained elusive. Many birders were now turning up – locals first, then an array of birders from more distant climes, wanting to tick a Red-footed Falcon, either for their life list, or more likely their year lists. Well, as expected, they were all impatient and not at all pleased to hear that the bird was not visible and that the land was strictly private – even though this has been explicit on the pager news broadcast. The waiting continued, but no show.
Despite our best efforts, 2 or so hours passed and still nothing, then news came in from a local birder, that a Honey Buzzard [Pernis apivorus] had been located in a tree at Repton School, about 2 miles away. Well, nothing was happening here, so I went back down the lane and headed off to Repton. As it turned out, this “Honey” Buzzard was simply a very pale “Common” Buzzard – lovely bird though.
After a spell meeting people and avoiding getting run over by stupid drivers, I headed home via Ingleby and was just watching some Whitethroat, when the pager went off again – this time the R-F Falcon had been sighted from platform 5 at Willington. Back to Willington then – to see where it was. Sure enough, when i arrived it was flying right over my head – too quick for decent a shot [although I did manage one of sorts], but then it landed in the field – still viewable from P5, albeit 30 yards away. Grumble, grumble went the birders and photographers – some tried going over the fence, only to be met by an angler, who to be honest, I wouldn’t argue with at any time. After a while, when they’d all got their pics, digi-pics, telescope and binocular views, it quietened down a bit – the best time to stay around. It returned to sight, then made it’s way round the fence line and came onto a post, within 15 metres or so of us – great. Not brilliant, but close enough for a few decent shots, one of which is below.
This is the BIF shot I managed.
The bird only stayed close for a short while, until the angler came back to his tackle-box [car trailer] , then it flew out of sight again. From then onwards, it was regularly seen flying, hawking and feeding, down the river, very distant from P5, but a bit closer if you walked the 1.5 miles down the river. I wouldn’t say it was harassed for the next week or so, but it was pursued relentlessly by dozens of birders, and the poor weather and rain would not have helped it’s feeding on flies, insects, etc. Anyway, on 11th June it was found dead, on the far side of the River Trent, possibly from gun-shot wounds, although no-one is sure. There is a shooting area over the river, but no-one has accused anyone of anything – there is no evidence. All in all, a very sad ending to a fabulous bird.
There are still lessons to be learned here – we are all fascinated by “different” and “rare” birds – we all love to see them, watch them, photograph them, and possibly without intention, we can be a part of this “harassment”, where a bird is constantly disturbed. I and many of my colleagues, do consciously try to minimise our impact on these birds, by keeping our visits short, or our attentions on the bird at close quarters minimal, but we all must take the collective blame, when something like this occurs. It may have been shot, it may have starved due to the weather, it may have starved due to harassment, we may never know. However, we should all continue to try our hardest to respect the bird, the fact that it is miles and miles off it’s course, that it’s in a strange country, that it may never return to it’s original flight path and ultimately it is us who may influence whether it survives or not in the end. As long as everyone has this respect, that’s all we can do. Look and photograph by all means, but remember your part in the bird’s welfare.
Follow the Birder’s Code:
Following the birdwatchers’ code is good practice, common sense and should enable us all to enjoy seeing birds.
Over 3 million adults go birdwatching every year in the UK.
This code puts the interests of birds first and respects other people, whether or not they are interested in birds. It applies not just when you are at a nature reserve, but whenever you are watching birds in the UK or abroad. It has been produced by the leading bird organisations, magazines and websites. It will be most effective if we lead by example and sensitively challenge the minority of birdwatchers who behave inappropriately.
Five things to remember:
- Avoid disturbing birds and their habitats – the birds’ interests should always come first
- Be an ambassador for birdwatching
- Know the law and the rules for visiting the countryside, and follow them
- Send your sightings to your local County Bird Recorder, or local bird club
- Think about the interests of wildlife and local people before passing on news of a rare bird, especially during the breeding season.