Following my rant in the last jottings about grey squirrels, I have seen two more television programmes on the subject of getting rid of this species. It seems that in the North of England we are being assisted by another furry “friend”. Pine martins are spreading southwards and it seems that they also dislike grey squirrels. Hooray! Apparently red squirrels there are thriving because of the pine martins’ cull of the greys. The University of Aberdeen recorded this activity in a report entitled The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend. Aptly put.
In the autumn when winter thrushes arrived here from Scandinavia they began stripping the cotoneaster bushes of their red berries. These birds were mainly redwings but, surprisingly, the berries which dropped to the ground were left untouched. Redwings only ate berries taken from the bushes. During the recent heavy snowfall fieldfares, also winter visitors and obviously very hungry, were seen busily scraping away the snow under the bushes and eating the fallen red berries. A handy reserve supply for starving birds.
A farmer friend of mine is now in the middle of the lambing season. Unfortunately, one of his ewes died giving birth. Instead of burying or burning the carcass, my friend pegged it out on the ground specifically for buzzards. This dead sheep provided several welcome meals for our increasing numbers of buzzards – at one point he had six buzzards feeding off the carcase. Our beloved lesser black-backed gulls are arriving back from their winter quarters to breed on the rooftops of Ipswich. I know that they are back because yesterday I heard several of them calling loudly above Christchurch Park. High above the trees, six gulls were mobbing a single buzzard. Gradually the large bird of prey gained height and then, with wings folded, accelerated into a long dive away from our Park leaving the noisy gulls in its wake.
SOG President John Grant wrote a very passionate and upsetting piece in the EADT last week about a walk that he and Steve Piotrowski took along the coast between RSPB Minsmere and Sizewell after the ‘beast from the east’ had battered the shore. Sadly, John and Steve found huge wildlife destruction along the tide line. It was well documented on TV that thousands upon thousands of shellfish had been destroyed. Crabs, lobsters and starfish were piled high on the shore due, so the experts said, to the sudden drop in sea temperature which coincided with extra high tides. As well as shellfish, John and Steve found a large variety of dead birds including woodcock, common snipe and jack snipe. As the ‘beast from the east’ advanced towards Britain, these birds tried to reach safety but thousands did not escape and were engulfed by the sea. Mr Piotrowski thinks that what he and John found was just a tip of the iceberg and that many thousands of birds of a large variety succumbed to that exceptional weather phenomenon. John Grant wrote eloquently about this and the sadness in his heart was plain to feel. Every so often a natural catastrophe occurs about which we can do nothing but even so it is a tragic event that for nature lovers is unwanted and an unbelievable experience of the very worst kind.