Last week it was extremely cold at the RSPB Minsmere, the sun shone but with a bitterly cold east wind blowing in off the North Sea which would subsequently bring us a week of snow. The few ducks and geese on the Scrape looked cold, the few onlookers in the East Hide were cold, very cold. Waders and duck were at a premium. Where were they? It seemed to me that RSPB Minsmere was shivering or was it just me? Despite this, the reserve looked beautiful. Marsh Harriers were displaying. It is great to sit in the comfort of the Island Mere Hide and watch these fantastic harriers perform over this huge reed-bed. At the back of my mind was the fact that if Marsh Harriers are going through their courtship display then spring cannot be far away. As usual in a hide all is quiet but for the continuous click of cameras. No doubt wonderful photographs were captured of these majestic birds of prey.
There has recently been a couple of programmes on television about red squirrels, particularly the red squirrel of Cumbria which is making a welcome comeback after the invasive grey squirrels having been eradicated. Now, if we want red squirrels in other parts of the country, including Suffolk, and I assume that we do, why is there not a concentrated effort by conservation bodies to cull the grey squirrel population? Not just cull them but get rid of them completely. Grey squirrels should not be here. We know that red squirrels have declined in most parts of the country and we know for sure that one reason for this is the pox which is carried by their American cousins. We have a large population of grey squirrels in our Park. We have no red squirrels. Yes, I know that many people, including children, like to see grey squirrels but I suggest that if red squirrels were to be in the Park instead of greys then they would be equally charming and probably more so. Therefore I propose a nation-wide cull of grey squirrels. I just wonder what organisation might support this and see just who would be against a grey squirrel cull and the reasons why. Then perhaps could follow a muntjac cull and a more concentrated effort in getting rid of mink. In my dreams… I also ask why we seem to accept introduced species which are harmful to our native ones? I should also point out to caring people who look after injured animals that it is an offence to release back into the wild non-native species such as grey squirrels. Another introduced species, rapidly becoming a menace, is the ring-necked parakeet. I think we are all too complacent about this matter and that someone needs to ‘get a grip’.
Many of you will know that some cuckoos from Norfolk and Suffolk in recent years were fitted with transmitters specifically to trace their migration routes. These tracking devices have brought evidence of where these cuckoos are overwintering. What is wonderful is that us ordinary folk, by using the internet, can find out exactly where these cuckoos are and by which routes they are using to return to England. All of these cuckoos have been named – Boris, Larry, Mr Conkers, Peckham, PJ, Sampson, Selbourne and Victor. Most have begun their migration back to the place where they were born. You can keep up with their travels on www.bto.org>cuckootracking. We now know where these cuckoos spend the winter and we also know that they are on their way back, some to Suffolk. Sadly over the last twenty years cuckoos have declined by over 50%. Spring without cuckoos? Unthinkable!