Sunday, 20 January 2019

Egret Murder Mystery

Local residents Karen and Jenny have contacted me about the death of two Little Egrets on the same stretch of the River Wandle at Beddington.  Both specimens were recovered from the river and collected, There was also a Grey Heron reported dead along a stretch of the River nearby and there has also been a Little Egret at Beddington Farmlands (adjacent to the stretch of river) which has a broken leg. 

This cluster of dead or injured herons coincides with reports of boys with catapults along nearby stretches of the River Wandle and there is also a witness statement reporting a man walking in the river to retrieve one of the egrets and hiding it (from where it was recovered by the witness). 

It's all rather suspicious and extremely concerning. 

Yesterday I collected one of the specimens to examine it. There were three injuries on the bird- a cracking adult with plumes on the head, back and breast. Apart from the injuries the bird was in pristine condition. 

The injuries were a small puncture wound to the neck, a broken right tarsus (tarsometatarsus bone) and a large wound on the breast which has removed breast muscle tissue and broken the sternum. 

I'm no expert in this specific field but to me the injuries look consistent with a catapult wound. A predator kill would surely show more signs of a struggle, the bird would not otherwise be pristine apart from the wounds and of course a predator would usually (not always) eat parts of the bird too. 

I am waiting to confirm likely cause of death by RSPB Investigations (if they reply) and the incidences will be reported to the police and the local media. Raising public awareness could lead to more vigilance and the culprits being documented and reported to and arrested by the police. 

The Friends of Beddington Park and witnesses have already alerted the police who so far have said they can't do anything without more information. 

 Little Egret- found dead on Friday
 Injury one- small puncture wound to the neck 
 Main injury- a relatively large cavity in the breast and broken sternum
 Broken tarsus 
Little Egret at Beddington Farmlands last Tuesday. This bird also has a broken leg and was flying from the direction of Wandle Bank (the site of the two dead egrets). It's possible the above pictures are all of the same bird. I found similar stains (not exact) on the primary tips of the right wing on both birds - shown clearly in this image. If this is the same bird it would imply that the injuries were sustained over at least two difference incidences with the broken leg predating the presumably fatal wounds. This could imply that the bird has suffered a sustained period of targeting. 

More on this as it comes in. I intend to do a full dissection of the specimen on Tuesday in order to preserve the skin and examine diet and look for any other injuries and clues. 

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Precipice

The polarisation of politics is a defining character of our times. Right and left wing extremism is a tool being used by Fundamental Capitalists to destroy nature, nations, community, family, individual belief systems and the environment in order to weaken and break people into the new global corporate world order. . As traditional political systems buckle under the power of the corpocracy, right and left wing polarisation is the only way that politicians can maintain some relevance and serve some purpose to the seat of modern power- corporate leaders. The corporate leaders lobby politicians and also make their lives easier by single large points of taxation and can execute large infrastructure projects in more efficient less democratic and less sensitive ways than the state ever can. All they ask of politicians is to generate an environment of political chaos for them to be able to build a global corporate aristocracy and slave armies from.

With right wing provocateurs herding people into reactionary xenophobes and left wing provocateurs herding people into a tribe of harmless gender free vegans, the only thing that matters to the corporate leaders is the destabilisation of the political middle ground which leaves a lot of people who don't fit into either extremist group finding it hard to find their feet. That serves the corpocracy well- lost and confused people like to sedate the anxiety of being detached by either joining an extremist political group and driving further chaos or developing a shopping addiction or by climbing a corporate ladder/ running on one of the corporate tread mills/hamster wheels.

Happy days all round for the corporate leaders.

Despite the blindingly obvious chaos and incompetence of our political system there is still no serious challenge on the real seat of modern power ( corporate power) from the general population or a call for a political system that pulls the global aristocracy into an accountable system where the democratic system is modernised. Until that happens, the rich will just keep getting richer, the poor poorer, nature will continue to be obliterated, corporate power will grow, the slave armies will swell, species extinctions will escalate, climate chaos will intensify and we will edge closer and closer to our next evolutionary precipice that will forge a more sustainable system.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Glaucous again

Drove to North Kent today with the plan to work my way back checking various spots but when I arrived at South Swale LNR I realised I'd forgotten my bins! (First time ever). So drove back and did Beddington instead. The 2nd-winter Glauc was still present. 


 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull 
 Presumed hybrid Pochard x Tufted Duck. The bill pattern is pretty striking and from my experience of other Pochard x Tufted Ducks it's quite unusual (almost Ring-necked Duck like)
 Had this set of moths in last night's relative mild conditions. Satellite, Early Moth, Small Brindled Beauty and Chestnut (cheers Steve for id- thought it might be a Dark Chestnut but the rounded wing-tip is diagnostic of Chestnut) - also below 

Another one of the Small Brindled Beauty 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Glaucous Gull

Managed to catch up with the second-winter Glaucous Gull at Beddington today. Tank found it a few days ago. Looks like Viridor have re-opened one of the landfill cells which is starting to attract gulls again, we estimated approx 1000 Herring Gulls (up from 1-200 in December) and interestingly we are getting more Black-headed Gulls on the lakes now that the large gull numbers have reduced. Gulls are also still being attracted around the incinerator as rubbish comes in so hopefully we still get a concentration of gulls once the landfill stops altogether. At it's peak the landfill was attracting over 20,000 gulls  so it will be interesting to see how the scarce gulls fair with a smaller concentration on site- could make it easier to find them. We thought the white-wingers might be a thing of the past but we had an Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull in the last week already so who knows?

Full ebird list from today HERE. Other highlights included 6 Water Pipits, 3 Stonechats and the hybrid Tufted Duck x Pochard, 




 Second-winter Glaucous Gull 
 Tufted Duck x Pochard 
 Female Stonechat
 Gull sp- an interesting bird that stood out today. Maybe some 'Caspian' influence. The head was more streaked than appears in this photo. 
Satellite (named after the small moons underneath the large white spot)- the first moth of the year in the Beddington trap 

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Standlake Pits- Goosander Twitch

Took Jacob out today to Standlake Pits to see Goosander. A successful mission with 20+ on Pit 27. We also had the Great White Egret on Pit 60 and it was great to see the flocks of Red-crested Pochards on Pit 28- a local phenomenon.

 Goosanders on Pit 27
Red-crested Pochards- 150+ on Pit 28

Friday, 11 January 2019

Fuerteventura Endemics

Here's a few notes on some of the endemic forms (subspecies and species) that I encountered on Fuerteventura. Would welcome any comments on taxonomic updates etc.  

 'Canary Island Houbara Bustard' C.u. fuertaventurae. Present on the eastern Canary Islands and differs from nominate (which occurs across North Africa) in more heavily vermiculated upperparts
 Canary Island Stonechat - Endemic species confined to Fuerteventura 
  'Canary Island Egyptian Vulture' N.p.majorensis According to Clarke 2006 this subspecies differs from nominate in the rufous on the head, tail, coverts and breast which appears to be shown well in this individual
 'Canary Island Common Buzzard' B.b. insularum. To my eye a very distinctive Buzzard with light brown colouration and less contrast than nominate. Forsman (2016) doesn't make much fuss of either Egyptian Vulture or Common Buzzard on the Canary Islands. 
 'Canary Islands Great Grey Shrike', L.e. koenigi. According to Shirihai and Svensson (2018) this insular race is rather small and dark with a contrasting white throat. This form differs from Iberian Grey Shrike in less distinct (often lacking) supercilium and grey (not pink) underparts. Similar to Desert Grey Shrike (L.e. algeriensis/elegans) but smaller with shorter wings and tail. 
'North African Raven' C.c.tingitanus. According to Shirihai and Svensson (2018) this is the smallest race of Raven within the WP, with the tail shorter than the primaries, with a deep well arched culmen. The strong nasal bristles help to separate from Brown-necked Raven in North Africa. 

Other Canary Island endemic forms that I saw but didn't photograph include Canary Island Kestrel F.t. canariensis , Eastern Canaries African Blue Tit C.u. degener and Canary Island Linnet C.c. herterti and other Macaronesian endemic forms seen include Plain Swift, Berthelot's Pipit, and Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull. I didn't see Canary Island Robin, Goldcrest, Chaffinch or Chiffchaff on Fuerteventura so presumably they don't occur there? 


RERFENCES:
Tony Clarke, Birds of the Atlantic Islands, 2006, HELM
Hadoram Shirihai & Lars Svensson, Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds, Vol 2, 2018, HELM
Dick Forsman, Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and Middle East, 2016. BLOOMSBURY

Fuerteventura Sounds

A few typical sounds from Fuerteventura 

 Comparison of songs of Sardinian (above) and Spectacled Warbler (below)