Viola Ross-Smith of the BTO was both entertaining and informative while making an impassioned defence of the reputation of ‘seagulls’. It just isn’t true that they are evil birds and might even eat our babies! (Although there was a press campaign a couple of years ago that would have us believe this.) We may think that there are plenty of gulls around locally, and certainly they are considered a pest in some areas, yet several species are of conservation concern. Indeed the Herring Gull is Red Listed, and the Lesser Black Backed Gull, Viola’s favourite, is Amber Listed.
Some work has been done on urban gulls that shows that although nesting on rooftops they actually spend very little time in the towns, heading off to feed in the countryside. Some excellent graphics allowed us to watch the flight of a gull from its nest, gaining height in thermals and travelling to a distant field to follow the plough. It topped up its earthworm feed by stopping in an estuary on its return journey for ragworms, but at no point was it interested in chips or ice cream.
In late March members set out on a beautiful morning to visit Hoe Common. This area has hosted the Hoe Bird Walk one Sunday morning a month for many years now, so it is well studied. David Knight took a moment to explain the conservation work that is on-going. It is a battle to keep down the spread of bracken and it needs constant management. Now an area has been prepared to be fenced to become the grazing area for some NWT ponies. Robins and Chiffchaffs were everywhere on the walk. The gorse was in bloom and Long-tailed Tits were seen in the bushes with beaks full of nesting material. A Great-spotted Woodpecker posed for us right at the top of a tree, apparently soaking up the early morning sun. Back on the road section of the walk we looked out for Buzzards. Later we managed six circling high above us. Some of the group saw a Kingfisher as it bombed through along the Whitewater just by the railway bridge. The iridescent blue glinted as it shot past and instantly disappeared. We looked for the spraints of otters below the bridge but the water was running too high for us to see the tell tale signs on the muddy bank. On the lake two Great-crested Grebes were performing their symmetrical dance while the Mute Swans rested on the banks. The Tufted Ducks looked very smart in their black and white plumage and the Moorhens scrabbled around the edges looking for food. Greylags and Canadas grazed around the lake and a few Mallards performed flyovers.
Future events: Indoor meetings are held on Thursday evenings at Great Witchingham Village Hall, Lenwade, at 7.30pm. All are welcome. (There is a £2.00 charge for non-members) 18th May – Dove Step (Turtle doves) by Jonny Rankin; 15th June – Birding Israel by Yoav Pearlman; 20th July – Blakeney Point by Richard Porter
Field trips: Saturday 10th June – Cley and Kelling Heath, the Nightjar evening; Saturday 24th June – Wensum Valley Stroll; Saturday 1st July – Upton Fen
For more details and information contact Sue Gale – firstname.lastname@example.org