Archive for February 13th, 2008

13th February 2008, Wednesday

More on clearance along the railway

Following disquiet about the impact on wildlife of trackside clearances (see posts on 03.12.2007 & 23.01.08), a site meeting was held at a sunny level crossing near Doleham on February 7th between representatives of Maxfield Nature Conservation Trust, Railtrack and their forestry contractors, UPM Tilhill. This gave local naturalists an opportunity to understand the thinking behind the removal of trees and scrub and to express their particular concerns for the survival of bats and Dormice alongside the line.

Railtrack explained that Health & Safety was the motivator and that the work programme had in fact been brought forward because train drivers had complained to their union about poor visibility along this section of the network. Drivers need clear sightlines to ensure the safety of passengers, should there be an obstruction on the line, and that of track maintenance crews and people or vehicles on level crossings. In addition, the amount of wood and foliage falling onto the line, causing possible interruption to services, needs to be minimized.
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13th February 2008, Wednesday

Little Egret ‘stalking’ Cormorant

While watching the Firecrest at Playden today, I noticed a Little Egret far below me on the mud bank of the River Rother, with a Cormorant diving and surfacing very close to it. The egret seemed to be following the Cormorant’s every move. Ten minutes later I reached the river bank where the two birds were much closer and still behaving in the same way. The Cormorant, a conspicuously white-headed bird (perhaps of the migratory Continental race sinensis), was continually making brief dives in the shallow water 1-3 metres out from the bank, often coming up with small fish. It was gradually coming my way. The egret walked slowly along the very foot of the mud, all the time keeping parallel with the Cormorant and peering intently at it. Once the Cormorant surfaced a bit too close and the egret lunged at its beak, nearly grabbing the fish. After about 10 minutes the Cormorant swam further out but the egret waited patiently, then I lost it below the overhang of the saltmarsh.

I can’t find any mention of this behaviour in Birds of the Western Palearctic or any other sources, and would be interested to know if any readers have noted it before.

13th February 2008, Wednesday

Firecrest still present

The Firecrest was still present in Saltcote Lane at 1 p.m. This time it came closer. The crown stripe is very narrow but looked mainly yellow, suggesting that this is a female. (Note: the public footpath is confined to the tarmac drive – please don’t walk off it into the private gardens either side.)