A Bit Snowy

Looking out the window the snow continues to fall, nothing too heavy just persistent and I’ll need to be out before dawn tomorrow to clear the feeders ready for the onslaught. As it is February it is quiet and with us experiencing ‘weather’ for a few days, the chances of something new being found are slim. The year list, such as it is, currently runs to 115 and I’ve not even hit 100 on Cape Sable Island yet but I do have gaps that I expect to fill before the end of the month. This time last year we were energetically scouring CSI for year list additions and with some success. Not that there has been any less effort on that front from me it’s just that every year is different.

We are fortunate locally to have free-access to the fishing wharves and, provided you are sensible and don’t block the way or get yourself killed, it is not an issue to drive down and use the car as a blind for photography. These Black Guillemots are a case in point, both taken from the car in pretty awful weather. The first is well on the way to summer dress, the second in full winter plumage. Why they should be so it perhaps down to when they began their first full molt after fledging, seems a logical theory anyway.

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The same wharves work well for gulls too, although the one you want to photograph doesn’t always come close, but then sometimes they do. Today (February-10th) I was sitting on a wharf on West Head, CSI, just hoping to photograph a Red-necked Grebe that was chugging my way. There were gulls but also a gale-force northwesterly wind with driving snow so they were not too enthusiastic, also the numbers were about a fifth of what they were two days ago. Looking through the windshield I saw a gull approaching, got the camera up and ready in the knowledge that the Thayer’s Gull was back on home turf. For the next wee while it flew past or bobbed just off the end of the wharf, and in the lea, and I managed this collection of shots. I make no apology for putting lots of shots of this bird up, it is a Thayer’s Gull and deserves the respect given the distance it has travelled.

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Also around were two Glaucous Gulls, birds of last year, here is one of them.

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The last shots were of a semi-pretender. I’ve written before about the muddled Kumlien’s Gull situation, well this one is not quite in-between but nor is it at the pale end of Kumlien’s. For what my opinion is worth I think Kumlien’s needs a rethink and split into light and dark. Thayer’s characteristics require some tight definition and any thoughts on lumping need to be shelved.

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For around 15 years I was a warden on a country park back in Nottingham, England. I can now reveal that I did a lot of birding while I worked there, perhaps more that was expected of a warden. I also set up a site-based wildlife group, with the aid of Mike Walker and Sandra, and it went quite well. A few years ago I wrote about my time on the park in ‘Park Life’ and I thought I might reproduce a bit of the book here for your enjoyment. Our wildlife group did newsletters and I wrote a large facetious ‘Warden’s Diary’, comprised of snippets of my brand of sarcasm and bits from the lodge incident book.

A Warden’s Diary – August-26th: A walker/ambler reports FRENCH KILLER WASPS in a plantation near a path. Unfortunately the FRENCH KILLER WASP siren is temporarily out of action and so the wardens just quietly destroy the nest and hide the bodies instead. Samples from the slaughter are sent for analysis and they are indeed FRENCH KILLER WASPS. Lock up your children, grannies, pets and especially any French folk around, and quick.

A Warden’s Diary – September-17th: In a radical new gorse management policy, ‘joy’ riders dump a stolen Ford Sierra on the roadside gorse near the Marina and torch it. This should result in thick, luxuriant growth next year but, it is going to get expensive in Sierras if we intend to continue the project in the long-term.

A Warden’s Diary – October-4th: The height barrier at the Racecourse Road entrance shows signs of severe impact by a high sided vehicle. Wardens recommend that eye tests should be mandatory for drivers of such vehicles. Pain-relief all round for that thumping headache.

A Warden’s Diary – August-17th: Three ‘kiddies’ playing in the central toilet block report that the hand drier keeps giving electric shocks when touched with wet hands. In the spirit of completeness, the warden persuades the ‘kiddies’ (well one of them) to show exactly what is meant a minimum three times, aren’t some ‘kiddies’ thick.

A Warden’s Diary – August-11th: Naughty children decide to break into an outbuilding on the park. Clues were left and the Police intend to send them on a severe tropical holiday, if caught and convicted. An un-named warden appears on the local TV News and inadvertently refers to gangs of swimmers in the Marina as ‘Kiddies’. For those surprised by this terminology, this was the actual word used with no expletive uttered and a less volatile phrase over-dubbed. Hopefully, with extensive training, such a pleasant, innocent word will never again be used by wardens to describe these local monsters in public again.

A Warden’s Diary – April-29th: A Mr. Grundy reported a shaved rabbit and headless dog in the river by the church ruins. “Something funny is going off there” said Mr. Grundy. The Police arrested Freddie Starr as a precaution (for this one you must be familiar with the headline of a national newspaper that read ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster)…

A Warden’s Diary – December-28th: A trout angler was hit on the head by the traffic barrier. No barrier damage was reported and the attending warden found the barrier to be working as normal, if a little spitefully.

A Warden’s Diary – December-26th: Mr. P Dixon had his dog attacked by a bulldog/terrier type. On trying to prevent the fight, he lost a finger to the attacking dog. Police are to interview the victim later to see whether he can finger the culprit. They will also search the attack area, hoping to find a few pointers.

A Warden’s Diary – August-6th: A Mr Ward reported three men spinning in the Colwick Lake. Wardens are to look out for the phalarope brothers. You need to know that the spinning is the using of illegal lures to steal trout and that a phalarope is a bird that spins to disturb food in the water.

A Warden’s Diary – June-1st: A youth fires shots at Head Warden Nigel Oram but misses. The rest of the staff club together for a shooting course for the assailant, clearly an attempt to enhance their promotion prospects!

A Warden’s Diary – July-19th: A lorry driver reported that someone had stolen his shorts, shirt, shoes and dog lead; Police are looking for a very crafty thief with a pet fetish.

A Warden’s Diary – July-5th: An Asian family was caught catching ducks by the West Lake with hooks and silk lines. A short educational programme ensued, was understood and the offer of a free meal at the Tandoori Palace, Carlton, accepted, Bombay Duck extra!

A Warden’s Dairy – May-26th: A naked man is reported around the West Lake. The area was searched but no one found. The lady reporting the incident only gave a brief description, it was, she explained, a cold day.

A Warden’s Diary – April 10th: A warden is attacked by a man in a Talbot Solara. The assailant had rammed through two five-bar gates to gain entry to the park, unbeknown to the warden who was asking the man if he was lost. Fortunately the Police chose not to prosecute the warden for getting in the way of the driver’s boot, a close shave all round!

A Warden’s Diary – August-22nd: Several carp are reported dead around the West Lake. An investigation reveals gill parasites and algae blooms are to blame. Watch this space to see how the problem is tackled by the highly proactive Council sick fish division. On the same day, a member of the public drives their car too close to the traffic barrier and damages a wing. Solicitors have been engaged and the wardens are to erect a sensor with the audible warning broadcasting “idiot, you’re too close”, purely as a temporary measure!

A Warden’s Diary – March 1986: Mr. Tizzard complained that he got hooked by a fisherman while riding past on his motorcycle. It was not the hooking that upset him, it was when the angler tried to belt him over the head and stuff him in his basket that really hurt.

A Wardens; Diary – mid-1990’s: An un-named angler decided to spend the day boat fishing, testing out his shiny new electric outboard motor. The day was fine and calm, the angler elderly and built for buoyancy!

Now, despite there being a rule forbidding anglers to fish standing up in a boat, Mr. shiny new engine knew better and spent the morning stood up and annoying the fish before disaster, he falls out of the boat. Given the water temperature, age and mobility of the individual it really should have been ‘Pearly Gates and ask for your wings’ time but, amazingly, a passing lifeguard was on hand to rescue Mr. shiny new engine, hauling his substantial frame to safety.

Enter the wardens into the fray. The angler is ferried (on dry land!) to the Fishing Lodge and given warm clothing and sweet tea. The boat (complete with shiny new engine) is recovered and parked on the jetty.

After a rapid and remarkable recuperation, the angler’s spirits are lifted and he decides, for he knows best, to fish on and from the boat, still using his shiny new engine. Off he strolls from the Fishing Lodge, steps into the boat, misses his footing and lands in the water.

One week later we had a hastily written note. ‘For sale, one shiny new electric engine, barely used, one careful owner!’  – a true story, I swear it.

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