Friday 6 April 2018

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (part 2)

In a previous Norfolk Wildlife Trust blog [Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s, January 2017] I wrote about Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s. That was after meeting John Rushmer who, during that decade, had a herd of cattle for milking on what is now the NWT nature reserve - Honeyguide's local patch. At that time I had no pictures from the 1960s to illustrate the story.

John Rushmer has now located two slides taken at the time. The Kodachrome slides are undated, but they are of a design used by Kodak from 1959-1962. John was offered the grazing in 1960 and started grazing livestock there from 1961; these slides show the marshes after ploughing and sowing with rye grass so they will be from 1961 at the earliest and more likely from 1962. The slides were scanned and cleaned up by Thorpe Marshes volunteer Derek Longe.

The first is a view of Thorpe Marshes from the pedestrian footbridge over the adjacent railway line, looking south. The most striking feature of the landscape is its openness. There’s not a tree or bit of scrub to be seen on the north side of the River Yare, though the wooded landscape on the south side of the river at Whitlingham is much as now. The gravel pit, now called St Andrews Broad, is also not yet there: that was dug in the 1990s and the posts and wires went at around the same time.

Towards the right of the picture is the bail, the mobile milking unit. It surprised me to see it here, close to the river, as the concrete pad put in as a base for the bail is farther east on the marsh – somewhat beyond the left edge of the photo. “The reason to see the milking bail on the marsh,” says John, “is because before we did the concrete standing we towed the bail from marsh to marsh where the cows would be grazing.” 

The second photo shows a group of Friesians waiting to be milked. The man is the photo by the milk churns is John Rushmer’s head herdsman Frank Bracey. “And what a good man he was too, very knowledgeable with livestock,” says John. 
Chris Durdin, April 2018.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

A bird in the hand

Pallid swift (Rob Carr)
There are good reasons why Andalucia, Extremadura or the Pyrenees are often the first places in mainland Spain visited by wildlife enthusiasts. However two Honeyguide holidays in Valencia have shown that this region also has much to offer, with the right local knowledge.

Cetti's warbler, showing its rounded tail and short wings.
Pau Lucio provides that local know-how as well as plenty of experience of the Honeyguide style. Pau is a member of local ringing group Pit-roig (Valencian for the robin), supported by this holiday’s conservation donations. One of the group’s regular working areas is Pego Marshes, not far from our hotel tucked away in an orange grove outside the town of Oliva.

Moustached warbler
On our first visit to Pego Marshes in 2018 the late afternoon sunshine provided perfect conditions to see low-flying pallid swifts, often a tricky bird to see well.

The Honeyguide group in March 2018, as in March 2016, was also privileged to see the results of a ringing session at Pego. High winds meant the first date was called off but all was well when we arrived shortly after breakfast on 14 March. 
White-spotted bluethroat

Several birds, all caught in mist nets put up by a path through the reedbed, had already been ringed, weighed and measured. The timing was perfect to see then release five different species.

A wintering chiffchaff and a resident Cetti’s warbler were no surprise. Moustached warbler is an important local bird. Generally though to be a resident species, unlike the similar sedge warbler, ringing returns show that Pego Marshes also supports birds that move here from southern France, in a stroke doubling the importance of wetlands near the coast in this part of Spain

Reed bunting and a feisty white-spotted bluethroat were the final birds. We left the ringers to put away their equipment and went to walk in another area nearby.

Chris Durdin, April 2018

Valencia: bird ringing sheds light on wetland warbler survival

For many Honeyguiders, one of the highlights of our March Valencia trip is to attend a bird ringing session at Pego Marshes Natural Park. Ou...