I have no idea what this is, apart from being gunshot cartridge-sized packets of explosives attached to a rope, tied to a hedgerow. Perhaps it a part of a forgotten firework display, but I suspect something more sinister. All of this is made even more depressing if current EU proposals to cut back subsidies to encourage farmers to protect wildlife are implemented. Even with the existing subsidies farmland bird populations have fallen by 50% since 1966. Only last week it was reported that the RSPB and the European Food Safety Authority called on the UK Government to ban the use of neonicotinoids, in the light of increasing evidence that they cause neurological damage to bees and other pollinators. Banning these chemicals could also reduce oil seed rape crops by 25%. But UK Government ministers prefer the status quo. Bad news for bees, pollinators and the rest of us... but good news for the farmer's bottom line... for the moment. The madness of this situation is that farming needs pollinators more than the rest of us, although we all depend on them.
Needless to say, this morning it was pretty bleak in the open fields. 200 Fieldfares were in North Field feeding in areas recently reseeded after all the rain. And completely predictably the only other birds were in the flood meadows where there are no bird scarers and the habitat is only lightly managed. In fact there were amazing numbers of Snipe here:
The previous Snipe record of 24 was smashed instantly and with every step more rose from the marsh. Still keen to find a Jack Snipe I thoroughly grilled every single one... without luck. By the time I had walked the marsh I had recorded over 40 birds. I followed the river south and discovered yet more Snipe, rising from every patch of riverside vegetation:
I ended with a total of 56 Snipe - more than double the previous record. To give this some context, in the first winter period last year there were no records at all. I even added a pair of Teal, the first for the year:
Did you know the collective noun for Hares is a drove of Hares? Me neither. Here is a drove:
And here a very flat, single Hare:
65 species for the year.