Martham Duck Dilemmas......
The Wildlife Garden Diary has covered the events with respect to the Mallard duck nesting in the garden and to an extent the events which followed the 9 out of the 10 eggs hatching. However, the issues regarding the ‘Mallard events’, e.g. the disappearance of ducklings in Martham and the ecology of ‘Village Duck Ponds’ have wider issues.
I have watched Mallard ducklings disappear on a daily basis (likewise other species) but I am not familiar with the disappearance of whole clutches, in a very short space of time, as witnessed recently. In fact, since moving here in 2018 I have not seen any significant increase in the Mallard population, which would be expected to a greater or lesser degree based, at least on normal predation and mortality rates in general.
There are rumours floating around via conversations with locals that involve the issue of a culling regime by the Martham Parish Council and an individual from a pet shop picking up ducklings in the village. I have no hard evidence of either and did in fact contact two members of the parish council (latterly the chairman) who both categorically denied that no such culling of Mallard in Martham had been issued by the parish council, ever! However, the chairman did inform me that he had been picking up dead Mallard from the ponds and surrounding habitat and that there had been incidences of ducks being deliberately run-over by vehicles!
There are three ‘main’ ponds in Martham, from what I can discern: On the Green, near the fish and chip shop and near the church. All of which are in very poor condition, in terms of a favourable freshwater ecosystem, although some effort (I am informed by the chairman of the MPC) has been made to improve the ‘chip shop pond’.
During the conversation with the chairman, I was asked if I would forward a ‘plan’ to improve the ‘Green pond’ (quite literally green!) and to look over suggestions by the MPC for a ‘greener’ plan for the housing that is being built in Martham, at what I would judge to be at an alarming rate!
The underlying facts are this: An area filled with water and left to its own devices (with no plants) is going to end up with a very high algal bloom (eutrophication-processes), as is the case in the Martham ponds and supplementary feeding of wildlfowl, leading to a higher concentration than what the area can support is going to have knock-on effects, including extra nitrate deposits.
However, none of this is the fault of the wildlife it is once again down to human activity! Hopefully I can help to address all these issues, but politics have a nasty way of thwarting any good or practical common sense intentions!
NWT; Beyond reproach?
Since posting a tweet on the Twitter page @ecolexp (25-5-19), relating to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust not managing the land they have already got (in this particular case the area alongside the dyke system along the Weaver’s Way from Decoy Road, Potter Heigham), but still asking for money to buy yet more land, eventually received an email-response from the NWT after they wanted me to follow them on Twitter and presumably respond via a direct tweet! The email exchange between the NWT and Ecological Experiences is as follows:
‘I understand that you got in touch via Twitter over the weekend with some comments regarding management for swallowtails on our reserves. Your e-mail address has been passed to me to respond.
NWT takes protection of vulnerable species very seriously; our site management plans ensure the appropriate habitats are managed to ensure they are optimal for the swallowtail butterfly where it occurs. Our management plans for all protected reserves are reviewed and renewed every 5 years and are checked and consented by Natural England as well as other specialists. We have monitoring plans in place for swallowtail and the data produced is checked and interpreted during the management plan review.
I hope this helps to answer your queries. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
‘No this doesn't answer my queries, but is very much the 'explanation' I expected.
The area alongside the dyke on the south side of Hickling NNT reserve from Decoy Road to at least the gate, prior to the public hide has not been managed for over 40 years. This when managed correctly e.g. curtailing succession is a prime area for both food sources and breeding for Swallowtails.
So who are these other specialists please involved with Swallowtail 'conservation'?
I was informed by J.B. your warden at Hickling that there was no management plan for Swallowtails, so obviously protection of 'vulnerable species' is not taken that seriously.
I did a report on Swallowtails along the boardwalk at Hickling and through my research found no information pertaining to any conservation plans and in fact could find no papers on Swallowtails at all.
Could you also tell me what your qualifications or experience with Ecology is please.
If indeed monitoring of Swallowtails is being carried out it is failing, whoever is involved.
So what you are basically telling me is that everything from Swallowtail and indeed plant communities is absolutely fine? I have had experience of observing 'Wildlife' at Hickling since 1970 and am afraid I do not share or have any evidence to suggest 'Saving Norfolk's Wildlife for the future’ is being carried out except on a very minor; 'keep ticking over' regime.’
‘Thank-you for your reply.
I’m sorry that our response was not satisfactory to you. I can assure you that we work hard all over Norfolk to conserve our most threatened species and will continue to do so.
‘I don't think the NWT is sorry at all.
Your refusal to answer my questions and address what is a valid point, particularly towards Swallowtail habitat and the current state this planet is in, in general underlines what I first thought about where your priorities lie and your attitude towards the very flora and fauna you are supposed to be helping and protecting.
However, as I am well versed with how the NWT works and responds, I am far from surprised to receive what I consider to be a very flippant response, at best! Both email replies have been very generic.
I will continue to stand up for flora and fauna and will highlight the factors, which are not being addressed and organisations and people responsible, rest assured!’
I think this spells out that the NWT is beyond reproach and beyond criticism, as is Natural England which is referred to as an overseer. N.E. is another organisation that is not doing its job, handing out culling issues to a number of species and a petition against their culling regime is ongoing.
I have had an association with Hickling NNR from 1970 till the present, so I do know what goes on in terms of management. Basically, there are not enough personnel or inclination to manage and prevent succession, which needs to be carried out in order to preserve the Broadland ecosystem. By their own admission, the NWT does state that Swallowtail populations declined when management ceased, so why are they not doing anything about it:
During the 20th century, especially after the Second World War, fenland management ceased and much of this butterfly’s habitat was lost. Today active management of the fenland, where reed and sedge are cut to allow other plants to grow, plays an important part in the survival of the swallowtail in Norfolk. With this continued fenland management, the future for the swallowtail looks brighter’
Furthermore, the NWT’s reserve at Narborough Disused Railway Line once the place to see both Dingy and Grizzled Skippers are no longer there and have not been for many years. Why, again because of the failure of the NWT to curb succession!
9th & 10th were spent in the southern counties: Surrey, Sussex & Hampshire. The report can be found on the Articles Menu via this link: Surrey, Sussex & Hampshire 2019