Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Bee Ness Monster

Well, 'Birds of the Western Palearctic' states Egyptian Geese can nest sixty metres up a cliff face and they often defend an 'open water' breeding territory of about a hectare, but I really wasn't expecting what I watched the other week.

'Scoping the main channel some two and a half kilometres out I noticed two Avocets trying to make their way upriver but being continually buzzed by an Egyptian Goose. On first sighting I almost called it as some sort of "Arthritic Skua", seeing how it mirrored their piratical movements. Some of the best acrobatics I'd seen in a while. Once happy the Avocets were on their way, he returned to part of the broken head of Bee Ness Jetty, where he performed a triumph ceremony (head up, wings out and flapping) to his partner.

That teeny tiny pale blip to the right of the old 'crane' is one of the pair- honest guv'nor(!)

That teeny tiny red circle at the top end of the red line marks the site, honest guv'nor.

The BTO Birdfacts page has an interesting quote- the failure of the Egyptians to spread outside of East Anglia was probably due to (i) their nesting in the winter months (so productivity in chilly ol' Blighty is often low) and (ii) the lack of recent introductions (it is not a quarry species, so game shoots have no incentive to release).

Actually,a tad off the mark on two counts- (i) the spread is happening, albeit painfully slowly. Better weather in March may be helping. And (ii) it can be a 'quarry species' of sorts, thanks to the general licence. Listed on there (with a dozen more species) as a pest species, these invaders can either be shot or have their nests/eggs destroyed. It adds you can then eat them yourself should you want to, but you can't sell on for human consumption.

Thankfully this pair really shouldn't have been bothered by anyone way out there on that rusting, rotten framework.

The tide was low in the photograph. The structure looks big, but looks can be a tad deceiving- what appears as a crane at a distance is a raised jib, once used for unloading oil. The most you see of the jetty out of the water is roughly about twelve, thirteen metres high. If they had built a nest on the structure, any young would have to jump eventually; looks hairy, but they could halve the drop by about six metres if they timed it on the full so, perhaps not that bad a choice of site. Certainly over the past few week it looks as if things have moved on. The male has been back a couple of times, his partner has not been seen and the gulls have reclaimed the jetty. The aliens may well have landed already, over on the north shore saltings.

Elsewhere on the south side, a second pair has been a bit more conservative in their choice of nest site (a tree back on terra firma) and the one often mooched around nearby, on a pond where the owner has set up a feeding station for the local Greylags and Canadas (piles of rotting fruit from the orchards).

This pair were not being bothered under the general licence either, as quite a few of the locals seem to find them endearingly exotic (for now). Chatted with one local shooter this week, who was aghast to hear these Geese were on the alien watch list. He also knew where the tree nest was, and of an additional unpaired male locally.

So why is it on the general list?
- could it prove a threat to crops? Doubtful.
- will it crossbreed with our native species? Well it has done with Mallard.
- could it out-compete locals? Well, being fresh-water loving they shouldn't really compete with Shelduck out on the estuary. Even if they do nest smack in the middle.

The more we learn, the more there is to find out. So I'll be watching out for resightings of the Bee Ness Monster next year.

Another Egyptian.
From the free-flyers just inland of the estuary, at Gore Farm.

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