Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bit of a Rant

A visit in recent weeks to one of the local ‘Nature Reserves’ was, not unexpectantly, disappointing.  When I first went there around seven years ago, it was a gold mine for wildlife as, along with wide range of bird and insect life, there was an abundance of mammals too – Deer, Foxes and Rabbits – all regularly seen.

It wasn’t long that I noticed a big increase in dog walkers and in particular irresponsible ones.  I would see dogs chasing after the many Rabbits, the birds breading on the small lake and even on one occasion, a Fox.  Coincidently with this rise came the decrease in these animals.  The visit recently was more out of hope than anything, but where there was once an abundance of Rabbits around the many warrens, they have all now been abandoned and filled in.  Probably linked to this was the lack of sightings or signs of any Foxes.  At a time when birds are gearing up for breading, the only birds on the lake I could see where two Swans and a Coot.  Deer probably were around but now strictly nocturnal and since they seemed to live off the reserve on surrounding private land have been largely unaffected.


Deserted Rabbit Warrens


Below.  Taken at the exact same warren, but years earlier when it was thriving


A dog chasing after a breeding bird (Coot) that had just taken off




There was still lots of songbirds to be seen and heard, but these can much easily hide and escape this kind of disturbance but for me a place like this is about the whole ecosystem and particularly the larger animals which not only helps make the place but is a good indicator how healthy environmentally it is.

There was one glimmer of hope or possible another side of the gloom and that was spotting a Red Squirrel.  Since the introduction of the Grey Squirrel, the Red has rapidly been disappearing from south to north.  Where I would once regularly see these extremely endearing creatures, they are now an extremely rare sight in these parts.

It was a surprise to see one on this occasion and reminded me of a time I would sit in a quiet part of any one of the local woods and watch them chasing each other up and down the trees - they would even come up close to you.  I stumbled across this one which was feeding on the woodland floor and, characteristically darted partially up the nearest tree only to stop and look at me, showing curiosity.  After disappearing from my sight I thought I had lost it only to find it had worked its way behind me and was watching me.  A Grey Squirrel would simply vanish.  There was one problem however as can be seen by the quick picture I managed to get and that it obviously has a problem.  Probably some kind of mange as it had lost some of its fur.

There was no sight of any others so this may have been a stray and looking around there wasn’t the usual signs of residential squirrels, however I haven’t seen any Greys in this woodland either so it’s possible they are hanging on here.



It takes more to make a Nature Reserve than simply slapping a sign at the entrance and to say keep dogs under control.  It’s unfortunate that we live in a time where people are becoming more and more selfish to others and indifferent to the environment and nature.  It’s also unfortunate that no council that oversees these locations would ever have the bottle or even inclination to have dog free area reserves which would allow wildlife to thrive.  I know from regularly visiting a privately owned reserve which doesn’t allow dogs, the difference is like day and night.  People still visit but people don’t tend to go running after the wildlife and the local wildlife can adjust to seeing people walking by.

This isn’t a dig at the dogs but squarely at the owners who, over the years I’ve found the vast majority couldn’t care in the slightest to others and who seem to believe that when they go out, wherever they are is purely for their benefit.


This is the sight I would love to see again at this and other reserves but sadly is unlikely



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