Monday, 9 April 2012

Riverside Runners

The Easter weekend was a bit of a wash-out; cold, wet and rather dreary. Chiff-chaffs sang when it was warm enough and the first black-caps and willow warblers joined them. On the meadow Trail we heard no less than three Cetti's warblers on Good Friday, but we listened for nightingales in vain, until the first one was heard on Easter Monday, singing briefly in Rory's Wood.

Easter Saturday may not have been great day to be out, but the Riverside Runners held their annual junior event here. The idea is to keep fit by running for an hour or so around the reserve and then top up with chocolate Easter eggs in the visitors' centre. That's a plan that I can relate to, if you take out the running bit! As with the Sports Relief mile event earlier this month, it was a pleasure to see so many nice, young people out in the countryside getting fresh air and exercise.

Adrian Jarvis presents a cheque to
Jim Stevenson, Senior Ranger
The club donated £250 to the work of the Friends of Paxton Pits, which was a really nice gesture on their part. Look for an article in the Hunts Post next week.

A running event like this has little effect on wildlife because the competitors stay on the paths and don't hang about in any one place.

There has been a lot of research done on disturbance to nesting birds. I can remember one study that took place before I worked on Cousin Island in the Seychelles where BirdLife International was concerned that its daily guided tours might be affecting breeding success among some of the world's rarest birds. The scientists from Cambridge put dummy cyber-eggs in some birds' nests to measure the heart rate of the incubating females. The birds looked perfectly relaxed but their heart rate rose as the groups approached and then fell back to normal as they passed on by. If the group stayed too long, the birds became extremely agitated and some would actually desert the nest.  Similar work has been done with game birds and dogs. Of course, birds abandon easily before they start incubating so that is a crucial time. When they have chicks, the disturbance factor is extremely important because the longer the parents stay away, the more chance there is for a predator to take the chicks.