Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Waders V Drones = Waders 0 - Drones 1.


I awoke Thursday morning and looked out of the window towards Ballard Down to check what the visibilty was like and saw that fog was blanketing the area, I decided to give it another go at Middlebere. Again, here at Middlebere the fog was heavy and low lying, so low that it was present mid channel. 

A near group of Avocets were feeding on the push up of the tide and so I went through them looking for any new colour rings / flags but just the usual "blingers" were present. As the tide continued to push up, 3 Knot appeared on the last mud showing close in just to the right of the hide, this gave hope as my previous sightings of the Stilt sandpiper had always been with it assosciating with the Knot and I hadn't seen any Knot during my last few visits, then the Stilt Sandpiper just appeared close in feeding but as I called it, the bird was on the mud visible for a few seconds & flew up but luckily Peter R a Poole birder also managed to get on it and in flight we watched it fly over the channel and land on the small raised point on the left hand side of the channel, Great news, still here and now in to November, surely a contender for another over wintering North American Wader in the Poole Harbour area basin following on from last winter's Lesser Legs at Lytchett. (I did question myself & others on where this bird has been recently as it feels like the bird has changed it feeding habits/areas and seems that it has now pretty much restless & teamed up with a small group of Knot).

As the tide ebbed it's way in and coverred the mud the sun began to start slowly burning through the fog and to get warmer as it was a damp cool morning to start with but things were certainly looking up, the star bird of this site was present, settled and roosting up, the fog was starting to clear, the sun was warming through and the other half was on her way down for a couple of days. So a fresh brew, a stretch of the legs to check the back fields briefly just before the tide turned and the mud became exposed. 

The tide turned and by now the sun was really beating down and the fog had finally lifted. The waders all began to feed and there was the Stilt Sandpiper in it's rightful place, feeding out on the mudflats of Middlebere lake, however the sudden heat combined with the coolness & fog of the morning was creating a heat haze as per the videos below.




All of a sudden the waders went up in a major panic, half expecting to see a Peregrine or a Harrier I was mortified to be told it was from a drone crossing the channel from the Arne RSPB side of the lake (I had my eye to the scope constantly watching the Stilt Sandpiper and other waders) there, clearly visible were two gentlemen low down on the bank not so far from the edge of the mudflats, operating a drone, I would say that this was being done irresponsibly as they had caused all of the waders to spook and flush during feeding, after high water roosting and following a cold morning. I know that not every one has an interest in nature and I know that there are lots of different recreational activities and that birders shouldn't dictate on what others do, we all need to share and enjoy the out doors but on an RSPB reserve opposite a National Trust reseve on an area that is vitally important for wintering waders, when they area feeding? surely this isn't right ? this, to me, is just irresponsible at best with either a total disrespect for nature and wildlife or just a total lack of understanding it, one or the other or is it both? 

Drones are now apart of the outdoor society we live in, this is for sure, technology is great and we all love and use it is in some way, shape or form but surely a balance has to be found? we all love the Blue Planet & Planet Earth series when they use drones to get that ultimate footage but there has to be a set of guidelines / boundaries set for future use of these items now? now that there are so many of them being used in so many diferent ways and for those using them for wildlife / conservation programmes/ documentaries then surely they need to set the bar for others to adhere to and follow rather than just get the footage and to hell with it, but this is just my view/my opinion but seeing several hundred waders being flushed just does not sit so well with me. 

After the all the waders had departed, the two gentlemen also packed up and departed but sadly for me, the other couple in the hide and for any one else visting the area that afternoon the waders did not return to feed or use this area of inter-tidal mudflats for the remainder of the day. 

The video above shows the Stilt Sandpiper feeding post high tide on the run off of the tide, the video  below shows how close to the edge of the mudflats the drone operators were positioned, the second video below shows the area of Middlebere Lake after the drone operators had departed and how devoid the area was of birds.




The below video is a short collection of wintering Red Knot videos I took during the winter of 2009/10 at various locations on the inner Thames estuary whilst searching for colour & flag ringed individuals. During one part of the video you can see that the the birds are roosting up at high tide when several jet ski's pass on the other side of the sea wall in the creek and even though this causes the birds to panic and flush, however they do return and re-settle fairly quickly showing that the drone at Middlebere today caused more serious panic and damage and proves that drones need to be operated responsibly to say the least and to at least work out when to fly to cause as minimal impact on the birds/wildlife as possible let alone when the birds are feeding after a cold morning and a high tide and on top of all this, I got a bit of ear-ache from the other half as I was later than planned due to the drone and making calls to the relevant people, but a walk around Swanage in a beautiful late afternoon got me off the hook (just). I searched again for the Stilt Sandpiper on Friday and Saturday but again, sadly no sign but I think I just gotta find where it is frequenting in Poole Harbour so time to start exploring....

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