Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bit of a wasted day!!!

Sporadic rain overnight then turned into a rather more persistent series of heavy showers throughout the morning and early afternoon. Now, in early evening it's lovely and,I believe, destined to be so for several days!!!

After attempting to get up to date with paperwork ( does it ever really happen?) I took advantage of the improving weather to check out a couple of raptor breeding sites locally and Raven sites. Yesterday I'd had a really interesting conversation with an Islay farmer about Raven predation on lambs. Believe me, it does happen, and on stricken ewes too, when they and Hooded Crows peck at eyes and backsides and transmit disease as well as injury!! But not always! It's very difficult to determine whether Ravens and Hoodies actually kill sheep of any age, or whether they injure them and complications then arise. Some would say there's little difference!! Certainly they feed on the castings and lambs that have died. I was actually interested to hear of instances where locally nesting Ravens had never interacted with local lambing flocks at all, of areas where they had been seen to be feeding on dead lambs but not apparently cause any other obvious problem and. conversely, where they had been a damned nuisance at lambing time!!! Over the past few months there has been a lot of Press comment on the issue, as well there should be, but, perhaps as usual, with them highlighting the more dramatic side of things rather than the whole story. There is certainly a need for the appropriate Scottish Government Ministry to take a look at what is a complex problem and to then determine an honest and non-political approach such that farmers don't get vilified for over-egging the pudding and , for those that are suffering a problem, some form of recompense exists. Utopia, maybe, but we've to remind ourselves that we have included Ravens on a Schedule of protection ( Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended ) because we value their presence, but we also have to acknowledge that that "presence" can generate problems too. On a slightly polemical note I was also interested to hear a local crofter question the current legislation that demands that all dead animals are removed and disposed of with clinical efficiency!!! Would leaving the odd dead sheep carcase around perhaps divert the attentions of Hooded Crows and Ravens such that they then didn't become interested in lambing ewes and their offspring? Or is it simply that, where there is a diverse and sufficient food supply anyway at the end of the winter period, the birds don't get drawn to more easily available opportunistic feeding? One thing is clear, when it rains , it's time for a good rant!!!!

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