Victor's Wildlife Report - June 2008

Spring has certainly sprung, and from the look of the lake all the birds are doing well. The Coots have raised 7 chicks and the Mallards have several large broods. The Herons are nesting, opposite the boathouse, and we are not sure if chicks have hatched yet or not. If so, this would be their second year of breeding at Platt Fields.

Despite concerns over the large number of Canada Geese on the lake the birds have done better this year than last, with some 42 new goslings hatched over the last few weeks. This is up on the 36 hatched last year, and was a surprise as we believed that many of the eggs this year had been "pricked" by ML staff to reduce their numbers. We had previously had discussions with the Environment Agency about ways in which the numbers of Canada Geese could be reduced, and they had suggested replacing their eggs with dummy plastic ones, or pricking the eggs themselves so they will not hatch. Since the birds are nesting on the island we do not have a problem with rats and so pricking the eggs seemed the cheaper alternative. Even so, as nests are so large, with often more than 12 eggs per nest, pricking simply has not worked - as has been demonstrated quite clearly by the high number of goslings produced this year.

Nature, however, has been more successful in reducing the over population of Canada Geese by using the Swans to reduce their numbers. Many member of the public have been horrified recently by the aggressive manner in which the Swans have attacked young goslings on the lake, pushing them beneath the water and drowning them. Our two new Swans are breeding themselves and are only protecting "their" young and "their" territory, no matter how unpleasant this may appear to us as onlookers. Nature in the raw, and perhaps a lesson which children need to understand; that wild animals are not cute and fluffy toys but are fighting for their survival - even on an inner city lake.

Speaking of "cute and fluffy toys" it appears that around Easter baby ducklings were for sale and some misguided people purchased them as Easter presents. After Easter two unwanted baby ducklings were "dumped" in Platt Fields lake. As they were too young to fend for themselves we tried to rescue them but unfortunately one died before we could rescue it. The other has been taken to the Three Owls Sanctuary in Rochdale where it is being cared for.

The Cormorants finally left the park on the 25th March giving the fish in the lake some respite at last. The Platt Fields Angling Club intends to install "predator cages" and additional "cover" in the lake this Summer, providing much needed refuge for the fish so that they have places to hide from the Cormorants and Herons this coming Winter.

Throughout April tree felling of our Black Poplars continued and a huge mound of logs appeared near to the main entrance at Platt Lane. Subsequent investigations proved that there was little chance of reducing the felling as it appears that once the virus (Poplar Scab - venturia populina) gains a foothold the death of a tree becomes inevitable. Tests had been undertaken with parks in the North of the city with the removal of all diseased wood from the site - but still the air born virus decimated all the trees in these parks. The Council, therefore, felt it prudent to remove all our Black Poplars from Platt Fields. Even so the Friends have undertaken a photographic survey of the park, with over 200 photographs taken, showing what the park looked like before, and after, the removal of these splendid trees. A few trees have been pollarded, leaving a large amount of the trunk still standing, and it is hoped that these can be carved into sculptures at a future date.

Victor Blunden.
Wildlife Reporter.