Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012-04-03 - eliminating Ruddy Ducks in England. Huh?

OK. I am still doing it. I really need to start here on the blog first and make a reference, but I just go off into space to comment on something on the birders list. I saw a message from Michigan Birders tonight and felt compelled to respond. I share it here.

Here is what I wrote. If you start near the bottom, you will see the note that triggered this "ramble".

Unbelievable! (Hey, it's after April 1, so I gotta believe it ...)

Without going into the previous messages listed on the referenced web-site (I am very sure they are interesting...), the first ref:
gave me a look at the endangered White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala). Interesting! I guess, if here, I would have thought it a leucistic "Someduck" - maybe Ruddy - and asked birder's advice. I never even heard about it before tonight - not in MY books!

Maybe the prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere from west to east are why we do not see the White-headed duck? Yet thinking about the winds again, why do the Brits and Spaniards not think "our" Ruddy Ducks again will interfere after some big blow during migration? And, I also suspect some blown-over duckers might be unfaithful in a land of new opportunities...

Yes, I continue to be clueless yet found this fascinating, but one point it raised in my mind - What if we in the USA were living on an island, or in a small country (small compared to the USA)? What we might then do to protect "our" species?

I also cannot help but think of an analogy from fishing. Carp fishing is a huge thing "across the pond". They have evolved an amazingly sophisticated culture for fishing for carp. We are learning from the Brits about how to fish for carp developed because of their limited fishery options. What do you do for fishing fun where the population per fish - and especially fishable access - is so large? Carp are really fun on light tackle, and become with fishing pressure, a hard species to catch!!! But what else do they have as a major fishery? Geez! And what access is available to the public? !!! Everything is private!

Here in Michigan we can fish for bass (maybe the best smallmouth fishery in the world and good largemouth bass fishing as well) as well a huge number of fish only dreamed about on the other side of The Pond - think walleyes, and muskies, and a Great Lakes salmon/steelhead fishery that often rivals our own west coast!

And birds? I can only surmise, but certainly land mass and migration patterns suggest many more possibilities here. I think Michigan is an amazing place to bird!

But, I also know our native (undeveloped - yet also secondary in a historical sense) landscape is rapidly dwindling thru development. And I wonder - how long will it take before we regard our own special (maybe not endangered, but dwindling) bird populations as special enough to cause concern?

I love "tippy tails" (Ruddy Ducks), and only began seeing them a couple of years ago. It took a couple of years to learn how to ID them. I rarely see them. Any guesses on this side of the pond as to whether we should be concerned?

But more importantly, I wonder and pose a question:

If you were on an island (no, not the traditional coconut-filled desert island of such questions, but one like Great Britain) or living in a very limited geographic space (think Europe), how would YOU respond to threats of species extinction? Sure we all cite Kirtland Warblers in Michigan as a success story, but what else? Sadly, EPA and similar USA safeguards have been very much weakened in the last couple of decades and are very much still under attack. I suspect we are complacent with our much larger land mass and we tend to forget the older song that basically said "pave Paradise and put up a parking lot".

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Yellow_Taxi

It can happen here!

No, I really do not care much about Mallards hybridizing with American Black Ducks - It happens. I know few examples so far. But what else? And what do we know about Whobird does IT with Whombird in the birding world? (Yes, genetics suggest stuff, but like I said before, I know little ...)

I just got fired up now on a "ramble". I call it "just wondering". But what if WE lived in a very limited geographic space? What birds would WE protect?

"Dr. Bob" Setzer
Streamwood Estates, Rochester Hills (Crooks & Hamlin), Oakland County
"Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day." Teaching a man to "bird" is much harder!

P.S., And, of course, what are OUR spending priorities? What percent goes to environmental and bird-related concerns? I just read some article that suggested that if we cancelled only seven (of 200+) fighter jets currently funded for a yet unknown battle with an unknown enemy, we could give every grade-schooler a tablet computer thing. Maybe they might learn about birds! In an era of federal deficits, this sounded quite amazing!

-----Original Message-----
Subject: [birders] $318,000 Found To Finish Off The Ruddy Duck

WWT = Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, a UK conservation organization RSPB = Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Defra = Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

1 = US $1.59 as of 3 April 2012

The following is quoted from British Birds, April 2012, Volume 105, page 221:

UK Government finds 200,000 to finish off the Ruddy Duck

The latest report on the Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis eradication programme concludes that there are now fewer than 100 Ruddy Ducks remaining in the UK and confirm that the cull has been extended to finish the job. Since the early 1990s, Ruddy Ducks, probably originating from the large feral population in the UK, had appeared in Spain where they hybridized with the globally threatened White-headed Duck O. leucocephala and threatened the native species with extinction. The Spanish Government requested action.

Between 1903 and 2004, the UK Government undertook research to determine the most effective techniques for culling the Ruddy Duck. An initial programme of killing the birds in the breeding season was largely unsuccessful. In September 2005, Defra estimated the Ruddy Duck population to be 4,400 birds and embarked on a comprehensive cull in the breeding season and in winter. According to the annual bulletins from Defra, 3,691 were culled in 2005-07, 1,190 in 2007/08, 738 in 2009/10 and 322 in 2010/11, a total of 7,225 birds, well in excess of the original estimate of 4,400 in September 2005.
The cull has been controversial, particularly since the WWT and the RSPB supported it. The RSPB lost members because of its support for the cull, but David Hoccom, head of the RSPBs species policy unit, told BBC News: It is very sad that such measures are necessary, but we expect the White-headed Ducks future to be more secure as a result. The White-headed Duck has undergone a rapid worldwide decline, making extinction a real possibility.

Over 7,000 Ruddy Ducks have been killed at a cost of 5m. That a further 200,000 can be found in these austere times to cull the remaining 100 is an intriguing insight into Government spending priorities.


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