Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A plea for non-reporting of British RUDDY DUCKS

Rather timely and topically, Iain Henderson has published a detailed review of the UK Ruddy Duck eradication programme in this month's British Birds magazine (102: 680-690). It is very selective in the data it presents and the author is clearly convinced and influenced by the facts provided and continues to repeat the nonsensical statement that 'the Ruddy Duck is now regarded as the greatest threat to the long-term survival of the White-headed Duck'.

It explains how the UK population originates from four males and three females imported to the WWT at Slimbridge (Gloucs) in 1948. A captive breeding programme started in 1949 but, following a series of escapes in the mid to late 1950s and the deliberate release of three immature females in 1961, a small feral population became established at Chew Valley Lake (Avon).

Well, Ruddy Ducks are still surviving in the North American pen at Slimbridge in a free state (but pinioned) and still breed each year. I wonder what precautions are in place to prevent further juveniles escaping from that site?

Iain reproduces official statistics provided by Fera, including the selective figures detailing collateral damage. The list of native birds killed or wounded during the programme since just September 2005 include a Common Scoter, Black-necked Grebe and 2 Little Grebes (in fact 29 birds in total of 7 species - which is incorrect, as I have personally witnessed other species killed not included in their figures).

There is no doubt however that Fera have been exceptionally successful in their campaign, totally eradicating some 6,200 or more 'sitting ducks' - perhaps 90% of the pre-cull population.

It openly admits that some birdwatchers and WeBS counters withhold information but that they have got round that by employing their own counters and have received help from site owners and managers. They have targeted the birds at key breeding sites and main wintering sites. The increasing co-operation of site owners bodes well for the final stages of the programme, as does the behaviour of the Ruddy Duck. It also concludes by saying that complete eradication is expected by this spring.

I hereby suggest, particularly if you support my stance on the subject, that you do NOT report any more Ruddy Ducks in Britain wherever they may be, as Fera are likely to follow up any known sightings and attempt to kill them.

Best wishes

Lee Evans