06
Feb
15

Times Past

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately; far too much in fact. I’m missing the outdoors. The problem with reading old Norfolk bird and mammal reports to extract details about cetacean is that I get easily distracted.

What I find amazing is how things have changed in the last 50 years:

  • In the 1950’s and 60’s there seems to have been regular trips out to Scroby Sands to monitor the tern population. Does that get done today?
  • In 1956 birders went to great lengths to protect details of what was thought to be the first Collared Dove nest. In fact they had bred in 1955.
  • In 1962 the sea was much under watched. There were only 4 reports of Harbour Porpoise in the county – compare that to 2014’s 210 sightings of over 300 individuals
  • In 1954 there were 10 winter records of Spotted Crake – are they gone, do they winter elsewhere or are we overlooking them?
  • May 12th 1964 westward passage at Cley of 300 Turtle Doves – I don’t think I have seen a total of 300 Turtle Doves in my lifetime.
  • Twelve breeding pairs of Red backed Shrike scattered around Norfolk in 1961
  • 28 Fulmars on the cliffs at Cromer in 1960 – with the collapse of the fishing industry I think Fulmars will continue to contract their range
  • In 1963 there must have been over 100 Smew in the county – no doubt a cold, cold winter
  • We tend to think of Golden Oriole as a lost Norfolk breeder but in 1965 there were just two sightings – perhaps we have always been on the edge of its range.
  • The 1959 entry of Pomatorhine Skua takes a deep breath to even say
  • In the 1955 report there’s an excellent photo of two Greater black Backed Gulls quarrelling over a dead Wader. The Hooded Crow in the photo doesn’t even get a mention. Entry in the systematic list states it was abundant on the coast after 24th October
  • In 1960 Coypu had reached pest proportions. 400 per year were being killed on the A47 between Great Yarmouth and Acle. In 1959 they had spread from the broads and were breeding in the cliffs at Trimingham.

The accompanying photo is of a Coypu I took in the Camargue some years ago which has a story of its own. I had crept underneath the front of my car to photograph it much to the alarm of a passing French lady who when she saw my legs sticking out into the road presumable thought I had been hit by the vehicle!

Coypu IMG_3414

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3 Responses to “Times Past”


  1. 1 Maia MacGillivray
    February 6, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    I lived in Louisiana for about 20 years all told. I know that fella as a Nutria Rat, and they’re destructive pests there of major proportions; there’s an actual bounty on them because of it. Most descend from escapees from a fur farm during a hurricane in the 40s; they’re well-entrenched there now. They do enormous damage to the wetlands along the coast, which are already badly stressed by a slew of other factors, natural and otherwise. I’ve probably seen a couple dozen all told; they live further out in the swamps than I had reason to go very often. It was fun to take visitors from out of state out to Jefferson Island and show them one, though — vicious and terrifying killers with blood-stained fangs that they were. Heh.

    • February 7, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      Vicious and terrifying killers indeed but not of the bloodly kind. Nutrias ran riot with crops and riverbanks here. Same species Maia South American in origin and yes escapees from fur farms here too. It took two men in a van and 20 years of effort to eradicate the species from East Anglia. Many thousands were killed; the last, a big male, in the early 1990’s

      • 3 Maia MacGillivray
        February 8, 2015 at 12:16 am

        Yeah, but those big, blood-colored teeth made it a good tale to tell to people who’d never seen a nutria before. 🙂


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