Both Gills Lap and Long/Airstrip have had many avid bird watchers and twitchers virtually camping out waiting for views of the Short-toed Eagle, some come every day to watch. The bird eats snakes and other reptiles so it has hung around an area where there are a fair amount of both but especially lizards. There is only a finite amount of these so food may become a problem, this is probably when the bird will go on it’s way again.
The bird watchers and twitchers have, by and large, been decent responsible people by all accounts, with only rumours of potentially irresponsible behaviour. But what impact has this massive influx of people caused on the commoner or resident wildlife? There is no suggestion in this post or by the Ashdown Bird Group that anyone has gone out of they’re way to knowingly or wilfully disturb wildlife anywhere on the Ashdown Forest, we cannot produce evidence to this effect. However, unless people walked very slowly and silently in single file, stopping only to view the Eagle for a few moments and then walking back there will have been disturbance. It’s in-escapable; photographers will want to wander off the paths to get “that shot”, people stand and natter, you can’t avoid it. There are so many aspects to disturbance that we cannot discuss them here but it should be noted that other people, groups, events, dogs, horses, other animals, etc use the Forest too and this must be accounted for before accusations are made.
There will be those – a reptile group for instance – who, I should imagine, would be particularly disappointed that an Eagle has turned up and is potentially eating their adders, grass snakes and similar. Personally I think I probably would be if I were part of that group, but everyone is entitled to their own personal opinion!
The only aspect we are concerned about are the birds and it is worrying that rare and secretive breeding birds we have could have been disturbed as the number of people watching have seen, highlighted and possibly reported sightings of them – with most probably not realising the importance of keeping these birds and locations secret. How could we, as the tiny local volunteer bird group, do anything to help? I don’t know, I just hope everyone understands and our bird life has a successful breeding season.
Although a highlight and a privilege the Eagle is/was I hope it is not going to cause too much controversy or damage.