Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Stories from the beach...

I love the feel of this time of year, after a sleepy start everything is finally coming to life.  I'm back home from University for the summer (home being the Isle of Arran, Scotland) but I'm not here for that long so I'm making the most of this weather by taking extensive walks on the beach, always accompanied by one of our three dogs of course.  Another reason why I've been taking these walks is that I'm beginning to collect data for my dissertation (more on this later I'm sure) and this has led me to focus my observations on birds along the coast.  There is a lot of activity with all the different species of birds at the moment as they are all busy on their own missions, whether that be collecting nesting material, setting up nests, protecting their territories or hunting down food to feed their hungry chicks.  Each day I venture to the beach a different species catches my eye.  This may be because this is the first time I have seen this species, such as today where I was joined by a common
ringer plover whilst I was sitting counting gulls (see photo).  Alternatively, I focus on a species that I see regularly but I just take time to notice it more and perhaps begin to view it in a different light.

Today, my focus was  jackdaws on the beach.  I have always thought these birds have a certain sense of beauty with their jet-black plumage and loads of character that came even more apparent after my observations today.  They seem to have a proud and perhaps even arrogant nature as all their movements are very calculated and calm, as if they have nothing to fear.  This image was slightly tainted by the fact that as I was watching a certain jackdaw looking for nesting material, a pair of nearby oystercatchers had obviously been doing the same and one finally decided that this jackdaw was getting too close to their territory and aggressively flew at the jackdaw, forcing it to hurriedly fly away. Undeterred, the jackdaw continued with its search, although it did give these oystercatchers a wide berth from then on.

This is only my interpretation of the jackdaw's character and I am of course vulnerable to anthropomorphism (attribution of human characteristics to animals) like most people.  I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing as if people can relate to animals, they are more likely to want to protect them.  However, this can become dangerous as animals are often viewed in a negative light and this can seriously harm the protection of these species.  The jackdaw can be considered as one of these species, along with the whole crow family due to their prevalence in horror films etc.  Beyond this, the ecological role of these species can often offend people, e.g. taking other bird's chicks.

This is an example of speciesism, a concept that conservationists need to work to abolish in order to give all animals a fair chance of receiving the help they need.  After all, conservation programmes rely on public support but it is much harder to get this for species that are perhaps less popular, often due to appearance.  I think that one of the only ways to combat this is to allow people to really enter these animal's worlds, whether this be through additional information on the species or, if possible, actually meeting these species so people can understand better their way of life and want to help them.  At a personal level, although I am susceptible to noticing the cute animals first like everyone else, I believe that all animals are equal and should be treated so and this is the message that I want to live by and work towards propagating in my future career.

As for the jackdaw, I will defiantly be taking more time to observe it on my beach walks.  Who knows what species will be my focus tomorrow?


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