USAF to deny airspace to UK birds in The Fens

I’d never heard of Quartz so I am indebted to a reader for sending me this link which describes the search for an outfit to scare birds away from RAF (ho! ho!) Mildenhall and Lakenheath. It reminded me of when the RSPB bought Lakenheath Fen (then a bunch of carrot fields) and wanted to turn them into the wetland habitat which is now rich in Bitterns, Cranes, Water Voles etc etc etc (see Fighting for Birds pp 150-53). The USAF were worried that the flocks of Bitterns were going to bring down their fighter jets.

Bird strike is a real issue, though, and this article shows that the Americans are looking for a contractor to do a load of work in the Fens.

But I found most interesting the list of birds – actually a rather small list of birds – which had been identified as hazards to aircraft through strikes.

Any birder would find this list interesting. I mention, just in passing, that a Linnet (0.019kg) is apparently a threat to a jet plane (23,000kg) – I’m not really surprised, those Linnets are untrustworthy little devils. But maybe we ought to put a lot more effort into restoration of farmland bird populations as a defence against enemy aircraft and incoming missiles. Skylarks are in the list too.

I’d very much like to see a Meadow Popit(sic)(and I think we should adopt that name immediately for one of our sweetest birds) but it’s a shame that a Stone Curfew (sic) has caused some damage to an American plane – but no matter, the plane did more damage proportionately to the UK Stone Curlew (for I believe that is the species in question) population than the bird did to the US Air Force fleet of aircraft.

The record of a Nighthawk, I wrongly assumed, was a Nightjar which would have been rather sad and rather interesting, but on checking the airport code KTCM I see it is McChord Field Airport in Tacoma, Washington State which is certainly within the range of the Common Nighthawk but outside the range of Lesser Nighthawk so I think we can help out our allies on the specific identification (although what the record is doing in this list is unclear).

Again, in passing, that Brown Hare must have jumped a lot higher than I have ever seen one get to have tangled with an aircraft. Wow!

But the most interesting species record is obviously that of a ‘junco’ which is claimed for Mildenhall in November 2016. It’s a pity this isn’t identified to the species level but it is a quite remarkable record at an interesting time of year. I don’t think it made its way to the county bird recorder or the BB Rarities Committee – can we see the photograph please? What do you think – Chaffinch?Yes, I’m taking the mickey here. But this apparently illustrates just another example of how wildlife is treated as a problem.

I assume that killing birds would have to be licensed on an RAF base, and in this case by Natural England. I wonder whether they have. I’ll ask them (well, I already have actually).

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7 Replies to “USAF to deny airspace to UK birds in The Fens”

  1. Like the 'popit' and the 'curfew' (a miltary freudian slip?), but just how reliably can you identify a bird species after it has passed through a jet engine?

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  2. You know what some of them make sense actually
    Linnet are often in flocks which can cause engine strike issues...I suppose. Skylarks often go high and hover and can cause engine strikes....I suppose. Even though Rolls Royce fire entire chickens, ready to cook then alive, with canons to test engines
    Now Hares but more often rabbits are a genuine issue for all airports/airfields it's all about the ALS (AUTOMATIC LANDING SYSTEMS) on airbases perimeter fencing is often cited too.
    OR is it the yanks are crap at targeting Russians so have to pick on smaller defenceless targets?

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  3. Pink Footed Geese were involved in bringing a US helicopter down at Cley in 2014, four people killed. Two helicopters flew over the marsh at night, the first one got all the geese up into the air and the second one flew into them.

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    1. What were US helicopters doing flying over Cley Marshes at night? The US base at Mildenhall is a threat to our wildlife, and does nothing for our own security.

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  4. US law applies on USAF's "RAF" bases in the UK. Or at least it did when I last studied stone-curlews there. I had to sign an agreement to that effect every time I went on. I am surprised though that, when destroying bird nests in the 3-mile off-base zone, the contractor is required to secure the agreement of the landowner but not to comply with UK wildlife protection laws.

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