Birds strike

SURROUNDED by trees, wild flowers and the beautiful Suffolk countryside, it is an oasis of a calm, a relaxing place to fish and while away the summer hours.

SURROUNDED by trees, wild flowers and the beautiful Suffolk countryside, it is an oasis of a calm, a relaxing place to fish and while away the summer hours.

Or rather that's what this 34-acre expanse of water should be like.

But Loompit Lake at Trimley St Martin is anything but peaceful – and is an angler's worst nightmare.

For in the trees on the edge is a dark force that is wrecking the lake and the sport – around 200 nesting cormorants, who swoop down to kill, main and steal the fish which cost the anglers around £16,000.

And the fishermen can do nothing but watch in dismay as the hungry birds and their young cause havoc.

Iain Blinkworth, vice chairman of the Suffolk Fly Fishers, said reports had indicated there were less adult birds this summer but many more youngsters.

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"They appear to have had a very good breeding season – I cannot recall the racket up in the trees being as noisy before," said Mr Blinkworth.

"It is so frustrating because there is nothing we can do. The birds are fishing in the lake and we have found quite a lot of damage to fish. They are also damaging the trees as well.

"All we can do is fish what we can and keep on feeding the cormorants!"

With it being a quiet area with no footpaths through it, there is nothing to disturb the birds as they plunder the lake. They do not even take any notice of local shooting of pigeons and pheasants.

The group has had long negotiations with English Nature and Defra but is not permitted to cull the birds to reduce their numbers.

"Basically, we cannot do anything about nesting birds, which is the season from February to September, and then we must not touch birds from other areas coming in to roost for the winter, which starts in October – so we are still where we started," said Mr Blinkworth.

"It was a hullabaloo about nothing. All we can do is keep re-stocking the lake."

At one time, the club did have a government-backed bird-scaring programme, to stop the "sea crows" from stealing fish, involving blank cartridges and fireworks fired at dawn and dusk in an effort to make the birds look for alternative accommodation. But this is now not permitted.

Anglers, who lease the lake from landowners Trinity College, Cambridge, say the birds have become braver and more prolific each year in their diving for the rainbow trout.

Some fish are eaten – they can swallow fish up to two and a half pounds in weight – but many are just damaged, leading to an increased risk of infection and subsequent death of the fish.

Laws governing control of the birds have not been updated for about 20 years.

One local wildlife enthusiast said: "I have never seen so many cormorants in one place. It must be a fisherman's utter nightmare. The birds are sitting in the trees with the young just looking down on their breakfast."

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