Golden Plovers, Richard Tyler
Some of us up in the Cotswold hills can barely remember what a wader (shorebird) looks like. We get breeding Lapwing, and in winter there are flocks of Golden Plover and some Snipe.
If you need reminding, there is a Severn Wader Festival at Slimbridge over the weekend of 9th September. There are talks, tours and events run by the WWT and Wader Quest. They warn that the traffic may be heavier on the Sunday as the Frampton Country Fair is taking place nearby.
On Wednesday 23rd November Mary Colwell is in Gloucester talking about Curlews and their severe decline.
Mary is a writer and produer for the BBC Wildlife Unit who has recently undertaken a 500-mile sponsored walk around the UK and Ireland to draw attention to the plight of this species.
Not only have Curlews seriously declined in the UK and Ireland, but we have a large proportion of the worldwide population anyway.
Weds 23rd November, 7:30pm at the Gala Club, Fairmile Gardens, Gloucester GL2 9EB, just off the A38.
Admission free, but donations welcome on the night.
We are aware that Curlews are as rare as hen’s teeth (if not rarer) in the Cotswolds. For an insight of the multiple threats faced by migratory water birds you might be interested in a BBC World Service/ABC 4 part series on the East Asian Australasian Flyway which covers 22 countries. Although it focuses on an area far to the east of us, the lessons are applicable here – particularly when it comes to development and the argument* that you hear that the birds will move somewhere else if their feeding grounds are ‘developed’. They don’t.
But you can try to mitigate the effects as you will hear in part 1.
I haven’t listened to part 2 yet, but as it features South Korea I think I am going to be even more depressed. It reduced ecologist Richard Fuller to tears as you will hear.
Part 1 is here
Part 2 here
Parts 3 and 4 haven’t been broadcast yet, but the home page where all the episodes will be available is here.
It just underlines the fact that what we think of as ‘our’ birds have lives outside of the UK and there are multiple threats
*advanced, for example when Cardiff Bay was developed and as a defence for the disruption that would be caused by the Severn Barrage
I completed my last ringing session of the winter in April. Despite the excessively wet and windy conditions over the winter period, I managed six mist-netting sessions at Woeful Lake Farm and a further session at Stones Farm. The site at Woeful Lake Farm consists of arable fields with a large area of cover crop and mature hedgerows. The site at Stones Farm is an old quarry surrounded by arable fields with grassy field margins and mature hedgerows. The quarry has a sheltered grassy area surrounded by scrubby bushes and trees. Both sites have been fed with seed throughout the winter. The site at Stones Farm has very good numbers of Yellowhammer, Linnet and Reed Bunting and looks to be a promising addition to the project next winter.
The table below summarises the birds caught for the first time and those recaptured throughout the winter period.
|Great Spotted Woodpecker
The numbers of Linnet and Yellowhammer caught increased towards the end of the winter. This is because natural food supplies diminish as winter progresses and birds gather at areas where food remains – in this case where we provided supplementary seed. The relatively warm winter this year may have reduced the size of winter flocks – although there was a flock of up to 80 Linnet using the site this year, this is considerably smaller than the flock of several hundred present in previous years.
Examination in the hand revealed that the Yellowhammers and Linnets caught were a relatively even mixture of adult birds and first year birds (i.e. birds born in the 2015 breeding season). Previous studies and ringing recoveries have shown Yellowhammers in particular to be sedentary, with similar breeding and winter distributions and few long distances movements of birds. The capture of first year birds therefore indicates that Yellowhammers have bred successfully in the area last year and in the future it should be possible to look at changes in the proportion of adults to first year birds as an indicator of changes in breeding success.
To date I have only had one recovery of a ringed bird by a third party. A Great Tit ringed in December was recaptured by another bird ringer in Sibford Ferris (Oxfordshire) on 31 March 2016, a movement of 31km. It is unusual for a Great Tit to move as far as this but first year birds, such as this one, are known to be more likely to disperse than adults.
A more detailed report of the project so far can be found in the NCOS newsletter, and please continue to look out for colour ringed Corn Bunting (yellow with black characters) and Yellowhammer (dark blue with white characters) on the Sherborne Park Estate.
Turtle Dove Richard Tyler
This Saturday (16th April) sees the African Bird Club AGM at the Natural History Museum in London. There are half-a-dozen associated talks, and the event is open to members and non-members alike.
Of particular interest to us here in the Cotswolds is a talk on Turtle Doves in their wintering grounds in Senegal by Niki Williamson. Fewer and fewer of these birds visit the UK in summer. They are now scarcely seen in Gloucestershire and no longer breed in the county at all.
Curlew Richard Tyler
And closer to home, don’t forget our own AGM this Weds (13th April) at the Farmers Arms, Guiting Power at 7:30. Our guest speaker is Mike Smart, the county’s previous BTO rep, on ‘The Decline of the Curlew’ – very topical with members of the Society involved in the RSPB Curlew survey at the moment.
Last autumn, NCOS kindly provided me with a grant to help set up a farmland bird ringing project on the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate. The Estate has good numbers of farmland birds present in both the breeding season and over-winter, including red-listed species such as Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra, Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella, Linnet Carduelis cannabina and Skylark Alauda arvensis. The project’s aim is to increase understanding of population changes and local movements of farmland bird species over the medium term to help us make conservation management plans for the Estate. I hope to achieve this by a combination of regular winter ringing sessions and nest monitoring in the breeding season.
Ringing birds is very weather dependant as mist nets cannot be used in windy or wet conditions and so there have been limited opportunities to get out so far this winter. However, I have fed the site since October and managed a number of short sessions, which have proved useful to observe bird behaviour and optimise catching methods. A flock of up to 100 Linnet has been building, and good numbers of Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs with smaller numbers of Greenfinch Chloris chloris, Goldfinch Carduelis carduelisi, Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus and Yellowhammer have also been present, and I have so far ringed a number of these species as well as commoner generalist species. As winter progresses and natural food supplies diminish, I hope numbers will build further.
To maximise the data obtained by the project I will be colour-ringing any Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer caught, as both species perch prominently in the breeding season and so should be easy to re-sight. If any NCOS members are out walking on the Sherborne Park Estate, please check these species for colour rings and report them to CotswoldsCR@outlook.com. Corn Bunting colour rings are placed on the left leg and are yellow with one letter and two numbers engraved in black. Yellowhammer colour rings are also placed on the left leg and are dark blue with two letters engraved in white.
Barn Owl – Rob Brookes, from ‘Birds of the Cotswolds’ (Liverpool University Press 2009)
Two new bird study groups have been set up within the county recently. The first is the Gloucestershire Barn Owl Monitoring Programme, which seeks to provide advice and support for Barn Owl conservation. This project will liaise primarily with landowners and farmers, as Barn Owls have become so dependent on nest-boxes and the land on which they are sited. Sightings are crucial, though – if you don’t know where the owls are, you can’t put up nest-boxes or ring the birds.
The other group is the Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group. This group will study a mixture of raptor species (suggestions welcome) and may also include Ravens, whose lifestyle and survey methods have similarities with raptors, and other owls. These species are far less popular with landowners – for understandable reasons – and the emphasis will be on birders logging sightings, breeding activity and behaviour.
The Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group held its first meeting last Saturday at St Peter’s High School, Gloucester (a big thank-you for providing the facilities for free!). There were over 50 people there of all levels of skill and experience, but united in enthusiasm. The species picked out for further study at the moment are: Peregrine, helped by a very entertaining account of those at Symonds Yat by Steve Watson; Kestrel, whose numbers here have perked up this summer (but for how long?); Red Kite, which have now bred in the county for the first time in 150 years; and Goshawk, a fair number of which have been ringed due to Rob Husbands’ climbing ability and Schedule 1 licence.
Pics: Mervyn Greening
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust may shortly be taking over several sites currently owned by the County Council. Both bodies want people’s views on this by FRIDAY 9th JANUARY (they haven’t had much response yet).
There is a comments form with maps and details here.
Dr Colin Studholme (GWT’s Director of Conservation) describes the project:
You may be aware that Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has been in discussion with the County Council regarding the possible transfer of the Country Parks – Crickley Hill, Barrow Wake, Cooper’s Hill. Coaley Peak and Kilkenny – to the Trust. This would give the Trust an amazing opportunity to take on 5 sites of high wildlife and archaeological interest, and – just as importantly – sites with a good visitor infrastructure which will allow us to communicate our conservation messages to the Gloucestershire public.
The Council is currently consulting on the proposal but to date have received very few responses. This may be that the proposal has not been very well advertised, or that it is not easy to find on the Council website, or simply that people are not too concerned whether the sites transfer to us or not. Clearly there are many issues for the Trust to consider in the next month, especially how we will fund the current shortfall in the site running costs. But the sites are not seen as core business for the Council and we believe that their sustainable future lies with us and we have exciting plans if they do become ours.
We would like as many people as possible to respond to the Council’s consultation with their views so I would be very grateful if you could spend a few moments to provide some feedback via the Council’s website. Please also forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in commenting. The link can be found here: http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/countryside (but if this is not successful just view the proposal under “consultations” on the Council’s website).
Thanks in anticipation.
I think we are all aware of the persecution Hen Harriers, a winter visitor for us in the Cotswolds, suffer in the UK: no successful breeding in England in 2013 and a Government study showing the England could support 300 pairs.
John Armitage, a retired RSPB officer now living in Argyll and with 30 years involvement in Hen Harrier protection, has started a petition calling on the Government to institute a a system of licencing for upland grouse moors and gamekeepers. The petition closes on 27 February. More information is here. If you agree, the petition is here.
Shameless plug time!
If you need a distraction from the dark evenings, or are wondering where your next exotic holiday might be you might be interested in this 10 minute film on Hong Kong’s Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve (with a brief feature on the Minjiang Estuary in Fujian province, on the mainland in SE China).
A friend of mine, Martin Williams, from Hong Kong helped make the film which aims to show what a superb reserve this is, as well as the importance of Deep Bay (the body of water of which it is a part): a vital wetland that needs protection.
Every winter some 90,000 birds take refuge here. 380 species have been recorded of which 35 are of global conservation concern such as the Black-faced Spoonbill and Sanders Gull.
Narration is by actress/conservationist Sharon Kwok.
More of Martin’s work can be found here, including Not BB, his infamous spoof of a well-known magazine