The first three days of this week has seen me carrying out breeding bird surveys at three different sites. First up, was a jaunt to what is to me southern England, but I guess if you live in Notts, I suspect that you wouldn't class the area as the deep south. Technically, I would think that it in the east Midlands.
I was undertaking a BBS on a block of farmland, mainly arable, but with some grassland that actually had some quite nice meadows, that I would class as semi-improved.
I set off under complete cloud cover with a light north-easterly wind. I've mentioned before, that when completing breeding bird surveys, you note down any activity that is shown by the species recorded, and one activity is coded as 'food'. So, on one of my maps I recorded 'K.food' with the symbol for male, and a flight direction arrow. So, a male Kestrel carrying food. I got a good view of the male Kestrel flying over with food, and that food was a young Rat! The only other raptors that I recorded were four Buzzards and a male Sparrowhawk.
The crops being grown on the arable land were spring wheat and barley, and this type of crop provides nest sites for Skylarks, as the crop isn't too dense when they are trying to breed and it enables them to rear two broods, as the harvest is comparatively late when compared to winter sown cereals. So, as expected, I had at least nine pairs of Skylarks in the arable block of land.
Only four species of warbler were encountered, with the most numerous being Whitethroat, with eleven birds recorded. The remaining three species were seven singing Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and two singing Blackcaps.
All of the arable land and the pasture had decent hedgerows, and this had a positive effect on Song Thrushes as I recorded six singing males. Other birds making use of the hedgerows were the ten Yellowhammers that I recorded, with seven of them being males, so a reasonably healthy population of at least seven pairs.
Four and a half hours later, I was back at my car, ready to return to the 'north'.
The autumnal vis and autumnal nip in my blog title are as a result of my survey the following day in northwest Cumbria. As I set off from home my car thermometer was reading 5 degrees Celsius, but as I pulled in to Tebay service station at 5:00 a.m. on the M6, nestled among the Howgills, it showed a chilly 2 degrees! My fleece was required to walk to the kiosk to get a much-needed coffee!
In fact, it was still chilly when I arrived at my survey site on the coast, and a number of layers were required as I set off under 4 oktas cloud cover with a light south-easterly wind.
This site has always been good for Linnets and I recorded 15 during my survey. There is a block of arable land here too, and I recorded a Grey Partridge as well as a couple of singing Skylarks. Once again Whitethroats were the commonest warbler species, a reflection of the habitat, and I recorded five.
I mentioned a 'wee bit of autumnal vis' in my blog title, and this took the form of four Sand Martins motoring very purposefully, and rapidly south along the cliff tops. So, for me that makes it officially autumn now!
I recorded a Meadow Pipit and a Song Thrush carrying food, and I watched the Song Thrush relieving the Snail of its shell! Other bits and pieces included a Raven, a Rock Pipit, two Stonechats, three Kestrels and a Painted Lady butterfly.
On Wednesday Gail accompanied me on my survey to the Wirral side of the Mersey, not far from the Manchester Ship Canal, and we were blessed with clear skies and a light westerly wind as we completed the survey. Fast forward a few hours later, and we were driving home in rain.
The survey site here is made up of areas of open grassland, through the various successional stages to closed canopy woodland. Most of it you would class as mature scrub.
We recorded six species of warbler; eight singing Blackcaps, seven Chiffchaffs (five singing males), a Sedge Warbler, two singing Garden Warblers, three Willow Warblers (two singing males) and a singing Whitethroat. Undoubtedly the warbler species were the main feature of the site.
Three Ravens, two Jays, a Buzzard, a Stock Dove, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Song Thrushes and a Peregrine also made it on to the pages of my notebook.
On this day in 2009 I had the privilege of ringing some raptors in Bowland with a dear departed friend of mine, David. On the way up to this particular Hen Harrier nest (all completely licenced of course) we had stonking views of a juvenile Ring Ouzel, and we were then treated to views of a juvenile Peregrine being mobbed by a male Hen Harrier. Superb!
We ringed three Hen Harrier chicks (two males and a female), and we also fitted wing-tags to the female and one of the males. On the way back we also ringed two Curlew chicks.
Next up were two Merlin nests, and we ringed six chicks in total. Once again, we were treated to views of a pair of Peregrines with a juvenile, and another male Hen Harrier. A fantastic day firmly etched in my memory.
Fingers crossed, I might have some news from a ringing session tomorrow.