I like mosslands, but I'm not exactly sure why. Most of our mosses are now completely degraded and have been drained for agriculture, but even so, there is still something about them. I wondered whether it was the open landscape with 'big' skies', perhaps that's part of it, but I think what it probably is, is that some of the last remaining farmland bird populations are to be found on mossland. Even though most mossland has been 'improved' for agriculture, the wet, peaty soils means that from an arable perspective at least, spring cropping still takes place, and this provides habitat for some of our declining farmland birds. This is certainly the case in the northwest, but in East Anglia it is a different story.
Earlier in the week, I was on some mossland in south-west Lancashire to start a series of wintering bird surveys at this particular site. It was a pleasant morning, with sunny intervals and a light - moderate southerly wind.
The site that I am surveying is permanent pasture, quite rare on a lot of mossland, bounded by mature hedgerows, and plonked in the middle of a predominantly arable landscape. From the word go, Pink-footed Geese were on the move, commuting between their estuarine roost sites to inland feeding areas, and I had 1,249 go over. In fact, my survey site is only 4 km from the coast as the 'Pinkie' flies.
One of the farmland bird species that I now only ever record on mossland is the Grey Partridge, and I was pleased to see a pair this morning. I suspect the mature hedgerows and spring cropping are providing some good habitat for them. Raptors were thin on the ground, with just a male Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a Magpie, the only species.
To the northwest of the site is a block of woodland, and Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay were calling from here. It was hard to say whether there was any vis or not, but 16 Skylarks, two Meadow Pipits, two Chaffinches and singles of Greenfinch and Siskin all heading south, suggested there might have been.
A party of 12 Long-tailed Tits moved along a hedge, and the network of hedges held two Song Thrushes, six Redwings, 52 Fieldfares and six Blackbirds, including a continental male. Alongside the track that forms the northern boundary of the site, are some telegraph wires and 17 each of Goldfinch and Linnet were perched up on them. A single Reed Bunting ended a pleasant morning.
The forecast for the weekend isn't great, and it is looking like another weekend where there will be no ringing for me.
I read an interesting snippet in British Birds that was reporting on some new research published in the journal Current Biology (not a journal that I am familiar with), that revealed that Jackdaws use a democratic process to decide when to leave their roosts en masse!
In the snippet it stated that the study was undertaken over two winters at roost sites in Cornwall. Using audio recorders to monitor noise levels, researchers found that birds call out when they are ready to leave and, when the noise reaches a critical level, it signals that the roost is ready to depart. Amazing!