Sunday, 28 April 2013

After my blog post yesterday, I took a walk over to the newly harrowed Tree Nursery Field, where after a short while scanning the tilth, I found two smart WHEATEAR, very nice  :-)

This morning I was out by 06:00hrs, in some lovely sunshine and clear skies, but the price for that was a frost. I had four species in mind for the visit, Turtle Dove, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and maybe a flyover Swift. I went over to the Scrubby Woods, where one or two pairs of Turtle Dove possibly bred last year, on the way finding one of the Wheatear on the harrowed field.

I stood and listened for over an hour at the Scrubby Woods, moving from one spot to another, but no Turtle Doves were heard, nor any Garden warblers or Lesser whitethroats, the turtle Dove and Lesser Whitethroat are now 4 and 2 days respectively, later than their 11 year median first recorded date, but the Garden Warblers median arrival date here is the 3rd May, so not too surprising not to record one. Whilst listening I was able to confirm at least 4 BLACKCAP territories and 3 CHIFFCHAFF, but it is so unusual not to hear a Cuckoo here, in past years they have been almost annoying with their constant, loud calls drowning out everything else, I suppose I am recording the actual demise of this species as a breeding bird here now, to be added to the likes of Nightingale, Yellowhammer and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker  :-(

I moved on and tried the only other place where Turtle Dove and Lesser Whitethroat are found on my patch, the Wooded Headland at Migrant Alley, again I had to pass through the harrowed nursery, and saw that there were now two Wheatear, must have missed one earlier! I got to the Wooded Headland and spent half an hour listening, but again failed to hear any of my target species.

Next up was a 2 hour hour sky watch, and a couple of circuits of the pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley, but the clear blue sky remained mostly empty, no swifts, their median arrival date for the past 11 years is 29th April so one could have been anticipated. The local SWALLOWS, ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOOD PIGEONS were seen, along with a couple of HERRING GULLS and a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL. Very little was found around the fields either, which by now were disturbed by the dreaded dog walkers, as well as stable girls and the farmer checking his sheep. LINNET, STARLING, PIED WAGTAIL and CARRION CROW were all that was recorded.

In a last gasp effort to find a Lesser Whitethroat I tried the Greenhouse Grounds, where a pair did once breed, and in some years odd birds have passed through, but again I failed in my quest, I did however find three maybe four Common Whitethroats  :-)

All a bit frustrating, as I only need two more new species this month to equal the best ever April species tally of 77,  I'll have another try tomorrow !
One of the Wheatear on the harrowed Tree Nursery field - i'll have to find another name for the field as it is no longer a tree nursery!
Herring Gull
I took this GREAT TIT photo at home, I wanted to get a better view of that large 'tick' on the birds neck, it didn't seem to be hampering the bird to much though


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...


A few swifts up here now so yours can't be far away



Joe said...

Hi Warren, nice photos in this post, that Swallow's looking rather smart. Sad to hear that you aren't hearing any Cuckoos yet, I really hope they turn up for you- their drop in numbers really is such a shame. Good luck in your quest to see those Garden Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats and Swifts tomorrow as well. Spring is quite a bit later this year so I'd guess a few of those species have been making slower progress north than they usually would :)

Marc Heath said...

Hirundines are still very much thin on the ground at the moment by the sounds of it. I fancy a nice Swallow shot in the next few days, yours is nicely captured.

Gravel Pit Birder said...

I think you and I had the same list of birds to tick off today on site....Garden Warbler would have been rather fabulous, but like you I will have to hang on...and hope...
Its desperately sad to read anyones blog, or book etc, that is recording the demise of a breeding I feel a little luckier that Cuckoo is on site at Whetsted...and loads of Lesser Whites...I recall listening to a programme on the radio a few years back about the Cuckoo and its demise and people that had always heard it all their lives where they lived and how it had disappeared never to be heard woman said she heard it the day her daughter was born and always heard it on her birthday but it had failed for a few!
Nice pics...i particularly like the one winged Herring Gull....!

Gravel Pit Birder said...

....and I tell you something....never mind fixing the economy of the country if our children and grandchildren cant hear a Cuckoo...I think a serious point has been a bit more minded to get my little boy out to listen to these things...

Jason K said...

Nice one on the wheatears Warren...had a few through Shenstone this week too!

Warren Baker said...

Your second comment, I think, hits the nail on the head. If our environment goes to pot, then so will the future of everyones children :-(

ShySongbird said...

Lovely to see the Swallow Warren :-) Well done on Saturday's Yellow Wag too!

I completely agree with Gravel Pit Birder's and your views on the Cuckoo. Until about six years ago they used to be commonly heard here and commonly seen just half a mile's walk up the road. I've been looking up research into reasons for their decline which seems to be something of a mystery and rather complicated. I hope something can be done to help them as it's rapidly starting to feel like it's getting too late :-(

Broadband has been playing up again, it was fine earlier this afternoon!

Warren Baker said...

I dont think the reasons for Cuckoo decline are complicated, its due to lack of habitat and lack of food. A sad state of affairs :-(

ShySongbird said...

Hi again Warren :-) I should have made myself clearer. Yes, I completely agree about loss of habitat and lack of food which I had assumed to be simply a consequence of loss of habitat in our badly land-managed country but research by the BTO suggests in the following quote that it is more complicated than that:

'Since the early 1980s, Cuckoo numbers have dropped by 65%. The reason for this decline is not known, but it has been suggested that declines in its hosts, or climate-induced shifts in the timing of breeding of its hosts, could have reduced the number of nests that are available for Cuckoos to parasitise. Of the four key host species, Meadow Pipit is the only one to have declined during the period examined (1994-2007). While there was a relationship between declining Meadow Pipits and Cuckoos, this accounts for only about 1% of the observed Cuckoo decline.

However, during this same period, Dunnocks, Pied Wagtails and Reed Warblers have shifted their breeding forward by about 5-6 days. Considering the timing of arrival of Cuckoos, the nests of both Dunnocks and Pied Wagtails are likely to have become less available to Cuckoos as a result of the shift, but nests of the later-breeding Reed Warbler are more available. However, the lack of a relationship between shifts in Dunnocks and Pied Wagtails and Cuckoo abundance in the following year also does not explain Cuckoo declines, and earlier breeding Reed Warblers may benefit Cuckoos as more nests will be available – clearly the problem lies elsewhere.

Stuart Newson, Senior Research Ecologist at the BTO, said: ‘Host availability does not appear to be a major driver of Cuckoo declines, so we are left with a smaller number of possible explanations. Given Cuckoo breeding ecology and migration strategy, these include reduced prey (mainly caterpillars) availability during the breeding season or deterioration of conditions along migration routes or on overwintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa.'

Warren Baker said...

Thanks for that Songbird :-)
Seems that the last paragraph sums up what I thought, the problem is food and habitat.