Sunday, 27 December 2015

It was another one of those mornings that barely got light, with a gusty wind blowing in pulses of drizzly rain, but once again it was very mild.

There was very little of note to be found during my 2 and a half hour visit, the female KESTREL hunted around the Greenhouse Grounds, were the only finches of any number were around 8 SISKIN. The adjacent sheep pasture at Migrant Alley had attracted around 50 STARLINGS, plus the usual 100 or so BLACK HEADED GULLS, with a few HERRING GULLS and a COMMON GULL among them.

At least 7 MEADOW PIPITS flew up from the Ashes Lane Fields as I walked to the lakes, where the only notable bird seen on the water was a GREY HERON. The Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods were given a brief looking through, the best on offer from these habitats were a LONG TAILED TIT flock, a TREECREEPER, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and a COAL TIT.

A shorter post today allows me the time to look back over the year, one which has seen much habitat destruction take place on my patch, which in turn diminishes the species of birds that can be found here.

Just 44 species of birds were confirmed successfully breeding this year, not a disaster, but the numbers of each of those species is declining year on year now. As recently as 2011 I recorded 49 species as confirmed successfully breeding on my patch, in 2012 it was 48, in 2013 it was 45 and in 2014 it was 48, so as you can see, this years breeding total of  44 is a 10% decline in species over 5 years.

Keeping a patch year list, monthly totals and monthly means, gives some incentive to get out and try to better previous records, but few records tumble now-a-days. This years target of 109 species ( the mean average for the previous 5 years) fell woefully short, with just 104 being recorded, the worst since 1999, when patch visits were far fewer. The mean average number of species seen per month this year was 68, that puts it only in 7th place out of the 14 years of study.

Had it not been for some very fortunate one off flyover species, with me being in the right place at the right time, the year total could have been a lot worse, species like Green Sandpiper and Egyptian goose fall into this category, while Marsh Tit, Little Grebe, Pochard, Gadwall and the famous Great Bustard were all one off sightings. Missing birds from the 2015 year list, that could of reasonably been expected, were the likes of Nightingale, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Wigeon, Shoveler Duck and Golden Plover.

The Great Bustard record has to be the highlight of the year though, but I was just as pleased, if not as excited, to find the migrant Tree pipits that arrived one September morning, a real rare bird here. Equally as pleasing were the Brent Geese, 6 of which were feeding on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, the first to be seen actually on my patch rather than just flying over.

The Great Bustard - highlight of the year!

Tree Pipit, a patch rarity

Brent Geese, the first to actually visit my patch


Derek Faulkner said...

Warren, surely not all your species variances can be attributed to local habitat destruction, other factors outside of your patch can also be to blame. Also, you don't say how many pairs per species bred, have the pairs breeding also gone down or up. On my patch we sometimes have less pairs of Lapwings and Redshanks breeding than the previous year but those pairs actually fledge more chicks per pair than the previous year. In 2014 the pairs of Lapwings that bred were less than 2013 but the chicks that they fledged were at record levels. So simple numbers of species breeding isn't always the full picture.

Warren Baker said...

I can understand what you are saying. If I was to list all the species that bred, with a number besides them indicating how many of that species did so, I would be all night posting! I'm am not fibbing when I say most species here are in decline due to habitat loss, unfortunately :-(

It is easier to understand that, on my patch, I find fewer nests because there are fewer places to for birds to nest! The habitat has gone.

What you say about other indicators is true also, particularly for summer migrants, their number can fluctuate due to external factors, Nightingales for example still have habitat here, but none visit any more.

Stephen Mills said...

I am suffering a similar fate on my patch with lots of the decent habitat being destroyed. The species list is a lot lower this year compared to any when I first started recording.
I am missing such things as Pochard and Goosander and as usual Mute Swan.
I think duck species are harder to come by because of the mild weather.
Still hopeful that something could turn up before the end of the year.

Warren Baker said...

Hi Steve,
Habitat loss is the primary driver in the loss of all our wildlife, I think we will have to enjoy what we've got while we have it.