Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Skylark

Just like yesterday it rained most of the morning which fitted in quite well with our child minding duties, so I left it until lunch time before I went out in search of Skylarks at Pilling. I didn’t find a single nest today; I actually found two, one nest with four good sized young, just ready to ring, and a second nest in the course of construction.

Skylark nest

The Way In

Young Skylarks grow down that is superb camouflage when viewed from above, whereby the keen eyes of crows and Kestrels might just find them.

Skylark

Skylark chicks

As yet there were no eggs in the second nest I found so I’ll keep an eye on it and do BTO Nest Records for both nests.

Under Construction

The story of the Skylark is a pretty sorry one. In the UK Skylark numbers have declined over the last 30 years, as determined by the Common Bird Census started in the early 1960s by The British Trust for Ornithology, and there are now only 10% of the numbers present 30 years ago. This massive decline is thought to be mainly due to changes in farming practices and only partly due to pesticides. In the past cereals were planted in the spring, grown through the summer and harvested in the early autumn. Cereals are now planted in the autumn, grown through the winter and are harvested in the early summer. The winter grown fields are much too dense in summer for the Skylark to be able to walk and run between the wheat stems to find its food. We are fortunate in this area that we have coastal nesting Skylarks, the two nests today I found alongside the sea wall in the grass that lines the sea wall.

Skylark

Over the centuries the Skylark has inspired an abundance of writing and poetry, due mainly to its song. But considering that from earliest times Skylarks have given man so much pleasure, we have treated them appallingly. The French song Alouette, gentille Alouette, familiar to children the world over, goes on to describe in great detail how the lark is to be plucked; over the centuries millions of Skylarks have been killed and eaten. Fortunately we in the UK have moved on from these practices, but some Mediterranean people still eat larks and other small birds despite the “might” of the EU.

I spent a few hours seeking Skylarks today so didn’t see much else save for a passing Stoat that fortunately was some way off the Skylark nests, but an animal that is always a danger to ground nesters. At Lane Ends I could hear singing Reed Warbler and Blackcap, and then briefly, a large Peregrine overhead.

Stoat

8 comments:

Kay L. Davies said...

The Skylark nestlings aren't very well camouflaged when they have their mouths open, however!
Glad the stoat was a good way off, and hope the cries of the hungry youngsters don't alert him to their presence.
Appalling about the decline in population due to winter grain crops.
I remember figuring out the lyrics to "Gentil Alouette" when I was quite young, and could never hear the song with any pleasure again. (And I never liked the line "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" despite the fact I happily ate chicken and turkey.)
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Cool Stoat...and what a sad tale of these glorious looking birds Phil. Skylarks, what beauties and their decline is so very sad and at least with people like you, their numbers may improve a bit. Those little ones, with their nice warm down, just so sweet~

Seasons said...

The Skylark nestlings are a cute bunch; look like cotton on the pink sheet. But it is a very sad truth about the graceful
Skylark. Once again, man proves his incompetence in intent and practice.

Well the Stoat looks mischievous, doesn't he?

Thanks for the pictures and educational content of your post. Keep up the good work, Phil!

Russell said...

Great bit of information Phil. I didn't realise what I regarded as a common species had such challenges. I saw a story about the plight of sparrows in Japan. They have dropped by %80 in the past 30 years just because of the differences in new building materials and structures. I guess when I was young I remember looking up in a tree and thinking, "It's just another Koala". Haven't seen one since I had a digital camera.

grammie g said...

HI Phil..They are the cutest little buggers with there wild hair do's!!
How big is this bird? ...there must be more meat on a chicken wing ...I can't imagine eaten them!

Paco Sales said...

Es una pena que la alondra vaya desapareciendo, la encuentro muy bella y un gran porte, las crías son preciosas, espero que mejore el tiempo y puedas seguir ofreciéndonos tus buenas fotos, un abrazo Phil

Ari said...

Sad to hear about the Skylark but it is the same situation in other countries as well especially in Malaysia.

Redboy said...

Good news from down the road in Blackpool....St Annes Nature Reserve (next to where Pontins was) has a population of skylarks that seems to be on the up and up.....the rabbits have gone, the grass has grown back and today I saw at least 10 skylarks on there....maybe some had come over from the golf course but walking round I flushed (unintentionally) several from the long grass.....

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