Friday, April 20, 2012

Slowly Does It With A Sad Song

Here in coastal Lancashire we are fortunate to have so many good birding spots, the estuarine coast and marshes bordering internationally important Morecambe Bay, the hills just inland which encompass Bowland where Hen Harriers occasionally breed, or the extensive pastures of the Fylde plain where farmland birds like Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers might still be found.

This morning I felt torn between coastal birding or checking out our ringing site at Rawcliffe Moss for new arrivals; as the car made its way from home to the end of the avenue the steering wheel spun left towards Hambleton and the inland mosses; it’s so good to have the many options for a spot of birding.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year but on 20th April I hoped for the odd Whitethroat or Blackcap to add to the few Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff caught so far. It didn’t happen again with just 12 captures from my session, 2 Willow Warbler, 7 Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch and 1 Dunnock, without sight or sound of other warblers.

At least 6 Willow Warblers were in song, my two birds a recapture from 2011 plus a newly arrived female. While other species seem in short supply the tiny Willow Warblers seem to have grabbed any opportunity to head north.

 Willow Warbler


There was very little on the move this morning, a handful of Meadow Pipits, a single Lesser Redpoll and a single Swallow heading north. Other birds were the usual locals of 1 Little Owl, 3 Skylark, 12 Goldfinch, 8 Chaffinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 4 Linnet, 2 Corn Bunting, 2 Fieldfare still, 2 Kestrel and 2 Buzzard. I took some time out to take pictures of a Corn Bunting singing its unhurried, melancholy “bunch of keys” song. Take a listen because the sound is becoming rather scarce in the UK.

 Corn Bunting

 Corn Bunting

 Corn Bunting

The Corn Bunting is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. It is a farmland specialist, and has suffered one of the steepest population declines in recent decades – c. 90 % since 1970. Although the precise factors are unclear, the loss of extensive mixed farming appears key to the decline with loss of winter food a probable cause of the population decline. The BTO`s winter Corn Bunting survey as long ago as 1992/93 showed that weedy stubble fields were by far the most important feeding habitat during the winter. The area of winter stubbles is greatly reduced in recent decades due to the switch from spring-sown to autumn-sown cereals, the decline in mixed farming and the disappearance of undersowing. In addition, increased herbicide and fertiliser use has reduced the abundance of wildflower seeds and intensification of farming practices with increased use of pesticides and fertilisers has reduced the availability of insects for any chicks the Corn Buntings can produce. 

Out Rawcliffe is now one of the few local areas where Corn Buntings still occur, but even here their numbers are quite low with just 2 or 3 pairs on “our” farm.


eileeninmd said...

What a great day and wonderful birds. It is nice to have a lot of choice for birding spots. The Goldfinch is my favorite, great shots. Have a wonderful weekend.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

All of your images are so lovely Phil and I always love those beautiful eyes of birds, so appealing!
The Corn Bunting, such a beautiful bird, lovely face, the feather colouration is beautiful and how tragic the events that man has brought about to their sad decline...and so many care, but evidently not enough...very sad. I wish them the best, but those numbers sound quite disturbing. Happy weekend Phil~

i beati said...

that goldfinch had more color than ones I know

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Fantastic shots and that corn bunting is just so cute. The colors on the goldfinch are amazing. Loved this post.


Oh my so pretty is the finch. We don't have any that colorful [at least I've not seen any] in this country!!!


Christian said...

We certainly do live in a great place for birding and wildlife Phil. Very nicely-taken Corn Bunting images.

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