The 2019 breeding season; a year to remember for Blackcaps and Blue Tits

Blue Tit (Liz Cutting/BTO)

Information collected by British Trust for Ornithology volunteer bird ringers and nest recorders provides an insight into how some of our resident and migratory birds fared during the 2019 breeding season.

“Our volunteer ringers and nest recorders contribute thousands of hours each year to collecting these invaluable data.

BTO: It’s official – the Wren is our commonest bird.

Wren by Alan Drewitt

In the latest report looking at the size of our bird populations the Wren tops the list with 11 million pairs across the UK. 

Knowing how many of which species we have is important for many reasons, not least of which is the ability to make better informed decisions when it comes to conservation policy and site management. - Ian Woodward.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes January 2020

Hairy Sand Wasp (Podalonia hirsuta) Dr Phil Smith

January was remarkably mild with early-morning frost on only three days. It rained on 14 days but most of it was light and patchy, being concentrated in the first half of the month. Accordingly, the water-table rose by 6.5 cm in the first two weeks but fell by 1 cm in the next fortnight. The unseasonal conditions resulted in some remarkable insect sightings. Pete Kinsella emailed on 15th to say that he had found a Green Shieldbug sunning itself on Ivy at Crosby and then as many as six on the 19th. These were the brown hibernation form but should not have been out and about in January. Even more surprising, I was struggling up the steep sandy slope to the Devil’s Hole on 29th when I spotted a familiar shape on the sand. It was a large sand-wasp. Expecting it to be dead, I picked it up only to discover it was still alive, despite having lost its black-and-red abdomen. I took it home and identified it as a Hairy Sand Wasp Podalonia hirsuta, a familiar summer duneland species. Online research confirmed that mated females often over-winter. Perhaps this one ventured out in the mild weather and was attacked by a bird. I hesitate to make false accusations, but there was a perky male Stonechat flying from bush to bush in the Devil’s Hole.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes December 2019

Glittering Wood-moss Hylocomium splendens, Freshfield Dune Heath (Phil Smith)

Could I find any insects, other than Winter-gnats, in December? A visit to the Holden Road, Crosby Ivy patches on 1st provided the answer. Sure enough, I spotted two each of the two common Drone-flies and a Green Shieldbug of the brown pre-hibernation colour-form. This bonanza couldn’t last; the following day I had to break ice 1 cm thick at the Devil’s Hole to measure the water-table. A trek down to the shore to look for long-gone Snow Buntings was poorly rewarded by a male Stonechat, three Pied Wagtails and a Turnstone flipping over seaweed on the tideline looking for Sand-hoppers.

Dr Phil Smith: Wildlife Notes November 2019

Devil’s Matchstick Cladonia floerkeana, Freshfield Dune Heath (Dr Phil Smith)

My month began with a trip to Marshside where there was also plenty of surface water. Distant grey masses proved to be Black-tailed Godwits in flocks totalling 2700. This sounds a lot but wasn’t unusual for this reserve. These Iceland-breeding waders travel remarkable distances across Western Europe, as shown by repeated sightings of colour-ringed individuals. More surprising were 13 Cattle Egrets under the feet of cows on the reclaimed marshland. I had never seen so many of these small, yellow-billed egrets, whose status has changed dramatically since the first Lancashire record as recently as 1999. Crossens saltmarsh produced 32 Whooper Swans and a remarkably large flock of 225 feral Canada Geese. Finally, I called in at the Hesketh Road viewing platform where the Cetti’s Warbler I heard in October was still singing loudly from a nearby reed-bed. It was reminiscent of Mallorca but a bit colder.

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