Friday, 27 April 2012

BBS near Chudleigh Knighton

No, not a Buff-backed Shrike (if one exists), but my first Breeding Bird Survey visit of the year. Finally found a dry morning to do it! Nothing new for the list (74 species since 1994, but only 31 today - the average is 45 species over the two survey visits). Perhaps best were 6 Stock Doves, of which 4 were at an isolated garden feeder! Other notables were Canada Geese with 6 goslings, Marsh Tit (actually singing), 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Grey Wagtail, 4 Skylarks and a Yellowhammer. The last two are remnants of a small 'farmland bird' population, originally on four arable fields; three of these are now grassland and two are horse-grazed. 'Horsiculture' has fundamentally changed big areas around here and bird populations seem to have changed as a result, possibly for the worse. However, Yellowhammers seem to be closely associated with stables around here and presumably utilise feed put out for horses. I think the Skylarks hang on partly because there are quite large, sloping or hilltop fields in open country - just right for them. Sadly, the 1-2 pairs of Woodlarks that used the arable and set-aside in the past are now gone - I doubt whether Devon's farmland population of this species (I think 50 pairs was the last survey estimate) has been maintained in recent years. Oh, and as I was leaving a Swift flew over.