Category Archives: Birdlife

HAVE YOU HEARD A CUCKOO YET?

Have you heard a cuckoo yet? If so Exmoor National Park Authority would love to hear from you. Through Exmoor Wild Watch 2017 the National Park is monitoring cuckoo sightings this spring and summer.

Last year on Exmoor, the first cuckoo was heard on 12 April, so it’s time to start listening for their distinctive call – or perhaps be lucky enough to spot one of these charismatic birds whose appearance can be mistaken for a sparrow hawk when in flight. Traditionally, good places to hear cuckoos on Exmoor include Croydon Hill, Alcombe Common, Ley Hill and Webber’s Post.

Cuckoos are migratory birds which visit the UK during the breeding season between March and July after spending the winter in South Africa. Survey data suggest that across the UK cuckoo numbers dropped nearly 50% between 1995 and 2012, and they are a species that remain on the “red list” meaning they are of conservation concern.

On Exmoor, cuckoo populations are doing quite the opposite to what we see nationally. Despite their decline across the UK, populations on Exmoor are thriving. The latest Breeding Bird Survey (2014) highlighted a promising an 82% increase in cuckoo abundance across the National Park, since the previous survey in 2008.

Ali Hawkins, conservation officer (wildlife) at Exmoor National Park says:“Exmoor Wild Watch is an opportunity for everyone to join us in finding out more about some of the species that are characteristic of Exmoor. This year we would love to hear from you if you see any of the following species: cuckoo, dormouse, golden ringed dragonfly, kestrel, Atlantic grey seal, red kite, grey wagtail, red admiral, adder and tree bumblebee.

“You can record your sightings by visiting www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/exmoor-wildwatch where you can also get involved by joining a Wild Watch training event.”

Spotter guides and a family wildlife leaflet can be picked up at National Park Centres at Dulverton, Lynmouth and Dunster. The cuckoo features on the front of the Moorland Birds of Exmoor National Park pocket guide which is available free of charge from National Park Centres at Dulverton, Dunster and Lynmouth. 

Photo by Chris Triggs

KNIT FOR NATURE AND HELP PROTECT BARN OWLS ACROSS SOMERSET

Somerset Wildlife Trust is excited to announce the release of its  latest Knit for Nature™ pattern – Boris the Barn Owl –  as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the decline of much-loved Somerset species and get communities inspired to pick up their knitting needles to raise much needed funds for wildlife conservation in the county. Boris follows on from the success of Rustle and Bluebell Hedgehog patterns.

Somerset Wildlife Trust is dedicated to protecting vulnerable species such as hedgehogs and barn owls by creating richer and more sustainable habitats for them across their reserves – but they need the public’s help to ensure this important work continues. Action is needed now from people and communities where these wonderful animals choose to make their homes. So, whether you are a nifty knitter or knitting novice, there’s a simple way that YOU can support their work AND have fun at the same time!

You can get your hands on the wonderful new pattern and others from Somerset Wildlife Trust’s website and all proceeds will go directly to the work they do to safeguard vulnerable species in the county. To download the pattern go to: www.somersetwildlife.org/knit_for_nature

You can not only raise money by buying the pattern, but why not also raise funds through hosting a tea party or coffee morning to knit with friends and sell cakes or other crafts at the same time. Every penny raised makes a real difference.

Barn Owl numbers have declined by 70% in the UK since the 1930s due to the changes in land use and loss of available nest sites and reduction of the rough grassland areas that support their small mammal prey. We have also lost around 30% of our hedgehog population since 2002 due to the disappearance of our hedgerows and permanent pasture, increase in roads and traffic and the use of pesticides amongst other things.

Don’t forget to share photos of your creations on social media -­ maybe you knitted Boris in some crazy colours, or perhaps you took Bluebell with you to a wild or exotic location? Somerset Wildlife Trust want to know!

Share your photos and stories with them using #knitfornature on Twitter (@SomersetWT), Facebook (@somersetwildlifetrust) Pinterest or email them to wildlifenews@somersetwildlife.org and they will feature them on our website. Please also share them with Exmoor Magazine (@exmoormagazine) on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

If you’d like to send some barn owls or hedgehogs back to the Trust, the address is Somerset Wildlife Trust, 34 Wellington Road, Taunton, TA1 5AW

‘Knit for Nature’ is a registered trademark of Somerset Wildlife Trust.

PHOTO: Rustle, Bluebell and Boris photographed by Paul Mitchell.

FREMINGTON NATURE RESERVE GETS SPECIAL SCRAPE

Work has started to try to encourage more birds and wildlife at a Fremington nature reserve.

North Devon Council is ‘scraping’ an area of land at Lovell’s Field Local Nature Reserve to form a pond-like area. This will improve the habitat for over-wintering birds and create a natural haven for wildlife.

The term ‘scrape’ is used to describe a shallow pond that forms in a natural low-spot in a floodplain. Scrapes are sometimes dry during the summer and provide off-river habitat for many plants and animals, including frogs and newts. They also provide important feeding areas for adult and young birds.

Executive Member responsible for parks and leisure, Councillor Dick Jones, said: “I’m really excited about this project and will be following the results of the scrape with interest. Lovell’s Field is a beautiful spot and as a designated Local Nature Reserve, it has to be carefully managed to conserve its special qualities.

“Much of the important bird life that is found on the estuary in winter depends on finding food in short vegetation, mud and shallow water. It is hoped this scrape, along with the traditional summer grazing on the reserve we already have in place, will create the right conditions for many bird species for both feeding during the winter and breeding during the summer.”

The work will be completed in the next few weeks, with interpretation boards also planned for the footpath that runs alongside the nature reserve to the Tarka Trail.

Storm Petrels are Breeding on Lundy!

Lundy is celebrating once again with the news of a historic seabird find. Whilst searching for manx shearwater chicks in one of the west coast colonies, Lundy Field Society bird ringers Luke Phillips, Tony John and Tony Taylor came across a storm petrel chick, the first ever recorded for Lundy!

“We saw a small dark shape moving in the bracken and as we approached, we quickly realised it was a Storm Petrol” Luke said. Tony Taylor added, “We realised it was a very special one indeed when we picked it up and found its belly was coated in down. This was certainly my most special Lundy moment in the past 40 years.”
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Storm Petrels are tiny seabirds, weighing on average less than 30g, and, similarly to Manx Shearwaters, enter their nests (burrows) at night in order to evade predators. “We are ecstatic at the news that these wonderful seabirds have begun breeding on Lundy,” says Beccy MacDonald, the Lundy Warden. “We’ve been celebrating the success of the Seabird Recovery Project through news of the large increases in our manx shearwater and puffin populations and hoped that one day we would find a storm petrel chick.”

Lundy’s seabirds are protected through the island’s Site of Special Scientific Interest and, on hearing the news of this important find, Nik Ward of Natural England said, “It’s fantastic news for Lundy’s seabirds and adds another significant species to the list for this important colony.”
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The importance of this little chick was also recognised by the National Trust’s Head of Conservation, David Bullock, “I have been visiting Lundy for over 20 years, including in the dark days when rats were everywhere, shearwaters were rare and stormies non-existent. The discovery is the first evidence we have that indicates this beautiful bird of the ocean is now on the island, which is fantastic news.”