An Archive of Past Breaking News, etc:

 Close Encounter with a Golden Plover 

Barrie Whitehall reports:

During a visit to 28 and 29 this morning I heard Golden Plover a couple of times without being able to locate any birds. However at

about 11:20 whilst high up on the north west side of 29 (SX693647) amongst dead bracken and out in the open I heard them again and located a flock estimated at about 150 birds circling high above me. About half of them broke away and descended with some 40 of them then landing less than 50 metres away from me where they merged very well with the dead bracken. I remained standing still for several minutes and then slowly withdrew, the plovers however stood their ground and so I left them standing there. I don't know where the others went although the remainder of the group that had descended were circling at some distance from me low, so perhaps 23.


On both squares Yellowhammers were in evidence, though all males to date, Dunnocks and Stonechats were showing courtship and territorial behaviour. I only managed to disturb snipe on Yalland Marsh and the one snipe on 29 surprised me by getting up off the high dry hillside shortly before I saw the plover.

10th March 2015

 

 Red Grouse poo in the parish! 

 

Peter Reay reports on 20th December:   I saw very few birds on a drizzly walk across the moor today, but I did come across these droppings, about 20-30mm long, at the side of a track at about SX 653641 in Square 3. I thought they looked like those of Red Grouse, so sent the photos to Roger Smaldon, author of The Birds of Dartmoor  and his comment was “agreed, looks typical grouse”. So it seems that we now have, or have had, at least one Red Grouse in the parish. None have been reported so far, and their presence is perhaps surprising in view of the paucity of heather. However, there was some near where the droppings were found, and it will be worth looking out for or listening for these birds when you’re next on that part of the moor.

 

 

And here's the evidence:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 STARLINGS ROOSTING IN AISH, SIGNS OF SPRING & MIGRANTS.   

 

Very few roosting Starlings have been reported in Brent so far this winter. However, at 5pm yesterday evening a flock of about 500 were seen displaying over Aish Ridge before going down to roost about five minutes later.  They could be seen from the village as a small black cloud just above the skyline. Hopefully the black cloud will perform each evening from now until March, and will get bigger as more birds join the roost.  In 2013, an estimated 10,000 Starlings roosted at Aish.  The best time to see them is about a quarter of an hour either side of sunset.

 

Earlier in the week, on 19 January, the first Chaffinch song and Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming of the year were noted.  (And Bluetits have been exploring one of my camera nestboxes in Pennaton - Phil Dean).

 

There have also been sightings in the last week of at least one Ring Ouzel in the Aish Ridge to Brent Fore Hill area (squares 19 and 13). Ring Ouzels are usually passage migrants in this area, particularly in the autumn, and it is unusual for them to remain in Britain during the winter. Mostly they winter in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Peter Reay, 25th January 2015

 

 Dartford Warbler 

 

The latest addition to the Brent bird list for 2014 was a surprise find today (3 December) for Peter Reay - a Dartford Warbler. It was in Square 1, between Three Barrows and Ballgate in an area of sparse, hummocky gorse, and was the only bird seen in the square and, almost the only bird seen in two hours of walking over the moor. It wouldn’t have been so much of a surprise a few years ago when a 2006 survey revealed over 50 pairs breeding on Dartmoor, but recent cold winters have caused a big national population decrease and, according to Julia Harris of Devon Birds, today’s bird was the first recorded on Dartmoor since 2012 when John Walters reported two on Holne Moor. Dartford Warblers are almost always associated with gorse, and unlike most warblers, are non-migratory. It will be interesting to see if the Brent bird heralds a return of the species to Dartmoor.

 

  •  Is that a Marsh Tit - or could it be a Willow Tit ? 

Marsh and Willow Tits are closely related (the only tits of the genus Poecile occurring in Britain) and very similar in appearance. There are plumage differences, but these are generally considered to be unreliable for field identification. The calls are, however, very different, and diagnostic. The Willow Tit's call is a drawn out nasal EEZ-EEZ-EEZ (sounding like a miniature or far-off Jay) whereas the Marsh Tit has a distinctive PIT-CHOU call. Further details can be found at: http://www.bto.org/about-birds/bird-id/telling-apart-marsh-and-willow-tits 

 

When the Brent Bird Survey started, we assumed that the Willow Tit would be scarce or even absent from the parish, so felt it safe to assume that any Poecile tit, especially in gardens, would be a Marsh Tit. However following a report of a Willow Tit heard near Beara in the spring, one seen and heard in a garden at Moorland Park for several days this month, as well as some definite records of calling Marsh Tits, it is clear that both species can occur, even on garden feeders.

 

From now on, if you are lucky enough to record either of these species, please indicate how you identified it.  And if you weren’t able to identify it to species, feel free to record it as Marsh/Willow Tit – that will still be a useful record. 

 

Posted: 2 August 2014 ; Archived 3 February 2015

  •  Three New Species 

     

    With three new bird species added since the end of June, the total now stands at 95. Only one of them was really predicted, but the other two were sort of predicted! The additions are:

     

    HARRIER species. A female/immature ‘ringtail’ - because of white rump - harrier flew low NW over Harbourneford at about10:00 hrs on 10 July. Unfortunately it was not seen clearly enough to determine which species: Hen Harrier is predicted for BBS, but usually occurs in winter and July is an unusual month for this species; Montagu’s is perhaps the most likely species in summer but is now very rare in Devon; and Pallid has never been recorded in Devon.

     

    GREENSHANK. One feeding actively at N end of Avon Dam Reservoir on 11 July. Unpredicted, but its relative the Green Sandpiper was - and has been recorded in previous years. This bird would have been on passage from northern breeding areas.  There are previous records from other Dartmoor reservoirs, mostly in August. This was a very early bird, and possibly the first for the Avon Dam.

     

    WILLOW TIT.  One at Moorland Park on 13-14 July.  Predicted, but not expected on a garden bird feeder in July! This species is very similar to Marsh Tit, most reliably distinguished by call. And this one did call, as well as showing some of the other characteristics. It is clear that Willow Tits may turn up elsewhere in the parish, including gardens, and we will be sending out more information on how best to identify them.

     

    Posted 15 July 2014 ; Archived 3 December 2014

  •  Another New Species for the Parish  - Flagged as a ‘long-shot’ at the end of the July summary, Yellow Wagtails have now turned up in the parish. One was seen in a field close to the village near Underhill this morning (5 September), and in the evening, seven had gathered on wires there. These will be on their way south to Africa, and early September is a typical time for them to pass through. However, they are more usually seen on the coast, and this nationally declining species is considered to be a rare passage migrant on Dartmoor.

    Posted 6 September 2014

  •  Non-Birds!  - A female Roe Deer and three fawns are currently spending a lot of time grazing in Pennaton at SX684594.  One or two young are common but triplets are unusual. (Archived 2 August 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  BTO Online Bird Atlas?  - More than 3500 maps showing in detail the distribution, ranges and changes in territory and abundance of more than 500 species are available online, free, for the first time.  The huge resource, which has records from Britain and Ireland since 1968, has been published by the British Trust for Ornithology at: www.bto.org/mapstore  (Archived 15 July 2014)

 

  •  100 Species in Sight?  - The Brent Bird Survey is not just about making lists of species, but as we approach 100 species of birds for the parish this year, there are two obvious questions. Will we get to 100 by the end of the year, and what will the additional species be?

     

    At the end of April we'd reached 83 species. Eight more have been added in May: Great Crested Grebe, Lesser Redpoll, Redstart, Red Kite, Red-legged Partridge, Sand Martin, Whinchat and (we think) Barn Owl. The 'red' theme is intriguing, and even spilled over to the non-birds with a couple of unexpected Red Deer being seen above Shipley mid-month. Another surprise among the mammals was to discover that (reddish) Brown Hares still occur in the parish, but unfortunately there is no hope of finding Red Squirrels. We've already, admirably, clinched the only 'red' butterfly, way back in March.

     

    Back to the birds. Having got to 91, what else can we expect?  My personal guess at the next 10 is: Black Redstart, Brambling, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Hen Harrier, Little Egret, Pied Flycatcher, Ring Ousel, Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Tit. Only one 'red' here, so to keep it company, I'll throw in Redshank and Red Grouse as a couple of wild cards, but none of these 12 are guaranteed, and no more than five are likely, so my hunch is that we'll grind to a halt at 97, with at least one of the new species being one I haven't predicted.

    .

    Any other suggestions? Any one want to place bets?! (Archived 15 July 2014)
     

  • Migrants return - Swallows, house martins and swifts have all been seen across the parish including over the centre of the village.  We look forward to reports of breeding activity. (Archived 2 June 2014)

     

  • Thanks for making our Butterfly Meeting a success!!   Our meeting on Thursday 10th April raised £59.56 for Butterfly Conservation - thanks you to everyone who contributed.  

    Monica Hazell's talk showed her own splendid photograpr morehs of butterflies seen in the South Brent area ranging from the common green-veined white to the rathe exotic marsh fritillary.  She also charted the decline in butterfly abundance but saw signs of hope in the resurgence of summer 2013.


    Richard Fox gave a talk which started by exploring the value of butterflies as a vital part of our natural history and culture.  He looked at studies carried out over several decades which unfortunately also chart the decline of butterfly species, their abundance and their reducing range.  The causes are habitat destruction, habitat deterioration, habitat fragmentation and climate change.  However there are success stories such as the reintroduction of the large blue and increases in the silver-washed fritillary, speckled wood and comma. (Archived 25 May 2014)

    Please remember that you can record your butterfly sightings as part of the South Brent non-bird survey - more details here. (Archived 25 May 2014)

     

  • Want to see lots of Pied Wagtails in smart breeding plumage? Try the field below Brent Hill at SX 703610 (best to observe from gate or stile to minimise disturbance) at about 18:30. Almost 100 have been counted gathering in this field among the sheep before flying off to roost in a nearby clump of bamboos at around 18:40. We would be interested in any counts. (Archived 11 May 2014)

Old Breaking News .........

Whitehall's Weekly Wanderings Archive ........

Click on the links below to download the Wandering for the week you wish to see (in Microsoft Word format):

 

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-  8th November 2015

-  1st November 2015

-  25th October 2015

-  18th October 2015

-  11th October 2015

-  4th October 2015

MonthlHighlights.......

  • November 2015

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH. A dead heat between Black Redstart and, at last, Brambling! The former probably involved at least five birds stopping over for a few days, and obligingly perching on roofs and other man-made structures, both sacred and secular, at Avonwick, Brent Mill and the village centre. They were enjoyed by several observers and much photographed. In contrast, the single male Brambling, the only new species for the month, was seen by one just observer, on one day only, in a Hillside garden – but it’s a start, and these beautiful finches are worth looking out for from now on.

 

-  All 52 squares were visited, 31 observers contributed records and a total of 178 square visits were made. Surprisingly perhaps, in a dismal month dominated by too much wet and windy weather, 70 species were recorded (cf. 69 in November 2014, and 80 last month).

 

-  In addition to Brambling, another six species were not recorded a year ago, so are new for November: Cormorant, Hen Harrier, Hobby, Little Owl, Pintail and Teal. Species not present this November, but recorded in 2014, included Barn Owl, Chiffchaff, Goshawk and Little Grebe. Among species recorded in both years, but in more squares than a year ago were Fieldfare (27 squares compared to 12), Goldcrest (28 compared to 21), Kestrel and Woodcock, whereas Grey Wagtail, Mallard, Pied Wagtail, Skylark (in only one square compared to seven last year) and Starling occurred in fewer.

 

-  The smaller number of species in November compared to the previous month, mainly reflects the final departure of summer visitors, including House Martin, Swallow and Wheatear heading for Africa, Chiffchaff heading for southern Europe, and Linnet, Little Grebe and Skylark moving much shorter distances, probably within Devon. Only Black Redstart and Golden Plover were additions to the list for the previous month, but Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Redwing, Song Thrush and Woodcock were all recorded in more squares. Most other species occurred in fewer squares than in October, and these included: water birds such as Cormorant, Grey Heron and Mallard, moorland breeders such as Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Yellowhammer; and various others such as Goldfinch and Stock Dove.

 

-  The largest flocks were recorded for Woodpigeon and Starling. The former comprised migrating flocks moving west over the village, later this year than last, with a maximum count of 6,500 between 07:45 and 09:00 hrs on 22 November. An estimated 1,000 Starlings were feeding around cattle sheds just south of the A38. These birds were probably roosting outside the village, perhaps in reed beds at Slapton Ley where up to 50,000 have been seen. There were also flocks of over 100 Fieldfare, Herring Gull, Jackdaw and Redwing, and 65 roosting Pied Wagtails, 29 resting Collared Doves and 17 flying Canada Geese were also of note. Carrion Crow only occurred in 49 squares this month, with Robin in 42 the only other species in more than 40, though Wren in 39 would no doubt be miffed if not also mentioned.

 

-  Mammals that perhaps should have been in bed in November, comprised a bat in one square and Hedgehog in three. Among butterflies, only Comma and Red Admiral were recorded, the latter in four squares, the former in one.

 

-  WHAT NEXT? There will be probably be little change over the winter months, unless the weather gets really cold, but, as always, the unexpected can happen – a stray Coot perhaps! Both Song and Mistle Thrushes started singing in early December, and their songs should become an increasing feature of the winter months, at least on warm sunny days, joining the other early winter songsters – Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Woodpigeon and Wren.

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were contributed by: Margaret & Philip Andrade, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Jo Brooks, John Caddick, Joddy Chapman, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike & Jan Goss, Lucy & Adam Grant, Clare Guthrie, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Ann & Tim Ley, John Luscombe, Dave MacDiarmid, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave & Kate Pakes, Jane Pickard, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Gordon Raymont, Peter Reay & Lesley Austin, Diana Tyler, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby and Barrie Whitehall. Thanks to all.

 

 

NB. Bird records included are as submitted or posted; this does not necessarily imply acceptance.

 

 

  • October 2015

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH. Goldcrest, recorded from 21 squares compared to 11 in September and 13 last October, would be a good candidate, but has already had its turn as BoM in November 2014. So, a chance for Coal Tit to claim the title! Recorded from 23 squares compared to 16 in October 2014, the monthly increase from only seven in July continues. It is possible that in both these species, migrants from the continent have augmented local populations.

 

-  All 52 squares were visited as usual, 33 observers contributed records and a total of 203 square visits were made. Altogether, 80 species were recorded (cf. 74 in October 2014, and 73 last month) – a good month overall.

 

-  Four new species for the survey were recorded, all in the second half of the month, and each seen by only one observer The first were on the 16th, a female Pintail on the Avon Dam Reservoir and a Short-eared Owl* below the dam, followed by an Osprey (flying over the village on 20th) and Yellow-browed Warbler* (Avon Valley above Shipley on 26th).

 

-  Another seven species were not recorded a year ago, so are new for October: Great Black-backed Gull, Harrier (unidentified to species), Little Egret, Little Owl, Whitethroat, Yellow Wagtail and Woodcock. Several other species occurred in more squares this October compared to last, the largest increase being for Fieldfare (1 to 16), but Coal Tit, Cormorant (including one on the river at Lydia Bridge), Goldcrest, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Siskin, Snipe and Stonechat all increased substantially. In contrast, there were decreases for Ring Ouzel, Song Thrush and Starling.

 

-  In addition to the four new species, seven others, mostly winter visitors were recorded in October but not in September: Canada Goose, Fieldfare, Little Egret, Merlin, Peregrine, Redwing and Woodcock. As winter visitors arrived, several departing summer visitors, including Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat were not recorded at all, while the three most regularly reported, Chiffchaff, House Martin and Swallow, occurred in fewer squares, and had gone completely by the end of the month. In contrast, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Pied Wagtail and Snipe occurred in more squares than they did in September.

The largest flocks were recorded for Herring Gull and Redwing (both 300), and Carrion Crow was, as usual, the most widespread species (51 squares – missing only from Square 3 this month). At least 60 Pied Wagtails continued to roost near the Village Hall, but the expected flocks of migrating Woodpigeons did not materialize.

 

-  With no exciting mammals (such as Hares and Ferrets) to report, non-bird interest among the 13 observers who submitted records focussed on butterflies. Although now only in small numbers, 10 species were recorded, including Brimstone, Holly Blue and Painted Lady. The most widespread were Red Admiral (12 squares) and Speckled Wood (19).

 

-  WHAT NEXT? Further records of any true summer visitors are now most unlikely, although wintering individuals of two species which are mostly summer visitors, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, may begin to appear at the end of November. It will also be interesting to see if the Black Redstart currently in the village, decides to overwinter rather than resume its travels southwards. There have been several Brent records in autumn over the years, but so far none in winter, so worth keeping an eye on. The main rush of autumn migration, bringing hopes of rarities as well as high numbers of regular migrants, is mostly over, but some birds are always on the move or getting lost, so more surprises may be in store. Another Firecrest is long overdue, and it is still disappointing that we haven’t recorded Brambling during the survey so far (in spite of several records in 2013). The weather is going to be one factor which determines whether they, or other species such as Lapwing and Waxwing turn up during the next few months. Essentially, the colder it becomes the better the chances, especially if the cold is somewhere else!

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were contributed by: Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Jo Brooks, John Caddick, Joddy Chapman, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Clare Guthrie, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Stevie Hopper, John Luscombe, Dave MacDiarmid, Roland Mason, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave & Kate Pakes, Jane Pickard, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Gordon Raymont, Peter Reay & Lesley Austin, Andy Smith, Doug Stannard, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby and Barrie Whitehall. Thanks to all.    

 

*Not submitted to Brent Birders, but posted on the Devon Birds website.

NB. Bird records included are as submitted or posted; this does not necessarily imply acceptance.

 

  • September 2015

-  BIRDS OF THE MONTH. Wagtails: Yellow, a scarce migrant, with three on Brent Hill at about the same time and place as seven last year; Pied as more common migrants from the north, augmenting local birds, with about 70 noted at one evening roost; and Grey in 17 squares, the highest monthly total so far and including several sightings away from water as birds disperse from breeding sites. Corpse of the month has to be the late Little Owl still dangling from wires in Hillside after its unfortunate electrocution at the end of August, only a day after first being seen and photographed in the area.

 

-  OTHER POSITIVES. No new species for the survey, but new for either 2015 or September were: Cormorant, Goosander, Goshawk, Pied Flycatcher, Ring Ouzel, Snipe and Yellow Wagtail, and Barn Owl and Teal were the first for several months. Whinchat leapt to 13 squares from four in August and only one in September 2014, but few observers saw these migrants, which started appearing after local birds had left. Pheasant increased to 14 from seven in both the previous month and previous year. Otherwise, the species showing the largest increases from September 2014 included Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail. Sparrowhawk and Wheatear, and the largest increases from August were for Chiffchaff, Kestrel and Mistle Thrush.

 

-  SOME NEGATIVES. There were no Sedge Warblers or Swifts both of which occurred in several squares in August, and eight other less obvious August species failed to show, as did four recorded in September 2014. Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, all departing summer visitors, were still recorded, but showed the most obvious decline in number of squares. Compared to September 2014, most species increased due to better coverage and more experience, so the decline in Skylark from 19 to 15 squares may reflect a real decrease.

 

-  NUMBERS. Again, all 52 squares were visited, and 21 observers made 205 square visits (cf. 179 in September 2014). In total, 73 species were recorded (cf. 77 in the previous month and 70 in September 2014).The number per square ranged from four (Square 4) to 42 (Square 32), with 39 (Square 50) the highest in a moorland square and 28 (Square 36) the highest south of the A38. The largest flock sizes were for House Martin (300) and Jackdaw (200). Carrion Crow was recorded in 51 squares (missing only from Square 4), Robin and Swallow in more than 40, and Blackbird, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Chiffchaff, Magpie, Woodpigeon and Wren in more than 35.

 

-  NON-BIRDS. Ferrets (polecat-ferret) continue to be of interest, with live sightings in three more squares (one caught on night-camera and in trap) augmenting last month’s corpses, and records have now come from six squares, all in the vicinity of Brent Hill. Eighteen species of butterfly (cf. 24 in August) again failed to include Clouded Yellow, which is now unlikely to be added to the 2015 list. Speckled Wood became the most widespread (37 squares), followed by Red Admiral (21). The nearest to a surprise was a lone female Silver-washed Fritillary in one square on first day of month. Species recorded in only two or three squares included Brimstone, Common Blue, Green-veined White, Small Copper, Small Heath and Wall.

 

-  WHAT NEXT? As Swallows and House Martins fade away, Redwing, Starling and, eventually, Fieldfare will become more numerous and widespread. A few Ring Ouzels have been recorded, but perhaps this species has still to reach its autumn peak, and this may also apply to Pied Wagtails which are likely to be around in good numbers at least for the remainder of this month. They are currently visible and audible on the village hall and other nearby roofs in the evening before going to roost in the bushes by the railway. Almost guaranteed at the end of October and early November will be flocks of Woodpigeons moving west and occasionally settling, and that is also the most likely time to see a Black Redstart around the village, or perhaps up at the Avon Dam. Goosanders should soon appear on the reservoir itself (to roost) and on the river (to feed), and any day now we’ll have the first Woodcock and Golden Plover.

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were submitted by: Dave & Janet Ayres, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Steve Hopper, Doug King Smith, Ann and Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Gordon Raymont, Peter Reay & Lesley Austin, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Jane Wellens & John Wilson and Barrie Whitehall. Thanks to all.  

 

  • August 2015

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH. Spotted Flycatcher. Recorded from seven squares, similar to August 2014, but contrasting with the zero score of July and only one or two in May and June. These are likely to have been migrants, and along with several other species, show that birds from outside the parish may stop to rest and feed here on their way to Africa.

 

-  OTHER POSITIVES. Two new species were reported: Green Sandpiper at the Avon Dam and Wryneck on the road to the dam. Pied Flycatcher and Sedge Warbler were new for the year, and these, together with Cormorant, Garden Warbler, Great B-b Gull, Kingfisher, Little Owl, Peregrine, Sand Martin and Snipe (now recorded in all months) were not recorded in August 2014. Species recorded in more squares than in August 2014 included Blackcap, Grey Wagtail and Redstart. Notable increases from July were recorded for Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail and Wheatear.

 

-  SOME NEGATIVES. The only species recorded in August 2014, but not this year, were Canada Goose, Lesser B-b Gull and Willow Tit, and Greenfinch was recorded in fewer squares. Decreases from July involved: departing summer visitors, notably Swift, Whinchat and Whitethroat; species coming off the moor after breeding, notably Reed Bunting, Skylark and Yellowhammer; and residents perhaps adopting a low profile such as Pheasant and Song Thrush.

 

-  NUMBERS. Again, all 52 squares were visited, and 24 observers made 193 square visits (cf. 165 in August 2014). In total, 77 species were recorded (cf. 74 in the previous month and only 67 in August 2014).The number per square ranged from five (Square 4) to 53 (Square 32); the highest number of species in a moorland square was 47 (Square 22) and the highest south of the A38 was 38 (Square 36). The largest flock size was for Goldfinch (on Brent Hill) and mixed corvids (both estimated at 200), followed by Jackdaw (180) and Herring Gull (150). Eight species occurred in at least 40 squares: Blackbird, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Robin, Swallow, Woodpigeon and Wren.

 

-  NON-BIRDS. The main interest among the mammals was the occurrence of two road-kill Ferrets (Polecat-ferret) near Brent Hill which, coupled with two live sightings in the area, suggest a breeding population rather than the odd escape. Twenty-four species of butterfly for the month did not include any new species, and numbers were generally low. Meadow Brown (41 squares) remained the most widespread, closely followed by Gatekeeper (35) and more whites, the most commonly identified being Green-veined White (26), and there were more records of species such as Red Admiral (26) and Painted Lady (9). Scarcest were Brimstone, Purple Hairstreak and Small Skipper, each in just two squares.

 

-  WHAT NEXT? Numbers of summer visitors will continue to dwindle and eventually disappear, although House Martins and Swallows are likely to continue to pass through for another few weeks, and Chiffchaffs will also hang on for a while. Wintering Fieldfare and Redwing could appear right at the end of September, but are more likely in October, along with Ring Ouzel and may be at last that elusive Brambling. Perhaps the few Teal on the Avon Dam Reservoir in early September could be regarded as the first winter visitors, and it won’t be long before the first Golden Plover and Woodcock arrive for the winter too. Autumn is a good time to see Merlin, either passing through or arriving for the winter, and Short-eared Owl will also be worth looking out for on the moor.

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were submitted by: Dave & Janet Ayres, Mark Bancroft, Eileen Blockly, John Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Lucy and Adam Grant, Clare Guthrie, Helen Harvey, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Martin Lees, Ann and Tim Ley, John Luscombe, Dave MacDiarmid, Roland Mason, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Jo Pelly, Adrian and Gaynor Platt, Gordon Raymont, Peter Reay, Tony Rose, Barrie Whitehall and Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby. Thanks to all.                                                                                        PR 16/09/2015

 

- Non-Birds in August:

The latest non-bird figures can be downloaded here.  In August 19 butterfly species, 5 amphibian & reptiles species and and 13 mammal species were recorded by 14 observers.  There have been many butterflies which is to be expected in August however, the poor weather has limited the quantities.  Gatekeepers were at their peak in this month and Painted Ladies were seen in several squares although it was far from an irruption of this species.  More whites were reported, they seemed in short supply earlier in the summer.  We have yet to see a report of a Clouded Yellow in the parish.  These are annual migrants to the UK and generally don't overwinter although they do breed during the summer.  We may see the final emergence during September or even into October so keep a look out.

 

The main addition to the Parish list was polecat-ferret reported in squares 27 and 34.  From various reports it seems there may be a local breeding population - if you see one let us know via the comments form at the bottom of this page.  A recent sighting by Peter Reay was a roadkill.  And here's the picture of the unfortunate, rather mutilated animal.

 

  • July 2015

-  (HONORARY) BIRD OF THE MONTH. Meadow Brown! No bird deserved the title in July, but this unpretentious butterfly was fluttering almost everywhere, and joins Carrion Crow as the only species, so far, to have been recorded from every square during the survey. It also occurred in good numbers, some mentioned ‘hundreds’ and so provides a local example of ‘bioabundance’ - a term introduced by Simon Barnes in the latest issue of British Wildlife magazine (Vol 26, No 5, June 2015, p336).

 

-  OTHER POSITIVES. Kestrel occurred in 17 squares compared to 10 in June, and only six in July 2014 (almost then, bird of the month!). Several moorland species continue to be recorded from more squares than in the same month last year, probably due to better coverage, including: Whinchat (4 to 9), Stonechat (12 to 15), Reed Bunting (7 to 10), Yellowhammer (10 to 16) and Linnet (10 to 14). Other increases included Pheasant (9 to 18) and Raven (19 to 28). Kestrel, Pheasant and Raven also showed increases from June, Treecreeper bounced back from its June low (1 to 5), Grasshopper Warbler made an appearance after its absence in June and the first Robin song of autumn was heard on 29th.

 

-  SOME NEGATIVES. Two species continued to be recorded from fewer squares than in the same month last year and these probably reflect genuine decreases: Coal Tit (12 to 7) and Spotted Flycatcher (a disastrous drop, from 9 to 0). Expected decreases from June as breeding comes to an end were for Cuckoo (12 to 0), which will have now migrated south, and Tree Pipit (10 to 2), Blackcap (29 to 18), Dunnock (30 to 19) and Song Thrush (27 to 16), which may just have gone quiet.

 

-  NUMBERS. Again, all 52 squares were visited, and 20 observers made 182 square visits (cf. 166 in July 2014). In total, 74 species were recorded (cf. 80 in the previous month and 71 in July 2014), and the number per square again ranged from two (Square 4) to 48 (Square 32); the highest number of species in a moorland square was 36 (Square 28) and the highest south of the A38 was 34 (Square 36). The largest flock size was for Herring Gull and mixed corvids (200), followed by Jackdaw (120) and Chaffinch (50 in Hillside Close – impressive, especially for time of year). Only Carrion Crow (46) Wren (42) and Woodpigeon (40) occurred in at least 40 squares.

 

-  NON-BIRDS. Roe Deer in seven squares, Hedgehog in four and Hare in one, were among 15 mammals recorded, and there were the usual smattering of amphibians and reptiles (but no snakes) headed by Frog in six squares. Twenty-four butterfly species were recorded, bringing the year total to 28. Meadow Brown was the most widespread, occurring in 51 squares in the month, contrasting with Brimstone, Common Blue and Holly Blue, each of which occurred in only one. Purple Hairstreak was recorded from four squares and Silver-washed Fritillary from 14, cf. one and eight, respectively, in 2014.

 

-  WHAT NEXT? A few warblers and other passerines on migration have cropped up in early August, including Sedge Warbler, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher and hopefully there will be more over the next few weeks. Perhaps, as last year, there will be some Yellow Wagtails in early September, and even a Pied Flycatcher or a species not yet recorded ‒ it’s a while since we had a proper new species for the survey, the last being Grasshopper Warbler in May. An Adder before the summer is out would be also very welcome, as would some Clouded Yellows ‒ the only butterfly from the 2014 list not yet recorded this year. The largest finch flock seen so far was about 80 Goldfinches on the thistles on Brent Hill on 7 August, but more and larger flocks can probably be expected.

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were submitted by: Lesley Austin, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Mick Bramich, John Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Ann & Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Gordon Raymont, Peter Reay, Barrie Whitehall and Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby. Thanks to all.     

                                                                                                                  

  • June 2015

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH. Snipe. Only recorded by two observers, so unlikely to be the people’s choice, but in contrast to 2014 when not recorded at all in June, records this year came from five moorland squares (with probable breeding in four of them), largely as a result of BW’s nocturnal visits.

 

-  OTHER POSITIVES. Also largely arising from BWs coverage of moorland squares, are increases from 2014 in Whinchat (4 to 8), Stonechat (9 to 19), Reed Bunting (5 to 16) and perhaps Linnet (8 to 20), although the latter is not restricted to the moor. The first June records of Lesser Redpoll came from Square 17 where previously recorded and Square 5, a new site. The increases in Siskin (2 to 8) and Goldcrest (3 to 9) may reflect changes in bird numbers or behaviour rather than observers. A few common species showed increases from the previous month, such as Grey Heron (5 to 10), Sparrowhawk (8 to 12) and Nuthatch (12 to 18).

 

-  SOME NEGATIVES. A few species were recorded from fewer squares in 2015 than in the same month last year and these may reflect genuine decreases, for example Coal Tit (16 to 10), Treecreeper (3 to 1), Bullfinch (25 to 18) and Spotted Flycatcher (4 to 2). Expected decreases as breeding comes to an end were for Canada Goose (7 to 4) and Mallard (18 to 11). There was, disappointingly, no sign of Grasshopper Warbler after their appearance in three squares in May, but this can be an elusive species.

 

-  NUMBERS. Again, all 52 squares were visited, and 25 observers made 175 square visits. In total, 80 species were recorded (cf. 83 in the previous month and 74 in June 2014), and the number per square ranged from two (Square 4) to 48 (Square 32). The largest flock size was for Herring Gull (300 in fields, and bathing/resting by the Avon Dam, and over 400 seen in flight). Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch and Wren all occurred in at least 40 squares.

 

-  NON-BIRDS. No Hares and only two Roe Deer records, but there were Lizards in seven squares, and, at last, a Grass Snake in one. More butterfly species appeared, with 20 recorded during the month, including four new for the year: Meadow Brown (31 squares); Large Skipper (17); Marsh Fritillary (3) and Marbled White (1). Among the less common species, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary was recorded in 10 squares and Green Hairstreak in 11 (cf. five and two respectively in 2014). The only non-adult stages reported were the eggs and larvae of Brimstone.

 

-  WHAT NEXT? Nothing unusual has turned up so far, and the weather hasn’t helped, but this is only the beginning of the post-breeding period when surprises can be anticipated, such as Crossbill or Osprey passing through. Brent is not a good spot for waders, and any species apart from Snipe is going to be a surprise, but Common Sandpiper is the most likely, and now is a good time of year to start checking any water bodies, however small, for a Green Sandpiper on passage. Last year’s Curlew and Greenshank were very fleeting and the former didn’t even stop, but these and other species are also possible. Many small birds have become silent and elusive, but conspicuous flocks of species such as Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits can soon be expected. A possible Willow Tit has already visited a couple of gardens in the Hillside area in early July (as last year), but remember that this species is very hard to separate from Marsh Tit. If you do see one, try and make it call! If not, it may have to go down as Marsh/Willow – but still a useful record.   There’s guidance on separating Marsh & Willow Tits at www.bto.org/about-birds/bird-id/telling-apart-marsh-and-willow-tits  and www.brentbirdsurvey.co.uk

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were submitted by: Lesley Austin, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Phil Dean, Donna Diamond, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Simon Geary, Mike Goss, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, John Luscombe, Dave MacDiarmid, Keith Male, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave & Kate Pakes, Jo Pelly, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Sarah Rawling, Peter Reay, Tony Rose, Ellie Standen, Val Stanley, Barrie Whitehall and Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby. Thanks to all.                                                                      

 

  • May 2015

-  BIRDS OF THE MONTH. Of the two new species, Grasshopper Warbler was recorded in three squares, was wild, alive and probably breeding, whereas the single escaped Canary was little more than a corpse when found. A gathering of 28 Buzzards and six Red Kites following the plough at Overbrent on the evening of 13 May was seen by only by three observers. In contrast, Cuckoos, heard and even seen by many and recorded in 17 squares, would probably be the popular choice for bird of the month.
 

-  NUMBERS. Again, all 52 squares were visited, and 31 observers made 204 square visits (cf. 38 observers and 185 visits last May). In total, 83 species were recorded (cf. 80 in both the previous month and May 2014), and the number per square ranged from three (Square 4) to 53 (Square 32).
 

-  MAXIMA

-  Flock size. The largest flocks were of Herring Gull with a max of 300, usually following the plough or scavenging after silage/hay cutting. Other large groups included up to 200 mixed corvids, 150 House Martins, 148 Woodpigeons and 100 Jackdaws, but 60 Starlings and 28 Buzzards were also notable.

-  Number of squares. The most widespread species were: Carrion Crow, in 46 squares; Robin and Wren in 43; Chaffinch and Swallow in 42; and Blackbird in 41.
 

-  COMPARISON WITH THE PREVIOUS MONTH, APRIL 2015

-  Gains and losses. Nine gains comprised Canary, Grasshopper Warbler, Hobby, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Red Kite, Sand Martin, Spotted Flycatcher and Swift. The six losses were all species seen just once in April, including Fieldfare, the last of the winter visitors

-  Ups and downs. Several summer visitors showed increases in number of squares, including Cuckoo (8 to 17), House Martin (7 to 19) and Whitethroat (3 to 10). On the other hand, more species showed decreases, and included Canada Goose (20 to 7), Goldcrest (16 to 6) and Nuthatch (27 to 12).
 

-  COMPARISON WITH A YEAR AGO, MAY 2014

-  Gains and losses. Seven species, Black RedstartCanaryCormorantGrasshopper Warbler, Lesser Black-backed GullLittle Egret and Spotted Flycatcher were not recorded last May, but on the other hand, Great Crested Grebe, Lesser Redpoll and Pied Flycatcher were missing this year.
-  Ups and downs. Among several increases in squares occupied, the largest were for Great Black-backed Gull (3 to 11), Snipe (1 to 5) and Stonechat (9 to 18). Decreases included Canada Goose (12 to 6), Sparrowhawk (13 to 8), Starling (12 to 7) and Bullfinch (28 to 15).

 

-  BREEDERS. There was evidence of breeding in 47 species (cf. 36 in April). This is included several moorland species (see ‘More on the moorland birds of Brent). Several Grasshopper Warblers and Snipe appeared to be on breeding territory, although breeding in the parish has not yet been confirmed.
 

-  NON-BIRDS. Hares were recorded in two new squares, both south of the A38. More butterfly species appeared, with 16 recorded during the month, including six new for the year: Common Blue (6 squares), Green Hairstreak (4), Painted Lady (2), Small Copper (1), Small Heath (4) and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (1).

 

-  WHAT NEXT? Increasing numbers of young birds (hopefully) will reflect successful breeding, but may perhaps cause some identification problems. Although for some species, breeding may be in full swing, it will increasingly come to an end and, for some, post-breeding dispersal and autumn migration may have already started. This means that for the next few months, almost anything could turn up, as reflected in an odd trio of new species last July – GreenshankHarrier (unidentified) and Willow Tit. This year, my money is on Crossbill to become the next addition to the parish list.

 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were submitted by: Lesley Austin, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, John & Sylvia Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Noel Goodey, Mike Goss, Clare Guthrie, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul & Barbara Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, John Luscombe, Dave MacDiarmid, Keith Male, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Gordon Raymont, Peter Reay, Tony Rose, Janine Tinkler, Barrie Whitehall and Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby. Thanks to all.   

 

 

  • April 2015
     

-  BIRDS OF THE MONTH. Summer visitors, and among them Swallow, showed the largest increase in number of squares from one in March to 36 in April. Lesser WhitethroatLittle Ringed Plover (passing through) and Lady Amherst’s Pheasant (presumed escape) were all new to the survey. Also new was White Wagtail, the continental and Icelandic version of Pied Wagtail, but just a subspecies, so it does not add to the survey species tally, now at 110. Black RedstartLesser Redpoll and Ring Ouzel were other good records, and young Siskins were among early signs of successful breeding in the parish this year.
 

-  NUMBERS. Again, all 52 squares were visited, and 27 observers made a record-breaking 219 square visits (cf. 35 observers and 180 visits last April). In total, 79 species were recorded (cf. 71 in the previous month, and 72 in April 2014), and the number per square ranged from three (Square 4) to 51 (Square 32).
 

-  MAXIMA

- Flock size. Jackdaw has regained the top spot (held by Starling for the last four months) with a max count of 200, followed by Herring Gull with 150.

- Number of squares. As usual, Carrion Crow, in 48 squares, headed a growing list of species recorded in at least 30 squares during the month. ChiffchaffPheasantSkylark and Swallow joined this group in April, and Robin and Woodpigeon joined the even more exclusive 40-square group. 

 

-  COMPARISON WITH THE PREVIOUS MONTH, MARCH 2015

- Gains and losses. Fifteen gains, mostly summer visitors, included the THREE NEW SPECIES listed above, plus Black RedstartCuckooGarden WarblerHouse MartinLesser RedpollLittle OwlRedstartRing OuzelTree PipitWhinchatWhitethroat and Willow Warbler. Seven losses included Golden Plover and Redwing (departing winter visitors) and five species only occasionally recorded.

- Ups and downs. Most species showed increases in the number of squares where recorded, the largest being for Swallow (1 to 36), Linnet (2 to 17) and Skylark (13 to 33). The largest decrease was for Fieldfare (5 to 1), 

 

-  COMPARISON WITH A YEAR AGO, APRIL 2014

- Gains and losses. An impressive 12 species were recorded in April 2015 but not in April 2014: the THREE NEW SPECIES, plus Black RedstartCormorantFieldfareLesser RedpollLittle OwlRedstartRing OuzelTeal and Whinchat. In contrast, only five on the April 2014 list were missing this year: Black-headed Gull, HobbyMerlinRedwing, and Swift.

- Ups and downs. Most species were recorded in more squares than in April 2014, and the following were recorded in at least twice the number of squares: GoldcrestGreen WoodpeckerStonechat and Reed Bunting. The few decreases included Whitethroat (7 to 3), and one event missing in 2015 was a strong spring passage of Pied Wagtails, which last year resulted in over 100 birds going to roost in bamboos near Brent Hill in early April.
 

-  BREEDERS. There was evidence of breeding in 36 species (cf. 23 in March). In addition to the more common species, these included Little Grebe with young seen on 18 April, and Siskin with juveniles on feeders in the Hillside/Moorland Park area from 25 April.
 

-  NON-BIRDS. Among records submitted by 13 observers, one mammal (Mink – identified from droppings in Square 11) was new to the survey, and five butterflies (BrimstoneCommaHolly BlueOrange-tip and Wall) were new for the year.
 

-  WHAT NEXT? Swift and Hobby have already been recorded in early May, along with Grasshopper Warbler (new to survey), so among the regular summer visitors this just leaves Spotted Flycatcher to come. May and June are the most likely months for a Red Kite to be seen, but there could be other rarities too. Signs of breeding should become increasingly evident over the next few weeks, and there should be more butterflies about, including perhaps the first Pearl-bordered Fritillaries.
 

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records were submitted by: Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, John & Sylvia Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Clare Guthrie, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul Heatley, Gill Honey, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, Mick Jones, Dave MacDiarmid, Keith Male, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Peter Reay, Tony Rose, Janine Tinkler, Barrie Whitehall and Julia, Robin & Jack Willoughby. Thanks to all.

  • March 2015

- BIRDS OF THE MONTH. Wren, recorded in 47 squares, the highest number yet recorded for this species (cf. 34 in the previous month, 35 in March 2014, and 43, the previous peak, in July); Wheatear, the first of the real African migrants, recorded on 17 March (Chiffchaffs were recorded earlier, but may have been wintering birds); and Jack Snipe, the latest addition to the survey list.

- NUMBERS. As usual, all 52 squares were visited, and 26 observers made 190 square visits (cf. 39 observers and 150 visits in March 2014). In total, 73 species were recorded (cf. 71 in the previous month, and 68 in March 2014). The number of species per square ranged from two to 50, with no squares recording zero for the first time since November.

- MAXIMA

- Flock size. For the fourth consecutive month, the species with the highest counts was Starling, with up to 400 gathering to roost below Aish in early March. The next highest counts were for Golden Plover (150) and Jackdaw and Herring Gull (100), although there was one record of 200 mixed corvids.

- Number of squares. As usual, Carrion Crow, in 49 squares, headed a list of 12 species occurring in more than 30 squares, now joined by Dunnock and Jackdaw, while BlackbirdChaffinch and Wren moved up into the exclusive 40-plus band.

- COMPARISON WITH THE PREVIOUS MONTH, FEBRUARY 2015.

- Gains and losses. Eight gains comprised Barn OwlGreat Crested GrebeJack Snipe, Lesser Black-backed GullLinnetMandarin DuckSwallow and Wheatear, all new for the year. Wigeon and Woodcock were among six species present in February, but not recorded in March.

- Ups and downs. The largest increases were for Canada Goose, ChiffchaffDunnockGreenfinch, Green WoodpeckerKestrelMallardMeadow PipitPheasantStonechatWrenYellowhammer, with the largest decreases for FieldfareHerring Gull and, perhaps surprisingly, Skylark.

- COMPARISON WITH A YEAR AGO, MARCH 2014.

- Gains and losses. Nine species recorded in March 2015 species were not recorded in March 2014 (e.g., Golden Plover and Linnet), and four on the March 2014 list were not recorded (e.g., Little Owl and Woodcock).

- Ups and downs. Most species were recorded in more squares than in March 2014, most notably Fieldfare (1 to 5), Goldcrest (7 to 13), Mallard (10 to 20), Stonechat (6 to 16) and Yellowhammer (5 to 14). Only BlackcapChiffchaffMarsh TitSkylark and Treecreeper were in fewer squares.

- BREEDERS. There was evidence of breeding in 23 species (cf. nine in February), the most interesting being Snipe with pre-dawn drumming (bleating) and chipping first heard on 9 March near the Avon Dam. These sounds are usually made by birds on breeding territory, and were not recorded in the parish in 2014.

- NON-BIRDS. Among records submitted by nine observers, the only new species for the year were Common Toad (spawn in square 18), Common Lizard (torpid on pavement in square 24) and Small White (in a greenhouse in square 24). For the three most commonly recorded mammals, MoleRabbit and Grey Squirrel, records from squares where these species have not yet been recorded, would be particularly welcome. There are still 14 squares apparently without moles and rabbits, and 22 without squirrels. Further information on where these squares are may soon appear on the website.

- WHAT NEXT? More breeding records (hopefully) and the gradual return of summer visitors. The first Spotted Flycatcher was not noted until early June in 2014, so hopefully there will be at least one in May this year. A singing Lesser Whitethroat has already appeared in April, and other summer migrants not recorded last year, but which could at least make a brief stopover in the parish, include Grasshopper Warbler and Wood Warbler. May is the month when Red Kites are most likely to be seen. Perhaps one will even land this year. And perhaps some of the Hoopoes that have arrived in Cornwall will decide to move our way!

- CONTRIBUTORS. Records in March 2015 were submitted by: Lesley Austin, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, John & Sylvia Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Peter Reay, John Roberts, Tony Rose, Ellie Standen, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler, Jane Wellens and Barrie Whitehall. Thanks to all.       

 

  • February 2015

-  BIRDS OF THE MONTH.  Little Egret, recorded in four different squares (just possibly involving one wandering individual) after only one record in the previous 13 months; genuine Hen Harrier at last, two birds (a male and a female/immature) in two squares; Reed Bunting, up to four visiting a garden feeder off Hillside, with very few elsewhere; and a very early bird, a Blackbird fledged on 24 Feb, perhaps the first of its species in the country this year.

-  NUMBERS. All 52 squares were visited, and 26 observers made 191 square visits (cf. 50, 36 and 146 in Feb 2014). In total, 72 species were recorded (cf. 67 in Jan 2015, and 65 in Feb 2014), including one new for the survey, Hen Harrier. The number of species per square ranged from zero to 50.

-  MAXIMA. For the third consecutive month, the species with the highest maximum counts was Starling, with an estimated 500 feeding near Shortacross, and several hundred roosting at Aish. The next highest counts were for Jackdaw (150) and Redwing (100), with 94 Wigeon, 30 Golden Plover, 25 Stock Dove and 17 Goosander also of note. As in Jan, Carrion Crow, in 45 squares, headed the same 10 species occurring in more than 30 squares.

-  COMPARISON WITH JAN 2015. Very similar, but Dartford WarblerHen HarrierLittle EgretLittle GrebeLittle Owl and Merlin were added, and Kingfisher and Ring Ouzel lost. The largest increases were for Canada Goose (2 to 9), Skylark (7 to 17) and Stock Dove (6 to 11). The largest decreases were for Snipe (8 to 3), Starling (26 to 17) and Redwing (29 to 22).

-  COMPARISON WITH FEB 2014. Only FirecrestKingfisherLesser Black-backed Gull and Muscovy Duck were recorded in 2014 and not 2015, whereas there were nine additions in 2015 – Black-headed GullChiffchaffDartford WarblerHen HarrierLittle EgretLittle GrebeLittle OwlMerlin and Wigeon. Most species were found in more squares in 2015, including Great Spotted Woodpecker (12 to 20), Meadow Pipit (7 to 18) and Treecreeper (2 to 7), but Canada Goose (12 to 9) bucked the trend.

-  NON-BIRDS. Records from 13 observers included BadgerFoxGrey SquirrelHareMoleRabbitRoe Deer and Frog (spawn) and, unlike January, some flying butterflies: Peacock (one square); and Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell (each in three squares).

-  WHAT NEXT? Still no Red Grouse or Brambling, but a Jack Snipe on 5 Mar shows that there are still surprises awaiting. More predictable will be the arrival of summer visitors, with Chiffchaff and Wheatear the most likely before the end of March. Starling and Redwing will continue to decrease, and the latter may take a final bow in March before returning in October; don’t be surprised to hear flocks gently singing in the tree tops on sunny days before they fly north. It will be interesting to see whether Pied Wagtail numbers build up in late March and April as they did last year, when about 100 gathered to roost in bamboos below Brent Hill; such birds will be stopover migrants, probably heading for breeding areas in Scotland. Breeding activity will become increasingly evident locally in many species, and one of the early surprises so far was a Snipe heard drumming (a display sound made by vibrations of outer tail feathers) before dawn in early March. Snipe were not recorded as a breeding species in the parish last year, but it is likely that breeding does occur in one or two moorland squares.

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records in Feb 2015 were submitted by: Lesley Austin, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Mick Bramich, John & Sylvia Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Roger Elford, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Emma Matsambanye, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Peter Reay, John Roberts, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler, George Watson and Barrie Whitehall.  Thanks to all.                       

 

  • January 2015

-  BIRDS OF THE MONTH. Stonechat: an absence in Jan 2014 led to the initial conclusion that this species wintered outside the parish, returning in Feb. Records from seven squares (six on the moor, but also, unusually, square 33) by six observers in Jan 2015, is almost certainly a result of improved coverage and vigilance rather than differences in weather or bird behaviour between the two winters. It helps to justify a three-year survey, and illustrates the dangers of basing conclusions on a single year. Ring Ouzel: perhaps just a single bird ranging over three squares, this species is rarely recorded in Jan. Chiffchaff: at least four at the Water Treatment Works confirms wintering in the parish.

-  NUMBERS. All 52 squares were visited, and 30 observers made 172 square visits (cf. 49, 38 and 128 in Jan 2014). Thus, a smaller number of observers worked harder in 2015! In total, 67 species were recorded (cf. 64 in Jan 2014), the number per square ranging from zero to 45 for the month. For the first time during the survey, no new species were added.

-  MAXIMA. As in Dec, the species with the highest maximum counts was Starling, with an estimated 2,000 feeding in and around farm buildings near Shortacross, and at least 500 eventually roosting at Aish. The next highest counts were for Redwing (150), Fieldfare Jackdaw (100) and Chaffinch Rook (50). As usual, Carrion Crow, in 46 squares, headed a list of 10 species occurring in more than 30 squares, which, in contrast to the previous month, included Buzzard, but not Redwing or Starling.

-  COMPARISON WITH PREVIOUS MONTH. Very similar, but CormorantGreat Black-backed Gull and Siskin were added, and Lesser Black-backed Gull and Merlin lost. There were increases for Kestrel (from one to 7 squares) and Skylark (2 to 7), but more species decreased: Blackcap (4 to 2), Fieldfare (20 to 13), Goldcrest (19 to 12), Golden Plover (5 to 1), Grey Wagtail (14 to 8), Starling (33 to 26) and Tawny Owl (10 to 6).

-  COMPARISON WITH JAN 2014. With increased coverage, it is not surprising that most species were recorded in more squares in 2015, but decreases were shown by Blackcap (5 to 2), Goosander (5 to 2) and Mallard (9 to 5), and Lesser Black-backed GullLinnet and Little Owl were not recorded at all. On the other hand, six species were recorded in 2015, but not 2014: Canada Goose (2 squares), Reed Bunting (1), Ring Ouzel (3), Stonechat (7), Teal (2) and Yellowhammer (2), and species showing the largest increases in number of squares were Fieldfare (6 to 13), Meadow Pipit (4 to 19), Pied Wagtail (9 to 19) and Skylark (1 to 7).

-  NON-BIRDS. No flying butterflies were reported, but the first Frog spawn was noted, and there were a few records of Fox (4 squares), Hare (1) and Roe Deer (4). Mole hills were much in evidence.

-  WHAT NEXT? More species are now singing, wheezing, trilling, cooing and drumming. There have been no reports to date of Blackbird singing, but this should soon become a feature of the growing dawn chorus. Wintering Chiffchaffs have already been heard singing, and in March, the first migrant birds can be expected. There have been no reports of either Yellowhammer or Reed Bunting on bird feeders yet, but late winter and early spring is when these buntings are most likely to appear, as natural food supplies dwindle. Canada Geese have kept a very low profile since last summer, but are expected to become more evident as they return to local ponds to breed, and on the moor, Skylark and Meadow Pipit should become increasingly common as they return to breeding territories. There is no clear contender for the next species to be added to the survey species list, but Brambling remains the only one predicted to occur that hasn’t. There is still time!

-  CONTRIBUTORS. Records in Jan were submitted by: Lesley Austin, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Mick Bramich, John & Sylvia Caddick, John Cranch, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Roger Elford, Andrew & Kit Ferguson, Mike Goss, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Keith Male, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Adrian & Gaynor Platt, Peter Reay, John Roberts, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler, Barrie Whitehall and Mike Wilson.  Thanks to all.     

-  ADDENDUM.  Some nearly new species:  So far, no completely new species have been added to the survey list. However, two sightings of Hen Harrier in February mean that this species can now replace the rather unsatisfactory ‘Unidentified Harrier’ from last July (which may have been a Hen Harrier). The first, a male, flew over Broad Rushes on 8 February, and the second, a ‘ringtail’ (female or immature), was seen on the moor above Dockwell 10 days later. The last really new species for the survey were Dartford Warbler and Little Egret in December, and although neither resurfaced in January, there have been records of both in February, so at least they are new for 2015. After a near absence of Little Egrets in 2014, there have been several records in February ranging throughout the parish, and the second Dartford Warbler was in a different square to the one in December.

                  

  • December 2014

-  All 52 squares were visited, and 29 observers made 183 square visits. The average number of visits per square was 3.5 (the actual number ranging from one to nine), with 6.3 squares per observer (ranging from one to 52). A total of 2,038 records in December brings the year total to a monumental 24,219.

-  69 species were recorded during December, the number per square ranging from zero (in three squares) to 42 for the month, and remaining at 10 to 71 for the year. Two new species, Dartford Warbler (near Three Barrows) and Little Egret (flying over Stidston), plus Black Redstart, a late addition from November, brings the year total to 106. (Although Red Grouse droppings were recorded (see website), the birds were neither seen nor heard so this species has not yet been added to the list.)

-  Wigeon was the only species to re-appear after a long absence. The largest increases from the previous month (in number of squares where recorded) were for Fieldfare (12 to 20) and Starling (27 to 33), both reaching their highest level for the year. This also applied to Golden Plover (1 to 5) and Black-headed Gull (0 to 3), and there were also slight increases for wintering Chiffchaff (1 to 3) and Blackcap (2 to 4). For the first month since March, there were no Little Grebes, and a poor year for Siskins ended with none being recorded at all in December. The largest decreases were for Greenfinch, (12 to 6), Kestrel (7 to 1), Buzzard (34 to 27) and Wren (41 to 35), but for most species there was little change.

-  Also for the first time since March, the species with the highest maximum counts was Starling, with an estimated 2,000 in late September feeding in and around farm buildings near Shortacross; only very few have been found roosting in the village so far, but as usual these have been in bamboos. Other large maximum counts were for Fieldfare (400), Jackdaw (200) and Redwing (100), but more modest counts of 46 Golden Plover and 23 Goosander (Avon Dam roost) were the highest of the year for those species.

-  Carrion Crow, at 47, as usual headed the list of species occurring in more than 30 squares, the others being: Blackbird Robin (39); Magpie (38); Blue TitHerring Gull & Wren (35); Great TitStarling Woodpigeon (33); Jackdaw Redwing (32); and Chaffinch (31).

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH. Dartford Warbler. Although only one small bird seen for a few minutes in one square before it flew out of the parish, it was apparently the first on Dartmoor since November 2012, following the population crash linked to recent cold winters. It was also the only bird recorded from that square in December!

-  WHAT NEXT? Several species are now singing, and more song and more species joining the choir are likely during the early part of the year. It will be interesting to see whether Canada GooseChiffchaffStonechat and Reed Bunting are recorded in January. If so, these species will then join the group recorded in each month of the year. As we enter the second year of the survey, new species will be increasingly difficult to find, but there are still a few predicted species that haven’t yet made an appearance, and there will always be the odd surprise. Otherwise, unless there is a dramatic change in the weather, the January results will probably show little change, but it will now be interesting to compare them, not only with the previous month, but the previous January.

 -  Records in November were submitted by: Mike Alexander, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Mick Bramich, John & Sylvia Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Tim Ferry, Mike Goss, Adam & Lucy Grant, Clare Guthrie, Poppet Hall, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Alan & Kathleen  Hayes, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Emma Matsambanye, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Adrian Platt, Peter Reay, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler and Barrie Whitehall.  Thanks to all.                 

 

  • November 2014

-  All 52 squares were visited again, but there was a slight drop in number of ‘square visits’ to 172, and observers to 24. The average number of visits per square was 3.3 (the actual number ranging from one to 10), with 7.2 squares per observer (ranging from one to 52). A total of 2083 records in November brings the year total so far to a staggering 22,090.

-  67 species were recorded during November, the number per square ranging from zero (in two squares) to 43 for the month, and from 10 to 71 for the year so far. Goshawk (in both the Badworthy and Dockwell areas) was the only new species, bringing the year total to 103.

-  Woodcock constituted the only re-appearances of species, but a Blackcap late in the month was probably the first wintering birds, following the last of the summer visitors in October. The largest increases from the previous month (in number of squares where recorded) were for Fieldfare (1 to 12), Redwing (23 to 33), Starling (19 to 27), Goldcrest (13 to 21).

-  Summer visitors that lingered into October, House MartinSwallowWheatear and Willow Warbler, eventually disappeared and Chiffchaff showed the largest decrease in squares where recorded (11 to 1). Grey HeronKestrelRing OuzelSkylarkSparrowhawk and Stock Dove all showed decreases of at least 50% and there were no records of Linnet.

-  The tail end of Woodpigeon migration through the parish in early November produced a count of 640, but this was exceeded by a count of 783 Redwing moving through. Flocks of about 500 Fieldfare and Starling and 200 Herring Gull and Jackdaw were reported. More modest, but impressive for the species concerned, were 138 Pied Wagtail and 18 Goosander (Avon Dam roost).

-  Carrion Crow again occurred in 48 squares, Wren in 41, Woodpigeon in 40, Robin in 39, Blue Tit in 38, Blackbird in 37, Magpie in 35, Buzzard Chaffinch in 34, and Jackdaw Redwing in 33.

-  BIRD OF THE MONTHGoldcrests became rather conspicuous, in a quiet sort of way. Their presence in 21 squares was the highest of the year, as also was a maximum count of 12. Other contenders were StarlingFieldfare, and particularly Redwing, all becoming much more numerous in November, and Goshawk, an unpredicted addition to the year list.

-  WHAT NEXT? Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush both started singing in early December and should become more obvious as winter progresses, with other species such as Blackbird and Chaffinch eventually joining in. We’ve already added an unexpected Dartford Warbler to the list in early December, and surely it’s only a matter of time before someone sees a Brambling or Hen Harrier? A cold spell of weather, particularly one affecting the rest of Britain, is likely to result in more species and larger numbers.

-  Records in November were submitted by: Mike Alexander, Dave & Janet Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Steve Davies, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Roger Elford, Mike Goss, Clare Guthrie, Poppet Hall, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Ann & Tim Ley, Dave MacDiarmid, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Peter Reay, Tony Rose, Ellie Standen, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler and Barrie Whitehall.  Thanks to all.

 

  • October 2014

-  All 52 squares were visited again, and there was a big increase to 192 ‘square visits’, giving an average of about 3.7 visits per square (the actual number ranging from one to 10) and 7.4 squares per observer (ranging from one to 51). Twenty-six observers submitted 2,117 records, bringing the year total so far to 19,991.

-  75 species were recorded during October, the number of species per square ranging from zero (the first zero since January) to 48 for the month, and from nine to 71 for the year so far. Mandarin Duck was the only new species, bringing the year total to 102.

-  Several species, re-appeared after an absence of several months, including: CormorantFieldfareGolden PloverGoosanderMerlinPeregrineRed KiteSnipe and Teal. The largest increases from the previous month (in number of squares where recorded) were for Redwing (1 to 23), Starling (7 to 19), Pied Wagtail (14 to 26), Bullfinch (8 to 18), Sparrowhawk (8 to 17) and Ring Ouzel (1 to 8).

-  Losses included Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat, and other summer visitors were the main contributors to the largest decreases, including Swallow (38 to 10), Chiffchaff (35 to 11), Linnet (16 to 2), House Martin (17 to 7) and Willow Warbler (10 to 1).

-  The largest flock size, in contrast to all previous months, was for Woodpigeon, with counts of up to 2,000 in migrating flocks, mostly heading west, in the last week of October. For birds on the ground, the species with the largest counts were Starling (450) and Jackdaw (300).

-  Carrion Crow occurred in 48 squares, Robin in 40, Wren in 39, Blackbird and Magpie in 38, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon in 37 and Jackdaw in 35. All other species were in less than 35.

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH – Ring Ouzel. Although none were recorded on spring passage, they occurred in eight squares in October with as many as 15 seen together, mostly on the moor above Moorgate and below the Avon Dam.

-  WHAT NEXT? With all the regular winter visitors now back, it is possible that no more new species will appear before the end of the year. The most likely is probably Brambling, which has occurred in previous winters but not the last. It is most likely to be seen in gardens or feeding on beech mast among Chaffinches. The recent appearance of a Goshawk near Dockwell shows that other species can still turn up unexpectedly. This will be more likely if the weather turns cold, and perhaps then the arrival of a flock of Lapwing would become a fitting climax to an exciting year. Otherwise, it’s probably a case of several common species becoming more widespread and occurring in greater numbers and, in the case of thrushes, starting to sing.

-  Records in September were submitted by: Mike Alexander, Dave Ayres, Eileen Blockly, John Caddick, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Roger Elford, Mike Goss, Clare Guthrie, Poppet Hall, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Frances Hayes, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Dave MacDiarmid, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Peter Reay, John Roberts, Tony Rose, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler and Barrie Whitehall.  Thanks to all.

 

  • September 2014

-  Drum Roll !!!     We've reached 101 bird species recorded in the parish this calendar year.    Fireworks Explode !!!!  Read on for the new species......

-  All 52 squares were visited again, and there was an increase to 178 ‘square visits’, giving an average of about 3.5 visits per square (the actual number ranging from one to eight) and 7.1 squares per observer (ranging from one to 52). Twenty-five observers submitted 1,872 records, bringing the year total so far to 17,841.

-  70 species were recorded, the number of species per square ranging from two to 42 for the month, and from nine to 69 for the year so far.  Four new species brings the year total to 101: Yellow Wagtail near Brent Hill; Sedge Warbler above the Avon Dam Reservoir; Ring Ouzel above Shipley; and Barn Owl at Stidston.

-  Black-headed GullRedwing and Sand Martin re-appeared after absences of several months.  The largest increases from the previous month (in number of squares where recorded) were for Mistle Thrush (6 to 18), Kestrel (6 to 16), Meadow Pipit (27 to 35), Pied Wagtail (7 to 14), Stock Dove (4 to 9), and Song Thrush (6 to 11).  Among species that finally disappeared were Canada Goose and Swift, and those with the largest decreases were, apart from Bullfinch (15 to 8), departing summer visitors: Willow Warbler (21 to 10), Wheatear (10 to 4), Whitethroat (7 to 2) and Whinchat (4 to 1).

-  The largest flock size was, as usual, for Jackdaw (but only 130), with House Martin & Swallow close behind (100 each); for Starling, 70 was the largest number since March.

-  Carrion Crow was yet again the most widespread species, recorded from 47 squares in September. No other species were found in more than 40 squares, but BuzzardMagpieSwallow and Robin were in more than 35.  Meadow Pipit was recorded in more than 30 squares for the first time this year, while Wren dropped below this level for the first time since February.

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH – Barn Owl. Although only seen by one observer on one occasion (27 Feb at Stidston), this is an iconic bird, long-awaited, and fittingly our 100th species for the year.  Worth watching out for.

-  WHAT NEXT? Summer visitors will be increasingly difficult to find in late October, but winter RedwingFieldfare and other winter visitors and late passage migrants should be more evident.  At the end of October and early November, large flocks of migrating Woodpigeons are likely to be seen heading west and perhaps briefly stopping to feed and rest. The October Pied Wagtail passage seems to have been and gone, smaller and earlier than last year. Ring Ouzels and Merlins have already been seen on the moor, and others are likely, with Hen HarrierShort-eared Owl and Black Redstart also possible. A good place to look for the latter is the Avon Dam, from where, at dusk, Goosanders can be seen coming in to roost. Robin and Wren are now singing and thus easier to find, and DunnockSong Thrush and Mistle Thrush can be expected to join the choir soon.

-  Records in September were submitted by: Mike Alexander, Dave Ayres, Eileen Blockly, Phil Dean, Paul Edginton, Mike Goss, Adam and Lucy Grant, Clare Guthrie, Poppet Hall, Sylvia & Peter Hamilton, Helen Harvey, Paul Heatley, Steve Hopper, Maggie King, Dave MacDiarmid, Emma Matsambanye, Jonathan Nicholson, Dave Pakes, Peter Reay, John Roberts, Tony Rose, Ellie Standen, Val Stanley, Janine Tinkler and Barrie Whitehall. Thanks to all.

 

  • August 2014

-  All 52 squares were visited again, and there were again 160 ‘square visits’, giving an average of about three visits per square (the actual number ranging from one to seven).

-  21 observers submitted 1,676 records, bringing the year total so far to 15,906.

-  68 species were recorded. The only new one was Common Sandpiper at and above the Avon Dam Reservoir, which brings the year total to 97.

-  The number of species per square ranged from one to 44 for the month, and from seven to 68 for the year so far.

-  KingfisherLesser Black-backed Gull and Siskin all made very modest reappearances. There were no major Increases (in number of squares where recorded) from the previous month, the largest increases being for Long-tailed Tit (5 to 9), Raven (19 to 29) and Sparrowhawk (7 to 10). Departing summer visitors included Cuckoo and Tree Pipit, with no August records, and several others decreased, most notably Blackcap (15 to 5) and Swift (11 to 3). The other larger decrease was for Song Thrush (22 to 6), probably more due to lying low and keeping quiet during moult, than moving away. The same probably applies to Chaffinch (39 to 27), but movements out of the parish may have been responsible for decreases in Skylark (25 to 15) and Starling (6 to 3).

-  The largest flock size was, as usual, for Jackdaw (200), but other species flocking in August included House Martin Swallow (100 each), Meadow Pipit (80), Linnet Mistle Thrush (60 each) and Goldfinch (50).

-  Carrion Crow continues to be the most widespread species, recorded from 46 squares in August. Swallow (44) was the only other species in more than 40 squares, but BlackbirdBlue TitBuzzardMagpieRobinWoodpigeon and Wren all occurred in more than 35.

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH – Robin. After a mid-summer lull, started singing again in late July, and in August became much more visible and noisy, with records from 39 squares after the low of 32 in July.

-  WHAT NEXT? Late September will be a time of further declines in numbers of summer migrants such as Swallows, and increasing flock sizes in species such as Pied Wagtails. Last autumn, over 100 Pied Wagtails gathered in the evening to roost near the Village Hall, and will be worth looking out for again this year. Although we have resident Pied Wagtails in the parish, such gatherings probably comprise migrants from the north passing through. This also applies to the few Yellow Wagtails that have now been seen in early September, and it is possible that other species could drop in on their way south (a Wryneck looking for ants on someone’s lawn perhaps!). The first winter visitors will probably not be recorded until October, when Redwings and others start to arrive, hopefully with a passing Ring Ouzel or two among them. 
 

  • July 2014

-  All 52 squares were visited again, and there were 159 ‘square visits’, giving an average of about three visits per square (the actual number ranging from one to 10).

-  Only 21 observers, but they submitted 1,831 records, bringing the year total so far to 14,098.

-  70 species were recorded, including three new ones, bringing the year total to 96.

-  New species: unidentified ringtail Hen/Montagu’s Harrier (flying over Harbourneford), Greenshank (Avon Dam) and Willow Tit (Moorland Park garden).

-  The number of species per square ranged from 2 to 40 for the month, and from 6 to 66 for the year so far.

-  There were no major Increases since June (in number of squares where recorded), but Goldcrest bounced back (from 3 to 8) and Spotted Flycatcher increased (from 4 to 7). Many more species decreased, with MallardSparrowhawkBlackcapStarling and Tree Pipit all showing decreases of more than 50%, and for the first time this year there were no records of Peregrine and Siskin.

-  The highest flock counts were for Jackdaw (300), but 15 Little Grebes and 75 Goldfinches were notable increases from previous months.

-  Carrion Crow continues to be the most widespread species, recorded from 47 squares in July and all 52 since January; Swallow and Wren also occurred in 40 or more squares, and BlackbirdChaffinch and Magpie in more than 35.

-  Additional species found breeding were Pheasant and Bullfinch, bringing the year total to 47.

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH – Little Grebe. Although on private land, and therefore only seen by a few observers, this species was a surprise breeder in the parish back in May, but even more surprising was the total of 15 recorded in July: the mixture of adults and young of different ages, suggested that more than one pair had bred, and that they probably had more than one brood.

-  WHAT NEXT? After breeding, many birds have become rather secretive and silent, but some are now singing again (e.g., NuthatchRobin and Wren) and others have started flocking (e.g., Mistle ThrushesMeadow Pipits and Goldfinches), which can make them more conspicuous. Migrants are on the move, and species like WheatearRedstartSpotted Flycatcher and various warblers could turn up anywhere. A long shot may be to look out for Yellow Wagtails feeding among grazing livestock, and flocks of Swallows and House Martins should be scanned for the odd Sand Martin, or a Hobby looking for an easy meal. Any small body of water or marshy ground could hold a Green Sandpiper and, although the Avon Dam Reservoir is often devoid of birds, it remains the site most likely to attract a passing wader, particularly if water levels remain low. An overhead Osprey is also a possibility. In fact, for the next couple of months, almost anything is possible (though in Brent, unlikely!).

 

  • June 2014

-  All 52 squares were visited. On average each square was visited by 3.6 observers, but the actual number ranged from one (nine squares!) to 12 (square 32).

-  31 observers submitted 2,306 records bringing the year total so far to 12,086.

-  74 species were recorded, including two new ones, bringing the year total to 93.

-  New species: Curlew (flying over square 32) and Spotted Flycatcher (squares 18, 22, 26, 35.

-  The number of species per square ranged from 2 to 44 for the month, and from 5 to 65 for the year so far.

-  Increases since May (in number of squares where recorded) included Buzzard (33 to 40), Herring Gull (28 to 39), Spotted Flycatcher (0 to 4!) and Swift (13 to 18); decreases included Canada Goose (12 to 3), Dunnock (34 to 25), Goldcrest (9 to 3) and Linnet (13 to 8).

-  The highest flock counts were for Jackdaw (120); Herring Gull (240).

-  Carrion Crow continues to be the most widespread species, recorded from 46 squares in June and all 52 since January; Blackbird, Buzzard, Chaffinch and Wren also occurred in 40 or more squares, with Herring Gull, Magpie, Robin, Swallow and Woodpigeon in more than 35.

-  Evidence of breeding came from 46 species.

-  BIRD OF THE MONTH – Spotted Flycatcher. After an absence in May, it was first recorded on 12 June near Shipley and then from three other sites, including one with confirmed breeding.

 

  • May 2014

-  All original 49 squares were visited in May, together with three new ones.

-  31 observers submitted 2,398 records bringing the year total so far to 9,630.

-  80 species were recorded, including eight new ones, bringing the year total to 91.

-  New species were: Great Crested Grebe, Lesser Redpoll, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Red-legged Partridge, Red Kite, Sand Martin and Whinchat.

-  Number of species per square ranged from 2 to 56 for the month, and from 5 to 67 for the year so far.

-  The species with the largest increases since April (number of squares where recorded) was Swift (1 to 13) followed by Bullfinch (10 to28); smaller increases were recorded for House Martin, Rook, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Whitethroat and Yellowhammer. The main decrease was for Canada Goose (17 to11).

-  The highest flock counts were for Jackdaw (200); Herring Gull (80) and Rook (70).

-  Carrion Crow continues to be the most widespread species, recorded from 48 squares in May and all 52 since January; other widespread species in May were Chaffinch (42), Robin & Wren (41), Blackbird (39), Swallow (37), Blackcap (36), Woodpigeon (35), Magpie (34) and Buzzard, Blue Tit & Dunnock (33).

-  Evidence of breeding came from 42 species, the most surprising being Little Grebe.

 

  • April 2014

 

-  All original 49 squares were visited, together with three new ones.

-  33 observers submitted 2,195 records bringing year total so far to 7,232.

-  74 species were recorded, including eight new ones, bringing the year total to 83.

-  New species were: Cuckoo, Garden Warbler, Hobby, House Martin, Swallow, Swift, Tree Pipit and Whitethroat.

-  Number of species per square ranged from four to 50 for the month, and from five to 59 for the year so far.

-  Species with the largest increases since March (number of squares where recorded) were: Swallow (0 to 30); -  Blackcap (6 to 30); Willow Warbler (1 to 16); Wheatear (2 to 14); and Linnet (0 to 10). The main decrease was Redwing, from 10 to 2.

-  The highest counts were for Jackdaw (200); Pied Wagtail (75) and Rook (70).

-  Carrion Crow continues to be the most widespread species, recorded from 48 (original) squares in April and all 49 since January; the next highest were Chaffinch & Wren (41), Buzzard (39) and Blackbird & Robin (38).

-  Evidence of breeding came from 25 species.

 

  • March 2014

- 49 squares visited by at least one observer, 34 observers submitting records and 67 species recorded - similar to January and February

- Number of species recorded per square since beginning of year now ranges from three to 54, with three squares now with at least 50 species

- New species recorded in March were Teal, Little Grebe, Merlin, Willow Warbler and Wheatear, bringing the year total so far to 75

- Largest increase in occurrence was for Chiffchaff, from one square in Jan-Feb to 18 in March; Meadow Pipit also increased from seven in Feb to 17 in Mar, whereas Redwing declined from 17 to 10

- Highest counts were again for Starling (500) and Jackdaw (200)

- Carrion Crow now recorded in 48 squares; next, in rank order were Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Wren, Magpie and Great Tit, all occurring in at least 30 squares

 

Past Features.......

 A Scatter Diagram from Peter Reay 

In each month of the survey so far, Carrion Crow has been identified as the most widespread species in South Brent parish.  It is still the only one to have been recorded in all 52 squares, and consistently in over 40 each month.  However, data now available show that, at least in January 2015, it was only recorded by about half the people sending in records.  This contrasts with BlackbirdBlue Tit and Robin, also widespread, but usually recorded from fewer than 40 squares.  These were recorded by 24 observers – that is, almost everyone!  This can be seen in the chart which shows the number of squares where recorded and the number of observers recording each species.  In general, the more squares the more observers, but as the Carrion Crow example shows, a widespread species may be recorded by fewer people than expected.  So what's the problem with the Carrion Crow?  Identification is one.  Corvids can be difficult, and some may have been mis-identified as Rooks, or entered in the 'Mixed Corvid' category.  Also, they are probably more obvious in the open countryside than in gardens where most people do their recording.  This also applies to some other species which are under-recorded in relation to their distribution, such as Meadow Pipit and Redwing.  Neither is a typical garden bird (unless it gets really cold) and some people would perhaps not notice or recognise these species in fields and hedgerows.  In contrast, a species that is well recognised is Long-tailed Tit.  In January these were only recorded in 16 squares (less than a third of the total), but they appeared on almost all recording forms (21).

 

This is all very interesting, but it doesn’t mean that we need to change anything. There are enough of us rampaging around the parish finding the likes of Meadow Pipits and Redwings, and this nicely complements the records from those who prefer to record from their gardens and revel in species like Long-tailed Tits. And we can never have too many records, whatever the species. However, it does indicate that there are more species in the parish than those usually seen in gardens, and so plenty of scope for those wanting to explore more areas and meet new species.

In each month of the survey so far, Carrion Crow has been identified as the most widespread species in South Brent parish.  It is still the only one to have been recorded in all 52 squares, and consistently in over 40 each month.  However, data now available show that, at least in January 2015, it was only recorded by about half the people sending in records.  This contrasts with BlackbirdBlue Tit and Robin, also widespread, but usually recorded from fewer than 40 squares.  These were recorded by 24 observers – that is, almost everyone!  This can be seen in the chart which shows the number of squares where recorded and the number of observers recording each species.  In general, the more squares the more observers, but as the Carrion Crow example shows, a widespread species may be recorded by fewer people than expected.  So what's the problem with the Carrion Crow?  Identification is one.  Corvids can be difficult, and some may have been mis-identified as Rooks, or entered in the 'Mixed Corvid' category.  Also, they are probably more obvious in the open countryside than in gardens where most people do their recording.  This also applies to some other species which are under-recorded in relation to their distribution, such as Meadow Pipit and Redwing.  Neither is a typical garden bird (unless it gets really cold) and some people would perhaps not notice or recognise these species in fields and hedgerows.  In contrast, a species that is well recognised is Long-tailed Tit.  In January these were only recorded in 16 squares (less than a third of the total), but they appeared on almost all recording forms (21).

 

This is all very interesting, but it doesn’t mean that we need to change anything. There are enough of us rampaging around the parish finding the likes of Meadow Pipits and Redwings, and this nicely complements the records from those who prefer to record from their gardens and revel in species like Long-tailed Tits. And we can never have too many records, whatever the species. However, it does indicate that there are more species in the parish than those usually seen in gardens, and so plenty of scope for those wanting to explore more areas and meet new species.

 

 Why don't birds hibernate?  Mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates do.  Even plants & trees (sort of).  So why not birds?  I found an on the BTO website which explains it: "As Graham Appleton explains, the question as to why birds do not hibernate hints at a wider range of behaviours that enable small birds to cope with the cold conditions of a northern winter."  Click here to see the article.

 

 Free Bird Pellet guide   In the January issue of BBC Wildlife there's a guide to 12 types of bird pellet - apparently all

birds produce some sort of pellet.  The guide can be downloaded here.

Archived 15 Feb 2015

 

 South Brent Tawny Owl Survey 

 

We thought it might add some spice to our BBS if between now and 15 October if  we carried out a Tawny Owl Survey for the Parish. We hope that you will feel able to participate.

 

  1. Why this survey ? Because owls are best recorded at night, and because we assume most people are not wandering around at night, owls need special attention, and for Tawny Owls, the best time to survey them is coming up. In the autumn, they are at their most vocal; juvenile birds are then leaving parental areas and territorial behavior is at its peak as these young birds try to establish themselves in the population. Using established BTO methodology involving Point Counts, we should be able to find out where they are in the parish, and also hopefully get some idea of numbers.

  2. How to do the point counts. Point counts should last a minimum of ten minutes. They should be made in the two hours following sunset between now and 15 October. Only carry out counts when the weather is calm and dry. Precipitation and wind both reduce calling activity of owls and therefore should be avoided.

  3. How many squares, where and how often should they be visited. Feel free to visit as many squares as possible, and whichever ones you want to, though moorland squares without trees can be ignored. A single point count, as close to the centre of each square as you are prepared to go, is adequate, but additional repeat visits during the survey period will be useful.

  4. What to record. During the count you should remain stationary and record the number of Tawny Owls hooting and calling is which is described as a kw-eek,or go towww.xeno-canto.org/collection/area/europe  to listen to the calls. At the end of the period an assessment of the total number of ‘pairs’ heard should be made. The criteria for the identification of a pair are: (a) single hooting or calling bird, and no others heard within 300m; b) hooting bird, with calling bird – at distance of less than 300m; (c) hooting bird with second bird hooting softly in response less than 300m apart. Both (b) and (c) represent the male and female of a pair vocalizing to each other. Two hooting or calling birds more than 300m apart should be recorded as two pairs. If two birds are hooting loudly together, even if less than 300m apart, they should be counted as two pairs, as they represent two males in a territorial dispute.

  5. What to do with the results. On the existing recording form record a P for Tawny Owls being present. If you are able to determine the number of pairs, indicate this number instead. If you visit a square,either once or several times, and hear no owls please record a 0. It would be ideal if the comments box was used to record date and time of visits along with the number of Tawny Owls heard or you can just e-mail in the details of what you heard.

  6. ANY QUESTIONS ?  Contact Mike Goss, send an email to brentbirdsurvey@gmail.com or fill in the feedback form at the bottom of this page

Posted 8 September 2014 ; Archived 30 October 2014

 

Non-Bird Survey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't forget that we're also carrying out the Non-Bird Survey alongside the Brent Bird Survey !  We're monitoring butterflies, mammals, reptiles and amphibians seen in our 52 Parish Squares.  However we're not recording abundance - merely presence ; and we're not recording monthly - just presence at any time in 2014.  You can simply record the non-bird species you see while out looking for birds!  More information on how to take part is on the Non-Bird Survey page on this site.  We'll be collecting sightings for the first half of 2014 at the end of June.

 

Butterflies are very active at the moment and you're likely to see Green-veined Whites, Small Whites, Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals, Large Skippers and more.  In typically intrepid fashion Peter Reay has recorded the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary in Square 22, the Marsh Fritillary in Squares 22 & 28 and the Green Hairstreak in Square 28. Plenty of Small Heaths are currently in Square 13.  An aid to butterfly identification can be found on the Butterfly Conservation website.

 

Reptiles are also now active and are warming themselves in sunny areas.  You can expect to see Grass Snakes, Adders, Slow Worms and Common Lizards.  Amphibians are not so visible now that their breeding season is over however Common Toads are regularly moving around after dark and their remains can frequently be seen after failing to escape a car.  Newts (Smooth, Palmate and occasionally Great Crested) are still mooching around in ponds and will surface for a breath of air.  Amphibian & Reptile Conservation have a downloadable identification guide.

 

Mammals are frequently encountered when out walking: from small voles, mice and shrews through the medium-sized Rabbits & Foxes to the larger Roe, Fallow and even Red Deer.  More elusive are Stoats and Weasels which are occasionally seen gliding across the path in front of you ; and with luck (and some foreknowledge) you may even see a Badger.  There's more about mammals on the Mammal Society website.  Bats can be harder to identify to species level without a bat detector but some guidance is on the Bat Conservation Trust website.

 

Archived 8 September 2014

© 2014 by South Brent Bird Group Proudly created with Wix.com

Click on the links below to go directly to the latest survey data.

 

Survey Overview:

Parish Map

Species Count

Surveyor Coverage

Non-bird Survey

Bird Species Maps:

Bird Distribution Spreadsheets:

Downloads:

 

Parish Map - pdf

 

Garden Bird Survey Recording Form (pdf)

 

Garden Bird Survey Recording Form (xlsx)

 

Garden Bird Survey Guidelines (pdf)

 

2021 Bird Recording Form -

       pdf or Excel (xlsx or xls)

 

2021 Non-Bird Recording Form -

      pdf or Excel (xlsx or xls)

 

2021 Recording Guidelines - pdf

 

Observers Crib Sheet - pdf

 

Breeding Birds Form -

     pdf or Excel (xlsx or xls)

 

Breeding Birds Guidelines - pdf

 

 

Brent Bird Survey Report 2014 - pdf

 

Brent Bird Survey Report 2015 - pdf

 

Brent Bird Survey Report 2016 - pdf

Acknowledgements:

  • Thanks to the BTO for permission to use their photographs on the results charts

  • Thanks to Steve Hopper and Keith Male for permission to use their bird photographs on this site.