I did the ’98 land bird survey this morning, and have checked the lapwings a couple of other times since the last message as well – once on a visit to complete the hedglaying and another time for the butterfly transect.

LapwingThe male was seen in aerial defence mode as soon as I started my survey this morning; he was seeing off a crow, so I knew the nesting attempt was still underway. By the time my survey route brought me close to the area I could see the head of the female in the usual spot, but surprisingly there were also two other lapwings in the vicinity. It seems the bird Tim initially christened 'Billy-no-mates' is now Billy-two-mates, as he has attracted a second female to the field. He has done this before! It’s always a benefit to have more lapwings in a colony as more eyes for predators and birds can drive crows away, while others stay on the ground, but guarding two nests can be hard work for one male. Whether female number two will nest or not remains to be seen, but she has at least been tempted to visit. I was surveying on foot of course, and it is much easier to look for nesting birds from the mobile hide/Landrover, so that will be a job for the end of the week. The wet area is still wet, so fingers crossed it will remain so long enough for the chicks to hatch. Believe it or not, we could certainly do with some rain.

Swallow There were plenty of other highlights from the survey, which started in frost this morning and finished in butterfly weather – calm conditions ideal for migration. A male ring ouzel was 'chacking' along the beetle bank at Hare Field, then flew down to the central path area and carried on moving towards the brook. I did not see it again  when I covered that area so it no doubt moved on its way. Later there was a single swallow and a housemartin along the brook, and a marsh harrier sailing serenely north at height caused an unusual call to come from the lapwings. There were a few more chiffchaffs and blackcaps than last time and one fieldfare still present. Between four and six corn buntings are still present; whether these are winter visitors or intending to breed, time will tell – they don’t start till about late May anyway.

Tim and I agree that there seem to be more mallards around this year, whether that is a knock-on effect of a few successful mink-free breeding seasons is hard to say at this stage, but a lot of them have learned what dangling buckets are all about, and there were others on the brook as well as three moorhens. And I saw a water vole again today!

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring 

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