Friday, 17 August 2012

Where are those pesky dolphins?

The Safari didn’t see much on the rising tide this morning, the flock of 52 Sanderlings most already in winter plumage was the most we’ve seen this autumn. A choppy sea meant it was difficult to count the Common Scoters spread out in the middle distance, we got about 150 but there could have been double that or more.
News from last night was that the ‘resident’(?) pod of 6 (more?) Bottle Nosed Dolphins had been seen not far to the north of us from a ferry so they are deffo hanging around – it’s just a matter of catching up with them. Which is no doubt a lot easier said than done...would like to bet they do a hat n cane routine just out of sight over the horizon.
A shortened lunchtime session produced a small flock of Common Terns and the same, but even less countable, Common Scoters. With spots of rain starting to fall we left the wall and headed for the camera to try to get some pics of an interesting looking hoverfly we’d seen in yesterday’s blistering sunshine.
No such luck, the rain didn’t pass over but grew ever heavier and our target hovers weren’t for playing out. A cold White Tailed Bumble Bee did it’s best to sup some nectar from the Ragwort flowers but was going nowhere in the dismal conditions. 

With no real news we’ll bore you with some pseudo-scientific analysis of the current state of play of Britain’s breeding bird populations.
First thing to note is just how many of the species reported are on the Red or Amber Birds of Conservation Concern list.118 species in total of which 18 are Red Listed and 37 Amber Listed, so a little under half  of all species in the report are ‘listed’.
So who are the winners and losers, movers and shakers this year (or more accurately last year)?
We’ll ignore the 10-11 figures as annual variation is bound to happen and concentrate on the 25 year trend (1995 – 2010) starting by having a look at some species with the highest sample size (>1000 squares) ie the common (not necessarily?) and widespread species.

Pheasant - up 35% wonder why? And what effect does that have on the rest of our native flora and fauna by way of competition for resources, actual predation by said Pheasants, availability of copious road kill, provision of supplementary feeding and habitat ‘creation’ eg game cover crops – a complicated one...

Woodpigeon – up 37%. Something obviously suits them! Plenty of sustainable meat on the hoof (wing?) there too.

Collared Dove – up 27%. Sparrowhawk numbers are slightly down yet this and Woodpigeons figure highly in their diet so you might expect Sparrowhawks to be doing better, something else must be at work on their population dynamics.

Swift – down 38% - time to make provision of suitable nest sites in all new build development and roof refurbs – wouldn’t cost much per development and would help Swifts enormously.

Blue & Great Tits are both up significantly - more Sparrowhawk food and not been ravaged by the 40% increase in nest hole opening Great Spotted Woodpeckers either.

We always imagined Swallows had declined but with a sample size of nearly 2000 and an increase of a 1/3 over the 25 years we were quite wrong in our assumption - just shows that going by local anecdotal evidence can be very misleading.

Nice to see a rise of 13% in Song Thrush numbers but a 50% fall in Starlings is very worrying.

The lovely, but retiring, Dunnock is doing nicely to - up 22%- sneaky little devils, how'd they do that?

Goldfinch numbers have almost doubled whereas the previously declining House Sparrow is fortunately holding its own with little change, again adding nest boxes to new buildings as a default design may well help their numbers increase...provided there was suitable habitat nearby.

Where 25 years ago you would have seen a hundred Linnets now there are only 80, the same fall as another farmland specialist, Skylarks. More widespread than we realised Yellowhammers fell by 15%. It wouldn't help the Skylarks but less hedge butchery might be beneficial for the other two.
We'll have a shuffy at less widespread species, those with between 500 and 999 squares sampled.
Where to next? A subdued and doped up Frank is back home so we'll probably only be safari-ing round Base Camp tomorrow. Very little chance of the moffy going out tonight unles we want to change it in to a rain guage that it!
In the meantime let us know who's winning or losing in  your outback.


Anonymous said...

Eyup Davo. Just to let you know i`m back blogging.

Intersting bit of data at the end. No surprise that Swift numbers are down and like you`s down to all the new builds :(

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Great to have you back Dean - missed you...and the music!

What was the outcome of your swifts a year or so back, did they return the following year after the work was done?



Anonymous said...

Cheers Dave.

Sadly the Swifts haven`t nested since the work was done on that particular house. I don`t reckon the special tiles they put in place were the right ones.