Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Summer Moth Madness And British Bird Population Numbers


In rows from top left:
August/ September Thorn, Scarce Footman, Yellow Tail.
Beautiful Hook-Tip, Burnished Brass, Bird-Cherry Ermine.
Riband Wave, Green Silver-Lines, Buff Ermine.
Swallow Tail, Drinker, Bordered Beauty.
Maiden's Blush, Buff Tip, Rosy Footman.

Perfect Moth Weather (hot, humid, still) so there were hundreds in the box this morning. A few were species I've only recorded once or twice here (the Green Silver-Lines has only ever been recorded from our garden once, four summers back). The Nepeta is currently playing host to most of them until nightfall and the Blackbirds are keeping beady eyes on the box :o)

Talking of birds, I received my copy of the BTO's Breeding Bird Survey results for 2015 this week.  I contribute to it by looking after two squares up on The Chalk which I survey twice a year during Spring. Mostly this is done through bird song ID as many of them are seen and not heard and Spring is the peak season for male birds singing.

On the whole it makes sobering reading, with long-term (1995-2014) population declines recorded for many UK species including Willow Tit, Marsh Tit, Skylark, House Martin, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Wood Warbler, Dipper, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Nightingale, Pied Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting and that's not an exhaustive list.

Turtle Doves declined 93%, making them the fastest disappearing UK species. The reasons are varied: agricultural changes affecting their UK breeding grounds, hunting pressures during migration and changes in their West African winter quarters.
Long-term declines were also recorded for Song Thrushes (15%), Swifts (47%), Kestrels (36%) and Starlings (49%).

There were some Good News Stories among the gloom. In England, Peregrine numbers are recovering after organochloride pesticides were banned (they thin the egg shells making them unviable as well as poisoning the bird and its prey). We saw a pair roosting on the Tate Modern building when we popped up to London (and Libertys :o) ) last week.

Over the short-term (2014-2015) Barn Owl numbers are up by 88% (although they follow vole populations which typically follow a boom and bust model, so it doesn't necessarily mean the Barn Owl population is rising year on year). Siskins rose 81% over the same time period too.

I'm interested that many of the species we have in relatively robust numbers here are declining nationally. House Sparrows, Tawny Owls, Starlings. Song Thrushes, Mistle Thrushes, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Greenfinch to name a few. I am convinced part at least of the reason for this is the food we put out. There were no House Sparrows here when we moved in ten years ago. Three years in we had a breeding pair and now a colony of between 30-50.  Starlings have only begun to visit in the last two years, and this summer two broods have fed regularly in the garden. We also have Greenfinches (although usually only one or two), and Marsh Tits too.

What this tells me is that you CAN make a difference by putting food out YEAR ROUND - not just over winter. In a bad Spring, like the one we've just had, the birds rely on this supplementary food source in order to be able to lay their eggs in the first place and then to brood the young successfully.

They need places to shelter, water to drink and bathe in, roosting and nesting places and a good quality food source (fat balls and seed are perfect).


We're just about to tip into Summer Holiday Mode here with L due home any minute. Poppy has been ill this week, a stomach upset that put her off her food so we all know it must have been serious. Luckily, Lovely Vet Clare was straight on it and sorted her out and now she's making the most of fresh fish for supper (Poppy. not Clare). Ted is quietly outraged at the injustice. I loved Clare's summation of the situation: If a Jack Russell hasn't got you by the throat, you know something is wrong :o)

Hope you're all well, and if in the UK enjoying this beautifully warm weather?

CT :o)

19 comments:

  1. Lovely pictures, I feed the birds all year round, they are still busy enjoying fat balls etc, as long as they keep eating it I will keep putting it out, they give me so much pleasure x

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    1. I agree- I love watching our garden birds and when they bring their babies in I waste hours looking at them!

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  2. Seeing a lot of swallow tails and old ladies late at night!

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  3. The moths were out in force the other night while I was nightjar watching under a full hay-making moon. It reminded me of being in the south of France. The pond is such a magnet for the birds, especially in this hot weather. I get families of blue tits and house sparrows coming down to wash. Also the blackbirds, thrushes, robins and wrens are still very apparent in the garden. I just wish I could stop the pigeons roosting in the wisteria. Every time I go into the garden there is such a clatter of wings as they flap away.

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    1. How did the night jarring go? Ours are very quiet here this year. I'm a little concerned.

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  4. It is mixed news, but good that there is good news too! I try and focus on the positive! Hope that Pops will be better soon. Tell her that Aunty Amy is sending her a hug and tell Ted that I am sending him one too so that he doesn't have too too much injustice to deal with! Enjoy the summer hols!

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    1. Definitely a good life ethos to be positive. And parts of the report are encouraging. Pop says thank you for the hug and Ted is grateful for the understanding as he feels no one here is offering him much support currently :-) x

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  5. Sorry to see that swifts are declining, they're one of my favourites. Always like to see them over the house here in the evenings. Fantastic photos, and well done for your bird feeding. Good to know it works so well. CJ xx

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    1. We have swifts over the brewery in Romsey- I love listening to them as they arc through the sky. I have some more feathers for your #1 bird watcher. Will pop them in the post. Xx

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  6. Loads of useful information there, thanks for sharing. Enjoy the holidays x

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  7. we've seen a huge increase in bird populations around our patch since we moved in...and i'm quite sure it's the lure of food. Alas, once the initial spring boom of nesting was over, I had to stop refilling the feeders as it was attracting the effing raccoons. Grrrr. But the hummingbird feeders are still popular and i've begun my 'edible hedge' project with an eye to providing natural-source food/shelter for my feathered chums. I've planted 7 native species shrub/small trees and would've added more but the drought means i'm struggling to keep these poor souls alive!

    small steps, though...and in the right direction!

    mixed news on your survey results though...i struggle with not letting the doom overpower the good news in situations like this.

    hope Pops is feeling much better -- has Ted forgotten the Special Food Treatment he received over the Skin Thing? it's just Poppy's turn now. ;)

    xo

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    1. We have the same problem with rats although they aren't too bad this year. You're hedge sounds wonderful- I'm sure it will bestow great gifts on all concerned. Ted says wet eczema was worse than an upset tummy and had should get fish too for putting up with Poppy. He hasn't even been offered any cheese as consolation, for heavens sake! Love to all xx

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  8. Good to know that all those feeders I'm constantly filling are having some effect! I was hearing on the radio about cuckoo numbers declining - I would miss listening to our early morning friend in spring. Lovely photos as always and I'm chuckling about the blackbird eyeing your moth box - I bet that's not the food source you had in mind! xx

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    1. It is easy to wonder if feeding the birds is making any real difference, then you read a report like that one and realise it really does.
      Usually it's the Robin who sits on a branch eyeing the moth box- he is very quick and has flitted down, nabbed a moth and returned to his branch while my backs been turned before. Naughty. Xx

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  9. Great selection of moths :) Actually had a good night here Tuesday which was good as so far it had been very poor moth-wise here.

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  10. A lovely selection of photos and interesting information. Some birds of prey and goldfinches are the birds I notice doing well here. That is encouraging about the sparrows where you are - I hope from the couple we've seen in the lane the numbers will build up and they'll nest in our sparrow boxes. Turtle Doves were the one bird I really wanted to see here this summer - but no luck. They really don't seem to be around anymore.

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  11. I'm sorry, but I've got all the starlings. They are still eating me out of house and home. My blue tits seem to have gone though. The sparrows are still here, what a bloody mess they make!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x