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NATURE NOTES: Bird is the word

Our resident birds have been on lockdown – by that I mean they are moulting, eating plenty and keeping out of harm’s way.

All our summer migrants have gone south except a few Stone Curlews.

They have gone south because they have run out of insects, which always disappear as summer goes and autumn comes.

Redwings have been arriving in quite large numbers.
Redwings have been arriving in quite large numbers.

Over the last 50 years Stone Curlews have struck lucky. Their traditional habitat, light sandy land in Norfolk, Hampshire and Wiltshire, have become the home of large outdoor pig farms.

They feed on soil invertebrates and these farms massively increase the numbers available to them all the year round, making some reluctant to make their migration to West Africa.

Fieldfares and Redwings have been arriving in quite large numbers, but most of them have not stopped to eat our hawthorn berries and kept going south west, maybe to the apple orchards of the west country.

There are tens of thousands of birds streaming across the North Sea at the moment. Just in our parish last week we have had 20,000 Starlings, 2,000 Lapwings and 1,000 Golden Plovers.

Then there are Teal, Wigeon, Chaffinches, Bramblings, Blackbirds, Goldcrests, Robins, Woodcock, Wood Pigeons and Snipe, to name just the commoner birds.

Quite a lot will carry on going south west. Many Snipe for instance end up in Morocco. They are all coming south and west to get away from snow and ice.

All the birds I have mentioned need insects in the first few weeks of their life and on the whole where they have been coming from there is not the density of people to have the impact on the countryside like there is in the UK so most of them have a better future.

That is different to Geese, whothrive on short grass and we are a nation of grass cutters. The population of Grey geese, the Pink Foots, the Grey Lags, Canadas, Barnacles and the European Whitefronts on the whole has increased ten fold in the last 80 years.

They all stream south from their breeding grounds in September and October, many of them providing spectacles for us to see.

Some Blackbirds have come back into our garden, mainly because we have planted pyracantha bushes. Berries are a great food source for several species so we have been planting mahonia cotoneaster and mountain ash as well.

Barn Owls have not fared well this summer, rearing on average about half a chick per pair.Even that is better than 2015 when not one chick was raised in Deeping Fen.

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