Who’d have thought it?

Photo: Lukasz Lukasic via wikimedia commons
Photo: Lukasz Lukasic via wikimedia commons

I keep an eye on what rare birds are present in Northants although I rarely do anything about them!

Two or three weeks ago, on a Sunday, there was a pair of Black-winged Stilts at the local Summer Leys nature reserve only a few minutes away from my home.  I didn’t rush off to look at them as my attitude was that they would either stay for ages (in which case I would catch up with them eventually) or they would be a one-day wonder (in which case I wasn’t too fussed).  They were a one-day wonder but they seemed to spend most of that day copulating – Northamptonshire hadn’t seen anything like it before!

I wonder whether this pair, because they did seem quite close, ended up in either Sussex at Medmerry, or Kent at Cliffe, RSPB Reserves for we now hear that both pairs at those sites hatched young last week.

Last week I noticed that there was a Great White Egret at my local patch of Stanwick Lakes but the bird that caught my eye on the newswire was a singing Corn Bunting, the only known one in the county, at an undisclosed location.

Who would have thought that Black-winged Stilts would be having babies in southern England when Great White Egrets are flying around central England but that there is only a single singing Corn Bunting in Northants?

Corn Bunting.  Photo: Steve Riall  via Wikimedia Commons.
Corn Bunting. Photo: Steve Riall via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Likes(28)Dislikes(0)
Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.


23 Replies to “Who’d have thought it?”

  1. Quite so. Great white egrets will be common here within 5 years. Yet I was walking in rural Kent today and heard precisely two skylarks.

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  2. No room in the farmed countryside for Corn Buntings. And that in itself is an indictment of the CAP.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(7)
    1. But pay someone to garden or create a wetland from industrial left overs and all sorts of birds and other wildlife will be quick to take advantage of short term gain.

      'Sterile factory units' should be left to market forces and not in receipt of welfare payments? Real farmers, adding value to land with enhanced biodiversity then yep no problem they can be assisted for loss of productivity / encouraged to farm wildlife?

      GWE, even Common Cranes, fine both appear to be becoming 'common' .... but Hen Harriers? Recover the 'mis-spent funds' and redirect to deserved independently validated 'wildlife farmers'?

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
    2. I suppose it all depends where in the farmed countryside you go, see here - http://tinyurl.com/k3lhxh4 , and here - http://tinyurl.com/lefju96 . Interestingly, this particular farm is not in any AES.

      Off to help survey Cornish Corn Buntings on Thursday & Friday - more birding with a purpose.....

      Likes(7)Dislikes(3)
      1. Keith - well of course it depends where you go...duhh! Although less so for Corn Bunting than most species. A 58% decline in range (in range!) over 40 years. A single singing male in Northants! I suppose it all depends where you go - where should I go? No, don't answer that.

        Likes(1)Dislikes(7)
        1. Very tempting Mark, but I won't stoop to taking advantage of such an open goal......

          My point to John Stone is that there is room in the farmed countryside for Corn Buntings, and it doesn't depend upon AES it would appear - certainly not in Fife.

          The birds on the farm in question utilise both winter and spring barley and uncultivated patches of rough vegetation. They appear to use the winter barley for their first brood and the spring planting, malting barley for the whisky distillers, for subsequent breeding attempts. They also favour a couple of scruffy corners, not field margins in the true AES sense, where two fields are separated by a footpath leading to the foreshore.

          Where should you go? Why not to Hope Farm, no doubt knee deep in Corn Buntings. Or better still, to the Sussex Estate near Arundel, where in order to have a viable Grey Partridge shoot, the Duke of Norfolk has employed the GWCT’s former Director of Research and Director General, Dick Potts, to advise.

          The formula used there, see here - http://tinyurl.com/p9g2lbu - is not just benefitting Grey Partridge and Corn Bunting, but a host of other 'typical' farmland species as well, see here - http://tinyurl.com/bn8d4xk .

          Likes(8)Dislikes(4)
          1. Keith - is anyone saying that there are no Corn Buntings left anywhere? Obviously not. Are there as many as there used to be? Obviously not.

            There are Corn Buntings at Hope Farm some years, and not in others - they are irritatingly, just down the road, almost within sight of the place. Birds!

            My friend in Fife was bemoaning the loss of Corn buntings from the fields that he knows well. These things are often very localised.

            I am very pleased that the huge amounts of money that go to the Duke of Norfolk through agri-environment schemes are well spent. I believe they are. I visited the site with Dick many years ago. And reviewed Dick's Partridge book too - I think for Birdwatch. A good example of the success of a private landowner, with shooting in mind, and being encouraged by taxpayers' money. Of course, you may know that the estate in question stopped releasing pheasants and red-legs as part of its measures to encourage Grey Partridges, I believe.

            4230+ signatures - in three weeks. That's 200 a day for three weeks. Not bad. A good start.

            Likes(4)Dislikes(9)
          2. Indeed, I've watched the decline in Corn Buntings in Shropshire, which has corresponded closely to the simplification of farm systems, and most recently to the loss of sugar beet, which kept spring barley in the system. Just because a few pairs cling on on downland and other areas where active project work is taking place doesn't mean that we should be happy that a species that was familiar across the British countryside has become a remarkable sight.

            Keith, you're a fan of game birds. What say you of the loss of Grey Partridge. A bird I saw daily as a kid and which again I marvel at if I see one locally today.

            Likes(3)Dislikes(7)
        2. And huge amounts of his own money too - clearly the AES payments are simply not sufficient to cover the required expenditure to 'farm' for wildlife and get the results that he does. Of course there is the small matter of properly targeted predator control as well......just as Philip Merricks' regime at Elmsley so ably demonstrates with his results with Lapwing, Redshank etc, see here - http://t.co/OBXYPLTfiJ It’s all about outcomes after all……

          From what I have seen and heard, I think Dennis has it about right.

          BTW, don’t know if you subscribe to Scottish Birds, but interesting paper in the latest June 2014 edition on ‘Hen Harriers on Skye, 2000-2012: Nest Failures & Predation’ by R L McMillan. Bottom line, 88 breeding attempts, 47 nest failures, predation most likely cause – 65% of failures attributable to Red Foxes (great things nest cameras for recording ‘ground truth’). In 2013, only 3 x HH nests were found in the Skye study area, (down from 9-10 in 2010 & 11) lowest number recorded since the study commenced.

          Decline of HH population clearly a complex business with many factors involved – still, great to have some incontrovertible causal evidence for a change…and great to hear of the Langholm success story so far this year, see here - http://tinyurl.com/lmejwy5 - clearly another winning formula being enacted there.

          Anyway time marches on - off to do BTO Peregrine survey work - some more birding with a purpose.....

          Likes(9)Dislikes(4)
          1. John,

            What makes you think I'm a particular fan of game birds? I am fan of all birds. For example, just spent a happy couple of hours watching my local peregrines' brood of four eyases, just fledged, taking their first tentative flights around the breeding cliff, see here - http://tinyurl.com/kguxng9 . All this was to the accompaniment of 2 singing male Corn Buntings, several Rock Pipits, a croaking Raven, dozens of baying Herring Gulls and Jackdaws and a mere 100 yards from a Kestrel feeding 3 youngsters, still in the nest - magical!

            Granted I certainly like eating pheasant and the occasional partridge (unlike Mark, I have never tasted grouse), but the decline of Grey Partridge is every bit as sad as the decline of other farm (and woodland) species.

            That's why I am a great exponent of those who have pioneered, and proved, management regimes that produce results (like Philip Merricks at Elmley, Dick Potts at the Sussex Estate, Alastair Leake and the team at Loddington etc).

            If all arable farmers were suitably incentivised to follow Dick Potts' prescriptions for Grey Partridges, we would have a darned sight more of them, and other farmland species such as Corn Buntings, than we have now. And as Philip Merricks' example at Elmley has demonstrated, in spades, a holistic regime has to be followed to achieve similar outcomes - and that regime includes targeted predator control as an integral part of the comprehensive approach required. Neglect it, and the treatment simply does not work as well, if at all.

            Likes(11)Dislikes(4)
        3. John,

          What makes you think I'm a particular fan of game birds? I am fan of all birds. For example, just spent a happy couple of hours watching my local peregrines' brood of four eyases, just fledged, taking their first tentative flights around the breeding cliff, see here - http://tinyurl.com/kguxng9 . All this was to the accompaniment of 2 singing male Corn Buntings, several Rock Pipits, a croaking Raven, dozens of baying Herring Gulls and Jackdaws and a mere 100 yards from a Kestrel feeding 3 youngsters, still in the nest - magical!

          Granted I certainly like eating pheasant and the occasional partridge (unlike Mark, I have never tasted grouse), but the decline of Grey Partridge is every bit as sad as the decline of other farm (and woodland) species.

          That's why I am a great exponent of those who have pioneered, and proved, management regimes that produce results (like Philip Merricks at Elmley, Dick Potts at the Sussex Estate, Alastair Leake and the team at Loddington etc).

          If all arable farmers were suitably incentivised to follow Dick Potts' prescriptions for Grey Partridges, we would have a darned sight more of them, and other farmland species such as Corn Buntings, than we have now. And as Philip Merricks' example at Elmley has demonstrated, in spades, a holistic regime has to be followed to achieve similar outcomes - and that regime includes targeted predator control as an integral part of the comprehensive approach required. Neglect it, and the treatment simply does not work as well, if at all.

          Likes(10)Dislikes(4)
  3. At the risk of giving away my age [which is getting old] I could say 'it wasn't like this in my day'! I can't believe how many once fairly common species are now recorded at an 'undisclosed site'. Our wonderful farmland birds - going, going - gone. To link to your Hay blog, I probably heard and saw one of the last singing Corn Bunting in Wales on the Welsh side of Hergest Ridge, I guess about 20 years ago now, when I lived about 9 miles from Hay - I didn't know that at the time of course. About the same time I came across some unpublished local history papers detailing the activities of a couple of egg collectors working the general area of the Radnor Forest - to my amazement they found Cirl Bunting nesting in the locality. Possible of course they misidentified the bird/nest/eggs and at a 100 years after the event too late to check it out! The area around the Radnorshire/Herefordshire borders changed dramatically when farmers abandoned mixed farming and went in for sheep. In the early part of the 20th century Corncrakes were still breeding there. One thing that obviously hasn't changed is the mud - now that at least is something!

    Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  4. It does say something about the state of certain species that you can disclose the whereabouts of G W Egret but have to keep corn bunting as undisclosed. In Wiltshire we haven't got to that stage and expect to see corn bunting on most downland. I hope it doesn't reach that stage with us. Mind you we also used to have Cirl bunting not too long ago.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  5. But, if the desire is there, Corn Buntings could come back. There must be small numbers in many counties just needing a bit of decent habitat? Yellow Wags- I guess- are under greater threat being migrants but then Whitethroats were widely predicted to never come back not long ago . .

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  6. Hi

    I went to the RSPB's Bempton reserve recently and there were 6 singing corn buntings on site. The first I have seen for many years. They were a common bird when I was a kid here in Northants, alas no more - thanks all you farmers.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(5)
  7. I have corn buntings apparently nesting on coastal shingle ridges. There is more for them there than from cornfields I suspect.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
  8. I bet most of conservationists have enough money to buy a small field and then grow stuff for Skylarks,Corn Buntings etc so wonder why they do not do it.
    RSPB is paid subs and donations even large sums given charitably on peoples death to improve numbers of birds so there is the answer pay farmers for birds as well as for food.
    Someone says he proves that each family pays farmers £400 a year well that is very dubious figure as the figure I find searching everywhere that I can it actually works out at £150 a family for Pillar 1 payments.
    The great majority of population think that a good deal for the guarantee of a reliable food source at reasonable price and proven by the amount of obesity in
    U K due to being able to afford more food than is good for the average person.
    Anyone wanting farmers to farm for birds have to be willing to pay for that and accept lower food production,you cannot have it both ways.
    Oh and by the way all of you and myself included are quite a large part of the blame as pollution must kill millions of insects that is a large essential part of in this case the Corn Buntings diet and of course lots of other birds as well.
    Do not kid yourselves that the rspb find farming easy they just give a large share of profits from their farm to a farmer to do the work for them,what a joke they claim the credit.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(18)
    1. Approx. £250 per household/family would be closer to the mark in terms of the contribution to CAP payments through the tax-system.

      To then calculate to the real cost per household/family you also need to account for the for impact of CAP on inflating food prices through market distorting trade tariffs. EU tariffs on agricultural imports are typically four times greater than those charges on other goods. In particular meat and dairy products receive the highest levels of tariff protection. It's a complex area, but an overall cost of £400 per household is entirely feasible.

      'I bet most of conservationists have enough money to buy a small field and then grow stuff for Skylarks,Corn Buntings etc so wonder why they do not do it'

      Sloblock!

      Likes(9)Dislikes(4)
  9. Dennis,

    Come on. The Stewardship payment farmers get for 'farming birds' is paid by you and me already. As for the RSPB paying part of their profit to a associate farmer that is exactly the same as any large landowner sharing profit from a tenant farmer, paying graziers, directing the outcome towards their own ends (in this case trying to prove agricultural and conservation can mix). On the figures recently released I would make it more 400 than 150 and I don't argue against farmers having that provided they are doing something for the common good not just profit.

    Likes(9)Dislikes(4)
  10. Anyone can work the figure out it is £17.8 billion over 6 years paid for Pillar 1.
    The part Bob talks about farmers do not get unless they meet requirements for wildlife so that part is irrelevant.
    Also totally irrelevant is the statement of higher prices as not only is that impossible to judge it is totally wrong as prices for food are cheaper because of Pillar 1 payments.
    Ernest,what a laugh,farmers buy fields and grow food so why cannot conservationists with such a big problem with farmers go and buy a field,for sure most would have the money as we see ordinary people with a horse buying a paddock for it.
    I tell you why they would rather moan about things when the truth is they cannot be bothered to do anything about doing something to really solve the problem,let them buy a field grow corn,use no herbicides or pesticides,get rich from payments from all tax payers and leave a substantial amount overwinter for birds.
    Thing is they would at least gain respect of farmers for doing something than continually moaning.
    Saying is"The Truth Hurts"
    Even today's conservationists blog says the lawns in all gardens are as good as deserts or words to that effect and yet conservationists do not seem to moan about these useless lawns.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(19)
    1. Blimey Dennis - you are living on another planet.

      Corn bunting and skylarks prefer large open landscapes - not small pony paddocks. The notion that the conservation sector could go into the market and acquire sufficient land to provide habitat across the UK in order to arrest the declines of corn bunting and skylarks, is quite frankly, one of the most bizarre ideas I have ever come across.

      On the basis there is, give or take, approx. 17.2 million hectares of arable land in the UK, lets assumes the conservation sector wished to acquire 0.5 % of this area, e.g. 86,000 hectares. Based on average land price of £17,297/ha (£7000/acre), which is on the conservative side, this would cost a shade over £1.49 billion or in other words 339 times more than the annual operational surplus of the UK's largest conservation organisation.

      "Thing is they would at least gain respect of farmers for doing something than continually moaning" Putting the economic impracticalities to one side, do really you think that UK agriculutural sector would welcome the conservation sector taking land out of the market economy and further inflating land prices? Look at the rather cool reaction to James Dyson's recent land acquisitions - and he just wants to farm the land!

      Likes(5)Dislikes(3)
  11. Agri-industrialists appear to have little or no attempted claw back by RPA whereas land-owning conservation charities (those you describe above Dennis and suggest buy up fields) or NGOs are scrutinised to the inch, is that an indication that Defra do not like funding environmental conservation through 'conservationists' as oppossed to their agri-industrialist associates?

    Likes(2)Dislikes(4)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.