Time really flies, doesn’t it? It only seems a matter of weeks ago since I was here trying to thinking of interesting things to write. Anyway, it’s spring, the hen harriers are back on the United Utilities estate, and fieldwork is well underway!
The winter, as in most places, was pretty spectacular in Bowland. In the week before Christmas we measured well over a 35cm of snow in the first batch to fall on us, followed by nearly another 30cm just before Christmas itself. Followed by, yes, you’ve guessed it, even more snow. In fact, there was pretty much continuous snow cover for just over a month. And whilst the snow eventually disappeared from all but the highest ground, the sub-zero night time temperatures continued for nearly another month.
What effects this might have had on bird populations is already being examined in a wider context, but in Bowland we are just beginning to gathering our anecdotal impressions of the moorland bird populations. My own observations are that wren number s are down, following a decline after the 2008/09 winter. But stonechats numbers are much higher than I anticipated – presumably this partial migrant found some favoured areas to tough out the worst of the winter weather.
But what of the hen harriers? There is a small wintering population in Bowland, made up of some residents, plus in-comers from elsewhere in the UK. Based on observations by a dedicated few during the harshest weather, these birds largely vacated Bowland, but did begin to return soon after.
Things were a little slow on the harrier front during March, but the glorious recent weather has really begun to speed the pace of life for all wildlife, including the harriers.
I’ll bring you up-to-date with things very soon. Promise!