With the current mild weather there are lots of signs that Spring is springing - lets hope we don't get a sudden cold spell to confuse everyone!
Yesterday the wardens saw their first curlew and lapwing of the season up on the bog and also heard a skylark calling high above.
A pair of ravens were circling with aerial acrobatics above the rocks and there is plenty of oystercatcher Spring-time activity on the reservoir! From the main car park we've seen a large flock of redwing, fieldfare, jay, goldfinch, greenfinch, pied wagtail, jackdaws and blue,coal and great tits. A woodpecker was drumming away in the background and mistle thrush heard singing in the fields. Mountain hare are still visible with a telescope or binoculars as their coats are still patchy white and stand out against the gritstone.
At Binn Green the feeders have been alive with greenfnches, goldfinches, chaffinches and brambling as well as redpoll, nuthatch and mistle thrush.
The peregrines have been spotted above Ashway Gap soaring high on the thermals, a dipper has been seen on the edge of the watercourse and unusually there have been a few sightings of a treecreeper which we haven't often seen in this area.
There are also water crickets to be seen in the pools around Chew Brook.
Thanks to Ken - one of our volunteers and local naturalist, for the following fascinating Spring snippets and photos (as well as the water cricket photo above!):
Its a great time to watch out for dunnocks in your own garden, as they flutter around like mad to attract a mate. These little birds are a pretty, velvety grey-brown and have a lovely song as they pair up.
Its also an important time for flowering trees like the willow, which provide a vital food source for early insects like bumblebees and hoverflies. There are some of these coming into flower in the wood beside the picnic area at Ashway Gap - the flowers are just soft, furry buds at the moment but will become beautiful yellow flowers like the ones below.
As well as willow, look out for tiny hazel flowers which develop into hazelnuts and larch flowers (below) which develop into cones. Again these are grogeous to look at and great for birds like siskin (male pictured below) which we see at lot at Binn Green.
Trees make wonderful overwintering sites for some insects like these harlequin ladybirds who shelter under the bark and in crannies.
If you can want to help early season wildlife in your garden try planting something like mahonia or even gorse which seems to flower all year and provides a great source of food for all sorts of insects. You can also have a look at the RSPB website for lots of tips and ideas http://homes.rspb.org.uk/
Happy planting, happy watching, happy Spring!
The highlight of bird ringing at the bird feeding area at Binn Green on an otherwise quiet Saturday morning was when local bird ringer and Dove Stone volunteer Margaret Rawlins was reunited with a male Chaffinch that she ringed six years ago. She ringed the bird in her garden about 3 km away in 2008. On average Chaffinches live about three years, so it is quite a valuable and interesting record and will help contribute the the statistics on Chaffinch longevity - the bird has survived a couple of the coldest winters for many years, and was looking in good health.
The longevity record for Chaffinch is 12 years, so our bird has a few years to go yet to become a record breaker... This oldest bird was sadly killed by a car, over on the Wirral - again, it had been ringed locally.
Margaret is one of the team of local volunteers who help top up the bird feeders at Binn Green.
Improving our understanding of how long birds live is one of the important things that bird ringing does - if we know the lifespan of species then we can calculate how many young birds need to raise on average to maintain their populations. For most birds annual mortality is high in the first year, and then lower once they have gained experience and survival skills. One of the oldest birds recorded in England was an Oystercatcher that was 40 years old, and still going strong, but the record goes to a Manx Shearwater over on Bardsey island off the north Wales coast - at least 57 years old in 2008.
The BTO website gives a wealth of information - the on-line ringing report was used for information here...
Quick update of recent sightings, starting with a pair of Oystercatchers seen on one of the pontoons on Dove Stone reservoir - thanks for the report Rachel from your WeBS count! One Oystercatcher was seen again this morning, and was heard calling as it flew - I really like the sound of it. If you want to hear it there’s a sound clip at this link on our bird identifier part of the website http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/o/oystercatcher/index.aspx . In real life it's really loud and carries far, so why not come down and have a listen instead! As well as sounding great, this Amber Listed bird is really stunning-looking, black and white with a long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs, so it’s easy to spot amongst the Black-Headed Gulls on the pontoon - in flight too, it shows a wide white wing-stripe, a black tail, and a white rump that extends as a 'V' between the wings. They mostly breed on the coast, but over the last 50 years more have started breeding inland, hopefully like these Dove Stone birds. Last year after the breeding season we did see 3 Oystercatchers flying together so fingers crossed for this year.
Also seen on Sunday – Mountain Hares! Two were seen through the telescope from the main car park, and one was seen along the Chew path during our mountain hare talk and walk – thanks to everyone who joined us, and to our volunteers: John who gave the talk and led the walk, and to Rich, George and Irene who helped out on the walk. Our Dove Stone vols are great!
Other sightings at Binn Green today – two Robins being all territorial and then one taking seed from the lone feeder that still had seed in it (before I filled them all up! Cue feeding frenzy....), a male Great Spotted Woodpecker having a long feed on the suet balls I’d just put up, plus a few Brambling (not as many as we’d seen previously), lots of Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and quite a few Siskin which didn’t arrive until all the feeders were full again!
And also seen this week – an adult Peregrine stooping, and flying onto the Quarry – we’ll be keeping an eye out for more activity over the next few weeks!