There are still crossbills around at the moment. They're no longer in the flocks they were in either, now you are more likely to come across pairs, and, as well as their distinctive call, males can be heard singing from the tops of pines. Crossbills breed very early - I've had a report of a pair with eggs from a neighbouring site more than a fortnight ago! Birds have been seen carrying nest material here as well, so I'm hopeful that they are breeding on the reserve.
Another early breeder is the woodlark. They have been singing and claiming territory for a couple of weeks as well. It is very early days, but I'm going to stick my neck out and say that we are going to have more pairs this year than last...Time will tell. Not to be outdone, stonechats are also making their way back to the heath here, from wherever they have spent the winter. They aren't really migrants, but many stonechats will spend the winter down on the coast, where it is generally slightly warmer. It's good to see them back.
While stonechats are arriving, we've said farewell to the Exmoor ponies that have spent the winter here. We "borrowed" them from the Surrey Heathland Project, and they did a great job for us. We will be releasing some more field crickets here in the spring, this time in one of the areas open to the public, and the ponies have been preparing the ground by getting the grass short, breaking up the bramble patches and creating small bare areas. However, as the saying goes "their work here is done", so they've been taken off to do good elsewhere.
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the reserve. I'm really hoping that 2012 will be a memorable breeding season for all our heathland specialities, those with feathers, and without, to really commemorate the occasion!
Sounds like there's lots to see and hear on the heath - would be fantastic to have some more woodlarks and with the groundwork done lets hope the crickets sing their hearts out for the visitors. What a great start to the 10th celebrations.
Hi! I went to Farnham Heath today and saw two crossbills - a pair. No sign of a nest though...