Breeding Bird Survey

I’ve just got back from finishing my first Breeding Bird Survey for Cheshire Wildlife Trust – a really nice way to spend an early Saturday morning, although the weather could have been a bit warmer!

I think it was the first survey of breeding birds to be done at the Trust’s Bagmere reserve.  This is the site of a formerly larger mere that is now filled with peat and while it has a small remaining area of open water, the reserve also has fen, marshy grassland and carr woodland.  Bagmere is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Click on the link below for more information on the reserve:

I had to get up early to travel to the site and finish the survey before 10 o’clock and while it was a bit breezy this morning it didn’t really hamper the task. It total, I recorded 28 species during hour-long survey, and that’s quite a few more than I recorded for the winter bird surveys I did at the site in January and February.

While not all of those species will be breeding there, some were flying over rather than recorded within the site itself, I did identify some notable species for the site.  Of particular interest to the Trust will be the presence of willow tits (pictured below), which are a local rarity and have declined nationally by 79% between 1995 and 2010.   It’s very difficult to differentiate these birds from marsh tits, as they look identical to most people, including me.  However, the call of the willow tit is very distinctive and is a sound that evokes images of northern forested wilderness.  I recorded two of these birds, so hopefully they will be breeding. They were recorded in an area away from where I’ve seen them at the site before, so hopefully there will be more.

Embed from Getty Images

The other notable species I recorded was water rail.  This is a water bird (obviously, I suppose), related to the coot and moorhen, and generally very difficult to see as it tends to hide itself away and skulk in the undergrowth around freshwater. Like the willow tits, rails have very distinctive calls, sounding like squealing pigs. This is a locally declining species but has had varying levels of increase and decrease across the rest of the country.  There were at least three rails squealing for a very short time and they stopped as abruptly as they started before I could see them or tell if there were more.

This was the first of four monthly surveys I’ll do at the reserve and the later surveys will hopefully enable a significant number of these species to be confirmed as at least probable breeders on the site.

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