Battling through a Breeding Bird Survey

I’ve just finished the fourth and final visit to Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Blakenhall Moss Reserve to undertake the Breeding Bird Survey for the site.  Wandering around a nature reserve recording the birds heard or seen, seems like an idilic way to spend an early morning in summer; however, it was a bit of a battle today.

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As I’ve mentioned before, the Trust bought the site last year and has blocked the drainage channels and cleared the majority of the woodland to hopefully restore the Moss to its previous bog-like state.  This has brought about a transformation to the reserve, which is now open in the centre and has large areas of standing water.  Throughout the time I have been doing the surveys (March, April, May and June), the raised water level has provided a few obstacles, with water overtopping my wellies, hidden timber to trip over and mud to get stuck in.  With the undergrowth having grown so much over the course of the spring and early summer, the brambles and nettles now also provide more obstacles to get over, through and around.  All this is then added to by the lovely mosquitoes which seem to like me quite a lot and they followed me around and bit me for much of the hour and a quarter it took to complete the survey.

With the final of the four visits completed, I can now submit my records to the Trust.  In total, over the course of the four visits, I noted 35 species, with a reasonably consistent number (26, 25, 23 and 26) recorded each time.  Of these species, five were confirmed as breeding including:

  • Mallard (destroyed nest found in March)
  • Great Tit (fledglings seen today)
  • Canada Goose (four goslings seen today)
  • Coot (three chicks seen today)
  • Buzzard (at least one chick heard in a nest today with an agitated adult nearby)

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I also recorded 16 ‘probable’ breeders; this is based on the numbers seen either during one visit or a number of visits, pairs seen or agitated behaviour indicating a nest may be nearby.

Also of note were seven species that are unlikely to have been breeding at the site last year but have now been attracted by the new areas of water; these species include mallard, canada goose, coot, greylag goose, little grebe, grey heron and lapwing.  Of course, with less tree cover at the reserve, the number of woodland birds will have decreased significantly since last year but hopefully only in total numbers of individual birds and not species.

While I was at the site, I also recorded three species of mammal, either by seeing them (rabbit) or finding signs (mole hills and badger tracks – see below).  I also noted small white and spotted wood butterflies.

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I’ve really enjoyed doing the surveys for the Trust and I’ve learnt a lot over the course of the surveys, both at Blakenhall Moss and the same surveys completed at the Bagmere reserve – hopefully, I will be able to continue doing the surveys next years – now I just need to find some new activities to fill my weekend early mornings!

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