A new habitat measure developed by scientists from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to boost the fortunes of the beloved, red-listed grey partridge, is proving a big hit with insects too.
A study of breeding pairs of redshank – a threatened native wading bird species – whose population is recovering in the Avon Valley in Hampshire, has shown one intrepid individual travel more than 100km to Wales for the winter
Grouse moors appear to form important refuges for breeding merlin. However, recent merlin declines have been suggested to be due to intensified cutting and burning of heather to favour grouse, thereby reducing both the availability of tall heather for nesting and the numbers of small birds, particularly meadow pipits.
The GWCT is assisting with an exciting new project initiated by the Norfolk Estate, Sussex, to establish a breeding curlew population on the South Downs. The project involves a technique called headstarting, whereby eggs are taken from the wild (under licence), incubated artificially, and then chicks are reared to fledging age in enclosures before release into the wild.
Bank Holiday weekends are different for most people. Some like to get away, some spend time with friends and family, while some like to make the most of the time off to be at home. Mine was a mixture of all three.
According to the Curlew Recovery Partnership, around two thirds of all curlew pairs breeding in the English lowlands occupy agricultural grassland habitats affected by seasonal grass-cutting. Clearly, this presents a major hazard to ground-nesting birds, with vulnerable nests and chicks hiding in hay and silage crops exposed to the whirring blades of mechanical mowers.
Bird-ringing still presents a very valuable tool for ornithologists, particularly for the study of survival and population dynamics. The GWCT’s Wetland research team runs two long-term woodcock ringing studies, one in Hampshire and one in Cornwall, where we ring a sample of woodcock each winter and record re-encounters with ringed individuals over subsequent years.
Over the last few months, I have heard more and more about an owl that I have never seen, so it has become my latest quest to catch sight of our elusive long-eared owl (Asio otus). Said to be our most nocturnal owl, the long-eared owl is seldomly seen hunting during daylight hours.
One of the first tasks when I started my role as Uplands Research Assistant was to investigate if there was a relationship between the start time of a transect and the number of sightings of meadow pipit, the most common insectivorous moorland bird and a key food of breeding merlin.
With the merlin gone for the winter, we have been busy in the uplands taking field measurements to understand what makes habitats suitable for nesting merlin.