Friday morning… 03:20… and the alarm drags me reluctantly back into the land of the living. A broken night’s sleep preceded a two hour drive to the site where I was working for the day. Along with some other colleagues, I was undertaking a breeding bird survey across a large area of farmland.
The survey was based on the Common Bird Census methodology which was devised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) back in 1962. It was their volunteer bird recording scheme and ran until 2000, although it has now been superseded by the current Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). As consultants, the CBC methodology often provides far more useful data to inform impact assessments, as it allows you to map individual breeding territories, allowing a far more robust valuation of the breeding bird populations on your site.
Despite the horrific early morning start (you get used to it in this line of work!), it turned out to be a very pleasant morning. The weather was clear and settled and the surroundings were not too shabby. The site comprised a large area of predominately grazing pasture, interspersed with hedgerows and ditches. Reed warblers and chiffchaffs were the most obvious species; the first with its almost mechanical rattling song. Linnets were another nice species to see. Whilst a fairly drab little bird in many respects, they have seen their population (in England & Wales) decline by 30% between 1994 & 2012. So it’s always nice to see this little finch at breeding sites. Breeding bird surveys at the end of the season always require a little more work, as birds generally aren’t as vocal or obvious; many preferring to skulk through hedges and remain largely secretive. Still, it all adds to the challenge!
The weirdest find on Friday was a dead mole, lying in the middle of a footpath. There were no obvious signs of trauma, which led me to wonder what had caused its demise. If you have any theories or suggestions, please let me know!