This morning I got up early to complete the Westfield late May morning survey on Lark Rise Farm. 

The birds are fairly well all sorted out for the year now, not expecting many new arrivals it’s just a matter of consolidating the evidence as to which species are staying to breed and which were just passing. It seems like the Quail mentioned previously was just passing, as it has not been seen or heard again, and there was no sign of hobby on the last two visits either, so perhaps that won’t register as a territory.

There are one or two outside chances of late arrivals, such as turtle dove and spotted flycatcher both very late migrants but both are now quite unlikely as their populations have diminished in the local area. Corn buntings have not been seen for a couple of weeks but could make a return.

Next month is the end of our survey period and there are a total of 10 more survey walks to complete, four at Westfield, four on ’98 land and two at Tinkers, Telegraph and Warner’s Corner fields. Then comes the tricky issue of compiling the data from the maps, which normally involves half a dozen or more of us crammed into the portacabin - but that definitely will not be happening this year!

For the abundant species, like skylarks and yellowhammers, it takes a lot of time to work out the evidence gathered during the spring and summer as to exactly how many are present – not all birds show themselves on each occasion. A case in point is the grey partridge, almost certainly, their numbers will not have changed but at the moment they are keeping themselves hidden in the vegetation, all calling seems to be over as all the territories have been sorted out among themselves and secrecy is the key to them nesting successfully. I haven’t seen or heard one on the last three farm surveys, but there are probably a dozen pairs that I’ve been past few months.

The less common species are easier to interpret from the visits, as you either see them once or more than once. Kingfisher was present at Westfield again today, so that is looking like a territory. Likewise, a treecreeper was present again, whether enough observations will be made to confirm a territory is hard to say at this point, they are unobtrusive and quiet but to still be present after a month suggests it is a territorial bird.

Today I saw a couple of skylarks carrying food to nest sites in the crops, this is the most convincing evidence that a territory is present – skylarks are hard to decipher as they fly across each other’s territories singing away, and often come in and out of different fields to find food and so on, but if there is a nest site that clinches it.

Meadow Brown - Viv Geen Once again it was the non-avian species that were highlights of the day, with my first meadow brown butterfly and broad-bodied chaser dragonfly of the year, plus a sighting of a roe deer. I had suspected a larger species of deer was around as there was a flattened area of grass in the meadow at Westfield, but the site is well-known to the local high school kids and sometimes the grass gets flattened by things other than sleeping deer… however this patch did look like a deer couch, and bigger than the ones made by our usual muntjac. It is good to see a native species of deer on the farm instead of the introduced one.

I also saw another water vole today, this one at the most upstream end of the site!

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring 

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