Snipe
This morning’s weather conditions were perfect for me to put my new camera and skills to the test during one of the regular bird counts at Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire.

Stonechats

I managed to get a snap or two of my ‘star birds of the count’, a pair of stonechats that are probably just passing through the farm on migration to summer breeding locations. The male stonechat has a noticeable plumage of dark black around the head, bright, orangey-red breasts and brown backs but is only about a robin’s size. As the name suggests, their conspicuous call resembles the sound of small stones hitting each other.


Male stonechat/Female stonechat

 

Lapwing


Lapwing
Another key highlight of my count was a pair of lapwings with an extra male making a nest scrape. Lapwings create a nest out of small scraped areas of spring-tilled arable land or grassland, breeding between mid-March and July. Their diet consists of earthworms, other invertebrates and their larvae sourced from grazed pasture and wet grassland. Because of this, lapwings need a mosaic of habitats from drier tillage to lush grasses.

Grey Partridge

Last month, another arable-loving species, the grey partridge, were still in their family groups known as ‘coveys’ of about 6 – 15 individuals.


Pair of flying grey partridge
The grey partridge is classed as a red-listed species and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority bird species due to a  documented decline in numbers of grey partridge of 91% from 1967 to 2010. On Lark Rise Farm, the coveys have now split up into pairs ahead of the breeding season.


Overall, it’s the time of the year when nice days are becoming more frequent, and flocking birds will start to drift away and find separate breeding territories. However, there were still significant numbers of 40 skylarks, 86 linnets, 42 yellowhammers and a kestrel staking a claim to its usual nestbox.


Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring

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