Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Stanage birds

One of the things I've been busy with the last few weeks is the birds at Stanage. I got involved with the BMC's access team about eighteen months or so ago after expressing a little too much interest in what was happening on the Eastern Edges. One of the main tasks is to tour Stanage and Burbage with Bill, the North Lees estate warden, looking for the Ring Ouzel nests. Ring Ouzels only live in moorland and mountain habitats, and there's some evidence that their range is contracting northwards and to higher altitudes in response to global warming. They disappeared from The Roaches some years ago, and on the Eastern Edges occur no further south than Burbage.

Bill does the bulk of the work finding the nests in the early mornings and late evenings, then once he has a good idea of their locations we go out and decide whether a restriction on climbing is needed. My trainer-soloing skills are occasionally required for checking the innaccessible nests with minimum disturbance, but my presence is more to advise on the popularity of any adjacent climbs, and hence the size of any restriction. Despite the high profile of the Popular end restrictions they are actually rarely used. So far this year we've had 7 nests on Stanage with only two restricted areas, both covering the same pair. As soon as the chicks fledge the parents get straight on with a second brood in a new nest, the male continuing to feed the fledglings whilst the female starts incubating. That's right where we are now so its taking up quite a few of my evenings this week.

As the shot above shows, its also been a good opportunity for me to scope out some good locations for photographing the birds. Bill's knowledge has also been invaluable in going about this without disturbing the birds. Its also nice just to go out birdwatching for its own sake again, something I rarely do nowadays, although I seldom go out without pair of binos stashed in my bag. As well as the expected residents like Woodcock and Grashopper Warbler we've had Short-eared Owl, Buzzard and Raven, none of which are common on these still-keepered moors, and a real treat in a party of Dotterel at Crow Chin.

Dotterel are one of those species which, like Ring Ouzels and Chough, have a special meaning for anyone who loves high, wild places. Less than a thousand pairs nest in the Uk, and only on the highest mountain tops, the Cairngorms being a particular stronghold. They are one of the last species to migrate north come spring, and every year they break their journey north from the Atlas mountains at traditional spots like the Carneddau plateau and Pendle Hill. Its something of a pilgrimage for hillwalking naturalists to get to one of these spots at the right time (mid/ late May) and catch a glimpse of these mountaineering plovers as they head north, and one I've long intended to do. I didn't expect them to come to me; perhaps a little karma for looking after the Ouzels? This one is a female; unusually the brighter of the sexes, a role-reversal that extends to them displaying to attract a mate, who is then left to incubate the eggs and rear the young.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Good work Adam and great post. Saw some Dotterel on Helvelynn many years ago, running around in a very unique way.

Beautiful birds.

Cheers, Jack.