Wednesday, 24 June 2015

30 Days Wild | Day 24 - breeding bird survey at RSPB Sandwell Valley

On day 24 of 30 Days Wild I was back at RSPB Sandwell Valley again, this time bright and early to help with the breeding bird survey. I started volunteering for this last year; we walk on a set route around the reserve once a month between March and June (sometimes July too) and record all the birds we see and/or hear, making a special note of any activity that is indicative of breeding, e.g. adults carrying food, nesting, juveniles etc. We don't follow the exact methodology laid out by the BTO as I think the records we collect are mainly for internal use at the reserve, so our method is adapted to that purpose.

The breeding bird survey trips we'd carried out so far this year had all been characterised by rather cold weather, so the warmer temperatures we experienced today were most welcome! Also volunteering on the survey was Alf, Colin, Katie and Alasdair, good to have many skilled sets of ears and eyes!

Heading off on the survey.
The reserve was looking lovely in the sunshine. We had nice close views of a Jay down near the hide, and the resident Rose-ringed Parakeets greeted us when we first arrived - they are very easy to see these days, perhaps due to increasing numbers or perhaps increasing boldness - maybe both. The highlights of the morning were probably the elusive Willow Tit Katie and I caught a brief glimpse of, a family of Reed Warblers being fed by their parents, a Whitethroat carrying a MASSIVE caterpillar for its hungry chicks, and not one but two Garden Warblers, hurrah! The hysterical Blackcap we'd heard on Sunday was still around too, along with slightly ridiculous numbers of his brethren - the reserve was teeming with Blackcaps! We also saw juvenile Robins, Long-tailed Tits, Mute Swans and Great Tits among others, so it's obviously been a good breeding season for some species at least. The chicks of some others are yet to emerge e.g. the Tufted Ducks, and maybe the Common Terns if their latest attempts prove successful - fingers crossed.

The marsh.
Forge Mill Lake.
Nice display of cornfield annuals by the new visitor centre.
The completed survey sheet.
On the sheet above, each species has its own two-character code - e.g. RW is Reed Warbler. Different annotations mean different things, e.g. the code in a circle means the bird was heard but not seen, an arrow shows that it was flying and the direction; things like food, chicks and juv are fairly self-explanatory!

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