It's been another successful breeding season at Beckingham. Our final figures included 14 pairs of lapwings, our highest ever, fledging a minimum of 12 young, but up to 15. This is not as good a productivity as 2016, but still respectable. 3 pairs of redshank were present, with two making confirmed breeding attempts and one of these being successful. This is the second year that redshank have bred on site, after the first success in 2016. It was pleasing, but disappointing at the same time that curlew made an attempt to breed, but were unsuccessful, failing at the early egg stage. This is however, a very positive step in the right direction, suggesting our habitat is becoming favourable for this target species.
Yellow wagtails have been vey prominent in the last three weeks, with flocks of around 30 individuals, mostly juveniles feeding around the site. Some of these have undoubtedly been bred locally.
Our breeding wildfowl have had a good season also, with three pairs of shoveler fledging around 20 young between them. having first bred on site in 2015, they have had a very successful three years.
However, the stars of the show this year were most definitely the tree sparrows, with a whopping 292 young fledged from c.25 pairs! This smashes the previous high record of 236 and is an amazing effort by the birds. Most of our pairs had successful third broods, with some attempting fourth broods. Tree sparrows declined by around 95% in the UK between the 1970's and 1990's, so our thriving population is very welcome!
Tree sparrow. Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
It's been a very busy spring and summer over at Beckingham and one of our best yet for several bird species. With the season now coming to an end, here is a summary of how our birds have done....
Lapwing - 2017 has seen the highest number of pairs ever on site, with a total of 14 making breeding attempts. They have so far successfully fledged 10 young, but we are still awaiting some late broods, so we hope this total will go up by the end of the season. A 1000 strong flock of large gulls that took up residence on site earlier in the year had undoubtedly predated some eggs and young, but the lapwings seem to have done very well in getting into double figures of young fledged.
Lapwing - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Redshank - three pairs were present on site, with two making breeding attempts. The first pair, at the eastern end of the site, have now been successful - although we are yet to confirm exactly how many young they have hiding in there! There is also a second late nesting attempt going on at the moment, so we have our fingers crossed for these as well. This is the second year of successful redshank breeding at Beckingham and bodes very well for the future.
Redshank - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Curlew - for the first time ever, we had a curlew breeding attempt in 2017. The nest was unfortunately unsuccessful, predated at the egg stage, but at least the attempt is a positive step in the right direction. We continue to try and improve the habitat for curlew on site, so hope to see a successful attempt in the future.
Curlew - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Tree sparrow - 2017 has already been the most successful year for this species on site and they aren't even finished yet! So far, 280 young have fledged from around 25 pairs and there are still some third broods left to go. This is all thanks to our tree sparrow nest box monitoring volunteer, Chris, who puts a huge amount of effort into researching our tree sparrow population on site.
Tree sparrow - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Breeding wildfowl - mallard have again been successful with several broods and at least three pairs of shoveler have bred, another record number, with approaching 20 young fledged - impressive!
Shoveler - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
A great year indeed and with the wet grassland habitat looking better and better all the time, here's to 2018 and beyond for our breeding birds!
Our hay meadow development areas are looking nice too, with small numbers of wildflowers starting to show themselves. The really good news is that we have now recorded around 75% of the plant species that we sowed - a real positive start. A few painted lady records have been welcomed on site this year and we were very pleased to record an insect first for the site in mid-July....a garden tiger moth, found hiding in some grass on the most dreary and grey day of the month, it certainly brightened the place up!
The habitat at Beckingham is still looking fabulous at the moment with water and birds everywhere! The 300 strong flock of wigeon is slowly starting to dwindle as birds return to their northerly breeding grounds, but others are arriving for the breeding season, with several pairs of shoveler back, the first gadwall arriving and a charming pair of shelduck.
A pair of oystercatcher has taken up residence on the wet field visible from the viewing platform and several pairs of lapwing are setting up territory, with their amazing display flights and calls over both areas of wet grassland. A returning curlew has brought some excitement and hopes of possible breeding on site one day and there are numerous skylarks and meadow pipits performing their song flights across the site – beautiful!
The return of one species however has provided the most excitement in the last couple of weeks. On the 15th March, whilst building some fencing, we were delighted to hear a pair of redshank displaying over one of the wet grassland fields. Redshank bred on site for the first time last year, so it’s brilliant that a pair have returned and we have high hopes for their success once again in 2017.
Return of the redshank! Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Recent work on site has concentrated on finishing off our hedge laying, which looked glorious in full bloom two weeks ago and preparing for the return of our cattle. Our living lawn mowers will be back on site soon, providing us with grazing which maintains the grass sward in ideal condition for breeding waders.
Our hedge in full bloom!