The alarm went off at 3.45 this morning. I almost went back to bed as I looked out on the murkiest dawn imaginable. Then thought, Ampleforth has a little more elevation than Gilling and just maybe the murk will be thinner!
As I drove up the other side of the valley I could see some cloud definition. Ampleforth was just about at the top of the murk! I would proceed with the survey. I love doing the British Trust for Ornithology Breeding Birds Survey. For a start, I am contributing to some really important data on the UK’s breeding bird population. If you hear of bird population changes on the news, the chances are the source is the Breeding Birds Survey and I feel proud to be part of it. How else would we know, but for hundreds of volunteers across the country who go out at dawn twice a year to monitor bird populations?
But there is another side to BTO BBS. It is the most rewarding birdwatching. It makes me experience early mornings at this wonderful time of year and I treasure the memories of each survey. I am lucky to survey two squares which have a really interesting variety of birds, but each survey has come with surprises.
This morning the pages of my note book were soon damp in the misty air. Species mounted up quickly. Both sparrow species, several adult yellowhammers in the lane, SWIFT!!!, whitethroat singing, then two young tawny owls within ten feet in an unexpected area, followed by a barn owl coming from an estate nest box. A curlew called within the survey area. Lesser whitethroats called in a blackthorn, a pair. My survey goes between the Ampleforth playing fields, which always add pied wagtails and swallow. Starlings nest in the cricket pavilion and another whitethroat sang near St Margaret’s and St Hugh’s house. A house martin flew above the abbey, just out of its nest. A spotted flycatcher is a real prize on any survey, a male was singing near the abbey. Also here a marsh tit, another red listed species.
But the real surprise of the morning was approximately 30 crossbills which came from the woods near the entrance to the estate, soon followed by another 3. There are crossbills dispersing at the moment but this was an exceptional record in the Ampleforth valley. These are some of the highlights of a wonderful couple of hours recording in the field. The Ampleforth Estate is managed sympathetically for wildlife and it shows. More work is planned including a conservation area for turtle doves.
My thanks go to the Ampleforth Estate for allowing me special access during this lockdown time. It is a real privilege to survey their land for birds. They can be justly proud of the bird populations it holds.
We had a few low level fast passes this morning and a solo prospecting bird this morning. These birds wizz round the house hesitating, but not stopping by potential nest site entrances. They are probably males and very significant birds as they are choosing their nest site, a site which will be for life all being well. Once selected the bird will attempt to find a mate and lure it in.