With the wild winds of recent days subsiding at last, I took the opportunity to undertake the first breeding survey visit of the season this morning. The breeding survey is carried out using a standard walk route and provides the main basis on which to judge how well each species is doing each year. The arrival of spring migrants this year has been noticeably slow when compared with 2014 and with a slight frost I wasn't expecting great things. On arrival it was noticeable that, although it was a lovely sunny morning, bird song was a little subdued. Nevertheless through the course of the morning I enjoyed a mostly encouraging first breeding survey visit. Highlights included two separate Willow Tit territories and good early counts of territorial Reed Buntings, Song Thrushes, Yellowhammers and Skylarks. A nice count of 18 Snipe was down on the impressive 58 counted in mid March, and a Jack Snipe was in field 2383. A flock of six Pintail is the highest count of this species so far recorded on the farm. A female Scaup has been lingering on the Irrigation Pond for some time now and was still present with the Tufted Ducks.
Arriving summer migrants have been a little slow to filter through and a count of seven Chiffchaffs, whilst respectable, is down on the 12 present on site this time last year. A Grey Wagtail at the Irrigation Pond is a welcome sighting of an infrequent visitor to the farm, whilst other interesting species included displaying Sparrowhawk, a hunting Barn Owl, several Buzzards and two singing Treecreepers. On the negative side of things, there was no evidence of Curlews being present and Lapwing numbers are down again. The disappointing Lapwing situation prompted me to sample a number of fields on other farms across The Carrs which I know to have hosted good numbers of Lapwings in previous years. All the fields I checked also had lower than usual numbers, so it hopefully it is just that not all the local breeders have returned yet.
Water levels are much lower than is usually the case at this time of the year, so it will be interesting to see what effects this has on the forthcoming spring wader migration and the fortunes of the breeding birds on the farm.
This Long-tailed Tit was one of a pair observed searching for nest material near the Irrigation Pond and one of three pairs exhibiting breeding behaviour on the farm this morning.