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Blue Tit chicks

Breeding Bird Survey 2016 – The Results Are In

The third Fingle Woods breeding bird survey has now been completed and, as a method of recording the wildlife of the woods, is providing some interesting results. Rob Macklin, the bird surveyor reported that “the objective of this third breeding bird survey was to monitor any changes within the complex after the two years of work within the woodlands”.
During a series of six visits from April to June he walked around the 825 acres of woodland listening, watching and plotting where the birds were setting up and occupying their breeding territories. The early spring mornings are usually the best time to hear each species calling to their mates and singing to mark the territories they have claimed.
Down at the river Rob noted a pair of goosanders on the water and that it was “likely that they had attempted to breed in this area”. The grey wagtail was doing well along the river, as was the dipper as “breeding was confirmed with a fledged juvenile”.

Goosanders on the river Teign (photo: P.Moody)

Goosanders on the river Teign (photo: P.Moody)

High above the trees a number of swifts and swallows were seen in flight and house martins occupied their nests around the houses at Clifford Bridge and Willingstone Cottages. The good news continued with the confirmation of five common redstart territories around the oak woods. This locally scarce species was a very welcome sight in the woods. Also during the early part of the season, the pied flycatchers were doing well, building their number of territories to 21 from 13 in 2015 and just 8 in 2014. A cold, wet spell did limit their breeding success after the initial activity but the results are possibly showing a general trend in the right direction. Woodpeckers have also enjoyed some success. The most abundant species is the great spotted woodpecker but visiting green woodpeckers were seen at the far eastern end of Cod Wood and the lesser spotted woodpecker made a welcome return to the broadleaved woods.

Great spotted woodpecker (photo: Natural England)

Great spotted woodpecker (photo: Natural England)

Deeper into the plantation woodland, the siskin, a conifer specialist, has gradually reduced in number as the Douglas fir has been thinned. This sort of evidence can guide the woodland management plan and suggests that leaving some areas of conifer would be beneficial to the overall ecology of the woods. On the other hand, a number of tree pipits appeared where the diseased block of larch had been felled. Rob reported the tree pipit as “a new species which colonised the complex in 2016, taking advantage of the clear-fells within the woods”. It’s an ideal habitat as the remnant oak woods are still standing where the larch has gone.

Remnants of oak stand where the larch trees were cleared (photo: P.Moody)

Remnants of oak stand where the larch trees were cleared (photo: P.Moody)

Around the less dense, scrubby woodland fringes the whitethroat and garden warbler have been noted but in consistently low numbers. The value of encouraging a wide variety of habitat types is clear; these scrubby patches are a vitally important part of the woodland for these species. Diversity is key and the creation of further open spaces is part of the grand plan. Looking out for the species that are declining across the UK, the focus turns to the wood warbler and spotted flycatcher. These are the birds that are of particular interest to the RSPB and their number will be watched closely with the aim of providing suitable places for them to breed.

A section of Rob Macklin’s survey showing how many robins, blackbirds, dunnocks and song thrushes nest around Wooston Hillfort (each grid square is 100m)

A section of Rob Macklin’s survey showing how many robins, blackbirds, dunnocks and song thrushes nest around Wooston Hillfort (each grid square is 100m)

Monitoring Fingle’s woodland birds is beginning to show some strong evidence of how they are faring over the years and, once combined with all the available information on the other animals and plants, will ensure they are given the protection they need.

by Matt Parkins

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