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Fingle Woods birds

Dipping into the Breeding Bird Survey

Once again, the yearly survey of breeding bird territories throughout Fingle Woods has been completed and the results have shown how populations of different species fluctuate, follow national trends or react to the changes in the woods. The main purpose of the annual survey is to provide evidence to show where and how the woodland management work at Fingle affects the lives of birds which, in the longer term, will also help to target future work. All in all, there are over 1500 territories for around 40 species of woodland birds from the smallest goldcrest to the largest buzzard, and from the migratory redstart to the resident robin.

Fingle Woods birds

The marsh tit is one of the Red List species being closely monitored at Fingle Woods (c) Natural England – Allan Drewitt

Rob Macklin, who has carried out these surveys each year since 2014, follows a standard RSPB procedure to gather the data. Over a few weeks of the early summer he walks the woodland tracks, listening for the territorial calls and songs of each species while plotting them on a map. He said, “it’s another very interesting year at Fingle Woods, with some species thriving while others fared less well.”

Fingle Woods birds

Though the image quality is poor, trail cameras along the River Teign have recorded some of the birds there. A robin perches on the rock when the water is lower, but half an hour later a goosander swims by in the flood.

Last year, we could see how the birds reacted to the enforced larch felling in Halls Cleave. While other bird numbers declined in that part of the woods, the tree pipit made an appearance as the more open ground tends to be suitable for them. This year, a similar pattern has emerged. A few pairs of tree pipits have made their home around the areas of Wooston Hillfort where conifers were removed to open up the Scheduled Ancient Monument. Rob also pointed out that “dense conifer plantations and beech woods were largely shunned by most species.”

While Rob showed concern about the lack of wood warbler territories this year after declines in earlier years, he pointed out that this was not just a local trend, it appears to be a part of a bigger picture in the south of the country. On the up-side, he was positive about how the breeding birds have been faring along the river Teign. Dippers bred successfully … while there were increases for the grey wagtail.”

Fingle Woods birds

Snapshot of a grey wagtail

So, it’s still a mixed picture for the birds but, with a combination of accurate monitoring, good woodland management and working together with the RSPB and other conservation specialists, there should be a healthy future for Fingle’s feathered friends.

by Matt Parkins

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