Want scarce? Just add 30 miles.

Like many birders this week I left my regular haunts and tripped up to Stanhope.  Unlike others I did not get to see a White-tailed Eagle in England.  However, the supporting cast of Little Owl, Merlin, Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, waders, Nuthatch calling from the wood near Bollihope Quarry were fabulous.  However, I am fairly certain for all the Meadow Pipits that were there I did not really pay them a great deal of attention.  I am fairly certain I was not alone as I heard no one mention they had seen one.  Perhaps that’s why when we start looking at an odd single bird on the coast in Spring or Autumn there are a number of plumage details that will not have been noticed before.

They should not cause any confusion because we should have seen these so often that even a silent bird should be easy.  Though if that were true there would not be a need to publish articles helping disentangle Tree Pipits and Meadow Pipits.

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However, trundle 30 miles up the road and a Meadow Pipit on the grass near the Police Station in Blakelaw to me was a good bird.  I looked at it and gave it the attention a bit of attention.  Perhaps not a surprise in such a large grassy area as I later found them in two of the three tetrads that cover the Town Moor.  I spent a lot more time watching them as like I said earlier in my head I do not look suspicious, but outside the Cop Shop could draw attention to a person.

Blakelaw -tetrad d is always going to be a challenge.  After three visits this Meadow Pipit took me up to 24 species.  It has got a great population of House Sparrows, but the only real scrub runs parallel to the A1.  Its not all native planting and the noise makes hearing bird song there difficult, but I am determined not to give up on this square.

And in the first week this year when I did not add any new species, it has all been about adding species on the list to new tetrads.

Four species have been added to the list of ‘Seen in all 25 tetrads’ -Blackbird; Robin; Wren; and Lesser Black-backed Gull.  And I only need three more tetrads for House Sparrow -K; S and Z.  I got two colonies in Newcastle City Centre during the week one by ‘The World Famous’ Trent House, which probably explains why it is so world famous.

I also added a new challenge to the existing two of:

As many species in NZ26 as possible.

As many species per tetrad as possible.

The third one being a warbler in every tetrad.  Five Chiffchaff tetrads is a good start, but Blakelaw may be a tetrad to far.  Go check it out and let me know.

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House Sparrows and Collared Doves

OK I still have not sorted out the plug ins to get Xeno Canto embedded but my thoughts on House Sparrows.  They are brief so this 24 sec extract may be longer than it takes to read this.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/48066/embed?simple=1

I do not have enough data to prove these views but Tratalos et al (2007) looked at 27 urban indicator species across housing types.  They show an increase in House Sparrow numbers until the most densely populated housing at which point there is a sharp decline.  This seems to be true across the tetrads I have looked in.  However, something else I have noticed again it is anecdotal is that the tetrads I have found the most House Sparrows have also been the ones with the most Collared Doves.  C- Benwell and E-Kenton Bar being good examples.  I am not saying this is cause an effect, but it was really noticeable.

The BBC claim that it is the effect of house insulation that is the problem.  House improvements may have an effect on reducing nesting spaces, but there will be a lot of interlaced factors.  Kurt showed there is not much movement between flocks in winter.  In what I have seen these flocks are unevenly distributed and centre on a hawthorn hedge, clump of ivy, privet or leylandii.  Only one of these would provide the insect food that Vincent has demonstrated that sparrow chicks need before fledging.  So food, nesting and winter flocks all become issues.

In addition our garden House Sparrow flock now seems to be down to two pairs.  We have post fledging had 20 plus which has made the crowded and exciting in equal measures.  These four birds are out-competed for seeds by 9 Greenfinches, 2 Goldfinches and 2 Chaffinches.  There are lots of complications if we want to hang onto House Sparrows.  So if you are considering planting a hedge plant Hawthorn and put up a sparrow nest box if we want to hang on to the chatter above.  Incidentally, you will notice this is not a British recording.  When was the last time you saw more than 50 House Sparrows in a flock?