Tuesday, 7 June 2016

What a difference 37 years makes...

I was leafing through my 1979 diary this afternoon, looking up what that particular year's June had to offer, when I came across an entry from June 24th. I was then acting as assistant warden at Dungeness Bird Observatory, and had gone out into the recording area where...

"I conducted a survey, plotting singing Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers. The trapping area provided 4 Reed and 6 Yellow; the lower long pit 6 Reed and 2 Yellow; the upper long pit 11 Reed and 5 Yellow; revealing totals of 21 pairs of Reed Bunting and 13 pairs of Yellowhammer."

Any current shingle-lurker will know that if you repeated this survey now, you would find no Yellowhammers at all. They've long gone. The last DBO report (2014) records just four single birds each on a single date - and that was considered a 'good' year!

Back in 1979, the ever-present song of Yellowhammers and the almost daily capture of them in the mist nets were an expected part of my summer / early autumn stay at the observatory. I took it all for granted. In 2016, not only have they abandoned the greater Dungeness area, but most of the inland Walland Marsh as well.

6 comments:

  1. Yellowhammers seem to be going down the same route as Tree Sparrows. We lost both species here on Sheppey in almost the same year.
    Tell me, why do those pratts non Springwatch insist on calling everything animals, moths, bees, insects of all types, lizards, everything is called an animal, have I missed out on some new classification.

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    1. Part of the cuddly push to make everything acceptable to the general public Derek. Spring watch is trying to appeal to everyone, which is an impossible task really!

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  2. Sad to say I think Yammers are going the way of many other farmland birds; ie downwards. The frightening thing is the rapidity of it all. I`ve only lived down here for 10 years and in that short period their decline has been obvious across the Marsh. The only area that they are reasonably common is beside the Royal Military Canal, but even there I struggle to find them sometimes. Unfortunately, with increasing agricultural intensification and monoculture I cannot see things improving much for our farmland birds, certainly in the short term anyway.

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    1. You are right there Paul. They most probably abandoned the obs because the vegetation just erupted, but that wouldn't apply elsewhere in the area. Funnily enough they are still here in my part of Surrey - even had a flock of 60 last winter.

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  3. I'm not sure that farming has much to do with this. Farming practices have changed all over, but we still have Yellowhammers in decent numbers in Herts. We don't have Tree Sparrows, and they have disappeared from areas that have seen no change in environment. My view is that global warming is pushing species north, so we see birds disappearing at the southern edges of their distribution. House Martin, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler are all disappearing from the south but strongly present in Scotland and northern England.

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    1. The Yellowhammer seems to be holding on in pockets as you say DD. But as to why those particular pockets still have them is a mystery to me...

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