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Birds at Snakemoor

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If you're enjoying looking out of your window and watching local birds prepare for Spring, you'll be interested to learn of the wide range of avian visitors to Snakemoor, our local nature reserve. Here, Chris Young provides a fascinating insight into the Snakemoor bird community.

The bird community at Snakemoor is quite a varied one and is typical of a small woodland in the northern Home Counties. Most of the common birds such as Robins, Blackbirds, Blues and Great Tits, Crows and Magpies are present, whilst there are no very rare species the common ones are in good numbers. Summer migrants like Chiffchaff and Whitethroat breed here. Whilst numerous winter thrush visitors from northern Europe like Fieldfare, Redwings regularly appear to gulp down the many berries.

The Numbers of birds and species fluctuations generally reflect national trends and numbers are mainly affected by the prevailing weather conditions. The other factor which can cause low numbers of birds are shortages of suitable nest sites. To overcome this AVDC put two nest boxes on trees in the reserve, one for Owls and one for Kestrels, and both are regularly used.

In 2004 Malcolm Paul and I installed several nest boxes mainly for Blue and Great Tits. The success of these is mainly dictated by the weather in spring. A cold wet spring means there are fewer insects so less food for the nestlings and the cold can kill nestlings. In a warm dry spring there is plenty of food available. 2011 was the most productive year for young tits, when I recorded nestlings in 13 out of 17 boxes. In other wetter colder years the figure was as low as 7 boxes with young in them.

In 2010 AVDC under the guise of Dave Short supplied extra Barn Owl and Kestrel boxes. Dave also now rings the nestlings annually in all of the boxes usually in May.

In 1995 Dr Jonathan Sadler compiled a list of birds he had seen at Snakemoor. Since then I have updated that list with newcomers (see PDF below images). Some species, such as Cuckoos, Willow Warblers, Corn Buntings, and Yellowhammers are now rarely observed at Snakemoor closely following nation trends mainly caused by global warming. But all is not gloom and doom in the bird world as a welcome plus was the introduction of Red Kites in the Chilterns. They are now are regular visitors and last year bred at Snakemoor. Buzzards are also now a regular visitor. A few years ago in the winter months the surrounding fields and airfield were full of Lapwings and Golden Plovers. Not so these days, the British Trust for Ornithology attributes global warming to this decline.

The bird list for Snakemoor is now at about 70 species a lot of which are not regularly seen. If you spot an unusual bird please let me know so I can keep an accurate as possible list.

Chris Young
Email: chrisyoung65@gmail.com

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