This spring’s bird populations have now been calculated and, of the 18 monitored species, four have increased (green woodpecker, stock dove, blackcap and jackdaw), three have declined (mistle thrush, tree creeper and bullfinch), while the remaining eleven have been about average. I didn’t start monitoring stock dove and jackdaw until 2004, so have a much shorter run of figures than for the other species. For stock dove there is a fairly consistent rise, whereas for jackdaw it is more like a recovery after an earlier rise and then fall. Both species feed on farmland, so there may have been an increase in feeding opportunities there. They are also both hole-nesters, so it is possible that nest predators, such as grey squirrel, have been scarcer this year: all just surmise! For the third year no marsh tits nested on the monitored plot.
Spotted flycatchers are perhaps the most uncooperative species to be found at Blean – arriving late, seldom singing their quiet, insignificant songs, and then simply melting back into the woodland. Our last hope of finding them before they return to Africa is now, when flycatcher families become a little more conspicuous, emitting anonymous, decidedly unhelpful squeaks, but interspersed with occasional more distinctive disyllabic calls, as they prepare to sally forth in looping flights after insects.
Often, at this time of year, the sadness of passing summer is partially assuaged by an influx of brightly-coloured butterflies – peacocks, red admirals, commas and brimstones. Not this year though, as the season fizzled out, with just a smattering of second generation heath fritillaries to buoy my spirits. A few white butterflies were around in August; most years these would be mainly green-veined, laying their eggs on lady’s smock, but this summer any whites seen have almost invariably been small whites, which are much more catholic in their choice of plants on which to egg-lay – almost any species of crucifer, the cabbage family, will do.
Still on the subject of butterflies, I was thrilled on 9th September by my first record of a small copper this year. Formerly quite a common species nationally, and still widespread, it has always been extremely scarce in the wood, where it is no more than a vagrant – a rarity value that seems fitting for such an exotic, luminously orange butterfly; so small yet so perfect.
Pair of small whites mating
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