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Breeding Birds 2016

With a hectic school holiday season coming to a close, this morning was a great time to sit down and tally up the breeding bird numbers for 2016. I’m surrounded by paper, notebooks and photographs of Kittiwake and Fulmar colonies. Greg has already reported on the amazing success of our Manx shearwater population since rats were removed in 1999/2000 but how have the other 38 breeding species fared this year?

Spotted Flycatcher - Ramsey

Our House Martins continue to increase from one pioneering pair back in 2014 to 12 pairs this year, all nesting in artificial nest boxes under the farmhouse eaves. Many have second broods just about to fledge and all have been under close scrutiny this year as we take part in the second year of the BTO’s house martin survey.

Perhaps most surprising was the first ever breeding attempts by Wood Pigeon and Spotted Flycatcher. Both species raised young successfully despite the fact that Ramsey has a grand total of just 3 willow trees! Away from the woodland oasis of the farmhouse garden, many species  were on the up, including Stonechat, Linnet and Wheatear, whose numbers exceeded 100 breeding pairs again for the first time since 2013.

Short-eared Owl - Ramsey

Little Owls continued to put on a show for our day visitors with 3 pairs breeding in the island’s stone walls and feeding on the sheep grazed pasture. We also had 2 pairs of Short-eared owls for the first time, both produced young in the heather and were much loved by all who saw them hunting by day across the reserve.

Chough did reasonably well with 8 breeding pairs producing an average of 2 young per nest. Some pairs got three youngsters away but one had their chicks predated by Ravens, bringing this year's productivity down a little. Our regular pair of Peregrine at Aber Mawr fledged three young and the family are still in the area, chasing each other all around the bay, not to mention the long suffering chough who are the target of the juvenile peregrine's flying lessons.

Our plans to survey Storm Petrels on the out-lying islands of The Bishops and Clerks had to be shelved due to poor weather and sea conditions and so we will be extra busy in 2017 when all our seabirds are due for their next survey. However we do keep a very close eye on our Kittiwakes and it is sad to see their numbers in steady and continual decline here as at many other coastal sites around the UK.

And so with the breeding season coming to a close for many of our birds it’s time to think about autumn migration. Robins are already back, a bird that doesn’t breed here but over-winters instead. Their ‘ticking’ and singing comes from ever bay as they form and defend their new winter territories. A migrating Wryneck dropped in yesterday only to be harassed and harried by an aggressive robin. Over 70 Swallows lined the sheep fences this morning as they think about the southward migration to come and Manx shearwaters are venturing out of their burrows at night to embark on their epic migration, an impressive first flight that will see them cross the Atlantic and the equator.