The status of the House Sparrow at Eakring 1998-2007
 
 
I originally surveyed House Sparrows here between 1998 and 2002, the results of which showed that there was still a healthy population, despite growing reports in the media that this species was in national decline. I recently carried out another survey during January 2008, to see how the House Sparrow had fared at Eakring during the intervening years.

Summary and results of the 1998 survey

In 1998 there were three surveys originally, with population surveys conducted between February 28th and March 1st, another from November 25th and 27th, with a breeding survey carried out during May and June. Weather conditions played an important part as to when survey work was carried out. When possible, counting was undertaken on days when conditions were generally calm.

 
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Any survey of the entire area was not possible on a single day, hence the two or three day duration of each survey. This also allowed for certain sites to be covered two or even three times in order to produce accurate counts, and also to reduce the risk of counting the same bird or group of birds twice, in an area like Eakring or Kersall villages. Not surprisingly, House Sparrows were found in close proximity to buildings, with both villages supporting good numbers of House Sparrow. Leyfields, Tug Bridge, Park and Eakring Field Farms all had small and relatively isolated populations, which through regular observation, seemed totally sedentary for much of the year.
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Although they must obviously wander from these farms more frequently than have actually been recorded, House Sparrows have never been noted in purposeful/dispersal flight across open country here in over ten years. Away from these sites, I have just one record, of a male around the old building at Church Hill back in 1998. Post-breeding flocks have been found to be more active around July, when they feed along hedgerows around the outskirts of both villages and all of the farms. Populations from the nearest farms are presumed to mix with those of the villages during this time. One particularly large flock between Eakring village and Eakring Flash held 158 birds on July 25th 1998.

The population surveys found a total of 144 House Sparrow across the area in February-March, and then a slight drop in numbers, with 135 birds counted at the end of November. The breeding survey produced a total of 73 pairs at both villages and all the farms within the area, with the total number of breeding pairs at Eakring being 43 pairs.

 
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  The resulting counts from all three surveys showed little variation and were believed to give an accurate indication of the House Sparrow population at the end of the year. Two years on from the original breeding survey, the number of breeding House Sparrows remained at 73 pairs across the area in both the 1999 and 2000 breeding surveys.

Results of the January 2008 survey

In January 2008 I surveyed the Eakring population once again. A minimum total of 130 House Sparrow were recorded during the survey. This would mean an estimated breeding figure of around 50-60 pairs and represent a surprisingly large and unexpected rise on any of the previous surveys.

Left:- Map showing distribution of House Sparrows in Eakring village in January 2008. The dark red areas are sites holding more than ten birds, with the pink areas denoting sites with fewer than ten. The distribution shown, is only slightly different from that noted during breeding surveys conducted here during the late 1990's.

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House Sparrows were found in varying concentrations. Small numbers of birds were found at seven sites and these presumably join with larger groups on and off throughout the day, away from the breeding season. Peak counts of groups containing more than ten birds, came from six areas within the village, with four of these groups being near farm buildings or the village's older properties. This again reveals the sedentary nature of the House Sparrow here, as these same sites are in continual use throughout the breeding season. I have not found any nests around any of the new properties in the village.

Summary and present status

House Sparrows are doing surprisingly well here, with an increase shown in the Eakring population since the last breeding survey in 2002. Providing that existing nest sites remain, then the House Sparrow should continue to remain relatively common here, although it has to be said that the current population is only a fraction of say 30 or 40 years ago. However, it is possible that some of the nesting sites in current use, may be lost to housing development or barn conversion over the coming years. Then there could be a restriction within it's range.

 
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