Eakring Birds
Breeding bird survey 2000
The 2000 breeding bird survey ended with the conclusion that many of the area's birds were continuing to increase. Compared to results from 1998, some of these population increases have been of an extremely high percentage. Perhaps the most pleasing is the present Song Thrush totals and more will be discussed later in this article.

As usual, most of the totals are based on the presence of singing males and parts of the area are covered two or three times during the survey, counting separately on each occasion to produce an average total. This method of repeat counting was especially useful in confirming the highly increased counts attributable to Blackbird, Wren, Robin and Dunnock. Some species are still so restricted however, that individual sightings can be used accurately. This is especially so for those species which have a breeding pair total of two or less. These are usually restricted over the area on a habitat basis and counting is relatively easy.

Monitoring of these fragile populations is carried out over the entire year and more frequently during the Spring and Summer months. Species which fall into this category are Willow, Marsh and Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sparrowhawk.

Among the first species to breed are Rooks. Here again is another species that recent surveys across the country, have revealed is in decline. 2000 saw an increase in the breeding population at Eakring, in the Rookery at Leyfields. Counts of occupied nests totalled 62, a small but nonetheless welcome rise on previous figures. News was even better, when a new Rookery was formed at Parkhill Plantation. Initially consisting of four nests, a further three were added and seven pairs bred successfully. This Rookery was created by a spill-over effect from the nearby Maplebeck site, some half mile to the east.

Other members of the Corvid family maintained similar counts to those achieved previously, although Magpie seems to be in a small decline and counts were lower yet again.

On the whole, most species are having a period of relative success and exceptions are few. The survey did find that both House Martin and Great Tit continue to decline, whilst Blue Tit counts dropped considerably. 1998 saw 16 pairs of House Martin breed in the area. During 2000, only 12 were found, a drop on 1998 figures, but just higher than 1999. These predominantly airborne species are very difficult to survey, but regular counts of both individuals and nests revealed that first time counts were indeed correct. Swifts are probably the hardest species to count, as adults cover large distances during feeding. Sometimes Swifts are not present in the area at all and so evening counts were used when birds tended to congregate more frequently. Only seven pairs were found this year. Swallow retained similar numbers to those found during the other surveys.

Only one pair of Coal Tits bred this year. The sole breeding record coming from Eakring village, rather than the traditional site in Lound Wood. Great Tits now number only 13 pairs and the Blue Tit also suffered a large 12 pair loss. Only 20 pairs of the latter species were recorded. It is extremely doubtful that this loss is attributable entirely to Sparrowhawk predation, although the Blue Tit does suffer greatly from this and so does the Blackbird, which continued it's large population rise since 1998 and remains less affected.

Blackbird totals reached 105 pairs and is by far the most commonest breeding bird within the area. Because of it's high total, further counts were conducted in an effort to confirm such a high figure. Each count revealed more or less the same total. Along with Wren (75 pairs) Robin (63 pairs) and Chaffinch (84 pairs) the Blackbird showed the largest increase in numbers during this year's survey with Eakring village holding 54 pairs alone. Though not increasing in numbers as fast as the Wren and Robin population, Blackbirds are still nearing a 100% increase on the original breeding totals of 1998. Similarly, the Song Thrush continues to grow in numbers and 26 pairs were found. All areas of woodland were occupied, although population density remains highest in Eakring village. A noticeable increase in birds around the Kersall village area is welcome and birds seem to be moving into the Eakring Meadows complex more, occupying the more dense areas of hedgerow and Willow copses. The Mistle Thrush, on the other hand, is showing a small but continued decrease in numbers and only eight pairs were found throughout the area.

2000 saw the return of two former breeders which were lost in 1999.

A total of seven Lapwing pairs nested in a single field on the Leyfields estate. The field, used in the previous growing year for Sugar Beet, was left as set-aside during the first part of the year, before being sprayed in late May. By then though, all pairs had produced young. Clearly, this particular type of set-aside created the perfect breeding habitat which consisted of sparse vegetation on bare soil. The field was large and hedged all round. A single unpaired male was also present throughout the Spring, commuting to and from the area in an attempt to attract a mate.

After no males took up territory in 1999, two pairs of Yellow Wagtail bred in the area this year. Situated near the previously mentioned set-aside field on the Leyfields estate and at Eakring Flash, both pairs were successful this time.

Fragile breeding populations still exist of Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove and several other species. Much has been written of these threatened farmland birds in other sections of these web pages and all that will be said about these particular species here, is that each is clinging on to their present status. New breeding Turtle Doves were found around Kersall village. Whilst this is very good news, it must be stressed that the Eakring village population (formerly the only birds in the recording area) dropped to just a two pairs this year.

Much better news concerned breeding Skylarks. A pre-survey comment about an increase this year from a member of the public was proved entirely correct when it was found that Skylark pairs now total 21. As was the case in last year's survey, birds occupied the same sites as previously.

Figures for the area's Warbler species is encouraging. After a poor year for some species in 1999, most were back to or near population levels found during the first survey in 1998.

One species, the Chiffchaff, still appears to be struggling. Although two more pairs bred on top of last year's four, Chiffchaff remain alot scarcer than habitat actually allows. This was in spite of increased numbers of passage birds during the Spring. Possibly 1998 counts represent an exceptional year for Chiffchaff. It's near relative, the Willow Warbler, did show a drop in numbers compared to those previous, but the population still remains healthy. Whitethroat counts were improved and nearly back to those achieved in 1998, whilst Lesser Whitethroat bred in similar numbers to 1999 after a very poor year previously. The formation of Eakring Flash, clearly represented a major boost to the Sedge Warbler. After breeding successfully only at Eakring Meadows prior to 1998, with just two pairs, some nine pairs now breed in the area. During 2000, six pairs bred at Eakring Flash within what is relatively a small area of habitat. There were also records of brief singing males from other sites in the area, mainly favouring overgrown ditches at the edges of Oil Seed Rape fields.

House Sparrow totals remained at 73 pairs over the region for the third breeding survey in a row and despite a national decline, the population here appears to be quite stable at the present time.

Breeding Finches are well represented in the area and once again the Chaffinch population rose to a new record. A total of 84 pairs were found, an increase of 14 on last year. Apart from the Bullfinch, all species produced higher counts than last year and the situation is encouraging. Bullfinch pairs again totalled four, a figure identical to both preceding surveys.

Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting showed notable rises. 35 males of the former species were counted after a drop in numbers last year, whilst the Reed Bunting increased to 14 pairs. The success of this species is no doubt due to the formation of Eakring Flash in 1997. Although pairs are not restricted solely to waterside habitats, frequently nesting well away from such sites, the immediate vicinity around Eakring Flash did however, hold seven breeding pairs during the survey.

Moorhen and Coot pairs both increased again and for a while it looked as though Mute Swans would breed, but the resident pair left the area, presumably in search of a more suitable site in mid-May, returning occasionally. Other wildfowl counts were less promising and few species fared better than in 1999. Although three pairs were present during most of May and June, Gadwall failed to breed and only one pair of Tufted Duck bred.

2000 saw the loss of Grasshopper Warbler and Jay from the breeding list.