<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society Newsletter
Newsletter of the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society
Newsletter Editorial
June 2000
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Welcome to the June Newsletter.

Visitors to the Cockersands area in recent weeks, hoping for the odd barley field and repeat status of the last two years with respect to Quail and Corn Bunting, have been faced with field after field of rye grass, a lot of which has been cut and given a new dose of slurry. It was possible to stand on the Cockersands Point seawall last week, overlooking fields and bits of relict hedgerow in perfectly calm conditions, and not hear/see a single passerine over the space of 20 minutes. This was the most eerie Rachel Carson-like scenario I have ever experienced. Last year, one of the nearby fields saw a spring-sown wheat crop which went wrong and the field was left as stubble during the winter. After 3-4 Lapland Buntings in late October, the field supported up to 250 Linnets all winter (after virtually none in the whole recording area during 1998/9 winter), up to 50 Skylarks and a few Twite, Reed Bunting etc.. This is the dilemma; a wonderful autumn/winter feeding area was the result of a total economic disaster. The field has now been 'grassed'.

Can we do anything about it? With respect to the least specialised, therefore easiest to retain of the threatened farmland species, Tree Sparrow, we have provided more nesting sites, the first broods have been successfully reared, including three extra tetrads, and we can pat ourselves on the back. This is the one venture initiated by this Newsletter which has really taken off (see Paul Cammack's interim report). However, we have no Corn Buntings and no Yellowhammers....and just two spring-sown cereal fields have been located in 2000 and neither of them are barley. Breeding Lapwings have disappeared from most of the area under discussion. One 'ex-Lapwing' farmer marked his nests but this is unfortunately superfluous if the young hatch and scatter just prior to the cut and the corvids will be queuing up for the eggs/young of any nest left high and dry in a newly cut field. Hopefully the Tree Sparrows can find enough food in the current cereal fields and around the garden feeders, caravan site feeders and free-range poultry.

Leaving aside the whole world of EEC/government grants/policies, in an ideal world liaison between FWAG and the RSPB would seem to be the initiator of any changes at local level, perhaps with the RSPB leasing/purchasing selected fields scattered throughout the north Fylde farmlands (e.g. the land at Clarksons farm was up for sale at the time of writing). At least two spring-sown barley fields in the Cockersands area each year would, on relatively recent evidence (including 1999), encourage at least one pair of Corn Buntings to (re)-colonise (from the nearby Cogie Hill area). Bringing back Yellowhammers into this particular area would, on current distribution, be a longer term process.

Another small step with respect to the wintering birds would be to try and persuade the farmer(s) to leave the harvested cereal fields as stubble until the spring. As I write this as a concerned amateur, reflecting opinions in magazines, BTO News, conversations with other birders, I really have no idea what is economically realistic. In my ignorance, however, I cannot see great hidden costs in retaining stubble until the early spring, irrespective of whether spring-sown cereal will be repeated or the field is used as silage-producing grassland? Is it in order for us to try and get the ball rolling by presenting, for example, the above scenario re-Corn Buntings and barley fields to RSPB/FWAG..... "here is an area where you can restore a population relatively quickly because there is a (albeit declining) one just a few miles away and pairs 'jumped at the chance' when barley was planted in 1998 & 1999"?

One worrying feature is that the silage management has led to a very rapid complete disappearance of some of the threatened farmland birds. Thus Yellowhammers must be, at best, a fading memory for many north Fylde farmers and not a species they would continue to associate with any form of management of their land, nor one where they felt they might have had a hand in its disappearance. This contrasts with the Corncrake situation of the Western isles, where the declining years were relatively slow and continued presence in neighbouring 'pockets' retained the farmers/crofters overall familiarity with the species, and brought home the fact that it was their management changes which were responsible for disappearance from their land. In conjunction with a publicity campaign and financial incentives (for late cutting etc), this is leading to a successful rehabilitation.

Finally, surely some of you have contributions on this theme. Why don't you send me copy for the next Newsletter? One or two of you have let it be known that people have shied away from contributions thinking they have to be either a computer print-out or an e-mail. Hand-written copy is very welcome and not a problem at all. However, if you do send a print out ready to photocopy, please keep it to TNR 10 or equivalent, about 14.5cm wide, underlined heading at TNR 14 or equivalent and preferably a full or half-page. E-mail attachments need to be compatible with Word (e.g. don't send me anything saved as Word Perfect). If in doubt, send as text file & I'll re-type. Thank you.

'Guest' editorials welcome! Opinions expressed in the editorial are not a result of LDBWS committee discussions or anything else pertaining to 'official LDBWS policy'.

Deadline for next Newsletter: 15th September 2000

Pete Marsh 17 Albion Street, Lancaster LA1 1DY

Visit the Society's website at: http://libweb.lancs.ac.uk/ldbws.htm

or via John Girdley's site at: www.birdtours.co.uk/ldbws

Bridges of Ross, County Clare Monday 21st August-Friday 25th August

This visit to the best seawatching station in Britain and Ireland is in trouble. We have not got enough people at present for a minibus, a "station wagon" hire is too expensive (exhaustive enquiries made) and a 4-up car-load means that two committed people will have to be literally 'discarded'. The decision will not be easy as all expressed an interest at the same time.

Is there anyone else interested? I must have a definite commitment before the 30th June so that I can release the accommodation and cancel the minibus hire, if that is the appropriate action

Cost = no more than 200, excluding lunch/evening meals. It may be possible to cover the lunch costs within the 200, depending on numbers.

Please let me know by 30th June as once the accommodation is cancelled, it will fill rapidly and the available minibus will similarly be 'snaffled up' (my usual source, at a cheap regular-users rate, has no other spare buses during that period)

Pete Marsh (address at the end of the introduction). Tel. 01524/66775 or mobile 07989866487. Please leave messages on landline, not mobile. Thanks.




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