Saturday, November 03, 2007

First TTV's (Timed Tetrad Visits)

Today was the first day of our participation in the British Trust for Ornithology's ( Bird Atlas project, which will involve four annual visits to each tetrad we have volunteered for (we went for eight) for four years. The Atlas will map bird distribution patterns across the UK and will be used for advancing conservation.

We decided to do four tetrads today, starting with the one containing Holowell Reservoir. Recording for the Atlas is very different to 'normal' birdwatching as you have to walk within the tetrad, visiting all the typical habitat in a timed walk of an hour. You job is to record every bird you see or hear within that hour, though you are allowed to 'stop the clock' for large counts, etc.

The walk around the reservoir took an hour and a half, we've never seen it so busy with birds. There were a lot of fisherman on the reservoir so the birds were pushed into groups in the shallower bays. All-in-all, on and around the reservoir and in the local fields and woods, we counted nearly 1,200 birds in this tetrad, including over 100 each of Wigeon, Canada Geese, Coot and Black-headed Gull.

One of the more infrequent spots was this Stonechat (we counted twelve Stonechats):

The next tetrad starts at the south of the village of Hollowell and takes in the village of Teeton and a number of farms and produced many fewer birds, some 400, with 80 Woodpigeon and 60 Chaffinch being the most common finds.

The third tetrad includes Ravensthorp Reservoir, the village itself, the village of Coton and more farmland. A more productive tetrad with 700 birds, including this Meadow Pipit, on the reservoir causeway:

and this Common Buzzard perched in the edge of a field approaching Coton:

The last tetrad is dominated by Guilsborough, with farmland and some woodland, though this is inaccessible as it is on private land. Frankly we're glad we didn't try and ask permission as further along our walk we spotted a shooting party marching across one of the fields followed by about 30 minutes of gunfire. Really depressing knowing we're counting the birds and they're shooting them. We spotted, very briefly, a barn owl but it was headed off towards the wood and who knows what people with guns shoot when they think no-one's looking...!

The guns finally silenced as we headed back to Hollowell and our car. We counted just over 400 birds again, mostly due to the 120 Black-headed Gulls and the 80 Starlings present. As we approached the car park, we passed the field in which they're having the bonfire and fireworks tonight, right by a major nature reserve, hence the reason for picking Saturday for the bird count, I suspect there will be many fewer present tomorrow morning.

This is the bonfire, it's a bit 'Wicker Man':

The whole walk and recording exercise took six and half hours. We have to visit the other four before the end of the year then visit all eight again in January or February, to try to pick up a good picture of what is present, and when.

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