March –‘In like a lion out like a lamb’
The gradual transformation from winter to spring
Many birds will begin nesting this month however Long-tailed Tits will have started nest construction in February; this is because it takes so long to create their cosy, stretchy, feather lined nests. They are made from moss, hair and cobwebs and then covered with lichens for camouflage. Other early nesters include Rook, Heron and Raven.
Three favourite species of farmland ground nesting birds which I look forward to seeing on walks in Lower Froyle are Skylark, Lapwing and Yellowhammer.
- Skylark – Males seemingly deliver their liquid nonstop song with effortless ease whilst hovering, sometimes so high up they are hard to spot. On the ground these brown birds are equally hard to see. Their diet consists of invertebrates, weed seeds and leaves and grain.
- Lapwing – also known as Peewits due to their call, appear black and white in flight however their backs take on an iridescent greeny purple in sunlight; hence Green Plover is yet another name for them. Males perform spectacular diving, tumbling and swooping aerial displays in the spring. One pair is able to raise one brood of up to 4 chicks a year. The chicks can walk and feed themselves within hours of hatching, the parent birds, ever vigilant, will mob predators but this isn’t guaranteed to keep them away. Lapwings prefer damp fields to breed on with ruts or depressions holding water. They feed on invertebrates in or on the ground. Later in the year quite large feeding flocks can be sometimes be seen in Froyle.
- Yellowhammer – males are an easily recognised and their ‘Little bit of bread and no cheese’ song sung from hedgerows is a giveaway. They prefer to nest on the ground under or low down in thick hedgerows adjacent to damp/watery ditches. The nature Poet John Clare writing in the 19th century described this in his poem ‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’. Mainly seed eaters, these birds can be found in winter stubbles, wild bird cover and anywhere with spilt grain. Chicks of this species must have a good supple of insect food and adults also benefit from this additional fare during the breeding season. Wide Native grass and wildflower margins can provide this. In Lower Froyle last year it was fantastic to see butterflies and bees where this had been created.
Skylark, Lapwing and Yellowhammer are included on the UK ‘Red List’ for birds, meaning they are in need of urgent conservation action having suffered major population declines. Sixty seven species – one in 4 of UK birds are now on the Red List.