NRN Bird Surveys
An assessment of our local ‘State of Nature’ has always been part of the NRN’s aims and so surveys of local mammals, birds, arthropods and plants is very much part of what we do.
Back in 2020, when enthusiasts first gathered in Eynsham village hall, soundings were taken of those keen to get involved with various surveys. Of course, the events of the past two years have somewhat hampered progress but I am pleased to say we have got a village and environs bird survey up and running for 2022.
Our basic aim is to assess the occurrence of species in and around Eynsham. We also do counts of the birds we see but it is occurrence, or not, that we are mainly measuring. This information will become increasingly valuable as we accumulate data for consecutive years.
How do we do it?
We have gathered together a keen group of around 15 bird enthusiasts from around the village supported by four experienced birders (all involved with British Trust for Ornithology national bird survey work); Allen Stevens, Joe Bishop, Ally Bunning and Sally Taylor. We are focussing very much on the village environs within a mile of two of the village centre. This incorporates all the fields south of the Cassington Road towards the river, the fields around the Wharf Stream Way, Long Mead and across to the Fishponds, the Chilbridge fields and along the Stanton Harcourt road, and part of the area north of the A40 to be occupied by the garden village. We have divided this up into a number of manageable plots and up to three observers have been assigned to each area. Some of you may have seen us out in the early mornings armed with binoculars and clipboards.
Monthly surveys have been completed on each plot since the end of March and the June cycle has recently been done. We will now take a bit of a rest as the birds become much quieter in July and August and we are unlikely to record anything new. However, we will get going again in the autumn, hoping to pick up both migrant birds and winter visitors.
What have we recorded? Not surprisingly, many of the common species that you will be familiar with - blackbirds, robins, song thrushes, tits, wrens, finches, crows and pigeons to name a few. Red kites and buzzards are prominent in the skies above and grey wagtails, kingfishers, common terns and cormorants have been seen by the river. However, spring is very much about our summer visitors and for me the highlights have included recording the occurrence of ten species of warbler around Eynsham. See below for a snapshot of each of these species.
Blackcap - widespread in village (larger gardens) and in all hedgerows. Vibrant, mellifluous and loud song
Garden Warbler - less common than Blackcap with a similar but more strident and continuous song. Very reluctant to show prominently.
Whitethroat - pretty widespread in scrubby and hedgerow habitats. There was a particularly site-faithful and prominent male singing in the Wharfe Stream Way field next to Siemens.
Lesser Whitethroat - a very short rattling song, superficially similar to parts of Chaffinch song. At least two singing males in Chilbridge field and elsewhere. Probably under-recorded.
Chiffchaff - probably the commonest warbler with a very distinctive song. Unmistakable.
Willow Warbler - for me the ‘song of summer’. There is suitable habitat in the area but this species is becoming increasingly uncommon in southern England. Two were heard in early April off the Cassington Road (probably passage birds). There was a resident male singing on the Chilbridge field too.
Sedge Warbler - a good number of pairs in damp dense vegetation near water i.e. Wharfe Stream, on Long Mead and by the Thames. The males can sing very prominently at the tops of bushes.
Reed Warbler - at least two singing males in reeds by the Thames below Eynsham lock and also on Long Mead.
Grasshopper Warbler - a summer highlight. A reeling male was seen and heard in low vegetation by a fence in one of the fields close to the river. We've since heard one in the field closer to Siemens. They are virtually never seen but their song is so distinctive - a monotonous reeling sound like a grasshopper or fishing reel winding in. They are uncommon and this is one of the first years one has been recordedin the area.
Cetti's Warbler - another uncommon warbler, and one that has really only nested in the UK regularly in the last 20 - 30 years (they get very hard-hit in severe winters). There is a singing male in dense vegetation on the other side of the Thames opposite the Wharfe Stream. Another has been heard on Long Mead. The song is unmistakable once heard - and loud.
We will aim to produce a full list of species seen and heard over the spring and summer later in year. In the meantime if anyone is interested in joining the survey group please do not hesitate to contact either me email@example.com or Catriona Bass (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would like to expand the areas covered around the village so more volunteers are more than welcome.
Training Novice Birders: Learning by Doing: