Living Uplands

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Building data – BTO bird count a welcome addition.

3rd Jul 2023

Living Uplands is working with a farm in the Weardale uplands that has recently purchased a piece of land which includes moorland, a wooded area and some poor agricultural land.

The first task is to map and record as much information as possible. There are habitat maps based on DEFRA Metric, LiDAR, an ecologist has taken an early walkover to record flora and laid that over what DEFRA thinks is there, and a stream is being surveyed as part of a wider water management survey.

It was great news to discover that alongside this piece of land the British Trust for Ornithology has been surveying a moor for over fifteen years. The volunteer who undertakes the annual bird count has been happy to share this information, which is illustrated in the graph below. This indicates there is potential on this land for a carrying capacity of Black Grouse, Curlew, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit and Skylark (all red listed) and Snipe (amber listed). It may be a concern that Snipe numbers have been significantly better in the past.

This count is a just a few miles from where Living Uplands along with the Durham Wildlife Trust's Young Volunteers have just completed our seventh annual bird count. When that data has been analysed, we'll be able to compare and contrast two different but proximate pieces of moorland.

Even better for Living Uplands, the BTO counter has volunteered to also record the piece of land where we are planning for the future. A count in June was undertaken as a first view. The range of birds is amazing.

There are many familiar birds from the larger moorland surveys, not least because of the moorland that forms part of the area: Curlew, Lapwings, Meadow Pipits and Black Grouse. The almost entirely grass cover means this isn't a great place for Oystercatchers to nest, but there was one. The presence of woods and agricultural land, albeit neglected, with the stream running through has many other birds too: with Wheatears, Reed Buntings and Snipe. It may be a concern that Snipe numbers have been significantly better in the past.

Meadow Pipit & Wheatear: Image (c) Emily Graham

Living Uplands is looking forward to working with the BTO as the farm develops its plans for habitat improvements and we work together to create a safe and welcoming place for birds of the Uplands. The data already collected will help inform that process, and future counts will help us monitor the success of activities and modify plans when we could do better.

Note: in the above graph the count for Jackdaws was removed. The annual count is taken on much the same days each year, twice over a period of weeks. It is a snapshot. One year had a count of 169 Jackdaws, a gathering following brooding that hadn't been observed before or since. To a graph, a one-off count of 169 eclipses all other counts and results in a graph that is less readable (as below):