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Seventh annual Bird Count

18th Jul 2023

This was the seventh annual bird count on this moor in the Weardale uplands, helped by Nature Rangers and Young Rangers from the Durham Wildlife Trust. On the day the two counts were taken, one in May and one in June, the days were bright with a breeze, and good visibility.

In recent years we have noted significant weather events that have impacted on the breeding season, and on ground nesting birds in particular. Prolonged cold and frosted ground, dry spells and prolonged rain in spring times. Any one of these conditions can impact on the life cycle of the uplands.

Plants and insects when out of sync with the nesting seasons can cause dips in numbers.

Thankfully, 2023 has been what might once have been called a fairly 'normal year'. The Winter was not too harsh, a wetter February wasn't alarming, and Spring has seen changeable in weather but nothing exceptional for the time of year.

Plants and insects were as they should be and as a consequence our count recorded a broadly to be expected range of birdlife on the moor.

Corvids and Seagulls are never predictable. It is worth noting that there were fewer Curlew this year, the lowest count so far. However, local knowledge tells us that the overall numbers of Curlew on the moor are only slightly less. The lower number may be down to Curlew arriving later than in previous years, and therefore more might still have been nesting, or that the sunny conditions on both days meant feeding may have been earlier in the morning when the day was cooler and food more abundant.

As we expand the graph by years, we learn more. We already know that the carrying capacity of some key at risk birds is very positive on the moor. The longer the timeframe the greater the confidence in the work undertaken to assure the necessary habitat on which ground-nesting birds will thrive.

Although our count suggests our carrying capacity of many red and amber listed birds is good, we always have room to learn. And with Climate Change in the coming years, we need to be every mindful and vigilant to how the moors are responding to changing weather patterns.

Caption: weather patterns on the moor have recently been less predictable. This year seems to be more 'normal' but is no indicator of future weather events.

Data provided by