Endangered Species, SSSIs & SBIs
Red Listed Birds
Rare birds in Britain’s Woodland
Sadly, many of the glorious birds which grace our British woods are now on the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 Red List (the highest conservation priority, needing urgent action), due to habitat loss and persecution. UK woodland was once awash with a huge variety of bird species, but as time has gone on these species have begun to decline, becoming increasingly rare. The chance of spotting them is slim – but if you’re patient (or simply very lucky!) you might just stumble across one of these rare birds.
by Charlotte Varela, Volunteer Content Writer The Woodland Trust
on 10 April 2019
This petite finch hangs from twigs feeding on seeds (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/JBLumix)
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.
The starling is a familiar bird of farmland, parkland, gardens and towns. Sociable birds, starlings spend a lot of their time in large flocks, roosting and performing sweeping, aerial displays – they can often be seen moving fluidly through a wintry sky. starlings eat insects and fruit, and will visit bird tables and feeders. They make untidy nests in holes in trees or in buildings, in which the female lays five to seven eggs. Both parents raise the chicks. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/thrushes-chats-flycatchers-starling-dipper-and-wren/starling
The Song Thrush is a familiar garden visitor that has a beautiful and loud song. The broken shells of their blue, spotty eggs can often be found under a hedge in spring.
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List
The Song Thrush is a small, familiar songbird, commonly found in parks and gardens, woodland and scrub. Living up to its common name, it has a beautiful, loud song with repeating phrases. Widespread throughout Europe, and as far east as Siberia, northern populations are migratory, heading to Africa, whereas our Song Thrushes tend to be residents. From March until April, Song Thrushes breed, often producing three broods of up to five blue, spotty eggs https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/thrushes-chats-flycatchers-starling-dipper-and-wren/song-thrush
The Mistle Thrush likely got its name from its love of Mistletoe – it will defend a berry-laden tree with extreme ferocity! It is larger and paler than the similar Song Thrush, standing upright and bold.
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4:
The Mistle Thrush is a large songbird, commonly found in parks, gardens, woodland and scrub. It probably gets its common name from its love of Mistletoe. It enjoys the sticky berries and, once it has found a berry-laden tree, will guard it from any would-be thieves. In turn, it helps Mistletoe to thrive by accidentally ‘planting’ its seeds while wiping its bill on the tree bark to remove the sticky residue; it also disperses the seeds in its droppings https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/thrushes-chats-flycatchers-starling-dipper-and-wren/mistle-thrush
Did you know?The Mistle Thrush is also known as the ‘Rain Bird’ as it can be heard singing loudly from the tops of high trees after spring rains.
he House Sparrow is a familiar, streaky brown bird of towns, parks and gardens. Males sport a grey cap and black bib, the size of which indicates their status
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4:
The House Sparrow is an opportunistic bird of towns and cities, parks, gardens and farmland. House Sparrows feed on a variety of foods, including buds, grains, nuts and scraps, and will visit bird tables and feeders. They live in colonies and nest in holes or crevices in buildings, among Ivy or other bushes, and in nest boxes; they use a variety of materials to make their nests. Both parents will incubate the three to five eggs and raise the young. House Sparrows are residents in the UK, but may disperse from their breeding grounds to feed on nearby farmland and grassland in winter. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/larks-sparrows-wagtails-and-dunnock/house-sparrow
A scarce and declining bird, the Tree Sparrow can be spotted on farmland and in woodlands; it is not an urban bird in the UK. It has a brown cap and black cheek-spots, unlike the similar House Sparrow.
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concer
The Tree Sparrow is a scarce bird of farmland, hedgerows and woodland edges, and is not associated with man in the way that the House Sparrow is in the UK. Tree Sparrows mate for life; they nest in holes in trees and can produce two or three broods a year, each containing up to seven eggs. They eat seeds, weeds, cereals and also insects. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/larks-sparrows-wagtails-and-dunnock/tree-sparrow
Like many of our farmland birds, the Corn Bunting has declined in number in recent years. Spot this streaky brown, thick-billed bird singing from a wire or post – it sounds just like a set of jangling keys!
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/finches-and-buntings/corn-bunting
The hawfinch is the UK’s largest finch The UK’s largest finch can be found in mature woodland with a mix of tree species. That said, it has declined in many areas of Britain and is now one of the hardest birds to see, spending much of its time in the canopy. The hawfinch’s impressive bill is powerful enough to split open cherry stones, exerting a tremendous pressure of around 150 pounds per square-inch!
The lesser spotted woodpecker hammers at trees in search of food. The lesser spotted woodpecker is now one of our rarest birds. We have lost three out of four pairs since the 1970s, and these charismatic little woodland birds have disappeared entirely from many areas. The lesser spotted woodpecker’s favourite habitat is deciduous woodland where there are plenty of trees harbouring beetle larvae and moths to eat.
The nightingale is famed for its sweet song. The nightingale is a spring migrant found in the South East of the UK. Favouring thick vegetation and coppiced woodland, this bird’s specific needs mean it has declined due to habitat loss and changes in the climate both here and in its wintering grounds. You can still hear the nightingale’s sweet song in areas of Essex, Kent, Sussex, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.
The pied flycatcher As the name suggests, the pied flycatcher is an expert at catching flies. This summer migrant colonies mature woodland in the west of the UK, gorging on insects, caterpillars, fruit and seeds before it returns to West Africa. Pied flycatcher numbers have halved since 1995, potentially due to a decline in traditional woodland management.
The willow tit. Numbers of the willow tit have plummeted over the past few decades. Alongside the lesser spotted woodpecker, the willow tit has become one Britain’s rarest woodland birds. Numbers have plummeted over recent decades, and since 1970 willow tit numbers have declined by a shocking 91%. Experts aren’t entirely sure what is to blame, but increased competition, a rise in predation and changes in habitat have come under fire.
The nightjar is a master of disguise.The nightjar lives in open woodland alongside its heathland and moorland habitats, but you would be very lucky to spot one. Now recovering and placed firmly on the Amber List (the next most critical group after red), these almost mythical birds are still largely confined to southern England. With a chirring call, silent flight and fabled ability to steal milk from goats, it is little surprise the nightjar has such a supernatural reputation.
The spotted flycatcher. It is a rarity to stumble across a spotted flycatcher, as their numbers have declined considerably. The spotted flycatcher is a charming woodland bird with impressive insect-catching skills, but this late spring migrant isn’t faring well. There are now six times fewer spotted flycatchers in Britain than just 30 years ago, and it is rare to hear their squeaky song floating down from the trees.
The wood warbler. These brightly-coloured little birds has suffered a steady decline. The wood warblers zesty green plumage brightens up deciduous woodland, with the highest density in Wales. It prefers beech and oak woods, but has suffered a steady decline and is now a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. If you do manage to spot one, it can be distinguished from other warbler species by the clear split between its white belly and bright yellow-green chest.
This petite finch hangs from twigs feeding on seeds. This stunning little finch breeds in woodland habitats and is most likely seen demonstrating impressive gymnastics as it hangs from tiny twigs to feed on birch and alder seeds. Sadly, numbers have dropped due to habitat loss and the intensification of agriculture.
The yellow hammer.Like many of our farmland birds, the Yellowhammer has declined in number in recent years. Spot this bright yellow bird singing from the top of a bush or fence, or in a mixed-species flock in winter Average Lifespan: 3 years. Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.The Yellowhammer is a sparrow-sized, bright yellow bird of woodland edges, hedgerows, heath and farmland that feeds on seeds and invertebrates. In the winter, it will join mixed flocks of buntings, finches and sparrows to feed on seeds on farmland. Yellowhammers are often seen perched on top of bushes singing their ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’ song. The female builds a cup-shaped nest from grass and moss, laying between two and six eggs. The male Yellowhammer is a striking bird: he has a bright yellow head and belly, with an orangey chest and streaky brown back. Female buntings, including female Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, can be very difficult to tell apart. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/finches-and-buntings/yellowhammer
Resident of Carrington Moss
Head to the riverbank to track down one of our most endangered and much-loved mammals, the water vole. Better known to some as ‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows, the water vole was once a common resident of rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and other wet places. Sadly, the loss of these habitats and the invasion of mink has caused their numbers to dwindle, but thanks to the hard work of volunteers and Wildlife Trusts, water voles are making a comeback in some areas.
Active from April to September, spring is often the best time of year to see them because bank side vegetation is shorter so water voles are more easily seen.
Look out for signs of their presence such as burrows in the riverbank, often with a nibbled ‘lawn’ of grass around the entrance. Water voles like to sit and eat in the same place, so piles of nibbled grass and stems may be found by the water’s edge, showing a distinctive 45° angled cut at the ends. ‘Latrines’ of rounded, tic-tac sized and cigar-shaped droppings may also be spotted https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/where_to_see_water_voles
Resident of Carrington Moss
Threats to Bats
Sadly, many bat species around the world are vulnerable or endangered due to factors ranging from loss and fragmentation of habitat, diminished food supply, destruction of roosts, disease and hunting or killing of bats.
In the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are still under threat from building and development work that affects roosts, loss of habitat, the severing of commuting routes by roads and threats in the home including cat attacks, flypaper and some chemical treatments of building materials. Other potential threats can include wind turbines and lighting if they are sited on key bat habitat on near roosts.
The construction of roads has the potential to negatively impact bat populations, through loss of roosts, foraging habitats and by severing landscape elements used as commuting routes by bats. Roads create an open space, which most bat species are reluctant to cross. Traffic further increases the barrier effect due to sudden movement, noise, headlamps, street lighting and the risk of collision. Most species of bat fly relatively close to the ground or close to trees and hedges for protection against the weather and potential predators. Those that do cross roads typically do so at traffic height, with a high risk of collision. Research shows that roads also have a major negative impact on bat foraging activity and diversity.
Bats are afforded protection by European and UK law in an effort to help bat populations recover from the devastating losses sustained in the last century. Mitigation for the impacts of roads is therefore an essential part of helping to ensure the survival of our bat species.
Eco-passages in the form of different types of under-passes (tunnels and culverts) and overpasses (hop-overs, elevated verges and green bridges) are important for providing safe crossing points for all types of wildlife, including bats. The effectiveness of such schemes in helping biodiversity should be robustly monitored, pre and post-construction, to enhance the design of future mitigation.
Wire or mesh structures placed at height over roads, known as bat gantries or bat bridges, have been proposed as artificial road crossing structures for bats and have been erected as mitigation over many roads in the UK and Europe. However, one recent study in the north of England has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of such structures because at the sites investigated the bats still crossed the road at the height of the oncoming traffic.
Building and development
Many bat species roost in buildings and are extremely vulnerable to the activities of humans. Bats using a building are directly threatened by building works if they are present while the work is underway or if a demolition is taking place. If bats disturbed at a particularly sensitive time of year (e.g. during hibernation in winter or when baby bats are born and raised in the summer), it can have hugely detrimental impacts on local bat populations.
- All bats and their roosts are protected by law.
- If you think you have bats roosting in your property, you must seek advice from your Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO) before doing any works.
Loss of Habitat
The decrease in bat numbers mirrors the ever-changing countryside. Natural habitats such as hedgerows, woodlands and ponds have been declining and fragmenting. It is important that we create new suitable habitats and manage and enhance existing habitats to help bats recover and survive.
Loss of habitat, the use of pesticides and intensive farming practices have lead to a reduction in the abundance of insects which the bats rely on as their only food source. For example the change from hay making to silage, has meant that many insects do not reach adulthood so there are less flying adults available. Changes in climate may also influence insect life cycles and so this may affect when bats can feed. https://www.bats.org.uk/
Many of you are using Carrington Moss as part of your daily exercise routine and whilst you are out an about, you are highly likely to see lots of birds and other wildlife in this rich, nature-filled environment.
We’d like as many of you as possible to record your sightings to help confirm just how important the area is to endangered and at-risk species.
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