Tuesday, 28 May 2013


We have both Tree and Meadow pipits nesting around the farm and in our neighbouring hill sides, but if you've ever stopped and thought about the difficulties these birds face year in year out you may be wondering how they ever survive up here at all.
Meadow pipit's are resident birds in the UK that is they stay with us all year round where the very similar looking Tree pipits are summer visitors arriving in April and heading back to their winter quarters in late September to early October.

the meadow pipit a hardy victim
Meadow pipits are the main prey species of the Merlin which are seen up here and are hopefully breeding, in fact one was spotted only a couple of weeks ago by fellow birder Lee Parsons. We've also got Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Buzzards, Tawny owls as well as Lesser black backed and Herring gulls that would all make a meal out of a Meadow pipit, it's eggs and it's chicks.
Also we've got the ever declining Cuckoo still coming back up here every year with their main host species being of course the pipits. How many pipit nests are lost to Cuckoo's using them as host species is at the moment unknown. Having said that Cuckoo's are in a bit of a decline in numbers themselves so perhaps not that many and this behaviour is of course a natural event.
Obviously with this being a farm there are grazing sheep everywhere and as with the neighbouring farms after the lambs are a few weeks old the farmers put their flocks out on top of the moorland so their hayfield's can grow (something to do with grazing rights). This is where a very large number of  the Meadow pipits and Skylarks are breeding so we get quite a few trampled nests. A Meadow pipit nest I found recently was trampled by sheep and one of Steve Carter's nests was also trampled  just as he was about to ring the chicks, this is another hazard these birds must face.

a meadow pipits nest, although well hidden can fall victim to trampling by sheep or predation by crows and other predatory species
Heavy rain like we had during last years spring and summer can spell disaster for ground nesting birds with nests being washed away adults not being able to feed their young and heavy, cold rain can cause eggs and chicks to become chilled.
Around and about the farm there's corvids a plenty with Raven's, Carrion crows, Jackdaws, Magpie's and Jay's that would make a quick meal of a pipits eggs or chicks, I often watch the Carrion crows quartering the moors about a foot off the ground hoping to flush the birds off their nests so they can eat the contents. Although this is bad news for our pipits and Skylarks we must also remember that the Crows have chicks to feed as well and although it appears cruel it's just nature. Fox's Weasels and possibly Snakes also hunt on the moors and will take eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds so the pipits have got a frantic and very difficult task in raising their broods every year to carry on their species survival. 
The Meadow pipit and other ground nesting birds final hurdle is one of our own making, although illegal many people use the mountain for what they would call leisure activities, and not only on our moorland but it happens all over the area's hill sides. People ride their scrambling motor bikes drive four by four vehicles fly model aeroplanes drive model cars and quad bikes all over the mountain and moorland. The number of nests, grassland and wild creatures they destroy is unthinkable. Illegal dumping of rubbish and mountain fires also destroys nests and habitat. The police were struggling to stop it before all the governments cuts came in I don't think they got a cat in hells chance now.

the Skylark, another bird who's nest's and habitat could be destroyed by people's reckless activities
These are all things done by people either in ignorance or damn right selfish stupidity, but yet some how against all odds the Meadow pipits manages to survive and come back on their breeding territories every year to go through it all over again. The little Meadow pipit only 14.5 cm long  seems to overcome all these natural and unnatural hazards thrown at them and are back on these mountains every spring, their parachuting song flight heralds the start of their breeding cycle as they attempt to raise their families to secure the future of their species, these are indeed very hardy and remarkable little birds.

lets hope that these remarkable little birds are with us for years to come
 With all the odds stacked against them the Meadow pipit still manages to successfully breed year in year out.

No comments:

Post a Comment