A Burnley College Birding Summary - Spring 2015

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The following guest post is by A Level Biology tutor Rosie Walton who loves birds and in her spare time, helps the RSPB to count and conserve the many species which visit our shores.  Burnley College has some great habitats surrounding the campus where a number of species of birds from near and far call their home each year and Rosie has been keeping an eye on these visitors over the spring.

2015 has been cold, wet and windy but despite this we have seen both our resident and summer visiting birds succeed in the wonderful habitat that is our Burnley College campus.

To start the season off in early April our Mallard family managed to rear a brood of ducklings of which two were successful. Thanks to this early start and the male still being sexually potent, they were able to have another brood, much more successful this time with 8 little ducklings. On Wednesday 22 April our Sand Martins arrived safely from their winter home in West Africa to take up their summer residency within our bridge wall along the banks of the River Brun. Their diet comprising of flying insects appeared to be only slightly hampered by our wet weather. Collecting all their nesting materials and food on the wing, they have evolved very short legs as a result. Their dark brown colour enables them to blend in well with their typical mud and sand bank habitat which is the main tell-tale difference between their House Martin relations which are black in colour. Burnley College Sand Martins  

A Sand Martin flying close to its nesting site.

Nesting up to 1m within the walls of our bridge they will synchronise their egg laying with their surrounding neighbours; this results in all the young hatching out at the same time and consequently needing to be fed at the same time - the main advantage of this is, finding insects as a group is much more easy than if you were alone. Make sure to look out for fledglings which will have paler edges to their brown feathers - you will need to be fast and have good binoculars for this! Other successes include Swift, Pied Wagtail and families of both Blue Tits and Great Tits which love the Sycamore trees that line the river, in particular the fat squishy caterpillars which make up most of their diet. The greenish yellow tinge the fledglings take is actually from the green of the caterpillar which they themselves have taken up from eating leaves – a lovely example of a food chain in action! New birds to add to our Burnley College sighting list this year include Buzzard, Kestrel and Grey Wagtail (which is actually yellow in colour). When we get back in August our summer residents will have gone, but we look forward to large flocks of Tits and winter visitors such as Fieldfare and Redwing. Jobs to be doing over the summer are cleaning and mending nest boxes as well as erecting new ones. Small birds and bats will use an empty nest box during colder spells and some bird species will start house hunting from December and January. Lastly, a big thank you to all members of staff that attended the bird I.D summer feast session. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and I hope you are continuing to listen out for the new calls we learnt. Happy birding! Rosie
Source Url: http://www.burnley.ac.uk/a-burnley-college-birding-summary-spring-2015/
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