Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Ortolan's return

Many hours have been spent over the past weeks have been spent listening for Ortolan bunting's in suitable habitats around Kvismare. After a preliminary study last year found Ortolan's to still be breeding here. Only around 100 territories still exist in this area of in south-central Sweden, spanning much of Närke and Västmanland. The Ortolan's have declined massively in the past 2 decades and the population in Närke is now a fraction of it's former self. The Ortolan population in northern Sweden however is esitmated to be around 6000 pairs.

Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)

 With the Ortolan population decreasing so rapidly across much of northern Europe action is being taken in many areas. Here at Kvismare, we aim mainly to provide suitable breeding areas for the birds. The Bird Observatory and Ornithological Society of Sweden have subsidised farmers in the local area to leave parts of their land unsown next to outcrops of woodland/rocks and in strips at the edges of fields; this is not only to provide the black soils which is a niche for breeding Ortolans', but also to aid the birds feeding habits.

So out and about this week we have now found 3 Singing Ortolan males around the areas where they were seen to breed last year. So far all is looking good and the land still seems suitable. Our aim over the next few weeks is to monitor these birds and distinguish whether they can breed successfully here. We will visit nests and count and measure chicks, undertake feeding counts and study the adults behaviour if/when nesting occurs. We will also make several attempt to catch insects at various points in the survey area to understand more about the Ortolans' needs.

I will update on progress when there is any, but for now we hope for decent weather and plenty of Ortolans'.

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