Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Magnus is back!

I'm very happy to see Magnus, my friend and co-worker from last year return to the Observatory this last week. He will work with us for 2 months and his knowledge and good humour make the work and the place feel very light-hearted. As last year, me and Magnus have decided to have a birding competition throughout May to see who can see the most species. For some reason I keep helping him out and now he is in the lead with some pretty hard to find species! So far the intense birding in the competition has produced a few nice birds, notable are Red Breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) and Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii).

Whilst out on survey this morning I had an unforgettable experience! Stood alone in a marsh just after dawn I heard a deep nasal call coming from just inside the reed bed. I carried on with my work (Wetland survey) regardless until I started seeing birds flying up and out of the reed, obviously disturbed by something. I watched a little longer and was amazed to see a Moose walk out into the open about 200metres away. She then turned and walked straight towards me slowly over the thick mud of the marsh. I slowly reached for my camera and began to take pictures. This was until she got too close for comfort so I took my eyes away from the camera. She stood there around 5-7 Metres away totally still, she'd spotted me now surely. I stood up properly and actually shooed her away making little noise. She took about 15 steps back and then partially concealed by reed she stood and stared at me for around 25 minutes. I couldn't really concentrate knowing she was gazing at me. She settled to the idea that I wasn't going to hurt her and so she came back out into the open and feed, drank and looked awfully like a big dopey horse.

I got a few pictures of her before I had to leave...

Half an hour later at a different part of the reserve I had a Beaver swim right underneath me whilst I took a video of him. A decent day for birds, unforgettable however for Mammals.

shit. Just got a call saying Blue-wined Teal found on the Reserve! Wish me luck...

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'.