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Rippingale nature columnist for LincsOnline reflects on success of breeding birds this summer as cranes at Willow Tree Fen and avocets at RSPB Frampton Marsh raise young





Summer is all about wildlife reproducing and raising families, writes Rippingale nature columnist Ian Misselbrook.

As I write in mid-June the weather is still unseasonably cool and unsettled. This is affecting the ability of some creatures to raise their young. The cool and often showery weather has resulted in a shortage of insects which has an obvious knock on affect for insectivorous creatures; especially birds.

Swifts, swallows and house martins should be finding insects close to their nests to feed their young. Unfortunately, they are forced to hunt further afield, often over marshes or bodies of water to find insects; too far away to feed their young frequently.

Crane chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Crane chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Crane and chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Crane and chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Crane chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Crane chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook

On a happier note, some of our local birds are more successful. Notably our local cranes at Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve, located between Baston and Spalding, have nested successfully. You might recall that cranes nested for the first time in 400 years at Willow Tree Fen when the reserve was closed during the lockdown in 2020. This year at the same site three pairs of cranes attempted to breed. The original pair have hatched two young and as write, both are close to fledging. Another pair have raised one youngster which has grown rapidly and can be watched exercising its not yet fully developed wings. The third pair, which may have been immature birds, failed to produce any young but they will no doubt do better next year.

Marsh harriers on the same reserve also appear to be doing well with up to four cock birds regularly passing prey to their partners. This is done when the female rises from the nest and her partner drops the prey into her upturned talons. Quite a spectacle!

At the RSPB’s reserve at Frampton Marsh this side of Boston the avocets are enjoying a spectacularly successful breeding season. The April bird survey yielded over 460 avocets on the reserve and with the aid of the predator fence surrounding most of the scrapes on which they nest, over 200 chicks had hatched by the middle of June, with hopefully more to come.

Avocets and chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Avocets and chick. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
An avocet chick feeding. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
An avocet chick feeding. Photo: Ian Misselbrook

Rabbits seem to be recovering from the disease that decimated their population. I have seen several youngsters around dawn and dusk. There also appears to be plenty of leverets (young hares), but the shortage of insects may well be affecting insectivorous mammals such as shrews and hedgehogs.

Butterflies, moths and dragonflies are all in short supply so far this summer, as cold temperatures and frequent showers really don’t suit them. I have found a few speckled wood butterflies on the sunny and sheltered sides of hedgerows but butterflies that favour more open terrain are pretty much absent so far.

Ian Misselbrook
Ian Misselbrook

Avian influenza seems to be much less of a problem this year. At Frampton Marsh last year the gull colonies were littered with corpses, but his year the noisy galleries, which now include a few pairs of Mediterranean gulls nesting amongst the much more numerous black-headed gulls, look healthy. I hope to see healthy colonies of sea birds when I visit Bempton Cliff nature reserve next week too.



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