Counting the birdlife

As we reported in May, we have started a long-term project to monitor the birdlife on the moor.  Annual monitoring is an excellent way to better understand bird populations and to make, or adjust, intervention on the moor to assist and assure healthy bird populations. The more information we gather, the more years we gather it consistently, the better our understanding of moor life. 

This latest initiative follows on the success of building an increased population of Black Grouse, which has risen from just five in 1999 to around 100 today – though with nature’s ups and downs along the way.

Two weekends, one in May and one towards the middle of June, saw Durham Wildlife Trust’s Young Volunteers log sightings of birds at three locations across the moor.

Lots of the familiar jackdaws and gulls. But even after an dawn to early morning lek, a few Black Grouse to be seen. Plenty of Curlew, on both outings. Looking at both counts on the same chart demonstrates how much changes on the moor over the Spring and early Summer periods as bids match, hatch and then scatter elsewhere for the same to happen a year from now. 

While this project is about the birdlife on the moor, it is also about engaging young people with the life of the moorland. 

Kirsty Pollard, Education and Engagement Officer at Durham Wildlife Trust, says: 

The Upland Bird Monitoring project provided a fantastic opportunity for our Young Volunteers to understand the need to conduct efficient and effective surveys as a means to inform future conservation efforts.  The moors in upper Weardale are incredibly striking, and completely different to other habitats the Volunteers have been working in this year.   The farm manager gave the Volunteers a really valuable insight into the management of this landscape and the landowner’s passion to ensure the success of breeding a diversity of birds and in maintaining a truly beautiful Living Uplands.

Katy Ross, a DWT Young Volunteer, adds: 

For the past year I have been part of a young volunteer group for the Wildlife Trust and it has been an amazing experience. I have met so many other people who are as equally passionate about wildlife conservation as me (if not more so). There have been so many activities provided for all the volunteers allowing us to both learn new skills and all find something we are good at. The Project so far has taken us to many different habitats where we’ve had the chance to meet conservation officers who have taught us the incredible ways of managing different ecosystems…

If you know a young person who would like to get involved with Durham Wildlife Trust contact Kirsty at DWT.

A parent of one of the Young Volunteers believes:

…the sessions give the boys a variety of skills some of which they may find useful in the future & when they eventually seek employment. 

A big thanks to all the Young Volunteers who took part in this year’s monitoring. Looking forward to doing the same next year, and the next….

All this activity takes place under strict supervision and with organised planned permissions. Hard work and investment with the support of Natural England has delivered an outstanding return on this moor and will continue as an exemplary example of moor life management.