It was a miserable year for birdlife on the upland in 2018, but there is hope for a better 2019.
Last year’s bitterly cold winter, late spring, and scorching summer meant the breeding pattern for our birdlife was severely disrupted.
As a consequence nests had fewer eggs – for example, curlew had perhaps only two or three eggs instead of four, and an official count by the Game & Wildlife Conservancy Trust suggests only 5 of the nine Black Grouse hens counted had any chicks. Oyster Catchers also had a very poor breeding season. There was no shooting on our upland last year to protect what Red Grouse had managed to survive through the seasons.
Autumn wasn’t so bad in 2018, and there was a brief sighting of a majestic Osprey to raise a cheer.
Snowfall was light through the winter and into 2019, which raises hope for a better year ahead weather-wise.
This spring the Ring Ousel has been the first to return, with three or four nests spotted in gullies on the fell. Curlew and Peewits (Oyster Catchers) are back again, though fewer Peewits because of the poor breeding season last year.
It is hoped that the Grouse populations will recover this coming year. The Black Grouse are lekking already, though the steady rise in numbers over previous years has taken a bit of a setback – here’s hoping 2019 will resume the upward trend.
The third year of our bird monitoring, undertaken by the Durham Wildlife Trust young volunteers will be once again May and July. Tracking bird populations is a valuable tool in better understanding the life and transitions of the balance of nature on our uplands.
We’ll keep you in touch with news from the Living Uplands.