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Summer Diary 2014

(Click on the images for a larger picture)

Our birds are enjoying one of the best breeding seasons that I can remember. The weather has been ideal in that it has neither been too hot nor too wet and there seems to be an abundance of food. Our garden is full of young birds and the local woods are full of roaming bands of juvenile tits of 5 species with a sprinkling of Nuthatches mixed in with them. In fact Nuthatches are doing very well in Lincolnshire extending their range from their traditional stronghold in the south-west of the county, northwards. Bob Sheppard told me that a pair nesting in a "woodcrete" box had a thriving brood of 7 young.

Kestrel Chick

Kestrels, Barn Owls and Little Owls are all rearing large and healthy broods this year; especially those in boxes. Young Kestrels need very careful handling when they are being ringed as they are not averse to using their sharp talons. Barn Owls on the other hand are very submissive and can be lined up on their backs waiting to be ringed.

Barn Owl Chicks

Wood Warbler

Although Lincolnshire is quite well off for breeding birds, one has to travel much further west to encounter the community that favour the Sessile Oak woods. We make an annual pilgrimage to the RSPB reserve at Dinas in mid Wales. This beautiful reserve hold all the breeding species associated with Sessile Oaks; Pied Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, Tree Pipits and my favourite; the Wood Warbler. The Wood Warbler is closely related to the more common Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler but has a paler breast and brighter green back. Its shimmering song is unique to the species and when it sings its' whole body shakes.

Pied Flycatcher

Grey Wagtail with Food

Grey Wagtail

The stream running through the reserve is also home to some special birds. Grey Wagtails and Dippers can usually be seen and Goosander nest in trees in the wood and when hatched lead their young down to the stream. We were lucky enough to witness just that a few years ago.

In complete contrast to the wooded valleys of Wales are the islands off the Pembrokeshire coast. I have featured Skomer in Country Eye before, but for the last two years we have been visiting the island of Ramsey. Ramsey is another RSPB reserve and holds all the seabirds you can see on Skomer except Puffins. The reason that they have not bred was due to the presence of Brown Rats. Just like on Lundy and one of the Scilly Isles this unwelcome alien has now been eradicated from Ramsey and the RSPB are hoping that the Puffins will soon return. In fact they have sited artificial Puffins on the cliff-tops and play tapes of their calls to try and attract Puffins to nest.


One rare bird that seems to be increasing along the coast of West Wales, and recently started to recolonize Cornwall is the Chough. Choughs are particularly easy to see on Ramsey where up to 40 birds occur. A member of the crow family; they are far more specialised than their omnivorous cousins. They tend to nest in caves in the cliffs and require short rabbit or sheep grazed turf on the top of cliffs where they probe for insects and grubs with their long curved red bills. They have a particularly buoyant flight and an acrobatic display usually accompanied by a call that sound like their name.

Kidney Vetch

The rich cliff-top flora of the Pembrokeshire coast is delightful but we have noticed that every year flowering seems to start earlier and some of the species that were at their peak in the first week in June, such as Kidney Vetch when we normally stay there are now past their best.

Small Copper

Wherever you have flowers you have insects and Pembrokeshire is no exception. Two species that are in evidence in early June are the Wall Butterfly and the Small Copper.

Stonechat on Gorse
Gorse is another common cliff-top plant and here you can look for the Green Hairstreak Butterfly. Stonechats, a bird which suffers during hard winters has the capacity to produce multiple broods if weather and prey are available and this too secretes its nest in the thorny sanctuary of the Gorse bush.



Another "chat" is the Northern Wheatear and Ramsey usually holds an incredible 70 pairs. They can also be found on the mainland but not in anything like the numbers that breed on Ramsey Island.


Ian Misselbrook
July 2014


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