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Post Info TOPIC: Wheatear

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Posts: 444

In GM the Wheatear's breeding areas are restricted to the Pennine fringe in the north and east of the county. The numbers of tetrads from which confirmedbreeding records have been submitted to the BTO Atlas are as follows:

BBGM (1979-83)
Bolton 1
Bury 3
Oldham 9
Rochdale 11
Stockport 3
Tameside 2

Total 29 tetrads

GM Atlas (2008-10)

Bolton 0
Bury 1
Oldham 3
Rochdale 8
Stockport 0
Tameside 0

Total 12

So, as you can see, in this final breeding season for the GM Atlas, it is vital that more confirmed breeding records are received if we are to accurately map its current distribution. Wheatear is on the Amber list and according to the stats from the Breeding Bird Survey has declined by 11% in NW England 1995 - 2008, compared to a national decline of 5%, so it is important that we identify the areas where it is still breeding in our county.

If you read yesterday's Shore Moor post on the sightings forum, you'll know that now is a good time to get up onto the nearest piece of moorland and try to confirm breeding.

The date range for birds seen carrying food (breeding code FF) is 23rd May to 28th June. In 2010, the dates on which recently fledged juvs, still dependent on adults (FL), were seen, was from 2nd to 27th June. So basically we have one month left in which to collect the records needed for this species.

The district summary table shows that the biggest deficit in confirmed tetrads is in Oldham. However, there are many areas of moorland in Bolton, Bury, Stockport and Tameside that would be worth a visit.

If you do come across any Wheatear, listen out for the continuous anxiety call which indicates either a nearby nest or fledged young. Retire to a safe distance, so the birds are relaxed and just sit down for a few minutes and watch. The chances are you will see one of the adults collecting food and if lucky disappearing into a cavity amongst a pile of stones or in a dry stone wall.

The pair at Watergrove which allow me to confirm breeding most years have disappeared. I just hope the Weasel, seen recently not far from the nest site, has not predated the female.


-- Edited by Steve Atkins on Wednesday 1st of June 2011 03:58:23 PM

The Watergrove Skyline (January 2010) - before desecration.

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Posts: 444

Wheatear is a really charismatic bird. Watching the newly arrived males in fresh spring plumage, flying up from a rocky perch in song flight, is something I always look forward to. A plucky bird, I've watched them on two occasions, mobbing a Weasel that was getting too close for comfort to a nest hole.
Browsing Birds Britannica (BB) reveals some interesting facts:
Amazingly this bird has over the centuries been given no less than 90 different English names including chick-chack, coney-chuck, stone-chucker and clod-hopper. The current name is derived from two Old English words "hwit","white" and "aers", "rump" or "backside" To quote BB "It may have evolved or been modified to "ear" when arse acquired its ribald connotations in the 17th century"
In the 18th century large numbers were trapped on the south downs by shepherds and sold to the restaurant trade in Brighton where they were considered a delicacy and referred to the English Ortolan.
So how is the Wheatear doing today as a breeding bird in GM? The truth is we won't know for sure unless we collect more records for the Atlases (national and GM).
BBGM (1979-83)
Occupied 64 tetrads (19% of total tetrads)
Confirmed Breeder 29 (45% of occupied tetrads)
Probable Breeder 13 (20% of ots)
Possible Breeder 22 (34% of ots)

GM Atlas 2008-11
Occupied 38 tetrads (12% of total tetrads)
Confirmed Breeder 10 (26% of occupied tetrads)
Probable Breeder 8 (21% of ots)
Possible Breeder 20 (53% of ots)

The breakdown of confirmed breeding tetrads by borough so far is Rochdale 6, Oldham 2, Bury and Tameside 1. At the time of BBGM Wheatear bred in the above and also in the upland areas of Bolton, and Stockport. They almost certainly still do.

Now is a good time to confirm breeding of wheatear, recently fledged juvs being fed by adults (FL) or adults carrying food to a nest site in a dry stone wall (FF). So if you're up on't moors and you are lucky enough to see breeding Wheatear please take a few minutes to submit the record to the BTO Atlas.

With your help we can put Wheatear on the map!

-- Edited by Steve Atkins on Monday 21st of June 2010 08:06:29 PM

The Watergrove Skyline (January 2010) - before desecration.
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