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Post Info TOPIC: Species in Focus - Meadow Pipit.

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Species in Focus - Meadow Pipit.

Anthus pratensis or the Meadow Pipit, to give it its full, rightful and proper common name.......or are you one of those muppets who calls it a Mipit! Shame on you!! Wouldn't it be great if the Meadow Pipit could get its own back? There were two birders and a pair of breeding Meadow Pipits on a moorland - one birder to the other "have a quick look at those two Mipits over there to see if by any chance they might be something a bit more interesting", on seeing the birders and on hearing this remark one Meadow Pipit said to the other "calm down dear, there's no need to be alarmed, they appear to be a right pair of Muppets"!

Birds Britannica quite beautifully summed up this species place in the world - "Its abundance in such a spartan landscape makes the Meadow Pipit one of the main building blocks of the moorland ecosystem". However, whether a Meadow Pipit would be happy to think of itself as a building block we will never know!! To many people Greater Manchester and moorland are not exactly synonymous yet at the time of our last atlas project (BBGM) it occupied 221 (67%) of the available tetrads and was confirmed as a breeder in 135 of these. As BBGM noted though, it is also a bird of the lowlands and "the common feature is some rough grass whether, agricultural, recreational or accidental". It may come as some surprise to many birders to learn that the population was then estimated to be as high as 5,200 pairs - "more abundant than Swallows, Linnets or Great Tits". So where does the Meadow Pipit stand at present in the scheme of things in Greater Manchester? At the end of the third breeding season (2010) for our current atlas project, this species had been confirmed as a breeder in just 51 tetrads, representing only 38% of the BBGM total. Has it actually declined since BBGM, as Greater Manchester has become even more urbanised in the intervening period or are we just overlooking it?

If you do know of locations where this species is regularly present throughout the breeding season, then it seems highly likely that they will be either breeding or attempting to breed there. At all times this is a conspicuous species and adults carrying food for either nestlings or recently fledged young should, in all honesty, not be that difficult to spot......if we could just take that little bit of extra time to look! Adults carrying food will usually make a certain alarm/distress call and their insect laden bills should be easily visible when they land on a wall or other such structure as they linger there and show their determination not to enter the nest site or reveal the whereabouts of their fledged young, whilst we birders are hanging about. Meadow Pipits are usually double-brooded and the young, which can often leave the nest before being fully capable of flight, are cared for and fed by both parents for a mean of 13 days after leaving the nest. In short and put bluntly, the Meadow Pipit really does give birders plenty of opportunities to confirm breeding!

Atlas data to date shows confirmed breeding records for 2008 to 2010 between mid-May and mid-August, but June is undoubtedly the peak month. Sightings of adults seen carrying food and with fledged but still dependent young accounted for 63% and 25% respectively of all confirmed breeding records.

So if we have this species on our local patch and have not as yet been able to confirm breeding, isn't it about time we put the record straight? Don't let them get away with it unnoticed! Let's not allow our Meadow Pipits to make muppets of us!!

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