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Post Info TOPIC: Species in Focus - Sedge Warbler.

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Species in Focus - Sedge Warbler.

As a specialist rather than a generalist species this delightfully attractive warbler is always likely to have a limited range within our urbanised county. As our last atlas noted - "The distribution of Sedge Warbler breeding records is markedly to the west because the necessary waterside vegetation is more common in the west of the County". At that time this species was reported as occupying 67 (20%) of the surveyed tetrads and breeding was confirmed in 28 of these. All bar two of these confirmed breeding records were west of a line from Bury to Trafford, with two isolated confirmed breeding records from tetrads SJ88U Cheadle and SJ89B Sale Water Park. This species was then either largely absent from or when found to be present was scarce in Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside and breeding was not proven in any of these areas. So have things changed at all for this species in the 25 plus years that have elapsed since the end of BBGM? At the end of the third breeding season (2010) for our ongoing atlas project this species had been confirmed as breeding in only 14 tetrads, which represents 50% of the BBGM total. There is some good news in that breeding has been confirmed in two tetrads in Rochdale but the two successful outlying tetrads from BBGM do not as yet have breeding confirmed and numbers from that core area from Bury westwards are down.

Has this species actually declined or possibly lost some of its range due to habitat degradation since BBGM or are we just overlooking and/or under-reporting it? We should fairly readily be able to establish some knowledge of those sites where this species might be holding a territory. The male bird makes its presence known by its loud "chattering" song, which can include mimicry of other species and by its enchanting song-flight display behaviour. If you find a bird, in suitable habitat, engaged in such activities do try to visit again at least one week later, to see if it is still "at it"! If it is, it is deemed to be holding a territory and your record can be entered up at the BTO Atlas website using the code T (permanent territory - defended for at least over a week) and the breeding status of this species for that particular 2 km by 2 km square will be upgraded from possible to probable. But when might be the best time to visit to look for signs of confirmed breeding? The BTO Nest Record Scheme data reports egg laying dates between 6th May and 29th June. With current data suggesting that incubation takes around 13 - 15 days and young fledge a further 13 to 14 days after hatching, then sightings of adults carrying food for nestlings or to feed young out of the nest might peak from mid-June to early July. The first three years of our current atlas project had confirmed breeding records between 5th June and 20th August , with June being the peak month, although from an admittedly small dataset. BBGM was not sure "if many pairs raise a second brood because pairs often move away from their initial nest site with their young"....so beware that we may only get one bite of the cherry!

With limited habitat available for this species, we really do need to know where our breeding pairs are situated. When we do have such hard evidence to hand, then we put ourselves in a much stronger position when we need to try and defend these sites and the birds that use them. Please try to do your bit this summer for our breeding Sedge Warblers.

Once again - enjoy your birding, good luck with your sightings and many thanks for all your efforts.

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