Winter fieldwork

Some thoughts from Rob Husbands on winter fieldwork…

Winter, short days and poor weather usually, although bright cold days I always rather enjoy something of interest on those days. So although it may seem unworthy to venture out over the winter period it can be a productive time for later in the coming season.
Nests that were well hidden in the previous spring /summer can be obvious now the leaves are fallen, and even conifer stands {larch} are easy to search now, having shed their needles, and the dark conifer stands also seem more isolated and easier to pinpoint as nest sites somehow. It is amazing how these same nests so obvious in winter can seemingly disappear in spring/ summer and Common Buzzard nests which are numerous in my area can be some of the most difficult to locate in summer. To illustrate the point two nests that I regularly monitor become actually invisible from the ground and it is only the tell tale whitewash beneath that pinpoints the nest tree, the under-storey having blocked any view from below. I suspect there are few Buzzard nests monitored in the county despite the Buzzard now being our most common raptor.
Over the years I have built up a mental picture of known territories and walking the area noting any coming and going of target species as well as careful looking at potential stands of timber has proven well worthwhile.
Raven and Goshawk will very soon be displaying and looking at potential nest sites once again. Ravens are particularly early nesters usually having eggs in February, nest refurbishing /building can be well underway in January.  Goshawks were displaying with gusto in late January early in 2015 which was a new spectacle for me so early on, but proves the value of just going out on my local patch and having a look.
I believe and hope the strength of a group such as ours is the ability of local people to take part at the local level, building up a picture of what we have at the county level eventually.
Looking forward to the coming season already.