−−− BY LINDA JENKINSON −−−

Looking back at the article I wrote for Yorkshire Reporter 12 months ago, I was mentioning that this is the time of year when birds are on the move and something exciting could turn up on your local birdwatching patch. Well we had a lot of excitement recently in West Yorkshire when some non-birding residents of Mickletown, noticed an unusual bird in their cow field. They could never have anticipated the response when they posted a photo of the bird on Facebook. 

The visiting star species was a little bustard, only the third accepted record of this species in West Yorkshire since the beginning of recording and only the seventeenth record in the whole of Yorkshire (the second since 1956). On the rare occasions when these birds turn up, they are seen in non-breeding plumage and they are usually female. Our very rare sighting was of a beautiful male in full breeding plumage. This is probably the first in Yorkshire since the mid-1800s. Our closest breeding population of little bustards is in France, but the population is dwindling and the species is classed as Near Threatened. Where it does breed, the little bustard is a shy species and is difficult to see, but this individual was happily walking around a closely grazed field in easy view for all the visiting birdwatchers. Birders came from miles around to see it. Such a ‘twitch’ needs to be carefully managed to ensure the bird isn’t stressed and the landowners are not inconvenienced in any way. Thankfully, members of the Swillington Ings Bird Group took on the responsibility and the time commitment to marshal the constant flow of birders and the owners of the field nominated a charity so that everyone visiting the bird could make a donation. Over £1,400 was raised for the Prince of Wales Hospice. 

Over the summer I’ve been feeding swift and house martin chicks as part of my work with Leeds Swifts. We’ve managed to successfully fledge two swifts and a house martin so far and I’m currently feeding two more house martins at the moment. You can see short films showing the releases on the Leeds Swifts Facebook page. In mid-August I joined representatives from all the other UK swift groups to man the swift conservation stall at the three-day international Birdfair at Rutland Water. We’re there to advise people who already have swifts about how to carry out essential building repairs and we also encourage people to put up nest boxes at their houses. 

This year we won the best stall in the conservation category. If you’d like any information about how you can provide a home for swifts then pleases contact us at leedsswifts@gmail.com. We’d also like to hear from you if you’d like to help us spread the word. This can be by talking to developers or helping to record swift nesting sites. We can give talks to local groups to raise awareness so do get in touch if you’d like us to do this. 

Linda Jenkinson teaches people about birds in and around Leeds. For details of classes email linda@startbirding.co.uk or call
07778 768719. Visit www.startbirding.co.uk or Start Birding on Facebook and Twitter 

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