In 1928 – the year of the first Cambridge Bird Club’s Annual Report – 662 Rooks nests were counted within a mile radius of Market Square, Cambridge. Numbers are much less now due to poisoning from agricultural pesticides (some deliberate), agricultural intensification and persecution. In 1975 it was estimated that 65% of Rooks nests in Cambridgeshire were in Elms and many nest sites were lost to Dutch Elm disease. Monica Frisch remembers young Rooks being sold on the game stall at Newcastle-upon-Tyne market about 25 years ago for Rook pie! Attitudes to Rooks today are more benign. It is still a common countryside bird and many local villages have a rookery in trees on the village green e.g. Cottenham, or in trees surrounding their parish church e.g. Teversham and Histon.
Rooks are now considered more a friend than foe to farmers. They probe for leather jackets, slugs, snails and worms but they do have a habit of taking cereal and field bean seedlings, as I know to my cost. When I worked at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), Rook Protection of our high value specialist cereal tests and trials cost me tens of thousands of pounds in Rook Protection netting, caging and labour.
In our NatHistCam project area we have counted 78 nests so far in four rookeries … we are still looking. Counts were made before and a week after storm Doris and the numbers remained the same. Please send any records of Rookeries in the NatHistCam project area to: Olwen Williams – firstname.lastname@example.org
Museum of Waxwings opposite Vindis (left)
The museum of Waxwings (museum is the collective name for Waxwings!) may still be hanging around the guided busway but they have moved further along from the Vindis garage end towards the Cambridge Regional College.
Peregrine Cambridge City 4th March 2017
You may have noticed fewer pigeons in the Market Square recently. For the last three years Peregrines have nested in central Cambridge. Sit outside at Don Pasquales, have a cup of Mario’s excellent coffee, look out over the market square and you stand a good chance of seeing a hunting Peregrine Falcon. One has been seen chasing pigeons down Petty Cury. Peregrines used to be considered birds of open moors and rugged cliffs but we now have more pairs of Peregrines nesting in our NatHistCam project area than in the Shetland Isles (2!). If you think you know of, or find the site of, a Peregrine’s nest please keep it confidential and contact the County recorder, Louise Bacon, direct: email@example.com
Male Blackcap (left)
In 1993 one of the County’s leading birders, Graham Easy, noted that Blackcaps had become increasingly common over winter; one of the first in our project area was in Manhatten Drive, Cambridge in 1993. The wintering Blackcap survey for 2017 has produced records from 23 locations in our project area, 22 within Cambridge City gardens. Two locations in built-up areas seem to have resident year-round birds that are probably nesting. Thank you all for sending me your records – they will be forwarded to the Cambridgeshire Bird Club Recorder – Louise Bacon (see above) and be duly credited. Keep them coming. I will end this “winter” count at the end of March 2017 – returning birds should be arriving in numbers by mid-April.
Male Black Redstart
The project is also keen to obtain any records of breeding Black Redstarts in the City.
Vince Lee, Chair of the Cambridgeshire Bird Club suggested this would be a valuable project. Birds were seen last year around the central city University buildings – The Old Schools and Pembroke College – and so far this year a bird has been seen on the roof of St Botolph’s Church in King’s Parade. Some years ago a juvenile bird was seen behind the Primark store in Burleigh Street and Anglia Ruskin seems a possible site too.
They have a distinctive two part song: a melodic part usually followed by a “scratchy” part – like small stones of gravel being dropped over a cheese grater! There is a good recording on Radio 4 Tweet-of-the-Day which is available on the BBC website with commentary by Bill Oddie. Black Redstarts like feeding and nesting around large buildings and an early morning cycle ride round the city centre, or wherever you live, listening for birds singing in the dawn chorus maybe a good way of locating them.
Bob Jarman 6.3.17