Over the last couple of weeks on Dersingham Bog, we’ve seen a mixture of existing Stonechat pairs remaining on their territories and a return of some of the 2016 juveniles to the reserve. Most of the crop of 95 juveniles from this season had vanished from the site by the autumn but now we’re seeing the return of some of them, 12 so far and it’s been a fairly even mix of males and females.
These Stonechats are now either muscling in on existing territories and replacing one of the 2016 partners, or they’ve been pairing off between themselves and have occupied existing currently empty territories or have set up new territories in completely new areas.
Both of our prolific breeders, both born in 2013, have new partners from this year’s crop of juveniles. Our most prolific male (white/orange), who has a territory in the centre of the reserve on Flat Nose, now has a new female (white/lilac and metal/grey). She was a third brood bird born in the neighbouring Piezos territory to our most productive female, (grey/orange and grey/metal)… that could be an interesting lineage / productivity with that pair if they survive the winter and stay together to breed next season.
And that same prolific female at the Piezos territory also has a new male partner (orange/yellow and grey/metal), who was also born this year in the first brood of a successful pair with a territory in Ugly Dale.
It makes for very confusing family trees but so far, of the 12 juveniles currently on the reserve, 3 are from 2016 broods from that same Piezos female. And 6 more can also be directly linked to her as, technically, they’re her grandchildren as the territories they were born in have one parent who was born to that Piezos female in 2015. She really is turning into the ‘matriarch’ of the Bog.
And at the risk of confusing everyone further… here’s one of her third brood young (red/lilac and metal/grey) from 2016, a female who is now setting up a territory on Phil’s Heath with a male (dark blue/light blue and metal/grey). He was also born this year in a territory where the adult male was born to the Piezos female in 2015… so does that make ‘grandson’ paired with an ‘aunt’? Anyone else confused yet?!
No doubt the winter weather will considerably diminish the numbers which stay on site or even survive the winter at all, and it could be all change by the time the 2017 breeding season comes around. We’ve been very lucky in the last couple of years that the winter weather has been so mild that it has no doubt contributed to a higher survival rate of the juveniles in both 2015 and 2016, as well as some continued occupation of territories throughout the winter, and has also maybe allowed early breeding by some pairs which have then gone on to attempt three nests in a season.
If we get a really bad winter this time, we could see a big slump in the same way Kelling Heath did a few years ago and Stonechat numbers could crash and we’ll be building up from low numbers again. Only time will tell…