The weather this spring has been pretty kind to our Stonechats, with a high pressure system sitting on or close by for most of late March and April. This has allowed our birds to find suitable partners and territories, get down to nest making and start laying eggs. This also allowed us similar time to locate said territories and when we believed it safe to do so, to find the nests. Indeed, the weather was so benign that one pair was so far in advance of the norm that we nearly missed the young and the brood may have fledged before we had found it. Luckily, we got there in time.
So by 21st April, 14 nests had been located and the advanced nest youngsters rung. Of the 14 nests, two pairs were due to be rung, two had three-day old chicks and the rest were sitting tight on full clutches. All was looking good.
By our calculations, another visit on 25th April should have given us an opportunity to ring two pairs and check how the eggs were advancing for the other pairs. Wrong! Mother Nature decided to throw a spanner in the works and as strong winds with sleet, hail or even snow was forecast and unfortunately, duly arrived, we did not manage to visit until this morning, the 27th.
Although our two nests which we felt were ready for ringing had survived, the young were not as large as expected. Presumably the adults’ ability to find food must have inhibited their growth. Nevertheless, they were big enough and were suitably rung.
Another two nests had recently hatched and miraculously, the young were all alive, but of the remaining nests, four had failed at the egg stage. As we approached the nests, there was no alarming from the adults. Indeed, no adults were seen at all and it looked ominous. We presume that the female must have eventually been forced to think of her own survival and had abandoned the clutch.
Two of these nests were built on a plateau and would have been in direct line of a northerly blast and with no shelter from the rain. The other two are more mysterious, as the nest on ‘Piezos’, built by an experienced female, had been placed in a grass and bracken tussock facing away from the prevailing winds, although again with not much shelter from the rain. The other pair, again an experienced pair, had a full clutch of eggs on 8th April, so should have had young by now. So perhaps there’s another reason for the failure, which we can only speculate about.
So of our 14 nests, four pairs have been rung. Five are still with full clutches and we have five failures so far. But at least now we will have staggered nesting attempts with not all our eggs, literally, reliant on one weather window. So, barring any further weather problems, hopefully the second broods may not be so catastrophic.
Roger Q Skeen