On 02/06 Steve Haynes and I had a meeting arranged with Ruth Moffat and Gina Rowe (of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust) to discuss revisions to the Warwickshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP). The meeting was scheduled for 13.30 in the offices of Warwick County Council and at 12.00 we received news of a summer plumage Grey Phalarope at Brandon Marsh. This just about gave us time to screech to Brandon and spend 30 minutes or so admiring the bird before we had to leave for Warwick. I have always wanted to see the species in this plumage and had pretty much given up hope I ever would. It was every bit as good as I expected and one of those birds you will never forget.

Phal4edit1

Grey Phalarope, Brandon Marsh

We were only ten minutes late for the meeting which was useful and resulted in European Turtle Dove, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Tit being included in LBAP plans for their appropriate habitats. We discussed bird conservation in the county with several council staff and as always I was struck by how fortunate we are in having a team of ecologists when many counties have none. I have often thought that Warwickshire is considered to have nothing significant in terms of species or habitats and at least one senior staff member had some sympathy with my frustration at this attitude. If birds are considered the value of the county comes in to sharp relief.

I recently read a blog piece in which the author discussed how little he suspected, when he last saw a Willow Tit in Surrey, that it would constitute the last ever record of the species in that county. He went on to list other recent local extinctions including European Turtle Dove and Corn Bunting. And this in leafy, wealthy Surrey lying in the south of the country where the climate is comparatively benign. Whilst the status of Willow Tit in Warwickshire looks particularly dubious this year there were breeding season records from at least three localities in 2014 and it does theoretically still occur. At least 4-5 pairs of European Turtle Dove are present this summer at the two stronghold localities and there may be more. In 2014 the species was recorded at eight localities and I suspect that Worcestershire is the only other county among the four covered by the annual report of the West Midlands Bird Club with more.

European Turtle Dove

European Turtle Dove, Warwickshire

We have lost Corn Bunting from three localities over the last five years or so but it is still present at two or more and perhaps more significantly there were peak counts of 60+ at the best of these over the winter of 2014/15.

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting, Warwickshire

Whilst the species I have mentioned here are perhaps bad examples in that they may be too far down the road to local extinction I feel it is critical to try and retain them.  If you think of local extinctions as lights going out then they are part of the process which leads to total darkness.  Even if it is too late for these species then we need to be thinking about the next, the ‘new black’.  I find it all too easy to imagine Common Cuckoo getting as rare as European Turtle Dove is now or Willow Warbler with a status akin to that of Spotted Flycatcher today. Yet, as far as I am aware, there is no conservation professional whose job role includes responsibility for the identification of bird conservation priorities within the county, let alone the compilation and execution of species recovery plans. This is why the meeting was arranged and we hope it may be the first step in organising a group dedicated to the conservation of the counties birds. We will update as things progress and in the meantime if anybody is interested in supporting us in any way please get in touch with either Steve or I.