Summary table of 2014 bird sightings

This table shows all the bird sightings by the Stapleford Bird Club on their monthly visits, by month.

pdf_logo_small Birds table 2014

Bird Reports 2014 prev

2013 Report of a Long term survey of birds breeding on Magog Down Stapleford

Bryan Davies and Robin Cox, Cambridgeshire Bird Club



The second year of the long-term survey of birds breeding on Magog Down was undertaken with 5 visits between mid April and early June. There was negligible breeding activity until mid April due to prolonged very cold weather; this resulted in a much compressed period for survey resulting in probable under recording of several species; the mid April start in 2013 compared with a mid March start to recording in 2012.

A total of 28 species were recorded as breeding in 2013 compared with 29 in 2012. The 5 species not recorded in 2013 were: Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Grey Partridge. Although the absence of these 5 species may have been a real effect, it is more likely to be due to under recording. Three new species were recorded: two summer visitors – Garden Warbler and Sedge Warbler, and the Reed Bunting which is a UK resident.

Apart from the Grey Partridge, none of the species of most conservation concern (Red Listed) declined in numbers and twice as many Song Thrushes were recorded (2 v 4).

Winter feeding with bird seed in the Car Park area and in Vestey Wood attracted a range of birds and helped them to survive a very extended winter. Due to the generosity of visitors to the Down and of Scotsdales the winter feeding programme will be repeated during the winter of 2014.

The number and location of skylark territories in the grassland quadrants of North Down were recorded, and as in 2012 we found that all the territories were confined to quadrants uncut for 3 years. It appears that the denser ‘bottom’ growth in these areas provided extra protection from predation.  

Additional conservation measures that will be introduced during 2014 are planting of small trees in several hedges to provide singing perches and the installation of nesting boxes in some of the woods.

There are a large number of magpies on the Down (minimum no.13) which are a potential threat to the chicks of all the breeding species. Trapping to reduce their numbers should be considered.


This is the second report of a long term breeding bird survey on Magog Down using the revised field work methods described in Appendix 1 of the 2012 Report.

Field Visits
We aimed to make 6 morning visits – 2 in March, 2 in April and two in May but the unusually prolonged low temperatures, which extended throughout March until mid April, meant that bird activity was very low throughout this period. During a visit on 15 March the only birds found were at the two feeding sites, so it was decided not to survey again until air temperatures had risen sufficiently to promote breeding activity. During the compressed breeding period we made four visits of about 2 hours duration (15/04, 30/04, 20/05, 04/06) following the same route on each occasion. The results from these visits are described as the ‘Main Survey’. In addition skylark territories on North Down were identified using the same method as described in the ‘Skylark Study’ of the 2012 Report.
Main Survey
The aim of this survey is to identify the species present and to estimate the number of each species which were breeding on the Magog Trust land. We identified a total of 28 probable breeding species, compared with 29 in 2012. Five of the species were summer visitors (blackcap, chiffchaff, common whitethroat, sedge warbler and willow warbler) and the remainder were residents. Although the residents are not migrates, during prolonged cold winters like that of 2013, some of them probably fly south to find less severe conditions. Other species join flocks during winter eg corn buntings and gold finches.
The survey route again included 14 locations where birds were recorded:
Location No. of species*
No. of birds**
Table 1: The number of breeding species and the number of each species recorded at the 14 survey locations.
Car Park and adjacent Picnic area 15 25
Colin's Wood, Roadside and Garden hedges 8 12
Feoffees fields and edge of Parish Pit 5 6
Feoffees field hedges 1 1
Clunch pits on Little Trees Hill 10 15
Cleared woodland and Magog Wood 9 16
Shelter Belt wood 9 14
Sheep paddocks and Collin's bank 8 13
Memorial Wood 8 11
Arable field 3 8
Vestey wood and adjacent mature wood 10 12
Full length of western boundary hedge 6 18
Villedomer wood 7 10
North Down 1 21
  * Wood pigeons not recorded because of likelihood of double counting
** Minimum number of birds breeding

In Villedomer wood, the Shelter belt and the Arable field we recorded the largest increases but these gains were balanced by large decreases at the Clunch pits and on Feoffees field. To some extent these changes reflect the interconnected nature of the Down in which breeding birds fly between locations eg linnets nest in hedges but commonly seek food on the downland.

A pair of breeding whitethroats were recorded in the southern hedge of Feoffees field for the first time since it was coppiced in 2011.
Appendix 1 contains lists of the species recorded in each location.
Table 2 gives the total number of each breeding species recorded, the number of locations in which they were recorded and their UK status.
Family Total*
Locations UK Status**
Table 2: Species probably breeding on Magog Down
   Blackbird 12 8  
   Song Thrush 4 4 red
   Mistle Thrush 1 1 amber
   Robin 10 7  
   Blue tit 15 8  
   Great tit 11 6  
   Chaffinch 18 9  
   Goldfinch 4 2 amber
   Greenfinch 5 2 red
   Linnet 2 1 red
   Corn bunting 3 2 red
   Reed bunting 2 1 amber
   Yellowhammer 3 2 red
   Blackcap 8 5  
   Chiffchaff 4 3  
   Common Whitethroat 12 6 amber
   Garden Warbler 2 1  
   Sedge Warbler 1 1  
   Willow Warbler 1 1 amber
   Skylark 27 4 red
   Carrion Crow 2 1  
   Magpie 13 8  
   Jay 1 1  
Crests and Wrens
   Wren 5 5  
   Dunnocks 4 3 amber
   Red-legged Partridge 1 1  
   Green Woodpecker 1 1 amber
Pigeons and Doves      
   Wood Pigeon large numbers but not recorded
  * Sum of the largest number of birds recorded on any one visit at each location = the minimum no. of birds breeding.
** Species on the UK red list have shown a severe decline in numbers during last 40 years, species on the UK amber list have declined by 25-49% during the last 40 years.

Three species not listed in the 2012 report were recorded in 2013: Sedge warbler and Reed bunting which were associated with the oilseed rape crops, and Garden warbler located in the edge of Memorial Wood. Five species listed in 2012 were not recorded in 2013: Long-tailed Tit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Grey Partridge. Most of the species recorded in 2012 were less abundant in 2013. This may have been a real difference but more probably was due to the survey problems caused by the prolonged cold temperatures referred to earlier. However two species – Song Thrush and Common Whitethroat – bucked this declining trend with substantial increases.
Family Status
Breeding probability*
Table 3: Recorded species thought not to be breeding on Magog Down
Birds of Prey    
    Buzzard Resident High
    Kestrel Resident High
    Hobby Summer visitor Low
    Sparrow hawk Resident High
    Fieldfare Winter visitor Nil
    Redwing Winter visitor Nil
    Jackdaw Resident Low
    Rook Resident Low
Swifts and Swallows
    Swift Summer visitor Nil
    Barn swallow Summer visitor Nil
  * Likelihood of breeding in the future
There are several species recently recorded by the Stapleford Bird Club during their monthly survey which were not recorded in our survey but which may have bred in 2013: Coal tit, Bullfinch, Starling, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker.


At least 28 species were probably breeding on the Down in 2013 of which six were summer visitors and 25 were UK residents. Garden warblers, Sedge warblers and Reed buntings were recorded for the first time in this survey. There is adequate habitat suitable for Garden warblers which may become regular breeders on the Down. This is the first time that Sedge warblers and Reed buntings have been recorded. These two species were confined to the oilseed rape crop which presumably provided them with safe nesting sites and insects for their chicks. Oilseed rape is rotated with wheat so it is unlikely that these two species will return in 2014.
Five of the species breeding on the Down are on the UK Red List because of their large decline in recent decades (Song thrush, Skylark, Corn Bunting, Linnet and Yellowhammer). Only the Song thrush numbers increased since 2012 but it was good to note that none of the other four species have significantly declined. Several of the Amber List species (Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit and Grey Partridge) appear to have decreased in numbers since 2012 but it is not clear if these are real reductions or an effect of the delayed breeding season mentioned earlier.
In the Conservation section of the 2012 report, several measures for increasing bird numbers were discussed, namely: supplementary feeding with bird seed during the winter ‘hungry gap’, and/or areas of sown species producing seed for birds, improved habitats for nesting, and reduced predation/disturbance from magpies, squirrels and dogs. There has been progress in implementing some of these measures:
Supplementary feeding (Appendix 2)
Substantial quantities of bird seed were spread at four sites in the car parking area and at three places in Vestey wood. Large numbers of birds took advantage of this seed particularly in the Car Park (Appendix 2). The possibility of establishing a bird seed area in the arable crop of South Down is still under discussion.
Improved habitat (see also Appendix 3)
   The coppiced/replanted hedge along the southern boundary of Feoffees field has developed sufficiently to attract a pair of whitethroats this year and it is hoped that the planted hedge along the western Feoffee boundary will start to attract whitethroats and yellowhammers within the next two years.
 A decision has been taken to plant small trees at intervals in several hedges to act as singing perches for corn buntings and yellowhammers. The introduction of nest boxes for kestrels and for tawny or barn owls will probably be undertaken soon and the feasibility of placing bird boxes in the new woodlands for tits and other woodland birds should be considered.
As part of the ongoing wood management, several of the woods have been thinned to reduce tree competition and to develop glades. It is hoped that this will improve the habitat for woodland species such as the Coal tits and Long-tailed tits.
Reduced Predation/Disturbance 
Broken wire fences around several of the woods have been replaced with stronger fencing which will keep dogs out. This will reduce the risk of destruction of nests of birds such as partridge. The number of magpies on the Down poses a threat to all nesting species and consideration should be given to reducing their numbers by trapping.
Skylark Study
All the grassland areas and the oilseed rape in the arable area contained skylark territories with only a small reduction in number compared with 2012 (27 v 31). North Down again contained the largest concentration of skylarks with 11 territories identified with the help of Louise Bacon of the Cambridgeshire Bird Club. Once again all the nests were confined to the quadrants uncut for 3 years even though the vigorous growth ensured that tall grass was available for nesting in all the quadrants. The denser ‘bottom’ growth in the older herbage presumably provides a nesting site more protected from both bird and animal predators.


This report includes three Appendices, which can be found as a separate article here. They are:

  1. Number of breeding birds recorded at each location
  2. Bird Feeding Project at Magog Down 2013
  3. Some thoughts on the welfare of birds on Magog Down
Bryan Davies and Sue Bradley, October 2013

Birds on Magog Down

We publish the monthly reports of Stapleford Bird club here, plus other occasional bird-related articles; hot links in each report will take you to the RSPB information page for each bird spotted.

The gallery below shows a random six of the birds that have been seen on Magog Down.

  • Willow warbler.jpg
  • Mistle thrush.jpg
  • Dunnock.jpg
  • Linnet male.jpg
  • Blackbird.jpg
  • Whitethroat female.jpg