Birds of Brockadale 1887-2010

Brockadale has clearly changed over the last 123 years. We do not know all of its history, but a lot of the woodland was apparently clear-felled just before the first survey - very few of the trees in the valley seem to be much more than 100 years old. For a time, until the young trees grew, the valley must have appeared much more open, and grazing probably kept this appearance for many years. The birds which were recorded by J.H.Slater in 1887 (in an account for the Ackworth Natural History Society) illustrate the type of habitat present at the time. Species of open country, such as corncrake, barn owl, whinchat and meadow pipit were breeding whilst woodland birds which are reasonably plentiful now, such as green and great-spotted woodpecker, were not present then.

As our own millennium project we decided to carry out a survey of the breeding birds of Brockadale. We were able to compare the results with a similar census, done in 1979, by former chairman J.W.Williams, though this covered the reserve when it was smaller than now. The methodology was a simplified version of the Common Birds Census techniques, and was carried out by Dave and Sue Williamson, and Paul and Joyce Simmons, during late March to June 2000. It was repeated between April and June 2005, and again in 2010 with the additional help of Darren Stanyard and Andy Barr

We can see the influence of changes in farming practices in land around the reserve, as well as other national trends which we don’t fully understand. Skylarks can be seen, but are no longer common, song thrush numbers have fallen remarkably, and tree sparrows have disappeared.

The 2005 survey counted 39 definite breeding species on the reserve, occupying more than 285 territories between them, so the early summer woods and meadows still ring with song. The 2010 survey showed a disappointing decline to 36 breeding species, with species like Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher and Kingfisher all declining nationally.

Survey results 2010

Survey results 1887-2005