Breeding birds confirmed at Sheffield nature reserve

As part of our National Lottery Heritage Funded project, Data for Nature, volunteers carried out a number of bird territory mapping surveys at Hammond’s Field Nature Reserve in Sheffield.

Forming a small part of the South Pennine Moors Special Protected Area (SPA), Hammond’s Field is one of few remaining areas of unimproved farmland around the moorland fringes.  Along with the surrounding rough grassland pasture, hay meadows and moorland, the site provides an assortment of habitats for important wading bird species such as lapwing, snipe, curlew and golden plover, both in the breeding and wintering seasons. Management is focused around providing suitable breeding habitat for curlew, lapwing and snipe through control of soft rush.  From late summer through the autumn, when there is least disturbance to breeding bird and ground flora, cattle graze the reserve to create a more diverse vegetation structure.

Over the spring and summer period, volunteers have carried out four visits to the site, mapping activity of the target species using techniques derived from the BTOs Common Bird Census (CBC) methodology. The aim being to establish the number of curlew, lapwing and snipe males holding territory during the breeding season at Hammond’s Field, enabling us to make an educated assumption of breeding pairs at the reserve.

Initial results from the first visit show a confusing picture, with lots of activity. In April, this was probably a sign that the birds were trying to hold or establish territories. By the second visit this had settled down somewhat and we can see that there is a family of lapwing in the field north of the nature reserve. Lapwing move their young to fields with short grass to forage once they hatch, indicating that the birds may have been nesting on the reserve.  There is plenty of curlew activity during this visit, although it is still hard to discern a pattern.  There is at least a male displaying over the field, so this would suggest that there could be a territory. Snipe were also recorded on site.

The third visit identified a pair of curlew using the field, suggesting that the pair were nesting in the nature reserve.  There is no snipe recording on this visit but the family of lapwing can still be seen in the field above the site.  The final visit took place towards the end of the breeding season where birds were not displaying and the young may have fledged.  Around 30 lapwing were observed foraging in the field above the nature reserve, indicating that breeding may have now ceased and holding territories is of less concern.

Reserve Manager, Rob Miller said; ‘The bird territory mapping has identified breeding curlew and lapwing using Hammond’s Field. This is fantastic news as these are two of our key species for this reserve and curluws are one of the most threatened species  in the UK, which demonstrates that we are meeting the requirements of our Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement. Furthermore, the results of the vegetation condition monitoring that has taken place at Hammond’s Field will help inform future habitat management works for lapwing, curlew and snipe, helping us to provide a suitable breeding habitat in the future’.

See here for more information about our National Lottery Heritage Funded project, Data for Nature.

Curlew photo (c) Terry Whittaker
Lapwing photo (c) Adam Jones