Ring ouzel, or mountain blackbird, as they are commonly known, arrive in their British summer breeding grounds in late March, before migrating south to southern Spain and Morocco in early Autumn.
The grit stone edges of Stanage, Burbage and the Eastern Moors are a stronghold for this enigmatic bird of the uplands. Clumps of vegetation such as heather, bilberry and bracken underneath the rocky crags offer an ideal nesting habitat for this increasingly rare bird. Raising young requires good feeding grounds too, especially plenty of invertebrates, and berry bearing shrubs and trees such as bilberry, holly and rowan. Building up reserves before their long flight south is crucial to their survival.
Since ring ouzel share their love of gritstone with people, we work closely with the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) and PDNPA (Peak District National Park Authority) to ensure we give these special birds the best possible chance of breeding success. Through raising awareness of ring ouzel conservation, we hope to encourage an environment where user groups feel inspired to help us protect this iconic species. This has worked well in the past on Stanage Edge, where the BMC have been an integral part of ensuring ring ouzel nests are not disturbed during the breeding season.
In 2017 we are focussing on nest monitoring. By observing the birds following the BTO's Nest Recording Scheme https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs we will monitor their activity and can then put safeguards in place if necessary to give them the best chance of breeding success. For example, if a pair were to nest in a well used climbing route, we could then liase with the BMC, erect signage, use social media and site presence to request climbers to find an alternate route, and observe the nest until they (hopefully) fledge successfully. This is the model that has been used to great effect on Stanage and is an approach we are keen to adopt.
Ring ouzel are a red listed species, and have declined a staggering 58 per cent in population size since 1988-91. Recent studies aimed at understanding these declines suggest that low first-year, and possibly adult, survival may be the main demographic mechanisms driving the population decline.
Dialects and Sonograms
Research has shown that our ring ouzels have their own Derbyshire dialect. Just to clarify, they don’t end sentences with the word “duck”, but they do have a distinct timbre and pitch which distinguishes them from their counterparts in the North Yorkshire Moors and the Cairngorms. Each bird has their own unique inflections and intonations, and variations in pitch and frequency that allow us to differentiate between individual birds. Sonograms, which are computerized pictures of sound waves; allow us to observe the individuality of each bird’s call. Bill Gordon, Stanage and North Lees ranger with the Peak Peak Ranger Service, has a treasure trove of sound recordings which studies this in more detail. You can listen to Bill’s recordings here:
Ring Ouzel recording...
Our friends at Moors For The Future have made it easy to report ring ouzel sightings via their MOORwild App. We receive updates from MFTF throughout the nesting season on all the latest sightings, so if you do happen to see a mountain blackbird on your travels, please download the app and let us know.
You can find out more by following this link:
The 2016 surveys
In Spring 2016 we commissioned a two-part Ring Ouzel study. This included a survey of breeding pairs across the Eastern Edges area - primarily Bamford and Stanage Edges, the Burbage Moors area and the whole of the Eastern Moors - in partnership with volunteers from Sheffield Bird Study Group and the North Lees Estate (Stanage). A more detailed study of the territories within the Burbage Moors area was also carried out - working closely with the BMC to help climbers and walkers avoid disturbing nest sites.
The two reports are available to download here:
Eastern Edges Ring Ouzel Survey 2016 (Updated 24/10/16)