Breeding and Wintering Birds
Most of the information we have on the bird populations of the Limewoods area has come from taking part in national and county surveys: most recently the British Trust for Ornithology’s Atlas project, but also species surveys, such as the 1997 national nightingale survey, which confirmed that the Limewoods project area had the highest density of nightingales in the county at that time. Repeated rookery surveys organised by the Lincolnshire Bird Club have similarly confirmed the ‘Wragby clay triangle’, which encompasses most of the area, as one of the most important areas for rooks, an important farmland species. The area also has a number of active ringers, and casual records also come from the many regular birdwatchers who visit it.
These sources have confirmed that the Limewoods still retain populations of scarce woodland species such as lesser spotted woodpecker, willow tit and lesser redpoll, though numbers of turtle doves and spotted flycatchers have greatly declined. There is also a healthy population of raptors, including breeding marsh harrier, goshawk, common buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel and hobby, with wintering hen harrier and merlin. Barn, little, tawny and long-eared owls all breed in the area, the first three quite widely. Crossbills regularly arrive in irruption years, and sometimes stay to breed.
Long-term surveys of single species have shown the importance of the area for woodcock and tree sparrow, both species which need both woodland and farmland. Breeding woodcock densities are particularly high in Ivy Wood, Great West Wood and Newball Wood, though only the smaller or outlying woods have none at all. Tree sparrow colonies are widespread, and the Limewoods population of this species is now registered with the BTO ‘Ringing Adults for Survival’ (RAS) project. Adults are individually colour-ringed by licenced bird-ringers, so that their survival from year to year can be monitored. Nest-boxes are well used by this species, and in most years at least a hundred nest-record cards are completed. Both these methods give critical information on survival and breeding success of this Red Listed species.