Annual Reviews

Each year we now produce an 'Annual Review' for Friends and Members, which incorporates a summary of our formal Year-end Report, plus what we hope are some interesting highlights of the year in question.

The previous few Annual Reviews can be downloaded here:

2016 Annual Review

2015 Annual Review

2014 Annual Review

2013 Annual Review

Members and Friends are sent these annual reviews as soon as they are produced each summer, and have an opportunity to attend our AGM each October and raise any issues.

If you would like to become a Friend, you can read more on our Join Us page, and then complete the application form.

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Skylarks on Magog Down

skylark_250The commonly used expressions ‘Up with the lark’ and ‘What a lark’ are evidence of how widely and closely this small ‘brown’ bird is associated with our countryside. The song of the skylark is one of the most familiar sounds of rural Britain and yet since the early 1980’s the UK skylark population has dropped by over half, losing a remarkable million-and-a half pairs! Why have skylarks declined so dramatically?

The two main reasons identified by the RSPB are the countrywide move from spring sown to autumn sown cereals and the universal fall in the main food for fledglings - insects - due to pesticide use on farms. Skylarks in spring sown crops, for example spring barley and sugar beet, are able to raise 2-3 broods but in winter wheat or barley most raise just one brood because the dense crop stops the birds having access to the ground.

If you have been walking on Magog Down during May the thought that the skylark is an endangered species must seem like a delusion. From dawn to dusk – with a breather at ‘lunch-time’ the song of ascending male larks has dominated the scene. The reason for this profusion of song is that the cut grassland of North Down and the grazed grass of South Down both provide excellent habitats for skylarks to successfully raise there young. For several years now the grassland cutting regime on North Down provides for quadrants of long, medium length and short herbage every year.

This May, as part of a long-term survey of breeding birds on the Down, we have attempted to find out what the larks think of this regime. By watching the behaviour of the male birds in establishing and then protecting their nesting territories, we have been able to show that of the 12 nesting sites, eleven are in the long grass, one in the medium length grass and none in the short grass cut last year. Furthermore it looks as if the most favoured feeding areas are in the short grass where presumably insects in the soil and perhaps seeds are more easily found.

These contrasting grassland habitats side by side on the downland, both free of current herbicides, coupled with the exemplary way in which the big majority of dog owners have respected the well publicised code, may well have provided a skylark ‘heaven’!

Bryan Davies & Louise Bacon


May 2012

Old Newsletters

Up until 2011 we produced a twice-yearly Newsletter, and you can still download copies of some of these here:

pdf_logo_smallSpring/Summer 2011

pdf_logo_smallAutumn/Winter 2010

Spring 2010

Autumn/Winter 2009

Spring 2009

In 2011 the re-designed website was launched, and so the decision was taken to stop producing these Newsletters, and instead to use this website as the main means of communication for news and articles of interest.

This move away from a regular Newsletter meant that more of the Members' and Friends' subscriptions could be spent directly on the costs of upkeep and husbandry on the Down.

We would love every regular visitor to Magog Down to help support its upkeep by becoming a Friend. Read more on our Join Us page, and then complete the application form.