BTO House Martin Appeal

House Martins are thought to have declined by 16% in the UK in the last ten years. Worryingly in England there have been declines of 65% longer term which has led to the House Martin being amber listed as a species of conservation concern.

House Martin (RSPB Images)

House Martin (RSPB Images)

BTO’s Goal

We want to stop House Martins from slipping on to the red list for Birds of Conservation Concern, reserved for species which have seen declines of more than 50% over a 25 year period. But to do this we need to learn more about them here in the UK.

House Martin Survey

We hope to run a new, specially designed survey, comprising of two parts to gather vital information to help us understand more;

  • A national survey in 2015 to gather information on the House Martin population, local distribution and their habitat preferences.
  • A nest monitoring study in 2016 to learn about breeding success, timings and location of nests.

How you can help

Your gift will help us to establish population estimates, providing a baseline against which future change can be measured, and understand more about the reasons for the steep decline in England. Could it be that the mud they use to build nests is harder to find due to climate change or drought? Have changes in local land-use affected insect numbers and led to a food shortage or is there a lack of suitable nest sites?

Once we have further information we can use this evidence to inform policy and practice to give House Martins a better chance in the future.

Help by donating to the House Martin Appeal now.

October 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

International Golden Plover Survey

There will be a coordinated census of Golden Plovers across Europe this weekend of 11-12 October, repeating comparable surveys carried out in 2008 and 2003.

The majority of Golden Plover are concentrated in northwest Europe in October, making it the best time to assess the population.  As in 2008, the BTO will be collating all counts of Golden Plover within the framework of an International Wader Study Group project.

Golden Plovers by Sergey Yeliseev, on Flickr

Golden Plovers by Sergey Yeliseev, on Flickr

In our region, Sker Point near Porthcawl is a good spot to see Golden Plover flocks, with upto 140 seen at high tide in recent weeks.  This weekend, high tide is at 08:49am on Saturday and 09:24am on Sunday.  Elsewhere, flocks can sometimes be seen congregating on hill tops such as Cefn Eglwsilan, Mynydd y Glyn and Werfa.

For the UK, Golden Plover numbers provided through standard WeBS Core Counts will represent the key source of data in combination with records provided through BirdTrack.

Volunteers are encouraged to submit counts of Golden Plover (and Lapwing) into BirdTrack  over the weekend.

October 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm 2 comments

Welsh Ornithological Society Conference 2014

The programme for this year’s annual Welsh Ornithological Society conference in association with BTO and RSPB is now available. The event will be held at Ruthin in North Wales.

WOS Conference 2014

2014 Conference
Saturday 12 November
Theatr John Ambrose, Ysgol Brynhyfryd, Ruthin, LL15 1EG

WOS Lifetime Achievement Awards and the 2014 Student Research Award, presented by Iolo Williams
Atlas 2007-11: what does it mean for Wales, Dawn Balmer
Skokholm Bird Observatory, the pioneer years, David Saunders
Trials and tribulations on North Wales’ moors, Stephen Bladwell
Pied Flycatchers, Pete Coffey
BirdTrack, what it can do for you and birds, Nick Moran
The future of bird conservation in Wales, Arfon Williams
Latest news from BTO Cymru and RSPB Cymru

Further details and booking form are available.

October 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

Hellos, Goodbyes and New Vacancies – East Glamorgan WeBS Update

September marks the beginning of the Wetland Bird Survey’s (WeBS) core period which continues on until March. Having said that, most of us WeBS volunteers enter counts for our sites for some months outside this period too . . . we enjoy the survey so much!

35 volunteers now count 36 sites here in the recording area of ‘Eastern Glamorgan’ – varying in size from Rhymney Estuary and Cardiff Bay to Glamorgan Canal and Pentwyn Pond. I’m glad to say that, over the last few months we’ve welcomed some new volunteers to our local team.

Thanks to John Duffy, Peterston-super-Ely Moors is being counted for WeBS for the first time since 1985 and Cardiff University student, Sophie-Lee Williams is now the counter at Fochriw Reservoir. You can volunteer on more than one wetland site if you like and Craig Watson has done just that by taking on both Parc Tredelerch (Lamby Lake) and Pentwyn Pond – the latter site has never been counted for WeBS before. Another new site for WeBS, Pwll Waun Cynon, is now being counted thanks to Phil Hill. You might be surprised to hear that there’s been a 20 year gap since Cyfarthfa Castle Lake, Merthyr last had a visit from a WeBS counter. I’m delighted to say that that gap has now been filled by Carys Solman.

John Duffy has recorded up to 6 Green Sandpipers at Peterstone-super-Ely Moors (Phot: RSPB Images)

John Duffy has recorded up to 6 Green Sandpipers at Peterstone-super-Ely Moors (Photo: RSPB Images)

We said some farewells too. Geographically, Cardiff Bay may be in Eastern Glamorgan, but it forms part of the Severn Estuary (Wales) WeBS area – an area managed by WeBS Local Organiser, Al Venables. The site has been counted for many years by Peter Ferns. Peter stood down this year and another Peter – Peter Howlett – has taken his place. Even though the Bay doesn’t come under the Eastern Glamorgan WeBS area I’m sure you’ll join me in saying a big ‘thank you’ to both of them.

A local hot spot under serious threat of ‘development’ is Rhaslas Pond. Mike Hogan has been visiting the site regularly and his records have shown how important it is, particularly for migrating wildfowl and waders. Sadly, Mike has now stepped down as a WeBS counter at Rhaslas, as has Neville Davies from counting Caerphilly Castle Moat and I’d like to thank them both for their efforts.

Caerphilly Castle Moat

Caerphilly Castle Moat

This now leaves us with vacancies at two important wetland sites within ‘Eastern Glamorgan’. Rhaslas Pond has shown that almost anything can turn up there – it might be the only WeBS site in the UK with a Long-billed Dowitcher amongst its recent counts! It’s important that data continues to be gathered from there and let’s hope it’s spared from destruction. Caerphilly Castle Moat is important because it has been almost continuously counted for WeBS since 1991. That continuity of data is so valuable and so I’m really keen to find a new counter for the site.

WeBS is a great survey if you’re new to bird surveys or an old hand at them. More information about what it means to be a WeBS volunteer can be found here. If you’re interested in taking on one of these two sites, or if you’d like to take on another site in East Glamorgan, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
WeBS Local Organiser for East Glamorgan
18 St Margaret’s Road; Whitchurch, Cardiff, CF14 7AA
h: 02920 621394; m: 07828 093613

September 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment

Discover a Lost Art

For 75 years, volunteers of the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) have been finding and following the progress of individual birds’ nests, collecting this vital breeding performance data across the UK, helping measure the impacts of factors such as climate change on our bird populations.

We have 11 volunteers in Glamorgan and recruitment is going well across Wales, with recorder numbers increasing faster than in any other UK country, but the national pool of volunteers is still fewer than 50, so there is much scope for improvement.

Blackbird nest, by Wayne Morris

Blackbird nest, by Wayne Morris

Anyone can be a nest recorder, and by carefully following the NRS Code of Conduct, monitoring does not influence a nest’s outcome.   Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden while others find and monitor nests of a whole range of species, even the Blackbird in your garden can provide valuable data for conservationists.

For Dipper and Redstart, Wales is a NRS stronghold, providing a significant proportion of the UK total each year. There are many gaps in coverage however, even for common species.

Glamorgan Nest Record totals
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Mute Swan* 4 1
Canada Goose 5
Great Crested Grebe 1
Buzzard 2 1 1 2 1
Moorhen* 1 2
Coot 9 13 1
Woodpigeon 1 4 1 7 6 6
Collared Dove 4 1 1
Nightjar 2 1 4 1
Swift 2 1 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Sand Martin
House Martin 2
Meadow Pipit* 1 3 1 1 1
Grey Wagtail* 1
Pied Wagtail* 1 3 2 2
Dipper* 1 9 2 3
Wren* 5 1 1 8 4
Dunnock* 3 2 4 3 5 4
Robin 3 4 2 2 6 4
Redstart* 3 2 3 6 6 7
Whinchat* 1
Stonechat* 4 10
Wheatear* 2
Blackbird* 23 20 13 15 43 30
Song Thrush* 10 19 3 7 24 13
Mistle Thrush* 1 2 3
Grasshopper Warbler 2 3
Blackcap 4 3 4
Garden Warbler 1
Whitethroat 1 2 1
Wood Warbler* 1
Chiffchaff 1 1
Willow Warbler* 2 1 2 6 3
Pied Flycatcher* 47 38 39 51 48 22
Long-tailed Tit 6 2 7 6 10 2
Blue Tit 121 100 120 153 136 134
Great Tit 96 84 97 74 87 84
Coal Tit 3
Nuthatch 19 16 9 16 15 6
Treecreeper 1 1 4 4
Jay 1
Magpie* 2 7
Jackdaw 2
Carrion Crow* 1 1 2 2
Raven 2 1 1 1
Starling* 1
House Sparrow 2 1
Chaffinch* 3 2 2 2 2
Greenfinch* 3 1 2
Goldfinch 1 1 1
Siskin 1
Linnet* 2 1 1 2 3 4
Bullfinch* 2 2
Yellowhammer* 2 1 1
Reed Bunting* 3 4
Total 453 344 349 487 513 391
* priority species

Now you may say “I haven’t got the time” or “Isn’t nest recording for specialists?”, and to be honest, that’s just how we felt this time last year when faced with the daunting prospect of learning to monitor nests.

In 2013 however, we attended a NRS training course. Here we were shown the simple tools of the trade, spent a lot of time with our heads in bushes and were blown away by loads of fascinating tips on how to find different species’ nests and monitor them safely. The training obviously paid off as we returned home to find amongst others Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow and Wood Warbler nests on our home patches. The experience really did add a whole new dimension to our birding; twelve months later, with a lot to learn still, we’re ready to get started once more and have a number of residents nesting already and the first Chiffchaffs of the year setting up territories.

Why not join the Welsh revival and make 2014 the year you become a nest recorder? It’s enjoyable, you’ll learn a huge amount about the birds around you and, vitally, you’ll provide information to support conservation efforts that can’t be gathered any other way.

Visit the Nest Record Scheme for more information.

March 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

Looking Out for Herons

Over the next few weeks, Grey Herons will be returning to begin another new breeding season.  For some birders, it marks the start of the BTO Heronries Census, the longest running survey of its kind in the world.  Counting nests provides by far the most efficient and accurate measure of breeding numbers for most colonial birds.

Heronry at Stanley Park by wlcutler, on Flickr

Heronry at Stanley Park by wlcutler, on Flickr

In our region, we monitor eight known heronries, with another just outside the boundary at Llwyn-on Reservoir.  Currently we have volunteers visiting all apart from the large colony at Coryton on the outskirts of Cardiff.  Could you help out with this site?  A few visits are required to determine a count of ‘apparently occupied nests’.

It’s possible that there are a few other nesting sites around the region, as new colonies form.  Grey herons nest with just one or two pairs at some sites.  Are there any we have overlooked?

Please get in touch if you have any information or would like to monitor our Coryton site.

Wayne Morris

January 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm 2 comments

The Early Bird …

… has its feeding patterns affected by light and heat pollution during cold winter mornings.  Is this true?

This is what the forthcoming Early Bird Survey will investigate.

Breakfast time for Robin by fintbo, on Flickr

Breakfast time for Robin by fintbo, on Flickr

Birds require extra energy to keep warm, especially during long winter nights. To cope, they lay down extra fat reserves, though small birds quite often only lay down enough for a single night. Longer nights not only affect the amount of energy a bird uses, they also reduce the amount of time that birds can feed in. Birds, therefore, have to make the most of the daylight hours to replenish their energy reserves before it gets dark.

Building on observations from the Shortest Day Survey, the Early Bird Survey will investigate what effect, if any, light and heat pollution have on the feeding patterns of birds during a cold winter’s morning.

The  survey takes place on 9 January 2014 (submissions from days between the 6 and 12 January will be welcome too) and requires people to get up just before dawn, watch their garden feeding stations and record what time they see the first 10 different species arriving; some additional information on the local environment will also be recorded.

Can you take part in this survey?

January 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

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