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.
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.
… 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.
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?
As the New Year turns, we’d like to take few moments to look back over the year just past. Membership and participation in surveys continues to grow. We now have over 160 members and a further 644 volunteers who have contributed to BTO surveys over the years.
BirdTrack in particular shows some impressive figures, with over 190 volunteers contributing over 150,000 records in our region since its inception, with a number of recorders submitting over 10,000 records each.
Our year began with the core period of the Winter Thrushes Survey in full swing. We were delighted that 40 core squares were covered with a further 30 squares monitored over the full survey period running from October to April. As the year closes, we are once again in the middle of this two-year survey, which has already revealed some interesting results about the key habitats and food sources used by our passage and wintering thrush species
WeBS too has a strong winter element, though it continues all year round. We have a great team of WeBS counters in East Glamorgan. In 2013, a total of 35 of us counted waterbirds at 33 different sites which vary in size from reens and farm pools to Cardiff Bay and the Rhymney Estuary. Two new sites were counted in 2013: Sully Island and Hendre Lake. Lamby Tip Pool, which was counted in 2012, can no longer be counted due to access issues.
We said farewell to some long standing counters who ‘retired’ from WeBS this year. Marie Makepeace counted Caerphilly Castle Moat for 14 years and Margaret Morgan who, along with Graham Duff who sadly passed away in 2011, counted the birds on Roath Park Lake for over 10 years. Clive Ellis who counted Parc Tredlerech (Lamby Lake) and, more recently, Cors Crychydd Reen and Lamby Tip Pool also stood down at the end of 2012. We’re all indebted and grateful to Marie, Margaret, Graham and Clive for collecting so much data about the waterbirds at these sites.
We welcomed some new volunteers too, namely Richard Facey, Rob Thomas and Heather Galliford. It was also great to welcome back Neville Davies who re-joined the team in March, taking on Caerphilly Castle Moat – a WeBS site he once covered many years ago. I’m also delighted to say that Parc Slip NR is now counted regularly for WeBS thanks to John and Margaret Samuel who volunteered for the survey towards the end of 2012. 2014 is already off to a great start with Carys Solman volunteering to count Cyfarthfa Park Lake – the first time this site has ever been counted for WeBS.
Although WeBS is about monitoring the populations of our more regularly occurring waterbirds, it is always nice when the odd local scarcity turns up during your count – and there were plenty of highlights for our counters during 2013.
A pair of breeding Tufted Duck at Michaelstone-le-pit Salmon Leaps was a nice record of a rare breeding species in Glamorgan. Bitterns were seen at Cosmeston, Kenfig and Parc Slip and a Black-necked Grebe was seen at Kenfig during the January and February counts. There was a maximimum count of 32 Common Snipe and 9 Jack Snipe at Llanishen Reservoir, where a Water Rail was also seen – the 1st record at this site since 1976! Nearby, a Green Sandpiper at Lisvane Reservoir was the first ever WeBS record there. Up to 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen at Ogmore Estuary. Undoubtedly, the wader highlight of the WeBS year was the Long-billed Dowitcher at Rhaslas Pond. This site, under threat from development, is counted for WeBS by Mike Hogan. His regular visits there have proven that Rhaslas is a fantastic place for migrating waders.
Counting gulls and terns is optional for WeBS, nevertheless some counters are more than happy to record them. A Yellow-legged Gull appeared during one count at Cosmeston and there were Mediterranean Gulls recorded at both Kenfig Pool and Ogmore Estuary. The latter site also had 3 Sandwich Terns in April and the gull highlight of the year: a Bonaparte’s Gull which was present during every WeBS count between January and April!
Moving into the breeding season, volunteers monitored 35 1km squares for BBS locally, and the survey enjoyed its best ever season across Wales. This upturn is vital given this survey’s importance in informing a number of key conservation reports. In a similar vein, the NRS had its greatest uplift in participation across the UK in Wales, and we both enjoyed the season, which as many of you will recall started at least a couple of weeks late after the poor weather of the spring. The survey marks its 75th year in 2014, and there’s sure to be some interesting news to mark the event.
The Wales Chat Survey concluded in the summer with its second season of surveying and BTO now have sufficient data to analyse. Four 1km squares were allocated for Woodcock Survey, but perhaps unsurprisingly no Woodcocks were observed.
Our neighbours, the Gwent Ornithological Society, played host to the year’s Welsh Ornithological Society conference in November. A number of enjoyable and informative talks were delivered, many of which held BTO survey work as a central theme from establishing population size and movements of Hawfinches through ringing, nest recording Honey-buzzards through to the long-term importance that long-term datasets delivered by amateur WeBS counters help the conservation cause in the Severn Estuary or the Greenland White-fronted Goose on the Dyfi.
A packed weekend at BTO’s Annual Conference at Swanwick offered a varied plate of talks and meetings, from a second helping of Honey-buzzards, through Buzzard success in Northern Ireland, Sand Martin monitoring at home and Senegal, seabird feeding patterns off the Scottish coast, monitoring House Sparrows and Reed Warblers. The back-drop of course, was the yet to be fully digested results delivered by the recently published national Bird Atlas. This remarkable publication will undoubtedly set the tone for future survey work and research over the next decade.
Thanks to all members and volunteers who have contributed to BTO surveys past, present and future.
Good birding in 2014!
As ever, the bulk of the report is taken up by the species accounts, commentating on the fortunes of resident, migrant and rare birds observed during the year. A Kumlien’s Gull at Cosmeston has been accepted by the Welsh Rarities Panel and becomes the first for our region and just the third for Wales. A number of other records including Richardson’s Canada Goose, Balearic Shearwater and Glossy Ibis await decisions from their respective rarities committees. Iceland Gulls, Waxwings and Yellow-browed Warblers were present in good numbers.
Also included are a report on the status of species over the last decade in a Cardiff suburb, a county ringing report along with accounts from Kenfig NNR, Flat Holm and Cardiff Bay highlighting species and numbers caught. Other features are a report on the year’s weather, migrant dates and BTO news.
Line drawings and photographs continue to highlight the talents of our region’s local birders. Among others an Osprey pair squabbling over a fish, summer plumage Black-necked Grebes, Short-eared Owl, Waxwings and Great Northern Diver.
The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report is free to all members of the Glamorgan Bird Club.
Copies may be purchased from John Wilson:
Editor of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report
122 Westbourne Road
Vale of Glamorgan
tel: 02920 339424
Wayne and I have just returned from Swanwick in Derbyshire where we’re delighted to report that Team BTO Cymru had an absolute stonking 2013 BTO Annual Conference.
It all began on Friday night with an excellent and very entertaining opening talk by Welshman Steve Roberts entitled Honey Buzzards: up close and personal. Amongst the stunning photos and video footage of the buzzards he’d subtly included a photo of Alex Cuthbert scoring a try against England at the Millenium Stadium earlier this year. A cracking start!
Later, at an informal gathering of Nest Recorders, we were informed that in 2013, Wales achieved its highest ever total of 1km squares surveyed for the Breeding Bird Survey, as well as achieving the most pronounced uplift of all the BTO’s countries/regions in numbers of nests recorded for the Nest Record Scheme. The Welsh contingent of BTO members and representatives celebrated by raising a glass or two in the bar later that evening.
On Saturday, Anne Brenchley, Clwyd (East) BTO Regional Representative and one of the authors of the newly published North Wales Breeding Atlas, won the prestigious BTO Bernard Tucker Medal “for outstanding service to the Trust”. Many congratulations Anne!
Ian Newton stood down as BTO’s Chairman at this conference where he was described by Andy Clements, the Trust’s Director, as “the greatest living ornithologist”. No pressure there then on Tony Fox who was elected as the new Chairman! Tony is Professor of Waterbird Ecology at Aarhus University in Denmark. Later that evening (again at the bar) we discovered that, despite being born in Surrey and now working in Denmark, he’d spent 12 years at Aberystwyth University and that he still considers Wales to be his home. An honorary Welshman if ever there was one!
And then, the cherry on the (Welsh) cake at the very end of the conference, Wayne’s numbers came up in the raffle and he won top prize of a pair of 8×30 Swarovski binoculars!!! You couldn’t make it up.
But, of course, this conference was about far more than a cause for Welsh celebration. It was a celebration of the study of birds, the joy that that can bring and its importance in a world where nature is under so much threat.
The talks programme was packed with speakers who inspired the audience with tales of their areas of study. But, what makes the BTO Conference so special is that both professional and citizen scientists share the same stage. My personal highlights of the weekend were talks by Eimear Rooney on ‘Why buzzards are doing so well’, the RSPB’s Ellie Owen on tracking seabirds (which included footage of ‘Gannet Cam’ research being conducted at Grassholm – Wales again!) and Richard Bland’s wonderfully understated, yet very moving, Jubilee Medal acceptance speech. A Question Time/Ask the Panel session at the end of the conference with Tony Fox, Jenny Gill, Mark Avery and Ian Owens which focused on the future of the BTO was also excellent.
But the conference isn’t all about talks either – the social side of the event is just as important. Bung some birders in a bar and you’re bound to have a good time, and this annual gathering is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends, make some new ones, to share birding tales and new ideas.
If you’ve never been to a BTO Annual Conference before, clear your diary for the first weekend in December 2014 and book your places early because, on current form, it will be another sell out. Next year though, it’s my turn to win the Swarovskis.
We have a great team of WeBS counters in East Glamorgan – 35 of us in total counting birds at 32 different sites which vary in size from reens and farm pools to Cardiff Bay and the Rumney Estuary. We go out to our own nominated patch of wetland once a month between September and March to count the waterbirds present and some, if not most of us, enjoy the survey so much that we also visit our sites during other months of the year too.
I’m pleased to say that three new members have started as WeBS counters within recent months. Richard Facey has taken on not only Sully Island in the Vale of Glamorgan but also Hendre Lake at St Mellons, and Rob Thomas has taken over from me at Llanishen & Lisvane Reservoirs. Before anybody asks, that doesn’t mean I’m now lazing about and taking my WeBS day off! The fact that Rob has taken over the reservoirs has enabled me to take on Roath Park Lake which recently became vacant . Neville Davies also re-joined the team in March, taking on Caerphilly Castle Moat – a WeBS site he once covered many years ago.
In September, 3 Water Rail were at Tir Founder Fields and 1 was back at East Aberthaw Lagoon, where the first 2 Snipe had also returned for the winter. A count of 21 Moorhen at Cors Crychydd Reen was impressive for such a small site and at Sully Island there were 46 Oystercatcher, 22 Turnstone, 4 Ringed Plover and singles of both Curlew and Dunlin – a decent assortment of waders by East Glamorgan standards!
Another area that can turn up a decent haul of waders is Ogmore Estuary. But the highlight there in October was a count of 108 Common Gull – the highest ever WeBS count at the site, beating the previous high of 45 set in February 1996. Gulls are optional for WeBS by the way – you don’t have to count them.
Shoveler is relatively scarce in the recording area and it’s always nice when one or two turn up on your WeBS count. There were 2 at the Wilderness Pond, Porthcawl in September and another 2 (or possibly the same pair?) turned up at nearby Pwll-y-Waun Pond in October. Single birds also turned up at Parc Tredelerch in October and at Parc Slip’s North Wetland in November.
Things started to pick up a bit in November. A Green Sandpiper was at Lisvane Reservoir – the first to be recorded there during a WeBS count. ‘Next door’ in the Llanishen Reservoir basin there were 42 Snipe and 32 Teal – both the highest ever WeBS counts at the reservoir. A count of 117 Mallard at Glamorgan Canal, Whitchurch was also the highest ever WeBS count at this site and not far behind the 131 highest ever for the canal. Water levels at Roath Park Lake have been very low lately to allow dredging of the site. This may account for the high number of Coot there – 204 in November, which is the joint 6th best WeBS count for the site in 12 years of recording there.
Numbers of wildfowl on the whole start to build up in September>November. This was certainly the case at East Aberthaw Quarry Pool where there were 35 Wigeon, 22 Mallard, 20 Teal, 2 Tufted Duck and 1 Pochard in November. At Caerphilly Castle Moat on the other hand numbers of Canada Geese appear to be down slightly during this period, compared to previous years.
And finally, it’s good to see Dipper restored as a regular sight on our South Wales rivers and the species was ever present during this period on WeBS counts on the River Taff between Radyr Weir and Llandaff North and at Taf Bargoed Lakes.
Do you fancy joining the team?
If you’ve always felt that you’d like to make a practical contribution to our knowledge of birds but didn’t know how, then taking part in WeBS is an excellent place to start. You don’t need to be an ‘expert’ birder to become a WeBS counter. We’ll help you find a site to match your ID skills level which means that anyone can take part, even beginners to birdwatching.
I’ve recently added some new sites in the area to the East Glamorgan WeBS page. Have a look to see whether there are any near you. No wetland is too small, so if you know of one which isn’t on the list please get in touch for a no-obligation chat.
Lewis James, a colleague in work, told me about a ringed Black-headed Gull he frequently sees on the handrail of the boardwalk that runs alongside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. He grabbed a photograph of it one morning and managed to read the numbers and lettering: ‘2K64’ .
‘2K64’ turns out to have been ringed by John Wells as a nestling on 2nd June, 2008 as part of a study of Black-headed Gulls breeding in the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) on the Glos/Wilts border. It was next seen in Cardiff Bay in November 2010, at a landfill site at Bishops Cleeve, Glos in March 2011 and it returned to the Cotswold Water Park to breed in May 2012. It may be five and a half years old but it should have a few years left in it yet – the typical lifespan of a Black-headed Gull is 11 years.
John is a member of the Cotswold Water Park Ringing Group (CWPRG) who have been visiting breeding colonies of Black-headed Gulls at the CWP since 2004 to fit nestlings with a metal BTO ring and a Darvic ring. The purpose of this project is to monitor the birds’ movements and to study their return to the CWP to breed. A significant number have been sighted away from the CWP and thanks to the group’s efforts we now know that many of the CWP birds migrate South and West in winter to Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Spain. A few also stay in the CWP over winter and a large number of the adults breeding in the CWP were ringed there as nestlings.
You have to admire ringers. They’re a dedicated bunch, plying their trade week in, week out at highly unsociable hours, often with low returns and freezing cold fingers! They depend on the rest of us making the effort to report sightings of ringed and colour ringed birds. To report a ringed bird please visit the Euring web page where you’ll find a step by step guide of how to submit your sighting.
For a bit of recent local ringing interest I’d recommend a visit to the BTO’s Summary of Ringing Recoveries for Glamorgan 2012 and also to blogs written by Cardiff Bird Ringers and Gower Ringing Group. Citizen science in all its glory!