BTO Nest Record Scheme Taster Day, Rudry Common, Sunday May 8th

Have you ever considered becoming a BTO nest recorder but felt unsure about how to get started?

The BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds by asking volunteers to find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests. There are currently only around a dozen active nest recorders in the whole of Glamorgan and we’re looking to recruit more volunteers locally to contribute to this important scheme.

A Nest Record Scheme Taster Day for new volunteers will be held at Rudry between 8am and 3pm on Sunday, May 8th. The day will be run by Trevor Fletcher (Rudry Common Trust), Wayne Morris and Dan Jenkins-Jones (Mid & South Glamorgan BTO Regional Representative and Assistant Rep). The day will provide an introduction to monitoring nests, how to follow the all-important NRS Code of Conduct to ensure that you’re monitoring does not influence the outcome of nests, as well as a few hours in the field for some supported practice searching for a variety of different species’ nests. The aim is to increase the number of birders in Glamorgan contributing to this valuable survey over the coming years. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs.

Meadow Pipit Nest 2015 b

Meadow Pipit nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

Anyone can be a nest recorder.  It will add a new dimension to your birding, you’ll be making an important contribution to our knowledge of birds and it is personally very rewarding. For more information about the Scheme, please visit http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs

We’ve also written short articles about the Nest Record Scheme on this blog over the last few years – articles which will hopefully give you some further personal insight about the experiences of taking part in the Scheme:

If you’re interested in attending please contact Dan Jenkins-Jones at eastglamwebs@gmail.com / (029) 2062 1394 as soon as possible for more information.

March 28, 2016 at 3:26 pm 6 comments

Help needed for House Martins

The return of the familiar House Martin is one of the highlights of spring.  But will it be a familiar sight for future generations? In recent years, the numbers breeding in the UK have fallen by two-thirds, leading to the species being amber listed as a bird of conservation concern and in need of some help.

Although the decline hasn’t been quite as severe in Wales as it has been in England, we’ve also seen a substantial drop in numbers here too. The species was confirmed as breeding in only 98 tetrads in East Glamorgan between 2007-11, down from 173 tetrads between 1984-89 – that’s a drop of 43% (source: East Glamorgan Bird Atlas).

House Martin 2 (Doug Welch)

House Martin leaving an artificial nest (Photo: Doug Welch)

This recent decline prompted the BTO to launch a two- year research project which began in 2015, funded by BTO members and supporters through an appeal, to provide scientific evidence about House Martins to identify why they are in trouble, and hence start to look for solutions.

The survey in 2015: just how many House Martins are there in the UK?

In 2015, volunteers were asked to survey random i.e.  pre-selected 1-km squares throughout the UK in order to produce a robust population estimate to monitor future changes. The survey proved popular amongst birders in East Glamorgan with 25 counters volunteering to search for, and count House Martin nests, in 28 1-kms squares in our region.

The survey in 2016: when do House Martins start breeding and how many broods do they have?

This summer, a brand new, yet complementary, House Martin Survey will be carried out to investigate the timing of breeding and the number of broods raised, and how this varies across the UK. We hope that this information will help us discover why trends are positive in some parts of the UK, and that this will in turn help us pinpoint the reasons for problems elsewhere.

House Martin 1 (John Harding)

House Martins (Photo: John Harding)

This summer, you choose where you monitor House Martin nests

The BTO is looking for volunteers who are able to observe a nest (or a group of nests) for a few minutes, approximately once a week, throughout the breeding season (which can last from April to September). Volunteers do not need to be able to look inside the nests, as all observations can be made from ground level (or from another vantage point where the nests can be safely viewed without disturbing the birds). After recording a small amount of information about the site on their first visit, on each subsequent visit volunteers will simply need to record the condition of each nest and what activity is taking place at the nest.

Volunteers are free to pick their own study site, which can be anywhere where House Martins are nesting.  The survey is therefore ideal for those who have House Martins nesting on or near their home or place of work, but nests elsewhere can be studied provided they can be visited regularly for the whole breeding season.

The survey launches today (17th March), when volunteers will be able to register for the survey via the BTO House Martin Survey pages, and the first survey visits should be carried out in the first half of April. If you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be!), further information about the survey is available on the BTO House Martin website.

March 17, 2016 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Good News on Gull’s Rehab

It’s always great to find a ringed bird. Even better is finding out about it’s history from the ringer or the BTO after you’ve reported it.

Martin Bevan (of 3 Valleys Birding blog fame) got in touch with me this week. On Sunday 21st of February, Martin had been birding at a very wet Porthcawl when he came across a colour-ringed Herring Gull.

Herring Gull - MJB February 2016 2

Colour-ringed Herring Gull, Porthcawl (Martin Bevan)

Martin could make out the number as S:032 (white on red) and emailed the details over to me. I was able to find out that the bird was one of 250 ringed by Mike Bailey as part of a very interesting project in Somerset. Mike kindly got back in touch with the following information:

“The project began in spring (2011) and we have been colour ringing Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls  as part of a study looking at the survival of rehabilitated birds at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in East Huntspill, Somerset, England.

Most of these rehabilitated gulls are young ones (as this was when it was ringed) that are too young to fly and have been found by members of the public from colonies nesting in nearby urban areas. These are ones that could not, for one reason or another, be repatriated with their parents and have been reared at Secret World.

This bird, Red / White S:032, was released at Burnham-on Sea, Somerset 51º 13’.27’ N.  02º 59’ 21 W on 22nd July 2011.

It had already been reported 3 times prior to Martin’s sighting and it looks as though it has adopted Porthcawl as ‘home’ or maybe just a wintering area?

17 March 2014 Porthcawl. C. Edwards

28 October 2014 Porthcawl. C. Edwards

12 February 2015 reported by C. Edwards who said “I saw S:032 this afternoon. Usual place – Eastern Prom, Porthcawl – sitting on a litter bin.  He still looks a bit grey `around the gills` and unfortunately had a small tangle of fishing line in or around his bill”.

21 February 2016 Porthcawl reported by Martin Bevan (so seems to be surviving OK despite the above note)

This has been a very interesting project and the wildlife sanctuary is delighted with the recoveries so far. The study clearly shows that many of the birds are surviving. This was the main point of the project and  2013 was our last year of ringing these gulls as we feel that we have achieved our objective. That is, yes, the birds do survive and actually survive very well. We will, of course, be following the fortunes of the 250 colour ringed birds with great interest, hopefully for many years to come”.

Ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing. If you’re lucky enough to find a ringed bird please report it via the Euring website.

February 26, 2016 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

BTO National Nest Box Week 2016

“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

–Chaucer–

There was a popular belief in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on February 14, Valentine’s Day. The reason for this assumption is not clear but it might be related to the fact that the first songbirds, after a long winter, started to sing sometime in mid-February. One of the earliest written examples of this belief (above) was penned by the English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (1340/45-1400), in his “Parliament of Fowls,” the literal meaning of which is “Meeting of Birds.”

Here in the 21st Century, with this avian connection to Valentine’s Day and the notional beginning of birds’ breeding season, it’s a great reason to celebrate February 14 as the start of the BTO’s National Nest Box Week (NNBW).

BTO pics 004

Why take part?

Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired. Getting out your hammer and a few nails and taking part and erecting a nest box or two during NNBW gives you the chance to contribute to bird conservation whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your nest box.

How to take part

If you visit the BTO’s National Nest Box Week webpage you’ll find all the information you need. You can register for your free NNBW information pack; find out how to make a nest box or (if like me you’re useless at DIY), where you can buy a ready-made box; how and where to put up your nest box and, if you like, how to safely monitor your nest box and provide the BTO with valuable information about the birds using it.

The satisfaction you feel when your nest box is used, when you see the parents busily feeding the chicks and when you finally see them fledge is great. Give it a go!

February 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Colour-marked Waterbirds in the Severn Estuary

Birdwatchers are being asked to look out for colour-ringed and dye-marked waders and ducks on and around the Severn Estuary.

BTO alongside WWT are working on a project to understand more about the home ranges of three species of waders (Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin) and a range of duck species on the Severn Estuary between Newport and Cardiff. As part of this work the Redshank and Curlew have been colour-ringed and Dunlin and some ducks marked with yellow dye. In addition, state-of-the-art tracking devices have been placed on some of the Curlew, Redshank and Shelduck, which is providing information about how birds use the estuary through the winter during both the day and the night.

Dunlin

Dunlin, by shell game on flickr

The work is funded by Tidal Lagoon Power, to provide high quality scientific information for the environmental impact assessment for a proposed tidal power lagoon (Tidal Lagoon Cardiff), and to inform their conservation and biodiversity programme – the Ecosystem Enhancement Programme (EEP).

If you see any colour ringed or dyed birds when you are birdwatching either on the Severn or elsewhere, we would be very grateful for any sightings of these birds. Of particular interest is any records of birds with yellow dye. Birds of different age have been marked on different parts of the body so please record the location of the dye and, if possible, the total number of birds in the flock, the date, time and location (ideally including a six-figure grid reference) alongside sightings of colour-marked birds.

Birds have been marked as follows

  • Redshank have yellow over white colour-rings on the left tarsus (below the ‘knee’), and a colour over a metal-ring on the left tibia (above the ‘knee’), plus two colour rings on the right tibia.
  • Curlew have orange over white colour-rings on the left tarsus, a single colour-ring on the left tibia, the metal ring on the right tarsus and two colour-rings on the right tibia.
  • Dunlin adults have yellow dye on the breast, while first-winter Dunlin have yellow dye on the undertail/flanks/rump
  • Shelduck have yellow dye on the normally white plumage on the neck/upper breast.

Any records of colour-ringed birds on the Severn would also be extremely valuable and all observers are given information on the history of any colour-ringed birds.

BTO are very keen to follow up any records quickly and would be grateful if you could phone 01842 750050, or email Emily Scragg (emily.scragg@bto.org) with any records of colour-marked waders as soon as possible. Please email duck records to Ed Burrell (Ed.Burrell@wwt.org.uk).

January 15, 2016 at 4:39 pm 1 comment

Wetland Bird Survey 2015 – East Glamorgan Review

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda / Happy New Year to you all. Although I have to say, my greetings are a bit premature. In the world of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) the corks pop and the fireworks fizzle at the stroke of midnight on June 30th. That’s because the WeBS year runs from July>June. Nevertheless, I thought it would be useful to look back at how our team of East Glamorgan WeBS volunteers got on in 2015.

Last year, that team consisted of 37 volunteers who made counts of wetland birds at 39 sites. They submitted a combined total of 2,657 records of 69 species and a total count of 71,281 birds. Pretty awesome!

East Glamorgan WeBS: Top 20 Most Commonly Recorded Species

Species Combined total of records Combined total of counts
1 Mallard 315 10,372
2 Moorhen 234 1,384
3 Coot 197 5,839
4 Mute Swan 146 3,217
5 Herring Gull 132 5,437
6 Canada Goose 131 5,006
7 Lesser B-backed Gull 130 6,362
8 Grey Heron 120 186
9 Black-headed Gull 119 14,625
10 Cormorant 108 932
11 Little Grebe 101 618
12 Tufted Duck 94 3,256
13 Teal 69 1,325
14 Great Crested Grebe 68 617
15 Grey Wagtail 59 158
16 Kingfisher 47 66
17 Pied/White Wagtail 36 175
18 Reed Bunting 32 98
19 Water Rail 29 68
20 Dipper 28

63

Unsurprisingly, Mallard was the species most commonly reported across East Glamorgan and, although the counting of gulls is optional for the survey, our WeBS counters still recorded a combined total of 14,625 Black-headed Gulls.

Mallard occupied the top spot (RSPB Images)

Mallard occupies the top spot for 2015 (RSPB Images)

Amongst the scarcer birds to be recorded were single records of Bittern, Woodcock, Whimbrel, Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gull, two records of Garganey and four records of Lesser Scaup (at Cardiff bay of course).

Perhaps the most striking thing is the noticeable absence of Pochard from the Top 20. This species languishes down at number 32 with only a combined total of 17 WeBS records of 108 individuals throughout 2015.

Pochard - becoming scarcer in East Glamorgan (RSPB Images)

Pochard – becoming scarcer in East Glamorgan (RSPB Images)

Nevertheless, this does reflect what all birders living in East Glamorgan already know: that Pochard are becoming scarcer in the region unless boosted by a prolonged spell of cold weather. That’s not surprising given that the data in the 2007-11 Bird Atlas shows that there has been a 21% contraction in the winter range of the Pochard in Britain & Ireland since the last atlas, which covered the period 1981 to 1984.

WeBS is a great survey to undertake if you’re new to bird surveying. If you’re interested in taking part in 2016 please have a look at the East Glamorgan WeBS page and feel free to get in touch get in touch for a no obligation chat.

January 10, 2016 at 9:43 pm Leave a comment

Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report, 2014 Published

The latest annual bird report from the Glamorgan Bird Club has just been published.  It is the 53rd report for our region, and the 6th under the guidance of the Glamorgan Rarities Committee.

gbcThe Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report No 53 (2014) is presented in B5 format and contains 89 pages reviewing the birding year in our region.

Species account form the basis of the report, commentating on the fortunes of resident, migrant and rare birds observed during the year.  A Caspian Gull at Cosmeston Lakes CP was a county first and second only for Wales.  This site also produced Night Heron. A Lesser Scaup continues to over-winter in the Cardiff area, and the year was a good one for Black-necked Grebe and Whooper Swan.

Also included are 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, the county list, a BTO surveys report, a historical account of nest recording across Glamorgan and obituaries for two well-known members of the local birding scene, Maurice Chown and Steve Moon.

Line drawings and photographs continue to highlight the talents of our region’s local birders.

The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report is free to all members of the Glamorgan Bird Club.

Copies may be purchased from John Wilson:

John Wilson
Editor of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report
122 Westbourne Road
Penarth
Vale of Glamorgan
CF64 3HH

tel: 02920 339424

December 23, 2015 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

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