The annual report of the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) has been published for 2010, and as ever it makes interesting reading.
In Wales, Skylarks, Starlings and Meadow Pipits have fallen to their lowest levels since the survey began. Positive news is available though. Stonechats recovered from the harsh winter of 2009, and Redstarts, Blackcaps and House Sparrows have seen their biggest increases since recording began.
Indeed, House Sparrows are bucking the UK trend of decline by showing an 87% increase since 1994. Now we need to find out why?
Their departure is a timely reminder that there is still great value in recording your bird sightings throughout the year. Recording breeding activity and counting bird numbers at roosts, water bodies and on our local patches are important of course, but capturing arrival and departure times of our migrant birds is of great value too.
BirdTrack has its routes in the early 2000s with the Migration Watch initiative. Migration Watch was able to record the timing of arrivals and pattern of migratory spread of summer visitors across Britain and Ireland. BirdTrack expands on this as a year round recording package so that we can also study autumn migration (a much bigger challenge) and other movements and distributions.
As with Migration Watch, BTO are interested in not just when the first birds arrive or the last ones depart, but also want to know when the bulk of the population has arrived or departed (whether summer or winter visitors). Interesting information about passage migrants, such as inland wader movements can be gleaned.
BirdTrack has developed significantly over the years and continues to look at ways of further improving through added features. You can have a say in how it develops by completing a short questionnaire.
Whether you’re new to recording, a dedicated Atlaser looking for a new way to submit your sightings or an existing BirdTrack user, there are very good reasons to keep recording all year round.
Each year, one or two Glamorgan birders are fortunate to see an Osprey flying overhead as it makes its way north or south on its annual migration. In recent years, birds have also spent a few days in late summer feeding up at estuaries in the west of the county.
Feeding exclusively on fish, Ospreys spend the winter in west Africa, avoiding the risk of frozen water bodies in the UK. Young birds are thought to spend their first two years in Africa, before returning north to embark on their first breeding attempts.
We now have a second pair of Ospreys breeding in Wales. This year a pair has settled on the Dyfi and are currently rearing three chicks. This is in addition to the Glaslyn pair that have been returning each summer since 2004.
News has now been released that all three Dyfi chicks will be ringed and have small solar-powered satellite trackers attached later this month. The trackers will allow researchers to follow the birds as they travel vast distances over many years, and develop a much better understanding of the species movements and ecology.
Mist nets are commonly used by researchers to capture birds in the study of their behaviour, movements and demographics. A recently published study has, for the first time, evaluated the risks associated with mist netting.
Mortality and injury rates were quantified from over 300,000 birds caught by 22 banding (ringing) organisations across the US and Canada. Risk factors which could increase rates of injury or mortality including bird size, age, frequency of capture and the role of predators were all assessed.
Results indicate that injury and mortality rates below one percent can be achieved during mist netting and injured birds are likely to survive in comparable numbers to uninjured birds after release. Rates of incident varied among species, with some at greater risk than others.
Mist netting then has low rates of incident when conducted with adequate training and bird safety precautions in mind.
Spotswood, Erica N. et al (2011) How safe is mist netting? evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in Ecology & Evolution. Article first published online: 30 June 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00123.x