Breeding Bird Survey – Because It’s Worth It!

April 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

It’s what makes dragging yourself out of bed on a cold, grey East Glamorgan ‘spring’ morning worthwhile – a new ‘tick’ on your Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) square.

When I looked out of the window today at 6am the weather didn’t look that promising for a nice morning’s surveying/birding at ST1995, my 1km BBS square near Pontllanfraith.  I have to admit that I hummed and aah-ed whether to go at all. I’m glad I did.

The view from my bedroom this morning

The view from my bedroom this morning

The habitat in ST1995 is typical lowland agricultural countryside – fields of improved grassland on which sheep, cattle and horses graze. There are plenty of hedgerows with tall trees, some small copses as well as a farmhouse and a few houses with gardens. I’ve been surveying this square for BBS since 1998 and I’ve grown very fond of it.

BBS involves only 3 visits a year to your square. The first to note down the habitat – much easier than it sounds – and two visits to record the species you see there. Today’s was the ‘early visit’ which has to be completed by the middle of May. The ‘late visit’ is made between mid-May and the end of June.

Despite today’s cold and overcast conditions I’m glad to say that there appeared to be far more small birds in the square this morning than there have been over the last couple of years. No doubt this is the result of the mild winter we’ve just had here in the UK. I recorded a total of 31 species:

Buzzard (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), Woodpigeon (8), Swift (1), Swallow (1), Pied Wagtail (1), Wren (9), Dunnock (5), Robin (18), Redstart (1), Wheatear (1), Blackbird (28), Song Thrush (2), Blackcap (6), Chiffchaff (6), Willow Warbler (4), Long-tailed Tit (1), Coal Tit (6), Blue Tit (18), Great Tit (13), Jay (1), Magpie (8), Jackdaw (12), Carrion Crow (15), House Sparrow (14), Chaffinch (13), Greenfinch (4), Goldfinch (10), Siskin (2), Linnet   (6), Bullfinch (2).

Redstart (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

Redstart (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

Star of the show was a male Common Redstart, the first I’ve ever seen in ST1995 and it brings my square total up to 55 species. Better still, it may not have been a passage migrant as there’s just enough of the right habitat in the square for it to breed. The Wheatear was also a nice surprise – it’s only the third one I’ve ever seen there since 1998, and the first since 2003.

Both nice birds, but admittedly, they wouldn’t usually set the pulse racing when out birding in Glamorgan. But, seeing species like these on your BBS square is a different matter altogether. By doing this survey, you’re not only contributing vital data which helps the BTO map the fortunes of UK birds, you’re getting your own new ‘patch’.

If you don’t already have a ‘square’ I’d heartily recommend getting one. It’ll add a new dimension to your birding.

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