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)

This recent decline prompted the BTO to launch a three-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 2016/17: when do House Martins start breeding and how many broods do they have?

This summer, sees the second season of a complementary House Martin Survey which will 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. Across our region in 2016, five volunteers monitored 19 nests. Can you help us build on that number in 2017?

House Martin 1 (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 in early April  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.

Local Open Day

On 26 March, we were pleased to hold our first local BTO Open Day at Parc Slip NR.  Over twenty members and volunteers joined us to meet friends, old and new, and share our interest in bird studies.

We were pleased to hear Dr Rob Parry of the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales describe conservation activity around the reserve as it tries to protect and create suitable breeding for little ringed plover and lapwing on this former coalfield site.

Next, Kelvin Jones, BTO Cymru’s Development Officer, gave a news update from BTO and explained how volunteers can get involved with a range of volunteer surveys.

Dan and Wayne then shared information about the House Martin Survey and Nest Record Scheme, before we all enjoyed lunch at the reserve’s excellent coffee shop.  The indoor session concluded with local updates on BBS and WeBS.

bbs

Most volunteers then opted to join one of the field exercises where we ran through the methodology involved in conducting a BBS survey or learned the art of nest finding.  Though bird numbers were low, we were able to use the call method to detect a few species and map and habitat code our transect routes.  A partially built long-tailed tit nest, and sitting song thrush were reward for the nest finders.

Thanks to all participants who made the day a success, and to those volunteering for their first BTO survey.

Good luck,  and we look forward to our next event.

Big Birding Day, 2017

Our friends at Glamorgan Bird Club are holding the sixth annual Big Birding Day in a few weeks time.

Big Birding Day
10:00am onwards
Sunday, 30 April 2017

Kenfig National Nature Reserve
Ton Kenfig
Bridgend
CF33 4PT

Capture

A wide range of activities will be on offer, including:

  • guided bird walks
  • bird ringing demonstration
  • children’s activities
  • plant stall
  • cake stall
  • refreshments and more ….

There is no charge, and all are welcome to come along and enjoy a day of birds at this fantastic reserve.

Your Holiday Records Needed

aea06d04-951c-4b77-9548-3ec7ab62723fFieldwork for the European Breeding Bird Atlas 2 concludes this summer.  EBBA2 will map the distribution and abundance of Europe’s 500+ breeding species across more than 50 countries. Huge progress has been made already, but your records are still needed to fill gaps in coverage.

Some of the countries where gaps exist, including Portugal, Greece and Turkey, are regular destinations for UK birders. Others, such as Albania, Armenia and European Russia, are further off the beaten track.

BirdTrack users can help by submitting records – with breeding evidence codes – from wherever they travel in Europe, using the global data entry tool or the new app.

Information on how, and where, birders can help is given on the EBBA2 website.

Wetland Bird Survey 2016 – East Glamorgan Review

We have a fantastic team of volunteers here in our BTO region who go out once a month to do counts for the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), the monitoring scheme for non-breeding waterbirds in the UK. This survey aims to provide data for the conservation of these birds’ populations and wetland habitats. Its core period runs between September to March but I’m delighted to say that most of our volunteers in our region enjoy the survey so much that they continue doing their counts between March and August too.

So how did the team get on in 2016? Here are the headlines (2015 figures in brackets):

  • In 2016, the team of East Glamorgan WeBS volunteers consisted of 39 (37) individuals
  • In addition, Cardiff University’s Ornithological Society was allocated Roath Park Lake as its WeBS site last year and at least 7 of its members are now involved in conducting the counts there
  • Counts were submitted from 40 (39) sites across the region
  • 78 (69) species were recorded during the year on the WeBS database from our region
  • The combined total of monthly records of all species from all sites across the year was 2,916 (2,657)
  • All of which gave us a combined grand total count of 67,086 (71,281) birds

East Glamorgan WeBS: Top 20 Most Commonly Recorded Species in 2016

Species

Combined total of monthly records from all sites across the year

Combined total of birds recorded

 1. Mallard

320

9,982

 2. Moorhen

245

1,422

 3. Coot

214

6,054

 4. Mute Swan

165

3,407

 5. Canada Goose

152

5,145

 6. Lesser Black-backed Gull

147

4,493

 7. Cormorant

142

1,050

 8. Black-headed Gull

135

10,898

 9. Grey Heron

126

176

10. Herring Gull

122

5,326

11. Tufted Duck

99

3,304

12. Little Grebe

95

562

13. Great Crested Grebe

75

675

14. Grey Wagtail

72

163

15. Teal

70

1,379

16. Kingfisher

67

90

17. Water Rail

44

81

18. Goosander

35

70

19. Greylag Goose

34

778

20. Reed Bunting

34

143

As usual, Mallard was the species most commonly reported across East Glamorgan in terms of the combined number of monthly records across all sites across the year  and, although the counting of gulls is optional for the survey, Black-headed Gull with 10,898 came top of the pile in terms of the highest combined total of individual birds recorded.

talygarn-lake
We’re looking for a volunteer to count Talygarn Lake, near Pontyclun

Compared to 2015, there were increases in the number of volunteers, sites visited, the number of species recorded and the combined number of records submitted. However, the combined total of all birds of all species recorded (67,086) was 4,195 lower than in 2015 (71,281). The three biggest losers, in the Top 20 most commonly recorded species were Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Mallard. The figures for the majority of other species in the Top 20 look remarkably similar, or up on, those of 2015.

Amongst the locally scarcer birds to be recorded were:  a long-staying Long-tailed Duck and Lesser Scaup at Cardiff Bay; Little Ringed Plover and Curlew Sandpiper at Ogmore Estuary; a Great Northern Diver and Common Scoter at Rest Bay, Porthcawl ; Mandarin Duck at Michaelstone-le-Pit Salmon Leaps and Bittern at Cosmeston Lakes and Kenfig Pool.  The volunteers at Kenfig can also lay claim to the scarcest bird seen during a WeBS count in our region in 2016: a Temminck’s Stint.

WeBS is a great survey to undertake if you’ve never done a bird survey before or if you’re an old hand. If you’re interested in taking part in 2017 please have a look at the East Glamorgan WeBS page where you’ll find more information about available wetland sites and please feel free to get in touch for more information.

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