Winter Bird Survey, 2018-19

A new farmland bird survey is set to be rolled out this winter throughout England, the English Winter Bird Survey (EWBS) The focus of this volunteer survey will be to assess bird populations occupying the farmed landscape whilst monitoring the availability of food resources throughout the winter period. This work will enable BTO to gain a better understanding of how limited food availability during winter is contributing to the overall decline in breeding farmland bird numbers by attempting to identify the “hungry gap”, when food is at its shortest supply.

To date there has been no national-scale monitoring of the effects of agri-environment scheme (AES) management on birds in winter, which is particularly important because the most successful AES options for birds have found to be those that primarily affect birds in winter. This study will aim to collect information on the use of AES options alongside other food resources available in winter. 

Tree sparrow (Passer montanus)

Why am I telling you this? Well, the survey is focused on English farmland with analysis of data for the English squares (because Natural England are funding the project), however, BTO has identified that volunteers from other areas and habitats may want to contribute data and therefore, the data entry system will be open to all areas of the UK.

The new survey, largely based on the BBS square protocol, will involve monthly counts of birds and brown hare (plus other mammals seen) from December 2018 to March 2019, to capture changes in the use of farmland through the winter, but allowing volunteers to make a minimum of two visits (ideally January and February). The focus will be on BBS squares that are dominated by farmland. The survey method will involve following the summer transects routes, as much as possible, with surveys conducted at any time of day, excluding the hour immediately after sunrise and that immediately before sunset.

We are keen then, where possible, that existing BBS surveyors take part, who will be able to automatically sign up and allocate themselves for the winter survey logged in to BBS online. We would like as many as possible of those interested, to sign up during October.

From early November, an online site selection map will be available to all surveyors, where they can request a survey square from the remaining unallocated BBS squares as well as new BBS squares which have not yet been surveyed. The envisaged project timeline is:

  • Mid October 2018: Existing surveyors can sign up (button on BBS website becomes available)
  • Late October 2018: Final survey recording forms/instructions available
  • November 2018: Squares will be visible to non-existing BBS surveyors/public to request (preference for original BBS surveyors)
  • November 2018: Suggested recce visit and initial surveyor contact with landowners, if required
  • December 2018: Survey period begins
  • January 2019: Online data entry available
  • 31 March 2019: End of survey period
  • 31 May 2019: Deadline for data entry

Please contact Wayne for further details or to get involved.


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