Have you ever considered becoming a BTO nest recorder but felt unsure about how to get started?
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. This important data can form a key part of the information required to help the conservation of birds now, and in the future.
Anyone can be a nest recorder, no matter how experienced you are as a birder. It is a highly rewarding Scheme to be involved with, improving your general birdwatching and observation skills and therefore your enjoyment of birding.
Until very recently, there were very few people nest recording regularly in Glamorgan. We’re glad to say that numbers have started to grow slowly over the last few years and there are the beginnings of a network of nest recorders in the county.
Meadow Pipit nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)
However, to put nest recording on a more sustainable footing locally, and across Wales, we’re looking to recruit more volunteers to contribute to this important scheme.
With this in mind, a Nest Record Scheme Taster Day for new volunteers will be held atRudry Common, near Caerphilly, between 8:00am – 4:00pm, 13 May 2018.
The day will be run by members of the Fledgemore Nest Recording Group, and provides an introduction to monitoring nests, how to follow the all-important Code of Conduct to ensure 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. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs. If there is any money left over will be donated to the BTO.
2017 Nest Recording Taster Day participants (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)
Spaces on this event are limited. If you’re interested in attending or would like more information, please contact:
More information about the Nest Records Scheme is available online. We’ve also written short articles about nest recording on this site over the last few years – articles which will hopefully give you some further personal insight about the experiences of taking part in the Scheme:
Do you have half a Sunday free, once a month, between September and March?
Do you want to add value to your birding?
If you can answer ‘Yes’ to all three of those questions, then the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) could be just the thing you’re looking for. WeBS is the survey which monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK, aiming to identify population sizes and determine trends in numbers and distribution of waterbirds.
Wherever you live, the good news is that the survey is as easy as 1,2,3 . . .
Turn up once a month on a specified date to your allotted wetland site
Count the waterbirds you see there
Submit your records to the BTO – either online or on paper forms
You can find out more about the survey by visiting the East Glamorgan WeBS page which includes more information about our local wetland sites which currently need a volunteer counter. If you find one that you’re interested in, or you know of a wetland site you’d like to cover which isn’t on the list, please get in touch.
We’re looking in particular for somebody to count Talygarn Lake. At the risk of sounding like an estate agent, it is a very desirable WeBS site which has recently become available and which I’d recommend as an attractive proposition for any ‘first-time surveyor’. It is conveniently situated south of the M4 near Brynsadler. It is a large, shallow, man-made fish pond constructed I’d say around the late 19th/early 20th century. It’s an attractive location, surrounded by some lovely woodland, it also fringed with some reed.
Talygarn Lake attracts a nice variety of waterbirds such as Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck and Mallard as well as Little Grebe, Water Rail and Kingfisher. To add value to your visit the surrounding woodland is home to a nice variety of species, including Marsh Tit.
If you’re interested in taking on Talygarn (or any other site) for WeBS or , to continue the estate agent analogy, you’d like me to accompany you for a ‘viewing’ first, please contact me for a no-obligation chat.
A fine May morning in South Wales, beautiful countryside filled with birdsong and a full house of enthusiastic participants sharing together the highs of finding new nests containing eggs or chicks, and the lows of coming across newly predated nests. These are the headlines from this year’s BTO Glamorgan ‘Nest Recording Taster Day’ held on 14 May at Rudry Common.
Monitoring the success of our nesting birds is of huge importance to their long term conservation. It’s great to see that the numbers of birders taking part in the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) across the UK is on the up. But, despite this recent increase, far more volunteers are needed and there’s a real ‘call to arms’ for more people to take up the fascinating art of nest recording, particularly here in Wales where more nest data are desperately needed – whether that’s submitting one record from your garden nestbox or 100+ for the really ambitious ‘nesters’. Every record of every species has value.
Volunteers for this important scheme, now in its 78th year, find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests across the UK, collecting vital data which are used to produce trends in breeding performance. These data help identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage, and they can also help measure the impacts of factors such as climate change on our bird populations.
Of course, you can learn how to find nests and monitor them safely on your own with help from the BTO website or from books. But it’s much easier, and considerably faster, to learn from more experienced nest recorders.
On our home patch of Glamorgan, there are currently only around a 10 active nest recorders, submitting c.800 records annually. Keen to increase those numbers, to share nest finding knowledge and to put the Scheme on a more sustainable footing in the county, Trevor Fletcher (Rudry Common Trust), Wayne Morris (East Glamorgan BTO Rep) and I trialled a Nest Record Scheme Taster Day at Rudry Common, north of Cardiff, in 2016. Encouraged by our experiences of that event, we held another ‘Taster Day’ at Rudry on May 14th this year. Best of all, we were joined by two of last year’s participants, Andy Bevan and Graham Williams, both of whom have already gathered 60+ nest records this year, as our co-leaders.
A full house of 9 participants gathered at Rudry Parish Hall at the beginning of the day but, such was the level of interest that we could have almost doubled that number. The number is limited to enable us to work through the various habitats whilst staying close to each other, reducing disturbance and making it easier to share any hints and tips on how to find the nests of various species as a group, rather than separately as individuals.
After a short indoor session, where we presented the participants with their free hazel ‘tapping stick’ and ‘mirror on a stick’ (both essential tools of the nest recorder’s trade which they learnt to use during the day), introduced them to the NRS Code of Conduct which ensures you don’t impact upon the outcome of a nest, and to some basic nest finding techniques, we were soon out in the field for 6 hours .
We spent the morning working through woodland, finding a number of nests: a Blackbird nest with chicks close to fledging; an active Goldcrest nest and, later, a predated one; Great Spotted Woodpecker with chicks; Song Thrush and a Wren on eggs; a Woodpigeon nest which had sadly failed at the chicks stage; a Blue Tit in a nestbox and Coal Tit and Great Tit with chicks nesting in natural cavities, both of whom enabled Trevor to show off his skills with an endoscope.
Late morning, we left the woodland and moved out onto to Rudry Common in search of a suite of different species. However, the first nest we found was a Blackbird on 4 eggs, found by Tara, one of the participants, whilst tapping some dry Bracken. Brilliant!
A Linnet nest in gorse, which contained chicks a few days before the Taster Day, was sadly empty, probably lost to predation. Nevertheless, it enabled the participants to get a feel for where to find their own Linnet nests in future. A beautiful Long-tailed Tit nest with chicks, also in gorse, was the next species added to our list.
The highlight of the day for most was probably a Willow Warbler nest with eggs, described by one participant as a ‘nest on its side’. It’s such a simple, yet beautiful, construction and superbly camouflaged. Finding one is always a thrill, and yet, with the right fieldcraft and knowing how the female’s off-nest call will help you, finding a Willow Warbler nest can be quite easy.
It wasn’t all plain sailing during the day though. We were led a merry dance, as always by Stonechats, Whitethroats and Meadow Pipits. The latter’s nest can be a real challenge to find. Nevertheless, we had one Meadow Pipit nest which we’d staked out before the Taster Day. Sadly, it had already failed but it still contained 4 eggs and, yet again, gave everybody a feel of where to look for Meadow Pipit nests and how well concealed they are.
The day was rounded off with another short indoor session at Rudry Parish Hall, where we shared information on how to plan nest visits and complete nest records and had a quick game of ‘whose nest is this’. We also ‘crowned’ Tara as the New Nest Finder of the Day: she found Coal and Blue Tit in natural cavities, Great Spot and Blackbird nests. Tara went on to justify her ‘crown’ because, back on Rudry Common immediately after the event to try and find a Garden Warbler for her Year List, she found another Willow Warbler nest on her own!
An enjoyable day all round and fingers crossed that some, if not all of the participants turn out to be fully fledged nesters in years to come. We’d like to thank the Rudry Common Trust for its support and last, but not least, the event also raised money for the BTO from the participants’ entry fees. We’ll probably hold another Taster Day in May 2018 and we’ll promote it nearer the time on this blog. If you’re interested, please get in touch – book early to avoid disappointment!
Dan Jenkins-Jones, Asst. BTO Rep, Mid & South Glamorgan
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 eight or nine 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 onSunday, May 14th. 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 contributing to this valuable survey over the coming years. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs.
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:
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).
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?
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.
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
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
Combined total of monthly records from all sites across the year
Combined total of birds recorded
4. Mute Swan
5. Canada Goose
6. Lesser Black-backed Gull
8. Black-headed Gull
9. Grey Heron
10. Herring Gull
11. Tufted Duck
12. Little Grebe
13. Great Crested Grebe
14. Grey Wagtail
17. Water Rail
19. Greylag Goose
20. Reed Bunting
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.
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.
14 February marks the start of the 20th annual National Nest Box Week, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Putting up a nest box or two during the week can provide not only a nesting site for a number of species but, if you also spend a little bit of time monitoring the outcome of your occupied boxes, even just one box, you could also make a valuable contribution to the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme.
Many of us will have at least one nest box in our gardens and, if we’re lucky enough to have it occupied, we delight in watching the adult birds tirelessly feeding their young. Best of all is seeing newly fledged chicks from the box and feeling that you have helped nature in some way. Thanks to the support of the Glamorgan Bird Club (GBC) I’ve been able to take this one step further and erect several nest boxes in areas outside my own garden.
Coinciding with National Nest Box Week, GBC holds a nest box making session at Kenfig NNR every February using timber kindly donated by Topstak. The Club donates these boxes to various bodies including local schools, Welsh children’s hospice Tŷ Hafan and, since 2014, it has kindly given a number of boxes to me. These boxes, in addition to those donated by RSPB Cymru, have enabled me to establish a small ‘nest box scheme’ in Coryton and Radyr near Cardiff.
GBC will be holding a Nest Box Making Workshop at Kenfig NNR on Saturday, 18 February at 9 a.m. If you want to build a box for your back garden or you already have, or want to create your own, nest box scheme why not go along?
I’m delighted to say that birds clearly admire the GBC’s and RSPB’s carpentry skills with the last three years having the following occupancy rates: 14 of 15 boxes (2014); 15 of 16 (2015) and 23 of 24 (2016). As you’d expect, the occupants are almost always Blue or Great Tits, although a Nuthatch did fledge 6 young from a box in Coryton in 2016.
I monitor each box for the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) which gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds, always adhering to the Scheme’s strict Code of Conduct to ensure that I do not affect the outcome of the nest. This means that I visit each box c.4-6 times a season to ascertain its history: whether it was successful or not (and, if it was unsuccessful, at what stage did it fail); the date on which the first egg was laid in each box; the maximum clutch size; the maximum number of chicks hatched and the number of chicks fledged.
Even though I’ve only been monitoring these boxes for three years, the information gathered is fascinating. I’ve extracted some of the data for Blue Tit and placed them in the table below. (*A “successful nest” is one which fledged at least on juvenile).
Earliest egg date
Total no. of eggs
Av. no. of eggs per box
Total number of pulli
Total number fledged
Av. no. fledged per nest
Even from such a small sample, it appears that Blue Tits have had some challenging breeding seasons locally between 2014-16. The species only has one brood a year (rarely 2) and lays on average 8-10 eggs. As you can see, the egg totals in my boxes in 2014-15 are within that average range, but numbers in most nests were below average in 2016. What is worrying is that the fledging rate is so low: an average of only 4.3 juvs in 2016. One thing I have noticed is that there is a very fine line between success and failure. Just a day or two of wet weather at the wrong time can lead to significant chick mortality and nest failure. I saw this happen in 2014 and again in 2016 and it’s remarkable how my records at a local level were replicated across the UK.
The BTO’s preliminary report on the 2016 breeding season shows that, during the critical period when several bird species were nesting, temperatures were low and rainfall high, affecting the availability of the caterpillars and grubs they rely on to feed their chicks. The number of chicks produced by Blue Tits nationally in 2016 was down by 31% relative to the five-year average (2011–15).
Why not give it a go?
Monitoring these nestboxes for the NRS has been absolutely fascinating. It has added a new dimension to my birding and given me a real insight into the lives of Blue and Great Tits. Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to do it for many years and be able to learn so much more from comparing my records over a longer period of time. I’d recommend to all birders marking National Nest Box Week by erecting a nest box or two and monitoring them, no matter what your skill level. The BTO really does need the records from your nest boxes. You don’t have to visit them 4-6 times in a season. Even records from two visits provide the BTO with useful data. If you’re interested, please visit www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs for more information or get in touch with me. I’d be delighted to hear from you.