Posts filed under ‘events’

A New Generation of Nest Recorders: BTO Glamorgan Nest Recording Day 2017

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.

Taster Day - Blackbird Nest

Blackbirds near fledging – our first active nest of the Taster Day (Photo: DJJ)

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.

Ceri Jones - showing the art of tapping

Ceri Jones and Nia Howells trying out the art of ‘tapping’ for the first time (Photo: Andy Bevan)

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!

Taster Day 2017 - lunch

A break from ‘nesting – Taster Day lunch on Rudry Common (Photo: DJJ)

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.

Tara - Willow Warbler Nest

Willow Warbler nest on Rudry Common (Photo: DJJ)

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!

Tara's Coronation

Tara Okon’s coronation as New Nest Finder of the Day (Photo: Rob Williams)

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

May 21, 2017 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

BTO Nest Record Scheme Taster Day, Rudry Common, Sunday May 14th, 2017

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 on Sunday, 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 2015 b

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:

If you’re interested in attending please contact Dan Jenkins-Jones at eastglamwebs@gmail.com / (029) 2062 1394 / 07703 607 601 for more information.

April 13, 2017 at 10:07 pm Leave a comment

National Nest Box Week 2017

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.

nestboxes-on-floodplain-003

Erecting nest boxes near Radyr (Photo: DJJ)

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.

blue-tits-in-a-box-cropped-djj

A healthy brood of Blue Tits (Photo: DJJ)

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).

Blue Tit
Year
Occupied boxes
Successful nests*
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
2014
8
5
7 April
77
9.6
67
43
5.4
2015
9
6
10 April
76
8.4
65
50
5.6
2016
9
5
14 April
69
7.7
59
39
4.3

 

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.

Dan Jenkins-Jones

February 12, 2017 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

Come and Meet Us

We are pleased to be hosting our first BTO Glamorgan Open Day.  An opportunity for members, volunteers and all with an interest in bird studies to meet like-minded people, and get a taste of one or more of the BTO’s volunteer surveys.

10:00am – 2:00pm
Sunday, 26 March 2017

Parc Slip Nature Reserve
Fountain Road
Aberkenfig
Bridgend CF32 0EH

Birdwatchers
Birdwatchers by Ken Mattison on Flickr

 

Kelvin Jones, BTO Cymru’s Development Officer, will be attending, and we plan to have both indoor and outdoor activities, including a quiz, some short presentations and practical survey exercises around the reserve.

Dr Rob Parry of the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales will also bring us up to date with bird conservation activity around the the reserve, including the latest on the Lapwing Project.

The event is free of charge, but spaces are limited so please book early to secure a place.

Programme

Indoor activities

10:00am
Welcome
Wayne Morris

10:10am
Bird conservation developments at Parc Slip NR
Dr Rob Parry, Conservation Manager, WTSWW

10:30am
BTO news
Kelvin Jones, Development Officer, BTO Wales

10:50am
Getting involved in BTO surveys
Kelvin Jones, Development Officer, BTO Wales

11:20am
House Martin Survey
Daniel Jenkins-Jones

11:30am
Nest Records Scheme
Wayne Morris, BTO Regional Representative in East Glamorgan
Daniel Jenkins-Jones

12:00pm
Lunch
Bring your own, or use Parc Slip NR coffee shop

12:45pm
Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)
Wayne Morris

13:30pm
Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS)
Daniel Jenkins-Jones

13:55pm
How you can support BTO
Kelvin Jones

Outdoor activities

Bring binoculars, notepad and boots.  Sample survey forms will be provided.

14:00pm
Survey taster sessions

  • BirdTrack
  • BBS
  • WeBS
  • NRS
  • etc

Kelvin Jones, Wayne Morris, Daniel Jenkins-Jones

January 19, 2017 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

BTO Nest Record Scheme Taster Day, Rudry Common, Sunday May 8th

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 a dozen 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 on Sunday, May 8th. 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 in Glamorgan contributing to this valuable survey over the coming years. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs.

Meadow Pipit Nest 2015 b

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:

If you’re interested in attending please contact Dan Jenkins-Jones at eastglamwebs@gmail.com / (029) 2062 1394 as soon as possible for more information.

March 28, 2016 at 3:26 pm 6 comments

BTO National Nest Box Week 2016

“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

–Chaucer–

There was a popular belief in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on February 14, Valentine’s Day. The reason for this assumption is not clear but it might be related to the fact that the first songbirds, after a long winter, started to sing sometime in mid-February. One of the earliest written examples of this belief (above) was penned by the English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (1340/45-1400), in his “Parliament of Fowls,” the literal meaning of which is “Meeting of Birds.”

Here in the 21st Century, with this avian connection to Valentine’s Day and the notional beginning of birds’ breeding season, it’s a great reason to celebrate February 14 as the start of the BTO’s National Nest Box Week (NNBW).

BTO pics 004

Why take part?

Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired. Getting out your hammer and a few nails and taking part and erecting a nest box or two during NNBW gives you the chance to contribute to bird conservation whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your nest box.

How to take part

If you visit the BTO’s National Nest Box Week webpage you’ll find all the information you need. You can register for your free NNBW information pack; find out how to make a nest box or (if like me you’re useless at DIY), where you can buy a ready-made box; how and where to put up your nest box and, if you like, how to safely monitor your nest box and provide the BTO with valuable information about the birds using it.

The satisfaction you feel when your nest box is used, when you see the parents busily feeding the chicks and when you finally see them fledge is great. Give it a go!

February 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Wales Takes 2013 BTO Annual Conference by Storm

Wayne and I have just returned from Swanwick in Derbyshire where we’re delighted to report that Team BTO Cymru had an absolute stonking 2013 BTO Annual Conference.

It all began on Friday night with an excellent and very entertaining opening talk by Welshman Steve Roberts entitled Honey Buzzards: up close and personal. Amongst the stunning photos and video footage of the buzzards he’d subtly included a photo of Alex Cuthbert scoring a try against England at the Millenium Stadium earlier this year.  A cracking start!

Later, at an informal gathering of Nest Recorders, we were informed that in 2013, Wales achieved its highest ever total of 1km squares surveyed for the Breeding Bird Survey, as well as achieving the most pronounced uplift of all the BTO’s countries/regions in numbers of nests recorded for the Nest Record Scheme.  The Welsh contingent of BTO members and representatives celebrated by raising a glass or two in the bar later that evening.

The social side of the conference is just as important as the series of talks.

The social side of the conference is just as important as the series of talks.

On Saturday, Anne Brenchley, Clwyd (East) BTO Regional Representative and one of the authors of the newly published North Wales Breeding Atlas,  won the prestigious BTO Bernard Tucker Medal  “for outstanding service to the Trust”. Many congratulations Anne!

Ian Newton stood down as BTO’s Chairman at this conference where he was described by Andy Clements, the Trust’s Director, as “the greatest living ornithologist”. No pressure there then on Tony Fox who was elected as the new Chairman! Tony is Professor of Waterbird Ecology at Aarhus University in Denmark. Later that evening (again at the bar) we discovered that, despite being born in Surrey and now working in Denmark, he’d spent 12 years at Aberystwyth University and that he still considers Wales to be his home. An honorary Welshman if ever there was one!

Mark Avery and Tony Fox debating during the 'Ask the Panel' session what the future has in store for the BTO.

Mark Avery and Tony Fox debating during the ‘Ask the Panel’ session what the future has in store for the BTO.

And then, the cherry on the (Welsh) cake at the very end of the conference, Wayne’s numbers came up in the raffle and he won top prize of a pair of 8×30 Swarovski binoculars!!! You couldn’t make it up.

But, of course, this conference was about far more than a cause for Welsh celebration. It was a celebration of the study of birds, the joy that that can bring and its importance in a world where nature is under so much threat.

The talks programme was packed with speakers who inspired the audience with tales of their areas of study. But, what makes the BTO Conference so special is that both professional and citizen scientists share the same stage. My personal highlights of the weekend were talks by Eimear Rooney on ‘Why buzzards are doing so well’, the RSPB’s Ellie Owen on tracking seabirds (which included footage of ‘Gannet Cam’ research being conducted at Grassholm – Wales again!) and Richard Bland’s wonderfully understated, yet very moving, Jubilee Medal acceptance speech. A Question Time/Ask the Panel session at the end of the conference with Tony Fox, Jenny Gill, Mark Avery and Ian Owens which focused on the future of the BTO was also excellent.

Wayne about to take his Swarovski binocular booty back over the border to Wales (note the big grin on his face).

Wayne about to take his Swarovski binocular booty back over the border to Wales (Note the big grin on his face).

But the conference isn’t all about talks either – the social side of the event is just as important.  Bung some birders in a bar and you’re bound to have a good time, and this annual gathering is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends, make some new ones, to share birding tales and new ideas.

If you’ve never been to a BTO Annual Conference before, clear your diary for the first weekend in December 2014 and book your places early because, on current form, it will be another sell out.  Next year though, it’s my turn to win the Swarovskis.

December 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm 2 comments

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