The winter months are normally a busy time for Blue Tits in our gardens. However, the latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show that numbers are down, probably due to a wet summer.
During the winter months a lack of food in the wider countryside encourages both adult and juvenile Blue Tits into gardens, to make use of feeders. However, this November BTO Garden BirdWatchers reported the lowest numbers of Blue Tits in gardens since 2003, thought to be due to a lack of young birds this year.
The explanation for our missing birds can be found by looking back to the early summer. The wet weather across the breeding season, particularly in June, would have made it difficult for the adults to feed themselves and their chicks. Normally we would expect to see large numbers of newly fledged young come into gardens to seek food, but this year BTO Garden BirdWatch results show the lowest numbers of Blue Tits in August for eight years. This indicates that fewer young birds survived than usual this year and these findings are supported by the preliminary results from the BTO Nest Record Scheme (NRS) and Constant Effort Sites Scheme (CES) which found that Blue Tits had their worst breeding season on record.
Data from bird ringers show a 31% reduction in the numbers of young Blue Tits compared to the average for the last five years. This could be due in part to low numbers of eggs that were laid, with females struggling to get into good condition after a cold, damp start to the spring. Young birds leaving the nest might have also been affected by the wet June weather.
These findings certainly mirror those of a small nest box scheme which I run here in Glamorgan where Blue Tits struggled this year with lower than average clutch sizes and high chick mortality. I’ll publish the results from the last three years of that scheme on this blog in the New Year.
So, will the poor breeding season affect the number of Blue Tits we see in gardens throughout the rest of the winter and indeed affect the number of breeding adults next year? The BTO needs your help to continue monitoring their fortunes, and you can do this by signing up to the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch survey. This survey seeks information from birdwatchers about what is happening in their gardens throughout the year. It allows us to better understand garden birds and other wildlife and is excellent way to see how populations of birds like the Blue Tit are faring year on year.
To help the BTO monitor garden birds and take part in Garden BirdWatch please visit http://www.bto.org/gbw, or get in touch with the team at the BTO by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, telephoning 01842 750050 (Mon-Fri 9am-5:00pm).
The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report No 54 (2015) is presented in B5 format and contains 89 pages reviewing the birding year in our region. Species account form the basis of the report, commentating on the fortunes of resident, migrant and rare birds observed during the year.
Bird of the year for many was a county first – a Great Spotted Cuckoo found in the northern reaches of the region and viewed by many during its two day stay. Another county first was a confiding Little Bunting in Cardiff, viewed and photographed by many. A Lesser Scaup continues to over-winter in the Cardiff area and its North Amercan cousin, Ring-necked Duck visited Cosmeston Lakes CP during October. The region’s second Black Stork was seen over Maesteg and Great White Egret sightings continue to grow. Other notable species included Glossy Ibis, Roseatte Tern, Wood Lark and a small influx of Yellow-browed Warbler.
Also included are a county ringing report along with accounts from our ringing groups highlight species and numbers caught and recovered. Other features are a report on the year’s weather, migrant dates, the county list, a BTO surveys report. Line drawings and photographs continue to highlight the talents of our region’s local birders.
The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report is free to all members of the Glamorgan Bird Club.
Copies may be purchased from John Wilson:
Editor of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report
122 Westbourne Road
Vale of Glamorgan
tel: 02920 339424
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.
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:
- Discover a Lost Art
- “I’ve got an endoscope, and I’m not afraid to use it!” – Tales of a BTO Nest Record Scheme training weekend
- The 2014 BTO Nest Record Scheme Season in Glamorgan
If you’re interested in attending please contact Dan Jenkins-Jones at email@example.com / (029) 2062 1394 as soon as possible for more information.
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 two- 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: when do House Martins start breeding and how many broods do they have?
This summer, a brand new, yet complementary, House Martin Survey will be carried out to 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.
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 today (17th March), 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.
It’s always great to find a ringed bird. Even better is finding out about it’s history from the ringer or the BTO after you’ve reported it.
Martin Bevan (of 3 Valleys Birding blog fame) got in touch with me this week. On Sunday 21st of February, Martin had been birding at a very wet Porthcawl when he came across a colour-ringed Herring Gull.
Martin could make out the number as S:032 (white on red) and emailed the details over to me. I was able to find out that the bird was one of 250 ringed by Mike Bailey as part of a very interesting project in Somerset. Mike kindly got back in touch with the following information:
“The project began in spring (2011) and we have been colour ringing Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls as part of a study looking at the survival of rehabilitated birds at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in East Huntspill, Somerset, England.
Most of these rehabilitated gulls are young ones (as this was when it was ringed) that are too young to fly and have been found by members of the public from colonies nesting in nearby urban areas. These are ones that could not, for one reason or another, be repatriated with their parents and have been reared at Secret World.
This bird, Red / White S:032, was released at Burnham-on Sea, Somerset 51º 13’.27’ N. 02º 59’ 21 W on 22nd July 2011.
It had already been reported 3 times prior to Martin’s sighting and it looks as though it has adopted Porthcawl as ‘home’ or maybe just a wintering area?
17 March 2014 Porthcawl. C. Edwards
28 October 2014 Porthcawl. C. Edwards
12 February 2015 reported by C. Edwards who said “I saw S:032 this afternoon. Usual place – Eastern Prom, Porthcawl – sitting on a litter bin. He still looks a bit grey `around the gills` and unfortunately had a small tangle of fishing line in or around his bill”.
21 February 2016 Porthcawl reported by Martin Bevan (so seems to be surviving OK despite the above note)
This has been a very interesting project and the wildlife sanctuary is delighted with the recoveries so far. The study clearly shows that many of the birds are surviving. This was the main point of the project and 2013 was our last year of ringing these gulls as we feel that we have achieved our objective. That is, yes, the birds do survive and actually survive very well. We will, of course, be following the fortunes of the 250 colour ringed birds with great interest, hopefully for many years to come”.
Ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing. If you’re lucky enough to find a ringed bird please report it via the Euring website.
“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”
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).
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!
Birdwatchers are being asked to look out for colour-ringed and dye-marked waders and ducks on and around the Severn Estuary.
BTO alongside WWT are working on a project to understand more about the home ranges of three species of waders (Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin) and a range of duck species on the Severn Estuary between Newport and Cardiff. As part of this work the Redshank and Curlew have been colour-ringed and Dunlin and some ducks marked with yellow dye. In addition, state-of-the-art tracking devices have been placed on some of the Curlew, Redshank and Shelduck, which is providing information about how birds use the estuary through the winter during both the day and the night.
The work is funded by Tidal Lagoon Power, to provide high quality scientific information for the environmental impact assessment for a proposed tidal power lagoon (Tidal Lagoon Cardiff), and to inform their conservation and biodiversity programme – the Ecosystem Enhancement Programme (EEP).
If you see any colour ringed or dyed birds when you are birdwatching either on the Severn or elsewhere, we would be very grateful for any sightings of these birds. Of particular interest is any records of birds with yellow dye. Birds of different age have been marked on different parts of the body so please record the location of the dye and, if possible, the total number of birds in the flock, the date, time and location (ideally including a six-figure grid reference) alongside sightings of colour-marked birds.
Birds have been marked as follows
- Redshank have yellow over white colour-rings on the left tarsus (below the ‘knee’), and a colour over a metal-ring on the left tibia (above the ‘knee’), plus two colour rings on the right tibia.
- Curlew have orange over white colour-rings on the left tarsus, a single colour-ring on the left tibia, the metal ring on the right tarsus and two colour-rings on the right tibia.
- Dunlin adults have yellow dye on the breast, while first-winter Dunlin have yellow dye on the undertail/flanks/rump
- Shelduck have yellow dye on the normally white plumage on the neck/upper breast.
Any records of colour-ringed birds on the Severn would also be extremely valuable and all observers are given information on the history of any colour-ringed birds.
BTO are very keen to follow up any records quickly and would be grateful if you could phone 01842 750050, or email Emily Scragg (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any records of colour-marked waders as soon as possible. Please email duck records to Ed Burrell (Ed.Burrell@wwt.org.uk).