Just a couple of things I picked up online this week which may be of interest:
BBC Radio 4 Living World: Nest Finder of Dartmoor
Mark Lawrence is a brilliant nest finder and contributes 100s of Nest Records to the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme. The nests he finds are hidden deep in the bracken, gorse and grass of Dartmoor. But how does he find them? Lionel Kelleway goes on a nest-finding expedition with Mark to watch him in action. In just one morning Mark and Lionel find Pipits’ nests, two of which have been taken over by Cuckoo chicks; a Whinchat brood just hatched and finally a nest of young Grasshopper Warbler chicks.
Click here to listen to the programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tcy3n
If you’ve never tried nest recording before and this programme enthuses you, you may be interested in taking part in our Nest Recording Taster Day in Rudry, Caerphilly in May. The date of which will be published on this blog very soon.
Oxwich Ringing Report 2016
Owain Gabb and his team have been ringing at Oxwich Marsh on Gower for four years. In 2016 3,281 birds of 52 species were ringed there. There’s plenty of interesting information in this review of the year at Oxwich. Amongst the headlines: it was a good year for Grasshopper Warbler, Common and Jack Common Snipe and a poor year for Blackcap. The Report also contains plenty of examples of notable controls and recaptures.
During the winter of 2015-16 the BTO ran a ‘Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey’ (NEWS) around the coastline of the UK. The purpose of this survey was to monitor important populations of several species which occur around our shores away from estuaries which are not monitored annually via the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS): species such as Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpipers and Turnstone. All the data are now in and the plan is to make them available via the WeBS Online Report next spring but, in the meantime, here are some top line NEWS headlines from the BTO East Glamorgan region.
For full details about the survey please have a look at this NEWS page. But in a nutshell, in our region, the coast between Penarth Head in the east and Kenfig Burrows in the west was split into 58 different sectors up to 2 km in length. 20 of these were designated ‘priority sectors’ which we were asked to make a special effort to cover. Volunteers were required to conduct a single count of waterbirds along each sector, recording waders as a priority, but they were encouraged to record other species such as wildfowl, seabirds, raptors, non-waterbirds and, if encountered, mammals too.
Across the UK, 1,890 priority sectors (75% of all priority sectors) and a further 1,735 non-priority sectors were covered, which equates to over 4,400 volunteer hours in the field. Thanks to the efforts of 21 brilliant volunteers, 57 of our 58 sectors in East Glamorgan, and 100% of our ‘priority sectors’, were covered for the survey. We can be forgiven for not achieving maximum coverage: the one sector we couldn’t cover was Flat Holm Island in the middle of the Severn Estuary, which proved inaccessible in the winter months! One volunteer alone covered an incredible 10 sectors.
Our volunteers counted a total of 3,937 individual birds of 50 different species during their coastal walks along the East Glamorgan coast. Excluding counts of some of the species more associated with inland areas, here are the totals for our region:
|Lesser B-b Gull||179||Grey Plover||11|
|Common Gull||111||Little Egret||4|
|Ringed Plover||46||Purple Sandpiper||2|
|Great B-b Gull||38||Guillemot||1|
These totals are made up of counts conducted on several different dates between 01 December, 2015 and 28 February, 2016. No great surprises that Herring Gull is at No.1 but, although more closely associated with inland areas, I have included the count for Carrion Crow in the table because several volunteers commented that this was the most common species seen in their sectors. There must have been rich pickings for them along the tideline.
The BTO also ran a Winter Shorebird Count in 1985 and NEWS counts in 1997/98 and 2006/07. It’ll be interesting to see how the 2015/16 counts compare. Look out for another update here once the UK results become available via the WeBS Online Report next spring.
Our thanks again to all 21 volunteers who took part in the survey.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda/Happy New Year to you all and a big Thank You to everybody who took part in a BTO survey here in ‘East Glamorgan’ in 2016. Here’s wishing you all a bird-filled 2017.
OK, so it’s a little bit cheesy, if not totally obvious, to be writing a blog about New Year’s Resolutions on January 1st. But heck, why not? This is the time of year when a lot of people reflect on their lives and consider taking up new challenges or setting themselves new ambitions in the months ahead.
So, cut to the chase: if you’re a birder and you’re not currently taking part in a BTO survey, how’s about it in 2017? As the saying goes, “there’s something for everyone”, no matter where you set the bar in terms of your birding skills or the time you have available. You’ll be contributing to the knowledge base which will help the conservation of our birds and other wildlife. Enjoyment is guaranteed!
Please spend a moment or two looking around this blog or the BTO’s surveys pages to see whether there’s a survey that you think you’d like to take on. Here are a few of the main ones:
All you need to take part is a garden, an interest in garden wildlife and a little bit of time each week to carry out the recording. You don’t have to provide food for birds and your garden doesn’t have to be big. How much time you devote to the project is up to you, all that is asked is that you are consistent in your efforts from one week to the next. If you miss a week, that doesn’t matter either.
If you’re new to bird surveying, WeBS is a great place to start. The survey monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK and it involves visiting a local wetland site once a month throughout the winter to count the waterbirds there. Anyone can take part, even beginners to birdwatching. You don’t have to know bird songs or calls – just the ability to identify common waterbirds.
BBS keeps track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species in the UK. You don’t need to be an expert to take part, but you should be able to identify common birds by sight and sound. The survey involves two spring visits to a local 1-km Ordnance Survey square, to count all the birds you see or hear while walking along two transects within the square + one visit to note down the habitat.
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. Anyone can be a nest recorder and the amount of time you dedicate to the scheme is entirely up to you. Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden, while others find and monitor nests of a whole range of species.
Ringing aims to monitor survival rates of birds and collect information about their movements. Though you definitely don’t need to be a bird expert to ring, it does help if you have some prior bird knowledge. But, what you will need is commitment. The skills required can only be learnt by practice under the close supervision of experienced ringers. Typically the apprenticeship period is one or two years. But don’t let that put you off, the rewards can be great.
Taking part in BirdTrack is easy and fun. The idea behind it is that if you have been out birdwatching or simply watching the birds in your garden, records of the birds you have seen can be useful data. The scheme is year-round, and ongoing, and anyone with an interest in birds can contribute. You can enter your records online via your computer or a smartphone app. You simply provide information about the sites where you go birdwatching, when you go birdwatching and most importantly, the birds you identify. At the same time, BirdTrack allows you to store all of your bird records in a safe, easily accessible and interactive format
Hopefully at least one of the above looks attractive to you and if you want any further information please get in touch for a no obligation chat. Go on, what’s stopping you? You know you want to!
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.