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

I found these interesting . . . .

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.

grasshopper-warbler-keith-vaughton

Grasshopper Warbler ringed at Oxwich (Photo: Keith Vaughton)

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.

http://gowerbirdringinggroup.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/oxwich-marsh-ringing-report-2016.html

 

January 13, 2017 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

NEWS Headlines from East Glamorgan

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.

purple-sandpipers-ogmore-by-sea-jeff-slocombe

Purple Sandpiper, Ogmore-by-Sea (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

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.

turnstone-3-jeff-slocombe

Turnstone, Ogmore-by-Sea (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

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:

Species Total Species Total
Herring Gull 1420 Cormorant 20
Black-headed gull 760 Shelduck 17
Oystercatcher 357 Dunlin 13
Carrion Crow 236 Sanderling 13
Lesser B-b Gull 179 Grey Plover 11
Fulmar 145 Redshank 10
Golden Plover 120 Peregrine 8
Common Gull 111 Little Egret 4
Turnstone 99 Med Gull 2
Ringed Plover 46 Purple Sandpiper 2
Wigeon 45 Chough 1
Great B-b Gull 38 Guillemot 1
Curlew 35 Snipe 1
Rock Pipit 30 Whimbrel 1
Brent Goose 28

 

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.

January 6, 2017 at 9:41 pm Leave a comment

2017: New Year, New Challenge?

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!

bto-new-year-resolutions

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:

Garden BirdWatch

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.

Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS)

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.

Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)

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.

Nest Record Scheme (NRS)

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

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.

BirdTrack

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!

January 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Blue Tits missing from your garden?

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.

blue-tit-jeff-slocombe

Blue Tit (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

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.

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

A healthy brood of nine Blue Tit chicks (Photo: DJJ)

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 gbw@bto.org, telephoning 01842 750050 (Mon-Fri 9am-5:00pm).

December 23, 2016 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report, 2015 Published

The latest annual bird report from the Glamorgan Bird Club has just been published.  It is the 54th report for our region, and the 7th under the guidance of the Glamorgan Rarities Committee.

dsc_0005The 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:

John Wilson
Editor of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report
122 Westbourne Road
Penarth
Vale of Glamorgan
CF64 3HH

tel: 02920 339424

November 20, 2016 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

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