As the New Year turns, we’d like to take few moments to look back over the year just past. Membership and participation in surveys continues to grow. We now have over 160 members and a further 644 volunteers who have contributed to BTO surveys over the years.
BirdTrack in particular shows some impressive figures, with over 190 volunteers contributing over 150,000 records in our region since its inception, with a number of recorders submitting over 10,000 records each.
Our year began with the core period of the Winter Thrushes Survey in full swing. We were delighted that 40 core squares were covered with a further 30 squares monitored over the full survey period running from October to April. As the year closes, we are once again in the middle of this two-year survey, which has already revealed some interesting results about the key habitats and food sources used by our passage and wintering thrush species
WeBS too has a strong winter element, though it continues all year round. We have a great team of WeBS counters in East Glamorgan. In 2013, a total of 35 of us counted waterbirds at 33 different sites which vary in size from reens and farm pools to Cardiff Bay and the Rhymney Estuary. Two new sites were counted in 2013: Sully Island and Hendre Lake. Lamby Tip Pool, which was counted in 2012, can no longer be counted due to access issues.
We said farewell to some long standing counters who ‘retired’ from WeBS this year. Marie Makepeace counted Caerphilly Castle Moat for 14 years and Margaret Morgan who, along with Graham Duff who sadly passed away in 2011, counted the birds on Roath Park Lake for over 10 years. Clive Ellis who counted Parc Tredlerech (Lamby Lake) and, more recently, Cors Crychydd Reen and Lamby Tip Pool also stood down at the end of 2012. We’re all indebted and grateful to Marie, Margaret, Graham and Clive for collecting so much data about the waterbirds at these sites.
We welcomed some new volunteers too, namely Richard Facey, Rob Thomas and Heather Galliford. It was also great to welcome back Neville Davies who re-joined the team in March, taking on Caerphilly Castle Moat – a WeBS site he once covered many years ago. I’m also delighted to say that Parc Slip NR is now counted regularly for WeBS thanks to John and Margaret Samuel who volunteered for the survey towards the end of 2012. 2014 is already off to a great start with Carys Solman volunteering to count Cyfarthfa Park Lake – the first time this site has ever been counted for WeBS.
Although WeBS is about monitoring the populations of our more regularly occurring waterbirds, it is always nice when the odd local scarcity turns up during your count – and there were plenty of highlights for our counters during 2013.
A pair of breeding Tufted Duck at Michaelstone-le-pit Salmon Leaps was a nice record of a rare breeding species in Glamorgan. Bitterns were seen at Cosmeston, Kenfig and Parc Slip and a Black-necked Grebe was seen at Kenfig during the January and February counts. There was a maximimum count of 32 Common Snipe and 9 Jack Snipe at Llanishen Reservoir, where a Water Rail was also seen – the 1st record at this site since 1976! Nearby, a Green Sandpiper at Lisvane Reservoir was the first ever WeBS record there. Up to 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen at Ogmore Estuary. Undoubtedly, the wader highlight of the WeBS year was the Long-billed Dowitcher at Rhaslas Pond. This site, under threat from development, is counted for WeBS by Mike Hogan. His regular visits there have proven that Rhaslas is a fantastic place for migrating waders.
Counting gulls and terns is optional for WeBS, nevertheless some counters are more than happy to record them. A Yellow-legged Gull appeared during one count at Cosmeston and there were Mediterranean Gulls recorded at both Kenfig Pool and Ogmore Estuary. The latter site also had 3 Sandwich Terns in April and the gull highlight of the year: a Bonaparte’s Gull which was present during every WeBS count between January and April!
Moving into the breeding season, volunteers monitored 35 1km squares for BBS locally, and the survey enjoyed its best ever season across Wales. This upturn is vital given this survey’s importance in informing a number of key conservation reports. In a similar vein, the NRS had its greatest uplift in participation across the UK in Wales, and we both enjoyed the season, which as many of you will recall started at least a couple of weeks late after the poor weather of the spring. The survey marks its 75th year in 2014, and there’s sure to be some interesting news to mark the event.
The Wales Chat Survey concluded in the summer with its second season of surveying and BTO now have sufficient data to analyse. Four 1km squares were allocated for Woodcock Survey, but perhaps unsurprisingly no Woodcocks were observed.
Our neighbours, the Gwent Ornithological Society, played host to the year’s Welsh Ornithological Society conference in November. A number of enjoyable and informative talks were delivered, many of which held BTO survey work as a central theme from establishing population size and movements of Hawfinches through ringing, nest recording Honey-buzzards through to the long-term importance that long-term datasets delivered by amateur WeBS counters help the conservation cause in the Severn Estuary or the Greenland White-fronted Goose on the Dyfi.
A packed weekend at BTO’s Annual Conference at Swanwick offered a varied plate of talks and meetings, from a second helping of Honey-buzzards, through Buzzard success in Northern Ireland, Sand Martin monitoring at home and Senegal, seabird feeding patterns off the Scottish coast, monitoring House Sparrows and Reed Warblers. The back-drop of course, was the yet to be fully digested results delivered by the recently published national Bird Atlas. This remarkable publication will undoubtedly set the tone for future survey work and research over the next decade.
Thanks to all members and volunteers who have contributed to BTO surveys past, present and future.
Good birding in 2014!