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

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 / (029) 2062 1394 / 07703 607 601 for more information.


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!


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 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!

Roath Park’s Waterbirds Need You

Some birders’ names are synonymous with particular well-known local birding sites.  If you look back through old copies of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report you’ll notice that the wildfowl and waterbirds of Roath Park Lake in Cardiff have been counted regularly for many years. Most of those records since 2001 will have come from two people – Graham Duff and Margaret Morgan.

Graham and Margaret counted the birds on Roath Park Lake for the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) for over 10 years. Graham sadly passed away in 2011 but, after a short break, Margaret continued to visit the Lake once a month to continue conducting these valuable counts.

However, a couple of days ago Margaret contacted me to say that it’s time to hand over the baton to somebody else. It goes without saying that we’re all very grateful to Margaret and Graham for their efforts over the years. Our knowledge of the bird populations of Roath Park Lake would be much the poorer without their important contribution.

Roath Park Lake (Photo: Cardiff University International Office)
Roath Park Lake (Photo: Cardiff University International Office)

Margaret’s ‘retirement’ means of course that a vacancy has arisen as a WeBS counter at Roath Park Lake. Would you like to take it on? If you’ve never done a bird survey before, WeBS is a great place to start.  It’s the survey that monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK and all you need is the ability to identify common waterbirds and to count the birds at Roath Park Lake once a month between September and March (and, although optional, any additional months between April and August too if you can make them). The added bonus at Roath Park is that you can reward yourself after you’ve finished your count by buying an ice cream at the kiosk!

You can find out more about the WeBS survey locally and some more detail about how to do the survey.

If you’ve been looking to add value to your birding this could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.  If you’re interested in taking on Roath Park Lake for WeBS, or if you know of another wetland site which you may be interested in monitoring, please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
WeBS Local Organiser for East Glamorgan
t: 029 20 621394

Mass Exodus from Back Garden

It’s as if somebody’s flicked the ‘Off’ switch this week in my back garden in Whitchurch, Cardiff. Up until last weekend I could almost guarantee seeing a bird or two out there if I was willing to wait no more than around 5 minutes. But now, it’s almost completely deserted for most of the day.  It may be brass monkey weather out there at the moment, but hopefully this is a sign, in the birds’ minds if not ours, that Spring has arrived.

Great Tit (Photo: Chris Gomersall - RSPB Images)
Great Tit (Photo: Chris Gomersall – RSPB Images)

I’ve been lucky enough to get 25 species in the garden since the beginning of December, averaging around 15 different species a week. Sounds as if I should get out more? Probably. But, I’ve got a good idea of what’s being going on because of the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch (GBW). Not to be mistaken with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch which takes place over one weekend every year, the BTO’s GBW is a weekly survey which takes place throughout the year. I’ve been doing it since January 2010 and it’s given me a real insight into the movements of birds in and out of my garden over that period – subtle seasonal changes which I probably would hardly have noticed if I hadn’t been taking part in this survey. And it’s all online so you can have access and explore your personal records at the click of a mouse.

For instance, I can quickly see that I haven’t seen a Goldcrest in the garden since October 2012, and that my highest count for Greenfinch was 20 back in September 2010.

Goldcrest - missing in action (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)
Goldcrest – missing in action (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

Starlings, after being virtually absent for a couple of years, returned this winter in numbers comparable to those seen in 2010. Chaffinches always appear around the beginning of October and depart  before the end of March, and are very rarely seen at any other time of the year. Feral Pigeons, which used to be present every week, have surprisingly crashed from an average maximum count of around 10 in 2010 to no more than 2 or 3 in recent months –  and there were several weeks in 2011 when I didn’t seen any at all.

Best of all, you can work out the Top 10 for your garden! Here’s mine:

Species Reporting Rate
Blue Tit 0.96
Greenfinch 0.96
Goldfinch 0.95
Woodpigeon 0.93
Great Tit 0.91
Blackbird 0.89
House Sparrow 0.85
Feral Pigeon 0.82
Robin 0.81
Magpie 0.74

It’s too easy to dismiss your garden bird records as being not that important in the overall grand scheme of things. But gardens are becoming ever more important refuges for certain species of birds which are under so much pressure in the wider countryside. The collection of such records is incredibly useful and, if carried out in a systematic manner, these weekly observations of birds (or indeed other garden wildlife) can prove very valuable for researchers.

Blue Tit - almost ever present (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)
Blue Tit – almost ever present (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

BTO Garden BirdWatch enables you to collect this information in a standardised way alongside similar information from many thousands of other garden birdwatchers. In effect, you are a ‘citizen scientist’ working in partnership with BTO researchers to answer important questions about how, why and when birds use gardens and the resources they contain.

If you haven’t considered taking part in the Garden BirdWatch survey, please consider giving it a go. Consistency of counts is the important thing, but rest assured, the BTO certainly won’t mind if you miss the odd week here and there!

Welsh Bird Report 2011

This little beauty plopped down on my doorstep a couple of days ago.  The new edition of Birds in Wales includes the 25th Welsh Bird Report, which summarises bird records from across the country for 2011.
Birds in Wales

What I like about this report, published by the Welsh Ornithological Society (WOS), is that it enables you to put our Eastern Glamorgan sightings into a Welsh context.  I found the wildfowl section particularly interesting because it takes it a step further and examines the Welsh counts from a UK and an international perspective.

As well as a Systematic List of bird species and records it also includes: a report, written by Peter Howlett,  on bird ringing in Wales in 2011; a summary of selected ringing recoveries and an article by Nick Moran about BirdTrack.

You can buy a copy of the Welsh Bird Report from WOS for £8.  But, a far better idea would be to join WOS (£15 pa for individuals), because you’ll then receive two issues a year of Birds in Wales, one of which includes the annual Welsh Bird Report. You may also choose to receive the WOS bi-monthly e-newsletter as well as get a discount on attendance of the Annual Conference. A bargain!