Smew is a rare visitor to East Glamorgan, with perhaps just one or two records annually. Over the last few days, a fine ‘redhead’ has taken up residence at Hendre Lake in Cardiff.
Males of course, are easily recognised with their white plumage and black mask and back. Females and immature birds are often lumped together as ‘redheads’, with predominantly grey plumage, a chestnut head and white cheek. In flight, it shows black and white wings. It is the smallest of the three sawbills that regularly occur in the UK.
The species can sometimes be surprisingly difficult to pick out in the grey winter light over the pools, lakes or reservoirs they frequent.
Smew breeds in the northern taiga forests of Europe and Asia, using trees to nest, like their close relative, Goosander.
BirdTrack shows a sharp rise in reports over the last few weeks, no doubt a result of the recent cold snap, forcing birds overwintering in continental Europe to move across to the UK.
Iceland Gull is a rare visitor to East Glamorgan, and resides on our list of description species. Gulls may be aged using combinations of plumage, bill markings, eye and leg colour, so with some diligent field notes and digital images, we have evidence of a number of different individuals present this winter. To date, birds have been seen at Cosmeston, Dowlais, Kenfig NNR, Ogmore, Pen-y-Bryn, Ponsticill Reservoir, Sker and over the border at Aberavon and Gower.
The map makes for an interesting comparison with the map for 2011, clearly showing that there has already been a wider geographic spread of records this year than for the whole of 2011. Particularly noticeable are the higher number of records from the coasts of Ireland, Wales and western Scotland.
BirdTrack is an online facility for observers to store and manage their own personal bird records. By pooling data from recorders across the Britain and Ireland, patterns in bird migration movements and distributions are revealed, supporting species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales.
The service continues to develop and its now possible to explore all your records, including any you submitted directly to Bird Atlas 2007-11, via BirdTrack.
The default filter in the Explore My Records tool selects all your BirdTrack and Atlas records, or you can use the Project filter (highlighted by the red arrow, right) to single out your records from one of the two projects. Your records are summarised in a table; from here you can navigate to various graphs and maps, or download the records you’ve chosen.
If you are using BirdTrack already then you may find these new features a great way of managing and reviewing your own personal data. If you are not a BirdTrack user yet, then there’s never been a better time to get started.
Their departure is a timely reminder that there is still great value in recording your bird sightings throughout the year. Recording breeding activity and counting bird numbers at roosts, water bodies and on our local patches are important of course, but capturing arrival and departure times of our migrant birds is of great value too.
BirdTrack has its routes in the early 2000s with the Migration Watch initiative. Migration Watch was able to record the timing of arrivals and pattern of migratory spread of summer visitors across Britain and Ireland. BirdTrack expands on this as a year round recording package so that we can also study autumn migration (a much bigger challenge) and other movements and distributions.
As with Migration Watch, BTO are interested in not just when the first birds arrive or the last ones depart, but also want to know when the bulk of the population has arrived or departed (whether summer or winter visitors). Interesting information about passage migrants, such as inland wader movements can be gleaned.
BirdTrack has developed significantly over the years and continues to look at ways of further improving through added features. You can have a say in how it develops by completing a short questionnaire.
Whether you’re new to recording, a dedicated Atlaser looking for a new way to submit your sightings or an existing BirdTrack user, there are very good reasons to keep recording all year round.
BirdTrack is the online tool for recording sightings throughout the year. It enables recorders to log a wealth of information about observations, including location, date, time, species, count, activity, grid reference, breeding evidence and more.
Now, BTO has launched a great new facility that gives observers many more ways to search and analyse their records. Explore My Records provides tools like a location map that displays all records from each site, improved listing features and a redesigned download option giving easy access to all aspects of your sightings, including any Optional Details.
All this data can be exported in spreadsheet format, opening the possibility of further manipulation and import into other software packages such as MapMate.