Get 2019 off to a flying start by taking part in the BTO BirdTrack #100CompleteLists challenge

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda / Happy New Year to you all!

If you are looking for a birding challenge for 2019, why not try the BTO BirdTrack #100CompleteLists Challenge? The maths is easy – the challenge is to log an average of just two complete lists every week at your local patch or further afield.

BTO Birdwatcher 3

BirdTrack is a project that looks at migration movements and distributions of birds throughout Britain and Ireland. It also provides facilities for observers to store and manage their own personal records as well as using these to support species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales.

The idea behind BirdTrack 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.

BTO Birdwatcher

The success of BirdTrack relies on your birdwatching lists. Simply make a note of the birds you see, either out birdwatching or from the office or garden for example, and enter your daily observations on a simple-to-use web page or via the free App for iPhone and Android devices. You can really help the BTO to gather the large number of lists it needs at all times of the year from throughout Britain and Ireland.

Complete lists are the most useful BirdTrack data the BTO receives and all that is required to submit a complete list is to enter all bird species you positively identified in your visit. There should also be a reasonable attempt made to cover most of the site you are visiting. Incomplete lists and casual records can also be entered because they too build our understanding of populations, distributions and movements.

If you are taking part, why not let us know how you’re getting on through social media using the #100CompleteLists hashtag.


Smew Visitor

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 by Jeff Slocombe
Smew by Jeff Slocombe

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 Gulls Visit Glamorgan

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.

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Iceland Gulls, by Jeff Slocombe

These local visitors are part of a national influx demonstrated on BirdTrack.   This has been typified by exceptional numbers on the Outer Hebrides, with up to 67 counted at one location on Lewis over the weekend! The influx is reflected in both the reporting rate and map for BirdTrack records in 2012.

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.

Explore All Your Records in BirdTrack

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.

Keep Recording with BirdTrack

Swifts are surely high on many people’s list a favourite birds. They typically arrive in the UK in late April and depart in July and August. An all too brief visit to our shores.

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.

Martinet noir by Max.Bth, on Flickr
Martinet noir by Max.Bth, on Flickr

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: Explore My Records

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.