What do the Knap Boating Lake in Barry, Pitcot Pool in St Brides Major and Tirfounder Fields in the Cynon Valley have in common? Well, they’re all in need of new volunteers to count the waterbirds on them for the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). Until very recently, waterbirds at all three sites have been counted regularly for many years providing valuable data for this important national survey, as well as for local publication in the annual Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report produced by the Glamorgan Bird Club. It would be fantastic if we could find new volunteers to take on these sites, to ensure that we can continue to add to the body of information we already have for these sites. Do you think you can help?
If you’ve never taken part in a bird survey before WeBS is a great place to start. You don’t need to be an ‘expert’ birder; anyone can take part, even beginners to birdwatching. Unlike many bird surveys, to carry out WeBS Counts, you don’t have to know bird songs or calls, just the ability to identify common waterbirds. The survey is as easy as 1,2,3 . . .
Turn up once a month on a specified date to your allotted wetland site
Count the waterbirds you see there
Submit your records to the BTO – either online or on paper forms
For more information about the survey, as well as other WeBS sites also in need of volunteers in East Glamorgan, please have a look at our WeBS page.
Today (2nd February) is World Wetlands Day, established to celebrate our wonderful wetlands and to raise awareness about their value for humanity and the planet. What better way to join in the celebrations than becoming a WeBS volunteer? If you’ve always felt that you’d like to make a practical contribution to our knowledge of birds but didn’t know where to start, then taking part in this survey is an excellent place to begin.
If you’re interested in taking part in WeBS and taking on one of these three or other vacant local sites, please get in touch.
Daniel Jenkins-Jones WeBS Local Organiser for East Glamorgan
18 St Margaret’s Road; Whitchurch, Cardiff, CF14 7AA
h: 02920 621394; m: 07428 167 576
A fine May morning in South Wales, beautiful countryside filled with birdsong and a full house of enthusiastic participants sharing together the highs of finding new nests containing eggs or chicks, and the lows of coming across newly predated nests. These are the headlines from this year’s BTO Glamorgan ‘Nest Recording Taster Day’ held on 14 May at Rudry Common.
Monitoring the success of our nesting birds is of huge importance to their long term conservation. It’s great to see that the numbers of birders taking part in the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) across the UK is on the up. But, despite this recent increase, far more volunteers are needed and there’s a real ‘call to arms’ for more people to take up the fascinating art of nest recording, particularly here in Wales where more nest data are desperately needed – whether that’s submitting one record from your garden nestbox or 100+ for the really ambitious ‘nesters’. Every record of every species has value.
Volunteers for this important scheme, now in its 78th year, find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests across the UK, collecting vital data which are used to produce trends in breeding performance. These data help identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage, and they can also help measure the impacts of factors such as climate change on our bird populations.
Of course, you can learn how to find nests and monitor them safely on your own with help from the BTO website or from books. But it’s much easier, and considerably faster, to learn from more experienced nest recorders.
On our home patch of Glamorgan, there are currently only around a 10 active nest recorders, submitting c.800 records annually. Keen to increase those numbers, to share nest finding knowledge and to put the Scheme on a more sustainable footing in the county, Trevor Fletcher (Rudry Common Trust), Wayne Morris (East Glamorgan BTO Rep) and I trialled a Nest Record Scheme Taster Day at Rudry Common, north of Cardiff, in 2016. Encouraged by our experiences of that event, we held another ‘Taster Day’ at Rudry on May 14th this year. Best of all, we were joined by two of last year’s participants, Andy Bevan and Graham Williams, both of whom have already gathered 60+ nest records this year, as our co-leaders.
A full house of 9 participants gathered at Rudry Parish Hall at the beginning of the day but, such was the level of interest that we could have almost doubled that number. The number is limited to enable us to work through the various habitats whilst staying close to each other, reducing disturbance and making it easier to share any hints and tips on how to find the nests of various species as a group, rather than separately as individuals.
After a short indoor session, where we presented the participants with their free hazel ‘tapping stick’ and ‘mirror on a stick’ (both essential tools of the nest recorder’s trade which they learnt to use during the day), introduced them to the NRS Code of Conduct which ensures you don’t impact upon the outcome of a nest, and to some basic nest finding techniques, we were soon out in the field for 6 hours .
We spent the morning working through woodland, finding a number of nests: a Blackbird nest with chicks close to fledging; an active Goldcrest nest and, later, a predated one; Great Spotted Woodpecker with chicks; Song Thrush and a Wren on eggs; a Woodpigeon nest which had sadly failed at the chicks stage; a Blue Tit in a nestbox and Coal Tit and Great Tit with chicks nesting in natural cavities, both of whom enabled Trevor to show off his skills with an endoscope.
Late morning, we left the woodland and moved out onto to Rudry Common in search of a suite of different species. However, the first nest we found was a Blackbird on 4 eggs, found by Tara, one of the participants, whilst tapping some dry Bracken. Brilliant!
A Linnet nest in gorse, which contained chicks a few days before the Taster Day, was sadly empty, probably lost to predation. Nevertheless, it enabled the participants to get a feel for where to find their own Linnet nests in future. A beautiful Long-tailed Tit nest with chicks, also in gorse, was the next species added to our list.
The highlight of the day for most was probably a Willow Warbler nest with eggs, described by one participant as a ‘nest on its side’. It’s such a simple, yet beautiful, construction and superbly camouflaged. Finding one is always a thrill, and yet, with the right fieldcraft and knowing how the female’s off-nest call will help you, finding a Willow Warbler nest can be quite easy.
It wasn’t all plain sailing during the day though. We were led a merry dance, as always by Stonechats, Whitethroats and Meadow Pipits. The latter’s nest can be a real challenge to find. Nevertheless, we had one Meadow Pipit nest which we’d staked out before the Taster Day. Sadly, it had already failed but it still contained 4 eggs and, yet again, gave everybody a feel of where to look for Meadow Pipit nests and how well concealed they are.
The day was rounded off with another short indoor session at Rudry Parish Hall, where we shared information on how to plan nest visits and complete nest records and had a quick game of ‘whose nest is this’. We also ‘crowned’ Tara as the New Nest Finder of the Day: she found Coal and Blue Tit in natural cavities, Great Spot and Blackbird nests. Tara went on to justify her ‘crown’ because, back on Rudry Common immediately after the event to try and find a Garden Warbler for her Year List, she found another Willow Warbler nest on her own!
An enjoyable day all round and fingers crossed that some, if not all of the participants turn out to be fully fledged nesters in years to come. We’d like to thank the Rudry Common Trust for its support and last, but not least, the event also raised money for the BTO from the participants’ entry fees. We’ll probably hold another Taster Day in May 2018 and we’ll promote it nearer the time on this blog. If you’re interested, please get in touch – book early to avoid disappointment!
Dan Jenkins-Jones, Asst. BTO Rep, Mid & South Glamorgan
The return of the familiar House Martin is one of the highlights of spring. But will it be a familiar sight for future generations? In recent years, the numbers breeding in the UK have fallen by two-thirds, leading to the species being amber listed as a bird of conservation concern and in need of some help.
Although the decline hasn’t been quite as severe in Wales as it has been in England, we’ve also seen a substantial drop in numbers here too. The species was confirmed as breeding in only 98 tetrads in East Glamorgan between 2007-11, down from 173 tetrads between 1984-89 – that’s a drop of 43% (source: East Glamorgan Bird Atlas).
This recent decline prompted the BTO to launch a three-year research project which began in 2015, funded by BTO members and supporters through an appeal, to provide scientific evidence about House Martins to identify why they are in trouble, and hence start to look for solutions.
The survey in 2015: just how many House Martins are there in the UK?
In 2015, volunteers were asked to survey random i.e. pre-selected 1-km squares throughout the UK in order to produce a robust population estimate to monitor future changes. The survey proved popular amongst birders in East Glamorgan with 25 counters volunteering to search for, and count House Martin nests, in 28 1-kms squares in our region.
The survey in 2016/17: when do House Martins start breeding and how many broods do they have?
This summer, sees the second season of a complementary House Martin Survey which will investigate the timing of breeding and the number of broods raised, and how this varies across the UK. We hope that this information will help us discover why trends are positive in some parts of the UK, and that this will in turn help us pinpoint the reasons for problems elsewhere. Across our region in 2016, five volunteers monitored 19 nests. Can you help us build on that number in 2017?
This summer, you choose where you monitor House Martin nests
The BTO is looking for volunteers who are able to observe a nest (or a group of nests) for a few minutes, approximately once a week, throughout the breeding season (which can last from April to September). Volunteers do not need to be able to look inside the nests, as all observations can be made from ground level (or from another vantage point where the nests can be safely viewed without disturbing the birds). After recording a small amount of information about the site on their first visit, on each subsequent visit volunteers will simply need to record the condition of each nest and what activity is taking place at the nest.
Volunteers are free to pick their own study site, which can be anywhere where House Martins are nesting. The survey is therefore ideal for those who have House Martins nesting on or near their home or place of work, but nests elsewhere can be studied provided they can be visited regularly for the whole breeding season.
The survey launches in early April when volunteers will be able to register for the survey via the BTO House Martin Survey pages, and the first survey visits should be carried out in the first half of April. If you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be!), further information about the survey is available on the BTO House Martin website.
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.
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.
The BTO’s strength in Wales is a testimony to the efforts of all its volunteers. For many years, BTOs Honorary Wales Officer, John Lloyd, and his team of volunteer Regional Representatives have promoted the Trust’s work, leading training events and recruiting birders to take part in surveys.
In 2010, a BTO Cymru Appeal was launched, which has attracted £32,000 from birdwatchers, and widespread and long‑term support for the new Welsh Office is being sought.
We are delighted to announce that a new office, based at Bangor University, is now open, with three key aims for the next few years:
attract more volunteers and members – so that we can provide more comprehensive information on important species of Welsh habitats – whether they be Pied Flycatchers in oak woods, farmland Lapwings, coastal ducks or House Sparrows in gardens
work with partners in Wales, particularly the Welsh Ornithological Society, RSPB and CCW, so that we can develop studies and research which can explain rapid changes in numbers for species such as Curlew on upland farms
develop a Welsh voice for the BTO, focusing on issues that are important to Welsh birdwatchers – providing information in both English and Welsh
Two key appointments were identified for the new office:
Development Officer to work with Regional Representatives, to recruit more volunteers, promote the work of the Trust, develop courses for birdwatchers and represent the BTO in the media
Senior Ecologist to be the link between science teams at Thetford HQ and potential partner organisations in Wales, helping to focus attention on issues facing birds in Wales and other western parts of Britain. New surveys and ecological projects will all strengthen evidence-based conservation.
Kelvin Jones has been appointed as the BTO Cymru Development Officer and Dr Rachel Taylor is our new Senior Ecologist and will take up her new post later this year.
Kelvin has been passionate about birds since childhood and for many years like others, just did his own thing, not realizing there was a side of birding to which he could make a meaningful contribution. On a quiet afternoon in 1991, he was diligently patrolling Porthmadog High Street, when he came across a number of young people all stood at the harbour bridge looking at something. The group was led by local RSPB stalwart, Reg Thorpe, who pointed out a Black Guillemot. From here on Kelvin was recruited for BTOs Nightjar survey and subsequently took up training as a ringer, and the rest as they say is history.
Kelvin has been very active bird surveying, being an Assistant RR Caernarfonshire and Meirionydd, is on the North Wales Atlas Committee, and has been Chair of the Wales Raptor Study Group for several years. He is looking forward to work with the team of Regional Representatives, offering support at shows and training events.
Rachel currently works for Bangor University and was a late starter in bird ecology, starting out in biochemistry and physiology with field experience studying reptiles in the UK and southern Europe. Her PhD started out on ‘the influence of spatial scaling in tropical biodiversity’, but having realised that birds would be the ideal study group in tropical farmland, in 2002 she turned up on the BTO’s doorstep as an aspiring trainee ringer with huge enthusiasm but absolutely no birding experience at all. Three years and 1800 Costa Rican birds (plus rather a lot of UK passerines, waders and seabirds) later, bird ecology, ringing and the effects of agriculture on the natural environment had become the focus of her work (and play!) and remain so to this day.
Rachel is an active bird ringer with SCAN (North Wales) and the Wash Wader Ringing Groups, amongst other projects. She anticipates a very challenging and exciting time helping to raise the profile of the BTO in Wales and working with the BTO’s committed and talented volunteers, alongside partners in Government and conservation organisations to help secure the future of Wales’ iconic and charismatic birds.
BTO Cymru will be launched at the Royal Welsh Show, 10:00am, 20 July.
Welcome Kelvin and Rachel, we look forward to working with you.