Posts tagged ‘BTO’

Help Needed for House Martins

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).

House Martin 2 (Doug Welch)

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?

House Martin 1 (John Harding)

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.

March 30, 2017 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

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!

bto-new-year-resolutions

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

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.

BirdTrack

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!

January 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Help needed for House Martins

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).

House Martin 2 (Doug Welch)

House Martin leaving an artificial nest (Photo: Doug Welch)

This recent decline prompted the BTO to launch a two- 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: when do House Martins start breeding and how many broods do they have?

This summer, a brand new, yet complementary, House Martin Survey will be carried out to 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.

House Martin 1 (John Harding)

House Martins (Photo: John Harding)

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 today (17th March), 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.

March 17, 2016 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Wetland Bird Survey 2015 – East Glamorgan Review

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda / Happy New Year to you all. Although I have to say, my greetings are a bit premature. In the world of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) the corks pop and the fireworks fizzle at the stroke of midnight on June 30th. That’s because the WeBS year runs from July>June. Nevertheless, I thought it would be useful to look back at how our team of East Glamorgan WeBS volunteers got on in 2015.

Last year, that team consisted of 37 volunteers who made counts of wetland birds at 39 sites. They submitted a combined total of 2,657 records of 69 species and a total count of 71,281 birds. Pretty awesome!

East Glamorgan WeBS: Top 20 Most Commonly Recorded Species

Species Combined total of records Combined total of counts
1 Mallard 315 10,372
2 Moorhen 234 1,384
3 Coot 197 5,839
4 Mute Swan 146 3,217
5 Herring Gull 132 5,437
6 Canada Goose 131 5,006
7 Lesser B-backed Gull 130 6,362
8 Grey Heron 120 186
9 Black-headed Gull 119 14,625
10 Cormorant 108 932
11 Little Grebe 101 618
12 Tufted Duck 94 3,256
13 Teal 69 1,325
14 Great Crested Grebe 68 617
15 Grey Wagtail 59 158
16 Kingfisher 47 66
17 Pied/White Wagtail 36 175
18 Reed Bunting 32 98
19 Water Rail 29 68
20 Dipper 28

63

Unsurprisingly, Mallard was the species most commonly reported across East Glamorgan and, although the counting of gulls is optional for the survey, our WeBS counters still recorded a combined total of 14,625 Black-headed Gulls.

Mallard occupied the top spot (RSPB Images)

Mallard occupies the top spot for 2015 (RSPB Images)

Amongst the scarcer birds to be recorded were single records of Bittern, Woodcock, Whimbrel, Glaucous and Yellow-legged Gull, two records of Garganey and four records of Lesser Scaup (at Cardiff bay of course).

Perhaps the most striking thing is the noticeable absence of Pochard from the Top 20. This species languishes down at number 32 with only a combined total of 17 WeBS records of 108 individuals throughout 2015.

Pochard - becoming scarcer in East Glamorgan (RSPB Images)

Pochard – becoming scarcer in East Glamorgan (RSPB Images)

Nevertheless, this does reflect what all birders living in East Glamorgan already know: that Pochard are becoming scarcer in the region unless boosted by a prolonged spell of cold weather. That’s not surprising given that the data in the 2007-11 Bird Atlas shows that there has been a 21% contraction in the winter range of the Pochard in Britain & Ireland since the last atlas, which covered the period 1981 to 1984.

WeBS is a great survey to undertake if you’re new to bird surveying. If you’re interested in taking part in 2016 please have a look at the East Glamorgan WeBS page and feel free to get in touch get in touch for a no obligation chat.

January 10, 2016 at 9:43 pm 1 comment

Help prevent a Curlew catastrophe

Curlew (Photo; Jeff Slocombe)

Curlew (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

The long, decurved bill, reminiscent of a crescent moon, and its evocative bubbling call are distinctive characteristics that make the Curlew so easily identifiable.  Yet it is in real danger of becoming a thing of the past as it has just become one of the newest additions to the British Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, and deemed to be of the highest conservation priority.

At the end of the Second World War, pairs of breeding Curlew could be found in Glamorgan from the Rhymney Valley to West Gower (Birds of Glamorgan, Hurford & Lansdown ).   However, the East Glamorgan 2007-11 Atlas shows that breeding was only confirmed from one 10km square around Merthyr.

Our local decline is mirrored across the UK. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) shows a 46% decline across the UK in the last two decades, with this figure exceeding 50% in Wales and Scotland. Critically, the UK holds 28% of Europe’s breeding Curlew, meaning that declines here represent the loss of a substantial portion of Europe’s total breeding Curlew population.

The UK’s population of wintering Curlew is also of global importance, representing nearly one-fifth of the world population. Resident breeding Curlew are joined in winter by birds from the Continent and Scandinavia. However, the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) estimates about a 20% decline in Curlew numbers over the last 15 years.

To unpick the causes of Curlew population decline the BTO is planning a ground-breaking programme of research, analysing existing datasets to investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation and utilising revolutionary new technology to track wintering Curlew. The sooner we can start on this research, the sooner we can understand the conservation actions needed to help Curlew recover.

Our target for the first year is £100,000 to begin this vitally important research.

Find out more about the appeal and some of the questions we want to investigate or make a donation to help reverse the fortunes of this beautiful bird.

December 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

New Pochard Survey – Winter 2015-16

Common Pochard are becoming increasingly uncommon in East Glamorgan. Looking at my own Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS ) site, Roath Park Lake, you only have to go back ten years or so and you’d regularly see 50+, occasionally 100+, birds there during the winter months. Now, I’m more likely to see only 5 or 6. But this phenomenon isn’t only happening here. Wintering Pochard numbers are dropping across the UK.

But what’s driving this decline? Well, the Duck Specialist Group, through the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the UK has set up a project asking people to record sex ratios of Pochard in the hope this will give them an insight into reasons for declines.

Pochard (RSPB Images)

Common Pochard (Photo: RSPB Images)

If you’re lucky enough to record Pochard whilst out birding this winter – in East Glamorgan or elsewhere – can you please make a note of the male to female sex ratio at the site and submit these additional data via the Pochard Survey website? You’ll find out a lot more about the survey on this site and, if scroll down to the bottom of the survey’s webpage, the link you need to click on is ‘CLICK HERE to submit your data’. This takes you to a survey page which is very easy to fill in.

If you have any queries, please contact monitoring@wwt.org.uk

Diolch/Thanks.

November 22, 2015 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

Garden Gold

The BTO has just launched a winter Goldfinch Feeding Survey. With 70% more Garden BirdWatchers reporting Goldfinches now than 20 years ago, it’s apparent that they are now common garden visitors but we don’t fully understand the reasons behind this rise in numbers.

The survey will help  investigate the factors behind this increase, as well as uncover their winter feeding habits. It will also support new research being undertaken by BTO Research Ecologist Kate Plummer, to investigate whether the increasing use of garden bird foods by Goldfinches is helping their national population to grow. Kate recently led on the Blackcap work funded by the GBW Appeal that showed that supplementary feeding has affected the migratory behaviour of wintering Blackcaps in the UK.

Goldfinch (RSPB Images)

Goldfinch (RSPB Images)

The survey is running between now and the end of February, so please take part if you have Goldfinches in your garden – you don’t need to be feeding them. All the details about what we’re looking for and how to take part can be found here: www.bto.org/goldfinch-survey.

November 8, 2015 at 5:00 pm 1 comment

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