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.
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.
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The House Martin – known as Gwennol y Bondo (‘The Swallow of the Eaves’) in Welsh – is well known to many people. From April to September it lives cheek by jowl with those lucky enough to have this energetic little bird nest under their eaves. In recent years however, 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 has prompted the BTO to launch a House Martin Survey in 2015. It is a first step to help us discover more about this species, to identify why they are declining and to provide scientific evidence to help inform policy decisions that could reverse the declines.
How can I help?
We need volunteers who are willing to carry out two or three visits to a randomly selected (i.e. pre-selected) 1-km square between late May and mid-July, to look for House Martins and their nests. By surveying random squares, we will be able to assume that our results are representative across a wider area, and produce a robust population estimate against which changes in the future can be measured.
How long will each visit take?
The survey visits will involve walking around the square looking for House Martins and their nests and mapping and recording a few details about any nests that you find. In most squares each visit will normally take around one to two hours – however, the visit length depends on the habitats within the square: visits to urban squares may take longer, whereas visits to squares with only a small number of buildings may take less than half an hour.
What do I do next?
You can take part by registering on the BTO House Martin Survey. You’ll then be able to find and request a vacant 1km square near you, as well as find out more information about the survey.
Alternatively, please contact me directly and let me know which one (or more) of the 1km squares listed above appeal to you. The green markers represent the squares currently un-allocated, the blue markers are those that have already been allocated to a volunteer. If your choice has not already been allocated to another volunteer by the time I hear from you, then that square will be all yours! If you need more information before you volunteer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for a ‘no obligation chat’.
Marsh Tit has experienced a marked decline in the UK, and its conservation listing has recently been upgraded from amber to red. It is not a common bird in East Glamorgan, with presence being recorded in just 15 tetrads in winter and 17 in the breeding season during the current Bird Atlas project.
A new study, just published in Bird Study (Broughton, 2010) suggests that habitat fragmentation may be a contributory factor in the decline of the Marsh Tit population in Britain. Results suggest that dispersal behaviour was sensitive to habitat fragmentation, resulting in poor settling success outside of the natal wood.
Both natal (juveniles) and breeding (adults) dispersal of Marsh Tits in fragmented woodland in an English landscape dominated by intensive arable agriculture was recorded. Spatial distribution of movements and settling locations for adults and juveniles were also documented.
The study population had short dispersal distances. Juveniles disperse further than adults, and females disperse further than males. These distances are however, small. Often no more than 1-1.5kms or 3 territory widths. Few birds became established outside of their natal patch and few birds settled in vacant territories in peripheral outer woods. Its possible that birds are unwilling to cross areas of non-habitat.
Though suitable habitats may be available for this species then, the fragmented nature of these available areas may hinder this species ability to occupy them.
Broughton, Richard K. , Hill, Ross A. , Bellamy, Paul E. and Hinsley, Shelley A. (2010) Dispersal, ranging and settling behaviour of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris in a fragmented landscape in lowland England, Bird Study, 57 (4): pp 458 — 472. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2010.489316