Posts tagged ‘glamorgan’

A New Generation of Nest Recorders: BTO Glamorgan Nest Recording Day 2017

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.

Taster Day - Blackbird Nest

Blackbirds near fledging – our first active nest of the Taster Day (Photo: DJJ)

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.

Ceri Jones - showing the art of tapping

Ceri Jones and Nia Howells trying out the art of ‘tapping’ for the first time (Photo: Andy Bevan)

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!

Taster Day 2017 - lunch

A break from ‘nesting – Taster Day lunch on Rudry Common (Photo: DJJ)

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.

Tara - Willow Warbler Nest

Willow Warbler nest on Rudry Common (Photo: DJJ)

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!

Tara's Coronation

Tara Okon’s coronation as New Nest Finder of the Day (Photo: Rob Williams)

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

May 21, 2017 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

BTO Nest Record Scheme Taster Day, Rudry Common, Sunday May 14th, 2017

Have you ever considered becoming a BTO nest recorder but felt unsure about how to get started?

The BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (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. There are currently only around eight or nine active nest recorders in the whole of Glamorgan and we’re looking to recruit more volunteers locally to contribute to this important scheme.

A Nest Record Scheme Taster Day for new volunteers will be held at Rudry between 8am and 3pm on Sunday, May 14th. The day will be run by Trevor Fletcher (Rudry Common Trust), Wayne Morris and Dan Jenkins-Jones (Mid & South Glamorgan BTO Regional Representative and Assistant Rep). The day will provide an introduction to monitoring nests, how to follow the all-important NRS Code of Conduct to ensure that you’re monitoring does not influence the outcome of nests, as well as a few hours in the field for some supported practice searching for a variety of different species’ nests. The aim is to increase the number of birders contributing to this valuable survey over the coming years. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs.

Meadow Pipit Nest 2015 b

Meadow Pipit nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

Anyone can be a nest recorder.  It will add a new dimension to your birding, you’ll be making an important contribution to our knowledge of birds and it is personally very rewarding. For more information about the Scheme, please visit http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs

We’ve also written short articles about the Nest Record Scheme on this blog over the last few years – articles which will hopefully give you some further personal insight about the experiences of taking part in the Scheme:

If you’re interested in attending please contact Dan Jenkins-Jones at eastglamwebs@gmail.com / (029) 2062 1394 / 07703 607 601 for more information.

April 13, 2017 at 10:07 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)

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 1 comment

National Nest Box Week 2017

14 February marks the start of the 20th annual National Nest Box Week, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Putting up a nest box or two during the week can provide not only a nesting site for a number of species but, if you also spend a little bit of time monitoring the outcome of your occupied boxes, even just one box, you could also make a valuable contribution to the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme.

Many of us will have at least one nest box in our gardens and, if we’re lucky enough to have it occupied, we delight in watching the adult birds tirelessly feeding their young. Best of all is seeing newly fledged chicks from the box and feeling that you have helped nature in some way. Thanks to the support of the Glamorgan Bird Club (GBC) I’ve been able to take this one step further and erect several nest boxes in areas outside my own garden.

nestboxes-on-floodplain-003

Erecting nest boxes near Radyr (Photo: DJJ)

Coinciding with National Nest Box Week, GBC holds a nest box making session at Kenfig NNR every February using timber kindly donated by Topstak. The Club donates these boxes to various bodies including local schools, Welsh children’s hospice Tŷ Hafan and, since 2014, it has kindly given a number of boxes to me. These boxes, in addition to those donated by RSPB Cymru, have enabled me to establish a small ‘nest box scheme’ in Coryton and Radyr near Cardiff.

GBC will be holding a Nest Box Making Workshop at Kenfig NNR on Saturday, 18 February at 9 a.m. If you want to build a box for your back garden or you already have, or want to create your own, nest box scheme why not go along?

I’m delighted to say that birds clearly admire the GBC’s and RSPB’s carpentry skills with the last three years having the following occupancy rates: 14 of 15 boxes (2014); 15 of 16 (2015) and 23 of 24 (2016). As you’d expect, the occupants are almost always Blue or Great Tits, although a Nuthatch did fledge 6 young from a box in Coryton in 2016.

I monitor each box for the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) which gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds, always adhering to the Scheme’s strict Code of Conduct to ensure that I do not affect the outcome of the nest. This means that I visit each box c.4-6 times a season to ascertain its history: whether it was successful or not (and, if it was unsuccessful, at what stage did it fail); the date on which the first egg was laid in each box; the maximum clutch size; the maximum number of chicks hatched and the number of chicks fledged.

blue-tits-in-a-box-cropped-djj

A healthy brood of Blue Tits (Photo: DJJ)

Even though I’ve only been monitoring these boxes for three years, the information gathered is fascinating. I’ve extracted some of the data for Blue Tit and placed them in the table below. (*A “successful nest” is one which fledged at least on juvenile).

Blue Tit
Year
Occupied boxes
Successful nests*
Earliest egg date
Total no. of eggs
Av. no. of eggs per box
Total number of pulli
Total number fledged
Av. no. fledged per nest
2014
8
5
7 April
77
9.6
67
43
5.4
2015
9
6
10 April
76
8.4
65
50
5.6
2016
9
5
14 April
69
7.7
59
39
4.3

 

Even from such a small sample, it appears that Blue Tits have had some challenging breeding seasons locally between 2014-16. The species only has one brood a year (rarely 2) and lays on average 8-10 eggs. As you can see, the egg totals in my boxes in 2014-15 are within that average range, but numbers in most nests were below average in 2016. What is worrying is that the fledging rate is so low: an average of only 4.3 juvs in 2016. One thing I have noticed is that there is a very fine line between success and failure. Just a day or two of wet weather at the wrong time can lead to significant chick mortality and nest failure. I saw this happen in 2014 and again in 2016 and it’s remarkable how my records at a local level were replicated across the UK.

The BTO’s preliminary report on the 2016 breeding season shows that, during the critical period when several bird species were nesting, temperatures were low and rainfall high, affecting the availability of the caterpillars and grubs they rely on to feed their chicks. The number of chicks produced by Blue Tits nationally in 2016 was down by 31% relative to the five-year average (2011–15).

Why not give it a go?

Monitoring these nestboxes for the NRS has been absolutely fascinating. It has added a new dimension to my birding and given me a real insight into the lives of Blue and Great Tits. Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to do it for many years and be able to learn so much more from comparing my records over a longer period of time. I’d recommend to all birders marking National Nest Box Week by erecting a nest box or two and monitoring them, no matter what your skill level. The BTO really does need the records from your nest boxes. You don’t have to visit them 4-6 times in a season. Even records from two visits provide the BTO with useful data.  If you’re interested, please visit www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs for more information or get in touch with me. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Dan Jenkins-Jones

February 12, 2017 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

NEWS Headlines from East Glamorgan

During the winter of 2015-16 the BTO ran a ‘Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey’ (NEWS) around the coastline of the UK. The purpose of this survey was to monitor important populations of several species which occur around our shores away from estuaries which are not monitored annually via the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS): species such as Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpipers and Turnstone. All the data are now in and the plan is to make them available via the WeBS Online Report next spring but, in the meantime, here are some top line NEWS headlines from the BTO East Glamorgan region.

purple-sandpipers-ogmore-by-sea-jeff-slocombe

Purple Sandpiper, Ogmore-by-Sea (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

For full details about the survey please have a look at this NEWS page. But in a nutshell, in our region, the coast between Penarth Head in the east and Kenfig Burrows in the west was split into 58 different sectors up to 2 km in length. 20 of these were designated ‘priority sectors’ which we were asked to make a special effort to cover. Volunteers were required to conduct a single count of waterbirds along each sector, recording waders as a priority, but they were encouraged to record other species such as wildfowl, seabirds, raptors, non-waterbirds and, if encountered, mammals too.

Across the UK, 1,890 priority sectors (75% of all priority sectors) and a further 1,735 non-priority sectors were covered, which equates to over 4,400 volunteer hours in the field. Thanks to the efforts of 21 brilliant volunteers, 57 of our 58 sectors in East Glamorgan, and 100% of our ‘priority sectors’, were covered for the survey. We can be forgiven for not achieving maximum coverage: the one sector we couldn’t cover was Flat Holm Island in the middle of the Severn Estuary, which proved inaccessible in the winter months! One volunteer alone covered an incredible 10 sectors.

turnstone-3-jeff-slocombe

Turnstone, Ogmore-by-Sea (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

Our volunteers counted a total of 3,937 individual birds of 50 different species during their coastal walks along the East Glamorgan coast. Excluding counts of some of the species more associated with inland areas, here are the totals for our region:

Species Total Species Total
Herring Gull 1420 Cormorant 20
Black-headed gull 760 Shelduck 17
Oystercatcher 357 Dunlin 13
Carrion Crow 236 Sanderling 13
Lesser B-b Gull 179 Grey Plover 11
Fulmar 145 Redshank 10
Golden Plover 120 Peregrine 8
Common Gull 111 Little Egret 4
Turnstone 99 Med Gull 2
Ringed Plover 46 Purple Sandpiper 2
Wigeon 45 Chough 1
Great B-b Gull 38 Guillemot 1
Curlew 35 Snipe 1
Rock Pipit 30 Whimbrel 1
Brent Goose 28

 

These totals are made up of counts conducted on several different dates between 01 December, 2015 and 28 February, 2016. No great surprises that Herring Gull is at No.1 but, although more closely associated with inland areas, I have included the count for Carrion Crow in the table because several volunteers commented that this was the most common species seen in their sectors.  There must have been rich pickings for them along the tideline.

The BTO also ran a Winter Shorebird Count in 1985 and NEWS counts in 1997/98 and 2006/07. It’ll be interesting to see how the 2015/16 counts compare. Look out for another update here once the UK results become available via the WeBS Online Report next spring.

Our thanks again to all 21 volunteers who took part in the survey.

January 6, 2017 at 9:41 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

Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report, 2015 Published

The latest annual bird report from the Glamorgan Bird Club has just been published.  It is the 54th report for our region, and the 7th under the guidance of the Glamorgan Rarities Committee.

dsc_0005The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report No 54 (2015) is presented in B5 format and contains 89 pages reviewing the birding year in our region. Species account form the basis of the report, commentating on the fortunes of resident, migrant and rare birds observed during the year.

Bird of the year for many was a county first – a Great Spotted Cuckoo found in the northern reaches of the region and viewed by many during its two day stay.  Another county first was a confiding Little Bunting in Cardiff, viewed and photographed by many.  A Lesser Scaup continues to over-winter in the Cardiff area and its North Amercan cousin, Ring-necked Duck visited Cosmeston Lakes CP during October.  The region’s second Black Stork was seen over Maesteg and Great White Egret sightings continue to grow.  Other notable species included Glossy Ibis, Roseatte Tern, Wood Lark and a small influx of Yellow-browed Warbler.

Also included are a county ringing report along with accounts from our ringing groups highlight species and numbers caught and recovered.  Other features are  a report on the year’s weather, migrant dates, the county list, a BTO surveys report.  Line drawings and photographs continue to highlight the talents of our region’s local birders.

The Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report is free to all members of the Glamorgan Bird Club.

Copies may be purchased from John Wilson:

John Wilson
Editor of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report
122 Westbourne Road
Penarth
Vale of Glamorgan
CF64 3HH

tel: 02920 339424

November 20, 2016 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

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