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.


Woodpigeon Migration: Volunteers Wanted

Anyone birding our coast over the last few days, will have witnessed a steady stream of Swallows moving through as they begin their autumn migration south. For some, this whets the appetite for other migration spectacles to come.

In late October and early November huge numbers of Woodpigeons move through south east Wales.  Large numbers are well documented in the East Glamorgan Bird Report, and peak counts are up to 10,000 – 30,000 birds per hour at Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent.

Wood Pigeons by Pig Sty Avenue, on Flickr
Wood Pigeons by Pig Sty Avenue, on Flickr

It is thought that these birds are of British origin, as there are few records of incoming flocks on the east coast at that time of year. From what is known, many birds move south west over the English Midlands and seem to get ‘bottled up’ somewhere in the area from Forest of Dean through to the area between the rivers Wye and Severn. It is not clear how they reach the south Wales coast from there, but they do, in large numbers and continue to move westwards through Gwent and Glamorgan and probably leave the Welsh coast at some unknown point heading southwards into south west England

This year, Adrian Plant, would like to get together a coordinated observation of direction and numbers. It’s not known if Woodpigeons enter our region via the Severn, Wye or Usk nor how far west they travel in Wales before heading out to sea. He would like to get a small group of observers stationed at a few critical points to try and sort this out. In Glamorgan, it would need someone at Lavernock Point (perhaps also further inland as many birds follow the edge of the line of hills in Gwent and may also do so in Glamorgan). Also somebody looking seaward and inland in the Kenfig area, and of course if sites further west could be managed then all the better. Possible dates would be preferably the weekend of 2/3 November or perhaps 9/10 November. It would be best if all observers were in ‘phone contact with each other to help better coordinate things.

Are you willing to participate for 1 or 2 days?

Please contact Adrian, if you’d like to get involved.

Adrian Plant

Tracking Welsh Cuckoos

Cuckoo is one of the UK’s fastest declining migrants and, until recently, was one of which we knew least about once it left the UK.  Many readers will already be familiar with the stories of five Norfolk cuckoos, successfully tagged last summer and tracked on their migration to West Africa and their return journey this spring.

Cuckoo populations however, declined in Wales by 27% between 1999-2009, compared to 49% in England and only 9% in Scotland.  Why is this?  Do their timings or patterns of movements differ significantly? Tagging birds from all three regions will help us to understand why they are faring differently.

This year, the BTO Tracking Team have been busy in Wales (and Scotland), and  have now tagged four Welsh males from the Tregaron area.

Details of these birds, and maps showing their movement are now available to enjoy. Two birds have already left Wales, moving east into England and look set to move into continental Europe soon.

Cuckoo by Whitstable Wildlife, on Flickr
Cuckoo by Whitstable Wildlife, on Flickr

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.

Satellite Tracking for Welsh Ospreys

Osprey in Flight at Belle Haven by Mr. T in DC, on Flickr
Osprey in Flight at Belle Haven by Mr. T in DC, on Flickr

Each year, one or two Glamorgan birders are fortunate to see an Osprey flying overhead as it makes its way north or south on its annual migration. In recent years, birds have also spent a few days in late summer feeding up at estuaries in the west of the county.

Feeding exclusively on fish, Ospreys spend the winter in west Africa, avoiding the risk of frozen water bodies in the UK.   Young birds are thought to spend their first two years in Africa, before returning north to embark on their first breeding attempts.

We now have a second pair of Ospreys breeding in Wales.  This year a pair has settled on the Dyfi and are currently rearing three chicks.  This is in addition to the Glaslyn pair that have been returning each summer since 2004.

News has now been released that all three Dyfi chicks will be ringed and have small solar-powered satellite trackers attached later this month.  The trackers will allow researchers to follow the birds as they travel vast distances over many years, and develop a much better understanding of the species movements and ecology.

More information about the Dyfi Osprey Project is available form the Montgomeryshire Widlife Trust.

Migrants Continue to Arrive

European nightjar, Ventotene, Italy. 02-05-2010.
European nightjar, Ventotene, Italy. 02-05-2010. by ecologyweb, on Flickr

May is the month when a number of our late migrants arrive.

We were fortunate enough to connect with one of these species this weekend. Nightjars typically arrive in Glamorgan in mid May, and may be found churring and performing they courtship flights at dusk in our upland conifer plantations.

Spotted Flycatchers are another of the late arrivers.  Sadly, they are in decline and are no longer a common sight in our parks and woodlands.

You can find out more about migration and species arrival times by viewing Birdtrack maps and reports.

Mapping Spring Migrants

Wheatears, Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs have already been recorded in East Glamorgan – soon to be followed by a whole host of other summer migrants.

Swallow by Jeff Slocombe
Swallow by Jeff Slocombe

As you’re aware, due to climate change, the average arrival date of some species is getting earlier and earlier. While longer distance migrants are arriving too late to be able to exploit peaks in food abundance, such as insects and their larvae, which are now occurring earlier in the year. The table below shows the earliest ever arrival dates in East Glamorgan of some of the most common regular, true migrants:

Species Earliest Date Seen in East Glamorgan
Garganey March 02
Little Ringed Plover March 17
Common Cuckoo April 01
Common Swift March 09
Sand Martin March 01
Barn Swallow February 23
House Martin March 09
Tree Pipit March 20
Yellow Wagtail March 27
Common Redstart March 12
Whinchat January 26
Northern Wheatear February 17
Grasshopper Warbler April 07
Sedge Warbler April 03
Reed Warbler March 27
Lesser Whitethroat February 03
Common Whitethroat February 19
Garden Warbler March 21
Wood Warbler March 30
Willow Warbler February 16
Spotted Flycatcher April 05
Pied Flycatcher April 03
Source: Glamorgan Bird Club Database

An excellent way of helping to record migration patterns is by entering your records on BirdTrack. But, it’s not only a tool to record the first birds to arrive or the last ones to depart. By using the lists and counts of species submitted by volunteers throughout the spring and early summer, the BTO can work out when the bulk of the population has arrived. BirdTrack can also investigate how birds filter through the country – do they head up the centre of the country or do they disperse west or east in spring time?

Redstart by Jeff Slocombe
Redstart by Jeff Slocombe

And you can use BirdTrack throughout the year. It’s a place where you can store and manage your own personal records, in the knowledge that these could be used to support species conservation at a local, regional, national and even international level.

For more information please visit the BTO’s BirdTrack website. Please also consider sending your records to our local County Recorder for inclusion in the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report.