Posts tagged ‘Nesting’

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

The 2014 BTO Nest Record Scheme Season in Glamorgan

I’m delighted to say the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) is growing in popularity in Glamorgan.  This Scheme 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 by carefully following the NRS Code of Conduct, monitoring does not influence a nest’s outcome.   Some people submit only one or two records a year while others find and monitor nests of a whole range of species. Even the Blackbird or Blue Tit nest in your garden can provide valuable data for conservationists.

In 2014, the NRS’s 75th anniversary, 18 volunteers submitted nest records from Glamorgan – up from 11 volunteers in 2013. Between them they submitted a total of 781 records for 48 species (2013: 421 records for 51 species).

Song Thrush Nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

Song Thrush Nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)

There were some notable nest records in 2014: both Cuckoo and Kittiwake were new species for the Glamorgan NRS database, the latter bursting on the scene with a total of no fewer than 91 records during the year; the 10 nest records for Barn Owl and 3 records for Great Crested Grebe almost trebled the number of records received from Glamorgan for these species in the entire history of the Scheme, and the 4 House Martin records doubled the number or records on the Glamorgan database.

Glamorgan Nest Record Totals 2014

(Species marked * are BTO Priority Species / species marked with a ‘+’ are on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and require a licence to be obtained before monitoring).

Blue Tit 232
Great Tit 149
Kittiwake* 91
Swallow 65
Blackbird* 45
Song Thrush* 25
Nuthatch 22
Pied Flycatcher* 22
Coot 12
Barn Owl + 10
Wren* 8
House Sparrow 7
Redstart* 7
Robin 6
Woodpigeon 6
Dipper* 5
Linnet* 5
Long-tailed Tit 5
Canada Goose 4
Dunnock* 4
Goldfinch 4
House Martin 4
Willow Warbler* 4
Blackcap 3
Great Crested Grebe 3
Mute Swan* 3
Tawny Owl 3
Treecreeper 3
Chaffinch* 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Meadow Pipit* 2
Tree Pipit 2
Bullfinch 1
Buzzard 1
Chiffchaff 1
Coal Tit 1
Collared Dove 1
Cuckoo 1
Goldcrest 1
Goshawk + 1
Grey Wagtail* 1
Magpie* 1
Reed Bunting* 1
Reed Warbler 1
Skylark* 1
Spotted Flycatcher* 1
Stonechat 1
Swift 1

For more information about nest recording and how you can take part please visit the BTO’s Nest Recording webpages. You can also search for all Glamorgan’s nest records between 2007-14 by going to Online Nesting Reports page.

November 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm 2 comments

Discover a Lost Art

For 75 years, volunteers of the Nest Record Scheme (NRS) have been finding and following the progress of individual birds’ nests, collecting this vital breeding performance data across the UK, helping measure the impacts of factors such as climate change on our bird populations.

We have 11 volunteers in Glamorgan and recruitment is going well across Wales, with recorder numbers increasing faster than in any other UK country, but the national pool of volunteers is still fewer than 50, so there is much scope for improvement.

Blackbird nest, by Wayne Morris

Blackbird nest, by Wayne Morris

Anyone can be a nest recorder, and by carefully following the NRS Code of Conduct, monitoring does not influence a nest’s outcome.   Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden while others find and monitor nests of a whole range of species, even the Blackbird in your garden can provide valuable data for conservationists.

For Dipper and Redstart, Wales is a NRS stronghold, providing a significant proportion of the UK total each year. There are many gaps in coverage however, even for common species.

Glamorgan Nest Record totals
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Mute Swan* 4 1
Canada Goose 5
Great Crested Grebe 1
Buzzard 2 1 1 2 1
Moorhen* 1 2
Coot 9 13 1
Woodpigeon 1 4 1 7 6 6
Collared Dove 4 1 1
Nightjar 2 1 4 1
Swift 2 1 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Sand Martin
House Martin 2
Meadow Pipit* 1 3 1 1 1
Grey Wagtail* 1
Pied Wagtail* 1 3 2 2
Dipper* 1 9 2 3
Wren* 5 1 1 8 4
Dunnock* 3 2 4 3 5 4
Robin 3 4 2 2 6 4
Redstart* 3 2 3 6 6 7
Whinchat* 1
Stonechat* 4 10
Wheatear* 2
Blackbird* 23 20 13 15 43 30
Song Thrush* 10 19 3 7 24 13
Mistle Thrush* 1 2 3
Grasshopper Warbler 2 3
Blackcap 4 3 4
Garden Warbler 1
Whitethroat 1 2 1
Wood Warbler* 1
Chiffchaff 1 1
Willow Warbler* 2 1 2 6 3
Pied Flycatcher* 47 38 39 51 48 22
Long-tailed Tit 6 2 7 6 10 2
Blue Tit 121 100 120 153 136 134
Great Tit 96 84 97 74 87 84
Coal Tit 3
Nuthatch 19 16 9 16 15 6
Treecreeper 1 1 4 4
Jay 1
Magpie* 2 7
Jackdaw 2
Carrion Crow* 1 1 2 2
Raven 2 1 1 1
Starling* 1
House Sparrow 2 1
Chaffinch* 3 2 2 2 2
Greenfinch* 3 1 2
Goldfinch 1 1 1
Siskin 1
Linnet* 2 1 1 2 3 4
Bullfinch* 2 2
Yellowhammer* 2 1 1
Reed Bunting* 3 4
Total 453 344 349 487 513 391
* priority species

Now you may say “I haven’t got the time” or “Isn’t nest recording for specialists?”, and to be honest, that’s just how we felt this time last year when faced with the daunting prospect of learning to monitor nests.

In 2013 however, we attended a NRS training course. Here we were shown the simple tools of the trade, spent a lot of time with our heads in bushes and were blown away by loads of fascinating tips on how to find different species’ nests and monitor them safely. The training obviously paid off as we returned home to find amongst others Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow and Wood Warbler nests on our home patches. The experience really did add a whole new dimension to our birding; twelve months later, with a lot to learn still, we’re ready to get started once more and have a number of residents nesting already and the first Chiffchaffs of the year setting up territories.

Why not join the Welsh revival and make 2014 the year you become a nest recorder? It’s enjoyable, you’ll learn a huge amount about the birds around you and, vitally, you’ll provide information to support conservation efforts that can’t be gathered any other way.

Visit the Nest Record Scheme for more information.

March 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm 2 comments

“I’ve got an endoscope, and I’m not afraid to use it!” – Tales of a BTO Nest Record Scheme training weekend

I’ve been birding for a long old time, 35 years in fact. During that time I’ve gone on a few twitches, I’ve been on birding trips all over the UK and I’ve enjoyed taking part in several BTO surveys. But, over the last few days, I’ve been bitten by a new bug which has added a totally new dimension to my birding . . . over the Bank Holiday weekend I became a ‘nester’.

Wayne and I had booked on to a BTO Nest Recording Scheme training course and last Friday evening (May 3rd) we met up with 6 other trainees at the BTO’s HQ at Thetford in Norfolk. Over the next couple of days our trainers (Dave Leech, Carl Barimore and Mike Toms from the BTO) passed on a whole load of fascinating tips about how to track down a variety of species (some of whom can be a real challenge) as well as the simple tools of the trade you need to go nesting.

The tools of the trade: a stick, a mirror-on-a-stick and a pair of bins. (Note: a glamorous assistant is not required).

The tools of the trade: a stick, a mirror-on-a-stick and a pair of bins. (Note: a glamorous assistant is not required).

First of all of course, it was impressed upon us that the welfare of birds should always come first and that BTO nest recording is based on a Code of Conduct, which is a protocol designed to ensure that monitoring a nest does not influence its outcome.

Next up were the tools of the trade. The good news is that you don’t need many: a stick to ‘tap’ vegetation in your search for birds; a mirror-on-a-stick is useful to look into nests above head height,  a notebook to record your data and a pair of bins. And that’s pretty much all you need.

A fine example of 'arsing' - watching a Willow Warbler back to its nest.

A fine example of ‘arsing’ – watching a Willow Warbler back to its nest.

There are a variety of ways of finding your nest. It very much depends on your target species. In a nutshell though, the methods split into two ways of working: ‘arsing’ and ‘legging’. ‘Arsing’ involves sitting on your . . . erm, arse, and watching birds back to the nest as they carry nesting material or food. Having nailed the vicinity of the nest you can then ‘hot search’ for it.

‘Legging’ invariably involves a lot of sticking your head into bushes

‘Legging’ invariably involves a lot of sticking your head into bushes

‘Legging’ calls for a bit more action, where you actively search for nests (‘cold searching’), narrowing your odds by searching in suitable habitat. So, no matter what type of birder you are, there’s a method of nesting to suit you. In reality of course, you end up doing a bit of both.

Excitedly wielding an endoscope, Dave and Mike look into a Treecreeper's nest. Endoscopes aren't an essential bit of kit, but useful for hole nesters.

Excitedly wielding an endoscope, Dave and Mike look into a Treecreeper’s nest. Endoscopes aren’t an essential bit of kit, but useful for hole nesters.

Dave, Carl and Mike were clearly passionate about NRS and were brilliant trainers. With their help we managed to find the nests of a nice variety of birds: Dunnock, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Greylag Goose, Coot, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Red-legged Partridge & Pheasant. The highlights were finding a Treecreeper and a Woodlark nest (Dave Leech had a Schedule 1 licence to go looking for the latter) but, personally speaking, learning how to use Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers intriguing off nest behaviour to find their nests was the most rewarding experience. To find out what I mean, you’ll have to become a Nest Recorder!

A work of art as well as being excellently camouflaged  . . . a Chiffchaff's nest.

A work of art as well as being excellently camouflaged . . . a Chiffchaff’s nest.

So why should you volunteer to contribute your records to the NRS? ‘Nesting’ has become a bit of a dying art in the UK since legislation was quite rightly passed in 1954 to make it illegal to take the eggs of most wild birds. But, tracking the fortunes of birds’ nesting attempts is vital to collect 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. After years of decline there’s been a recent upturn in the number of nest records being submitted to the BTO. But far more are needed and there’s a real ‘call to arms’ for more people to take up nesting, particularly here in Wales where more nest data are desperately needed.

Subtle or what? A Willow Warbler's nest.

Subtle or what? A Willow Warbler’s nest.

Anyone can be a nest recorder and it’s entirely up to you how much time you want to dedicate to the Scheme. Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden, while others spend hundreds of hours finding and monitoring nests in the wider countryside.

Of course, you don’t have to take part in a training weekend to take part in NRS. You can learn a lot about nesting through trial and error, and most birders will have a good knowledge of which areas of habitat will host particular species of nesting birds. If you think you might be interested in taking part please visit the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme website. Or you’re more than welcome to contact either Wayne or myself for an informal chat. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

May 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm 6 comments


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