Have you ever considered becoming a BTO nest recorder but felt unsure about how to get started?
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. This important data can form a key part of the information required to help the conservation of birds now, and in the future.
Anyone can be a nest recorder, no matter how experienced you are as a birder. It is a highly rewarding Scheme to be involved with, improving your general birdwatching and observation skills and therefore your enjoyment of birding.
Until very recently, there were very few people nest recording regularly in Glamorgan. We’re glad to say that numbers have started to grow slowly over the last few years and there are the beginnings of a network of nest recorders in the county.
Meadow Pipit nest (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)
However, to put nest recording on a more sustainable footing locally, and across Wales, we’re looking to recruit more volunteers to contribute to this important scheme.
With this in mind, a Nest Record Scheme Taster Day for new volunteers will be held atRudry Common, near Caerphilly, between 8:00am – 4:00pm, 13 May 2018.
The day will be run by members of the Fledgemore Nest Recording Group, and provides an introduction to monitoring nests, how to follow the all-important Code of Conduct to ensure 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. There will be a charge of £10 per person to cover costs. If there is any money left over will be donated to the BTO.
2017 Nest Recording Taster Day participants (Photo: Dan Jenkins-Jones)
Spaces on this event are limited. If you’re interested in attending or would like more information, please contact:
More information about the Nest Records Scheme is available online. We’ve also written short articles about nest recording on this site over the last few years – articles which will hopefully give you some further personal insight about the experiences of taking part in the Scheme:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ 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.
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!
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.
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.