Wetland Bird Survey 2016 – East Glamorgan Review

We have a fantastic team of volunteers here in our BTO region who go out once a month to do counts for the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), the monitoring scheme for non-breeding waterbirds in the UK. This survey aims to provide data for the conservation of these birds’ populations and wetland habitats. Its core period runs between September to March but I’m delighted to say that most of our volunteers in our region enjoy the survey so much that they continue doing their counts between March and August too.

So how did the team get on in 2016? Here are the headlines (2015 figures in brackets):

  • In 2016, the team of East Glamorgan WeBS volunteers consisted of 39 (37) individuals
  • In addition, Cardiff University’s Ornithological Society was allocated Roath Park Lake as its WeBS site last year and at least 7 of its members are now involved in conducting the counts there
  • Counts were submitted from 40 (39) sites across the region
  • 78 (69) species were recorded during the year on the WeBS database from our region
  • The combined total of monthly records of all species from all sites across the year was 2,916 (2,657)
  • All of which gave us a combined grand total count of 67,086 (71,281) birds

East Glamorgan WeBS: Top 20 Most Commonly Recorded Species in 2016


Combined total of monthly records from all sites across the year

Combined total of birds recorded

 1. Mallard



 2. Moorhen



 3. Coot



 4. Mute Swan



 5. Canada Goose



 6. Lesser Black-backed Gull



 7. Cormorant



 8. Black-headed Gull



 9. Grey Heron



10. Herring Gull



11. Tufted Duck



12. Little Grebe



13. Great Crested Grebe



14. Grey Wagtail



15. Teal



16. Kingfisher



17. Water Rail



18. Goosander



19. Greylag Goose



20. Reed Bunting



As usual, Mallard was the species most commonly reported across East Glamorgan in terms of the combined number of monthly records across all sites across the year  and, although the counting of gulls is optional for the survey, Black-headed Gull with 10,898 came top of the pile in terms of the highest combined total of individual birds recorded.

We’re looking for a volunteer to count Talygarn Lake, near Pontyclun

Compared to 2015, there were increases in the number of volunteers, sites visited, the number of species recorded and the combined number of records submitted. However, the combined total of all birds of all species recorded (67,086) was 4,195 lower than in 2015 (71,281). The three biggest losers, in the Top 20 most commonly recorded species were Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Mallard. The figures for the majority of other species in the Top 20 look remarkably similar, or up on, those of 2015.

Amongst the locally scarcer birds to be recorded were:  a long-staying Long-tailed Duck and Lesser Scaup at Cardiff Bay; Little Ringed Plover and Curlew Sandpiper at Ogmore Estuary; a Great Northern Diver and Common Scoter at Rest Bay, Porthcawl ; Mandarin Duck at Michaelstone-le-Pit Salmon Leaps and Bittern at Cosmeston Lakes and Kenfig Pool.  The volunteers at Kenfig can also lay claim to the scarcest bird seen during a WeBS count in our region in 2016: a Temminck’s Stint.

WeBS is a great survey to undertake if you’ve never done a bird survey before or if you’re an old hand. If you’re interested in taking part in 2017 please have a look at the East Glamorgan WeBS page where you’ll find more information about available wetland sites and please feel free to get in touch for more information.


Looking Back Over 2013

As the New Year turns, we’d like to take few moments to look back over the year just past.  Membership and participation in surveys continues to grow. We now have over 160 members and a further 644 volunteers who have contributed to BTO surveys over the years.

BirdTrack in particular shows some impressive figures, with over 190 volunteers contributing over 150,000 records in our region since its inception, with a number of recorders submitting over 10,000 records each.

Stonechat by Jeff Slocombe

Our year began with the core period of the Winter Thrushes Survey in full swing. We were delighted that 40 core squares were covered with a further 30 squares monitored over the full survey period running from October to April. As the year closes, we are once again in the middle of this two-year survey, which has already revealed some interesting results about the key habitats and food sources used by our passage and wintering thrush species

WeBS too has a strong winter element, though it continues all year round.  We have a great team of WeBS counters in East Glamorgan.  In 2013, a total of 35 of us counted waterbirds at 33 different sites which vary in size from reens and farm pools to Cardiff Bay and the Rhymney Estuary.  Two new sites were counted in 2013: Sully Island and Hendre Lake. Lamby Tip Pool, which was counted in 2012, can no longer be counted due to access issues.

We said farewell to some long standing counters who ‘retired’ from WeBS this year. Marie Makepeace counted Caerphilly Castle Moat for 14 years and Margaret Morgan who, along with Graham Duff who sadly passed away in 2011, counted the birds on Roath Park Lake for over 10 years. Clive Ellis who counted Parc Tredlerech (Lamby Lake) and, more recently, Cors Crychydd Reen and Lamby Tip Pool also stood down at the end of 2012. We’re all indebted and grateful to Marie, Margaret, Graham and Clive for collecting so much data about the waterbirds at these sites.

We welcomed some new volunteers too, namely Richard Facey, Rob Thomas and Heather Galliford. It was also great to welcome back Neville Davies who re-joined the team in March, taking on Caerphilly Castle Moat – a WeBS site he once covered many years ago. I’m also delighted to say that Parc Slip NR is now counted regularly for WeBS thanks to John and Margaret Samuel who volunteered for the survey towards the end of 2012. 2014 is already off to a great start with Carys Solman volunteering to count Cyfarthfa Park Lake – the first time this site has ever been counted for WeBS.

Although WeBS is about monitoring the populations of our more regularly occurring waterbirds, it is always nice when the odd local scarcity turns up during your count – and there were plenty of highlights for our counters during 2013.

A pair of breeding Tufted Duck at Michaelstone-le-pit Salmon Leaps was a nice record of a rare breeding species in Glamorgan. Bitterns were seen at Cosmeston, Kenfig and Parc Slip and a Black-necked Grebe was seen at Kenfig during the January and February counts. There was a maximimum count of 32 Common Snipe and 9 Jack Snipe at Llanishen Reservoir, where a Water Rail was also seen – the 1st record at this site since 1976! Nearby, a Green Sandpiper at Lisvane Reservoir was the first ever WeBS record there. Up to 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen at Ogmore Estuary. Undoubtedly, the wader highlight of the WeBS year was the Long-billed Dowitcher at Rhaslas Pond. This site, under threat from development, is counted for WeBS by Mike Hogan. His regular visits there have proven that Rhaslas is a fantastic place for migrating waders.

Counting gulls and terns is optional for WeBS, nevertheless some counters are more than happy to record them. A Yellow-legged Gull appeared during one count at Cosmeston and there were Mediterranean Gulls recorded at both Kenfig Pool and Ogmore Estuary. The latter site also had 3 Sandwich Terns in April and the gull highlight of the year: a Bonaparte’s Gull which was present during every WeBS count between January and April!

Moving into the breeding season, volunteers monitored 35 1km squares for BBS  locally, and the survey enjoyed its best ever season across Wales. This upturn is vital given this survey’s importance in informing a number of key conservation reports.  In a similar vein, the NRS had its greatest uplift in participation across the UK in Wales, and we both enjoyed the season, which as many of you will recall started at least a couple of weeks late after the poor weather of the spring. The survey marks its 75th year in 2014, and there’s sure to be some interesting news to mark the event.

The Wales Chat Survey concluded in the summer with its second season of surveying and BTO now have sufficient data to analyse.  Four 1km squares were allocated for Woodcock Survey, but perhaps unsurprisingly no Woodcocks were observed.

Great Tit Nest by Wayne Morris
Great Tit Nest by Wayne Morris

Our neighbours, the Gwent Ornithological Society, played host to the year’s Welsh Ornithological Society conference in November. A number of enjoyable and informative talks were delivered, many of which held BTO survey work as a central theme from establishing population size and movements of Hawfinches through ringing, nest recording Honey-buzzards through to the long-term importance that long-term datasets delivered by amateur WeBS counters help the conservation cause in the Severn Estuary or the Greenland White-fronted Goose on the Dyfi.

A packed weekend at BTO’s Annual Conference at Swanwick offered a varied plate of talks and meetings, from a second helping of Honey-buzzards, through Buzzard success in Northern Ireland, Sand Martin monitoring at home and Senegal, seabird feeding patterns off the Scottish coast, monitoring House Sparrows and Reed Warblers.  The back-drop of course, was the yet to be fully digested results delivered by the recently published national Bird Atlas. This remarkable publication will undoubtedly set the tone for future survey work and research over the next decade.

Thanks to all members and volunteers who have contributed to BTO surveys past, present and future.

Good birding in 2014!

Seasonal Greetings to All Our Members & Volunteers

Good wishes to all local members and volunteers who contributed to the wide range of BTO surveys run in our region over the course of 2012! Its been a good year despite some of the challenges the weather presented over the summer.

Robin in Snow by Alaric Webster, on Flickr
Robin in Snow by Alaric Webster, on Flickr

Spring 2012, saw BTO Cymru launch the Wales Chat Survey, and we covered 29 1km squares across East Glamorgan.  We expect to run the survey once again in 2013, attempting to cover some squares missed rising from the poor weather. The Winter Thrushes Survey kicked-off in September 2012, and a number of volunteers have been actively recording thrushes across the county with their free site visits. As I write we have 27 core squares allocated for visits in the next few weeks.

We are delighted with the continued rise in volunteers taking part in two core surveys, BBS and WeBS.  These surveys provide key data that feed in to national reports of the UK bird populations.  Both surveys are at record volunteer levels locally, though we are always on the lookout for greater coverage.  Though participation was up by 30% across Wales, the recent The Status of Birds in Wales revealed 27 species have insufficient data from BBS to report on.  BTO Cymru will once again be employing a mentorship scheme, especially in mid Wales, to ensure coverage increases in our areas of lower population.

The Heronries Census is the longest running breeding bird survey in the world, and we have volunteers monitoring our 8 known heronries each year.  One of our three WBBS sites in our region was surveyed in 2012.  A healthy number of folk participating in Garden BirdWatch, which is great fun and quite addictive.

One survey is under represented in our region is NRS, the Nest Recording Scheme.  As well as helping our understanding of breeding biology, it’s an important measure of breeding success, with results published in BirdTrends. Interest in this activity is increasing, highlighted by the publication of  A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests in 2011.  We are looking at ways of encouraging participation in this scheme in our area.  Can you get involved?

It is also worth commenting on BirdTrack and the continuing development this service provides birdwatchers interested in recording their sightings.  Features include the ability to easily log precise location to OS coordinates, breeding status, complete lists or roving records all feature along with tools to display site or year lists or export records to Excel for use elsewhere.  The development of an Android app, certainly increased the number of records and users taking part and a forthcoming iOS app for iPhone users will surely see that trend continue.   There’s a lot more planned for 2013, so if you’re not already a BirdTracker, why not give it a go?

While we’re looking ahead, 2013 will see the publication of the national Bird Atlas, 2007-11.  A mammoth undertaking in terms of field work, with well in excess of 100,000 records contributed locally. We had a glimpse of some of the species maps at the recent annual conference, and the recently published BBS maps reveal some of the detail we can expect to see.

Finally, and in keeping with the trend across the UK, membership continues to grow locally. Thank you all for your support and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a bird filled New Year.

Wayne & Dan