New opportunities to become a BTO Wetland Birds Survey volunteer

What do the Knap Boating Lake in Barry, Pitcot Pool in St Brides Major and Tirfounder Fields in the Cynon Valley have in common? Well, they’re all in need of new volunteers to count the waterbirds on them for the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). Until very recently, waterbirds at all three sites have been counted regularly for many years providing valuable data for this important national survey, as well as for local publication in the annual Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report produced by the Glamorgan Bird Club. It would be fantastic if we could find new volunteers to take on these sites, to ensure that we can continue to add to the body of information we already have for these sites. Do you think you can help?

Pitcot pond, St. Brides (GRC Blogspot)
Pitcot pond, St. Brides (http://grcforum.blogspot.com/)

If you’ve never taken part in a bird survey before WeBS is a great place to start. You don’t need to be an ‘expert’ birder; anyone can take part, even beginners to birdwatching.  Unlike many bird surveys, to carry out WeBS Counts, you don’t have to know bird songs or calls, just the ability to identify common waterbirds. The survey is as easy as 1,2,3 . . .

  1. Turn up once a month on a specified date to your allotted wetland site
  2. Count the waterbirds you see there
  3. Submit your records to the BTO – either online or on paper forms 

For more information about the survey, as well as other WeBS sites also in need of volunteers in East Glamorgan, please have a look at our WeBS page.

Today (2nd February) is World Wetlands Day, established to celebrate our wonderful wetlands and to raise awareness about their value for humanity and the planet. What better way to join in the celebrations than becoming a WeBS volunteer? If you’ve always felt that you’d like to make a practical contribution to our knowledge of birds but didn’t know where to start, then taking part in this survey is an excellent place to begin.

If you’re interested in taking part in WeBS and taking on one of these three or other vacant local sites, please get in touch.

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
WeBS Local Organiser for East Glamorgan
18 St Margaret’s Road; Whitchurch, Cardiff, CF14 7AA
h: 02920 621394; m: 07428 167 576
e: eastglamwebs@gmail.com

Advertisements

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.

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)
House Martin leaving an artificial nest (Photo: Doug Welch)

This recent decline prompted the BTO to launch a two- 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: when do House Martins start breeding and how many broods do they have?

This summer, a brand new, yet complementary, House Martin Survey will be carried out to 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.

House Martin 1 (John Harding)
House Martins (Photo: 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 today (17th March), 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.

New Pochard Survey – Winter 2015-16

Common Pochard are becoming increasingly uncommon in East Glamorgan. Looking at my own Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS ) site, Roath Park Lake, you only have to go back ten years or so and you’d regularly see 50+, occasionally 100+, birds there during the winter months. Now, I’m more likely to see only 5 or 6. But this phenomenon isn’t only happening here. Wintering Pochard numbers are dropping across the UK.

But what’s driving this decline? Well, the Duck Specialist Group, through the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the UK has set up a project asking people to record sex ratios of Pochard in the hope this will give them an insight into reasons for declines.

Pochard (RSPB Images)
Common Pochard (Photo: RSPB Images)

If you’re lucky enough to record Pochard whilst out birding this winter – in East Glamorgan or elsewhere – can you please make a note of the male to female sex ratio at the site and submit these additional data via the Pochard Survey website? You’ll find out a lot more about the survey on this site and, if scroll down to the bottom of the survey’s webpage, the link you need to click on is ‘CLICK HERE to submit your data’. This takes you to a survey page which is very easy to fill in.

If you have any queries, please contact monitoring@wwt.org.uk

Diolch/Thanks.

Garden Gold

The BTO has just launched a winter Goldfinch Feeding Survey. With 70% more Garden BirdWatchers reporting Goldfinches now than 20 years ago, it’s apparent that they are now common garden visitors but we don’t fully understand the reasons behind this rise in numbers.

The survey will help  investigate the factors behind this increase, as well as uncover their winter feeding habits. It will also support new research being undertaken by BTO Research Ecologist Kate Plummer, to investigate whether the increasing use of garden bird foods by Goldfinches is helping their national population to grow. Kate recently led on the Blackcap work funded by the GBW Appeal that showed that supplementary feeding has affected the migratory behaviour of wintering Blackcaps in the UK.

Goldfinch (RSPB Images)
Goldfinch (RSPB Images)

The survey is running between now and the end of February, so please take part if you have Goldfinches in your garden – you don’t need to be feeding them. All the details about what we’re looking for and how to take part can be found here: www.bto.org/goldfinch-survey.

BONG! Here are the ‘NEWS’ headlines

BONG! Volunteers required in East Glamorgan for BTO’s Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey (NEWS)

BONG! This is a great survey which involves an enjoyable walk on the wonderful East Glamorgan coastline, counting birds and doing your bit for citizen science and conservation.

BONG! It requires only a single count of waterbirds along a c.2km sector of non-estuarine coastline on any date between 1st December 2015 and 31st January 2016

BONG! You can choose and then download a map for one, or more, of the c.2km pre-defined sectors of coastline you’d like to monitor

BONG! Recording waders is the priority however, whenever possible, volunteers are encouraged to record other species such as wildfowl, seabirds, raptors, non-waterbirds and, if encountered, mammals too

What is the Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey (NEWS) and what’s it trying to achieve?

The United Kingdom is internationally important for its numbers of wintering waterbirds and many of these are monitored annually by the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts. However, the WeBS counts are mostly made on estuaries and inland waterbodies, therefore leaving the majority of the coastline uncounted. NEWS 2015/16 will focus coverage on these important and under-recorded habitats.

Sanderling (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)
Sanderling (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

Why is a new survey required?

Several species such as Purple Sandpipers, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher occur around our shores away from estuaries, but they are poorly covered by WeBS and consequently are not monitored annually.  Following the original Winter Shorebird Count carried out in 1985 and NEWS counts in 1997/98 and 2006/07, the third repeat of NEWS will be carried out this coming winter.

How the survey works

The coastline along East Glamorgan has been split into two ‘regions’: a). Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan – Gileston to Kenfig Burrows and b). Vale of Glamorgan – Summerhouse Point to Penarth Head. These two regions have been further split into count sectors approximately 2km long.

Volunteers for this survey can choose one, or more, of these pre-defined sectors of coastline they’d like to monitor.  The survey visit will entail a walk along the intertidal area of their chosen sector(s) to conduct a single count of waterbirds on any date between 1st December 2015 and 31st January 2016.

Interested in taking part?

If you’re interested in taking part, please visit the BTO’s main NEWS webpage for more information and a full set of survey instructions. From this webpage, you can login (or register first if you’re not already registered as a BTO Online user – a simple process) and request one or more sectors:

  1. Click on ‘Request a NEWS Sector’ and you will be taken to ‘Select a Geographic Area to Request a NEWS Sector’.
  2. In this page, search for ‘Glamorgan’ and you will see the two ‘regions’ of the Glamorgan coastline referred to above.
  3. Click on one or other and you’ll be taken to a map showing the sectors available.
  4. Choose one, or more, sector(s) that suit you best and then put in your request. If your chosen sector hasn’t already been allocated to another volunteer, an email will be automatically generated to me and then I’ll allocate the sector to you. If possible, please try and choose a High Priority sector first – they are colour coded so you’ll know which ones are the High Priority sectors.

Alternatively, if you’d like any more information please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Dan

Can you help ‘The Swallow of the Eaves’?

*** HOT OFF THE PRESS: NEW SQUARES NOW AVAILABLE. SEE BELOW***

The House Martin – known as Gwennol y Bondo (‘The Swallow of the Eaves’) in Welsh – is well known to many people. From April to September it lives cheek by jowl with those lucky enough to have this energetic little bird nest under their eaves. In recent years however, 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).

This recent decline has prompted the BTO to launch a House Martin Survey in 2015. It is a first step to help us discover more about this species, to identify why they are declining and to provide scientific evidence to help inform policy decisions that could reverse the declines.

House Martins (RSPB Images)
House Martins (RSPB Images)

How can I help?

We need volunteers who are willing to carry out two or three visits to a randomly selected (i.e. pre-selected) 1-km square between late May and mid-July, to look for House Martins and their nests. By surveying random squares, we will be able to assume that our results are representative across a wider area, and produce a robust population estimate against which changes in the future can be measured.

How long will each visit take?

The survey visits will involve walking around the square looking for House Martins and their nests and mapping and recording a few details about any nests that you find. In most squares each visit will normally take around one to two hours – however, the visit length depends on the habitats within the square: visits to urban squares may take longer, whereas visits to squares with only a small number of buildings may take less than half an hour.

What do I do next?

You can take part by registering on the BTO House Martin Survey.  You’ll then be able to find and request a vacant 1km square near you, as well as find out more information about the survey.

Alternatively, please contact me directly and let me know which one (or more) of the 1km squares listed above appeal to you. The green markers represent the squares currently un-allocated, the blue markers are those that have already been allocated to a volunteer. If your choice has not already been allocated to another volunteer by the time I hear from you, then that square will be all yours! If you need more information before you volunteer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for a ‘no obligation chat’.

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
e-mail: eastglamwebs@gmail.com
mobile: 07828 093 613