Posts tagged ‘thrushes’

Winter Thrushes Survey Restarts

The Winter Thrushes Survey resumed on 15 September 2013, with the start of the winter walks recording period. In two parts, the aim of this survey is to identify the key habitats and food sources used by our passage and wintering thrush species – Blackbird, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush.

Song Thrush by wimog, on Flickr

Song Thrush by wimog, on Flickr

The survey methods and procedures are unchanged in this second and final year, except that we are no longer collecting data for species other than thrushes, i.e. Starling and Waxwing.

The first part of the survey is based on volunteers selecting their own chosen sites, based on 1km squares, and collecting information on thrushes each time they walk there.  Walks can be made any time during the survey period.  The second part of the survey entails a single visit to randomly selected, core sets of squares for synchronized counts.  These results, because of the random selection, will be far more applicable to wider regions or the UK as a whole as a snapshot of thrush distribution and food in mid-winter.

Both parts of the survey involve walking along a chosen route, recording all thrushes seen, sighting location, key habitat features and food resources associated with each thrush or flock of thrushes noted.

If you surveyed last season, then you can use your own existing sites for winter walks, select others or carry out the midwinter count in your core square.  The core count period is 27 December 2013 to 10 January 2014.  Repeat walks along the same routes as last year will be especially valuable.

Across the country, during the survey’s first winter, over 1,600 observers made more than 12,600 visits to over 3,100 different sites, counting more than 811,000 birds. These numbers easily exceeded expectations and enable BTO to do even more with the results.  In our region, we had 39 volunteers monitoring in over 70 1km over the September to April recording period, including coverage in 40 core squares.  We are very grateful for your part in this major citizen-science project.

Despite a massive late-October movement of thrushes on parts of the North Sea coast in 2012, thrush numbers through the winter were lower than usual in most places across the UK – a poor berry crop apparently prompting many birds to move quickly onwards.

The survey’s web pages and data module have been updated and the BTO’s database is already set to begin receiving your new season’s data. With a heavier berry crop to support the thrushes this winter, we should discover how their numbers and food sources can differ between two consecutive winter seasons and to what extent conclusions from the survey can be generalised across winters, regions and habitat types.

We have a few vacant core squares, and we’d be delighted to hear from new volunteers to these or indeed those electing to chose their own winter walk routes.

Wayne Morris
tel: 01443 430284


September 29, 2013 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

Studying Cardiff’s Blackbirds

The Cardiff Blackbird Project was established in April 2012 to examine the ecology, behaviour and demography of urban birds using Blackbirds as a model.

The Blackbird has many traits that make it ideal as a model species.  It is common, making for large data sets. It is a relatively large species, meaning it is easy to observe. Blackbirds are also widespread, which allows comparison between populations in different habitats and geographical scales.

A Cardiff Blackbird

A Cardiff Blackbird

The project is based around developing a long-term monitoring programme, contributing to the Retrapping Adults for Survival scheme, on which a number of more detailed research projects examining Blackbird ecology in a suburban environment will be based. Currently the study site for the project is the northern part of Pontcanna Fields, in the area which includes the allotments and Cardiff Riding School.

The success of these projects relies on having a large population of individually marked birds that can be followed throughout the year. Unique plastic colour-rings are fitted so that individuals can be recognised through binoculars or a telescope, avoiding the need to capture birds multiple times. The colour-rings in use are yellow with black letters and are placed on the left leg. A standard BTO metal ring is on the right leg.

If you see a colour-ringed Blackbird, the team would love to hear about it, by logging your records online, or by contacting:


The Project is run by members of Cardiff Bird Ringers and Cardiff University School of Biosciences.

March 18, 2013 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Not Even a Coal Tit

This morning I took advantage of a break in the rain and headed for the hills to carry out my first core square count for the Winter Thrushes Survey.

Mynydd William Meyrick (SS9592) is fairly typical in these parts, being covered in part by a conifer plantation and neighbouring upland moor, so my hopes of seeing some thrushes were not high. Though there was no rain, the wind was high and not a single bird was to be seen anywhere along my chosen route.  I hope other surveyors in both Mid & South Glamorgan fair better.

Upland moor and conifer plantation, Mynydd William Meyrick

Upland moor and conifer plantation, Mynydd William Meyrick

Was this a worthwhile visit then?  No thrushes and no birds.  Yes, indeed.  Counts of zero are a useful indicator of which habitats are not or little used by birds.  Though we may have anticipated that I’d see little or no thrushes today, only actually making the effort to get there proves the theory.  Other surveyors across the UK making trips to similar locations will develop our understanding of the distribution and resources needed by our winter thrushes.

I probably wouldn’t have gone to the hills today, but I enjoyed my walk, some solitude for a short while and was reminded once again what a fabulous landscape the hills of the Valleys are.  I was surprised too at how the new Pant-y-wal wind farm has progressed, with eight turbines now looking complete and another nearly so.

Pant-y-wal wind farm

Pant-y-wal wind farm

Of course, Coal Tits are not one of the species covered by the Winter Thrushes Survey, but its not often I walk through a conifer plantation and don’t at least hear one around here.  (I did manage to BirdTrack 4 Bullfinches, 2 Magpies, a Crow and a Kestrel on the trek up to my square).

December 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm 1 comment

Survey Thrushes This Winter

Thrush numbers appear to be up where I live at the moment.

Blackbirds and Song Thrushes are seeking food in the garden. Redwing flocks call overhead as they speed down the valley. Mistle Thrushes aggressively defend any food source they have from other birds including the Waxwings we are now enjoying in the region. I’ve not spotted a Fieldfare yet this winter, but they’re here.

Common Blackbird by Tapio Kaisla Photography, on Flickr

Common Blackbird by Tapio Kaisla Photography, on Flickr

If you haven’t signed up already, then now is a good time to get involved with the Winter Thrush Survey.

The period for covering core squares is fast approaching (27 December to 10 January). We still have a few vacant core squares, and may be an excellent way of spending some time outdoors over the Christmas break.

Volunteers are also able to select their own squares for visits up to April 2013.

Visit the Winter Thrush Survey for further details, instructions and brand new video tutorials explaining how to login, select a site, mapping, editing your routes and entering and editing your data.

If you’d like to take on a core square then contact:

Wayne Morris
tel: 01443 430284

December 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

Surveying Winter Thrushes

During winter, the UK is home to many thousands of resident and migrant thrushes seeking food and refuge from the cold of continental Europe.  What are the key habitats for these birds?  How does their distribution change over and between successive winters?  What are the differences in feeding behaviour between thrush species during winter?  BTO is looking to find answers to these and other questions.

Fieldfare - the Portrait by hiljainenmies, on Flickr

Fieldfare – the Portrait by hiljainenmies, on Flickr

Over the next two winters, BTO are conducting a national Winter Thrushes Survey.  The aim is to identify the key habitats and food sources used by our passage and wintering thrush species – Blackbird, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush.

Further details are is available, or contact:

Wayne Morris
tel: 01443 430284

August 20, 2012 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Tracking Winter Thrushes

Redwings have already been seen in East Glamorgan this autumn, and it won’t be long before the familiar seep-seep call of migrating parties are heard overhead during our darkening nights.  Fieldfares will soon be here too, raiding our hawthorn and berry bushes.

In 2012-13, BTO will be running a Winter Thrush Survey.

Redwing by oldbilluk, on Flickr

Redwing by oldbilluk, on Flickr

This winter, we want to encourage volunteers to help us prepare for the 2012-13 survey by recording in BirdTrack as much information as possible about the Redwings and Fieldfares you see.   For example, you can record a count, activity and note about habitat.

For over-flying birds (arriving migrants or birds moving about within the country, rather than birds making local movements to or from feeding areas) the direction of flight can be recorded too.  A measure of effort will also be very valuable so observers are asked to include a start and end time for any species lists submitted.

Further information and help on what to record here is available.

October 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment


RSS BTO Press Releases

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

BTO on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 37 other followers