On 26 March, we were pleased to hold our first local BTO Open Day at Parc Slip NR. Over twenty members and volunteers joined us to meet friends, old and new, and share our interest in bird studies.
We were pleased to hear Dr Rob Parry of the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales describe conservation activity around the reserve as it tries to protect and create suitable breeding for little ringed plover and lapwing on this former coalfield site.
Next, Kelvin Jones, BTO Cymru’s Development Officer, gave a news update from BTO and explained how volunteers can get involved with a range of volunteer surveys.
Most volunteers then opted to join one of the field exercises where we ran through the methodology involved in conducting a BBS survey or learned the art of nest finding. Though bird numbers were low, we were able to use the call method to detect a few species and map and habitat code our transect routes. A partially built long-tailed tit nest, and sitting song thrush were reward for the nest finders.
Thanks to all participants who made the day a success, and to those volunteering for their first BTO survey.
The winter months are normally a busy time for Blue Tits in our gardens. However, the latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show that numbers are down, probably due to a wet summer.
During the winter months a lack of food in the wider countryside encourages both adult and juvenile Blue Tits into gardens, to make use of feeders. However, this November BTO Garden BirdWatchers reported the lowest numbers of Blue Tits in gardens since 2003, thought to be due to a lack of young birds this year.
The explanation for our missing birds can be found by looking back to the early summer. The wet weather across the breeding season, particularly in June, would have made it difficult for the adults to feed themselves and their chicks. Normally we would expect to see large numbers of newly fledged young come into gardens to seek food, but this year BTO Garden BirdWatch results show the lowest numbers of Blue Tits in August for eight years. This indicates that fewer young birds survived than usual this year and these findings are supported by the preliminary results from the BTO Nest Record Scheme (NRS) and Constant Effort Sites Scheme (CES) which found that Blue Tits had their worst breeding season on record.
Data from bird ringers show a 31% reduction in the numbers of young Blue Tits compared to the average for the last five years. This could be due in part to low numbers of eggs that were laid, with females struggling to get into good condition after a cold, damp start to the spring. Young birds leaving the nest might have also been affected by the wet June weather.
These findings certainly mirror those of a small nest box scheme which I run here in Glamorgan where Blue Tits struggled this year with lower than average clutch sizes and high chick mortality. I’ll publish the results from the last three years of that scheme on this blog in the New Year.
So, will the poor breeding season affect the number of Blue Tits we see in gardens throughout the rest of the winter and indeed affect the number of breeding adults next year? The BTO needs your help to continue monitoring their fortunes, and you can do this by signing up to the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch survey. This survey seeks information from birdwatchers about what is happening in their gardens throughout the year. It allows us to better understand garden birds and other wildlife and is excellent way to see how populations of birds like the Blue Tit are faring year on year.
The latest edition of the annual report State of Birds in Wales has just been published. It draws heavily on the wide range of BTO surveys undertaken by volunteers in Wales.
There’s a wealth of information to discover, with sections on seabirds, wintering waders, rare breeders and widespread breeders.
Population changes for species are outlined. Golden Plover is now a rare breeder in our country, and both Starling and Swift have seen declines of 50% or more since the mid-1990s. Notably, Stonechats have doubled in number, which may be just as well, given the harsh winter we’ve just come through.
Mediterranean Gulls look set to follow Little Egrets in becoming a breeding bird in Wales. That’s probably no surprise to our colleagues in West Glamorgan, who see this species throughout the year, most notably around Bracelet Bay.
Copies may be downloaded free of charge in English and Welsh.
Two passerines, so characteristic of our Welsh landscapes have suffered marked declines over the last 15 years.
Both Whinchat of our uplands and Pied Flycatcher of our broad-leaved woodlands have shown contractions of 50% and more and were amber listed in 2009. Data from 2010 BBS however, now demonstrates a 13 year change, with red-listing now possible.