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



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.


Waterbirds in a Freezing Winter

Reporting on population trends of birds revealed through WeBS counts, the latest issue of Waterbirds in the UK is now available.  The report covers the freezing winter of 2010/11 and reaffirms how important the Severn Estuary is for wintering waterbirds in Wales.

Waterbirds in the UK 2010/11: The Wetland Bird SurveyCounts on the Severn Estuary were, for many species, higher than recent averages, with over 75000 wildfowl and waders utilising the estuary, presumably in response to the cold weather.  Although it was cold in western Britain, birds from even colder areas further east in Europe, are likely to have made use of west coast estuaries as cold weather refuges.

Along with Dunlin and Ringed Plover, the six other species to use the Severn Estuary in internationally important numbers (more than 1% of the total international population) are Mute Swan (400), Bewick’s Swan (250), Shelduck (4,230), Pintail (730), Shoveler (570), and Redshank (2,920).

By monitoring our wetlands our volunteers are helping to illustrate important population trends of our wintering waterbirds and how these birds respond to cold weather.

Holt, C.; Austin, G.; Calbrade, N.; Mellan, H.; Hearn, R.; Stroud, D.; Wotton, S. & Musgrove, A.  (2011) Waterbirds in the UK 2010/11: The Wetland Bird Survey. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

WeBS Report Published

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is the scheme which monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK. The principal aims of WeBS are to identify population sizes, determine trends in numbers and distribution and to identify important sites for waterbirds.

The latest annual report, for 2009-10 has now been published.

Though many of our most important water bodies in East Glamorgan are currently surveyed, BTO is keen to broaden the survey to include smaller sites, especially marshy areas that may hold species such as Snipe.    If you’d like to get involved, please contact:

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
WeBS Organiser for East Glamorgan

Holt, C.; Austin, G.; Calbrade, N.; Mellan, H.; Mitchell, C.; Stroud, D.; Wotton, S. & Musgrove, A. (2011) Waterbirds in the UK 2009/10: The Wetland Bird Survey. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

Potential Impact of Severn Tidal Power Development

In October 2010, the Government announced:

that it does not see a strategic case to bring forward a tidal energy scheme in the Severn estuary at this time (Severn Tidal Power, Feasibility Conclusions).

In this month’s British Birds, a short article reports BTOs findings on the potential impact that each of the proposed five alternative developments would have on the estuary’s avifauna.

All five schemes would reduce the available inter-tidal habitat available to waders and Shelduck.  The remaining habitat would be underwater for a greater length of time, resulting in less time available for birds to feed.  The largest barrage scheme would result in the loss of up to three quarters of inter-tidal sandflats and a quarter of saltmarsh being lost.  All five schemes would result in significant declines in waterbird populations.

Water flow would be reduced as a result of each scheme, resulting in a less murky estuary, enabling plankton to flourish along with other species up the food chain, including the invertebrate prey of birds.  This positive effect however, would be small in comparison with the predicted large-scale loss of habitat.  Furthermore, increased long-term erosion of habitat is also predicted, again resulting in waterbird decline.

Wright, L.; Burton, N. & Clark, N. (2011) The potential impacts of tidal-power development on the Severn Estuary, British Birds 104, pp. 161.

Severn by saras2uk, on Flickr
Severn by saras2uk, on Flickr

February WeBS Counts

Here are some Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts made in East Glamorgan over last weekend.

Ogmore Estuary

Canada Goose (4), Cormorant (4), Curlew (4), Gadwall (3), Goldeneye (3), Goosander (1), Green Sandpiper (1), Grey Heron (2), Little Egret (1), Little Grebe (9), Mallard (39), Mute Swan (23), Oystercatcher (18), Purple Sandpiper (14), Redshank (16), Shelduck (16), Teal (60), Turnstone (2), Black-headed Gull (330), Common Gull (6), Great Black-backed Gull (2), Herring Gull (120), Lesser Black-backed Gull (5).

Hensol Lake

Coot (46), Cormorant (3), Gadwall (7), Great Crested Grebe (3), Mallard (6), Mute Swan (3), Pochard (2), Tufted Duck (20).

Wilderness Pond, Porthcawl

Canada Goose (15), Coot (15), Cormorant (2), Mallard (44), Moorhen (21), Mute Swan (3), Domestic Greylag Goose (1), Muscovy Duck (2).

East Aberthaw Quarry Pool

Coot (7), Mallard (8), Pochard (4), Teal (13), Tufted Duck (7).

Clydach Vale Countryside Park

Coot (11), Goosander (1), Little Grebe (2), Mallard (40), Moorhen (4), Black-headed Gull (5), Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), Domestic Greylag Goose (8), Domestic Mallard (19), Muscovy Duck (2).

Lisvane Reservoir (Daniel Jenkins-Jones)

Coot (13), Cormorant (2), Great Crested Grebe (5), Little Grebe (2), Mallard (11), Pochard (15), Tufted Duck (39), Black-headed Gull (103), Herring Gull (2), Lesser Black-backed Gull (2).

Next WeBS Count

WeBS LogoJust a quick reminder to all the East Glamorgan WeBS Counters that the next Core Count date is next Sunday,  13 February.

If you’ve got no idea what WeBS is but would like to know more, please click here.