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
email: eastglamwebs@gmail.com

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.

Recording Mute Swan Movements

Despite its regal appearance, the Mute Swan is a common sight on the various ponds, lakes and rivers in Glamorgan and the rest of the UK. A project run by BTO volunteers is trying to unravel the mystery of movements of this, our largest water bird, in South Wales.

Mute Swan by Rich Facey
Mute Swan by Rich Facey

The vast majority of Swans ringed in Glamorgan are ringed at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park as part of a BTO volunteer run project, examining connectivity in wetland habitats. The project is sponsored by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council via grant aid from CCW. James Vafidis, a BTO Ringer who co-ordinates the ringing at Cosmeston Lakes said:

“We know there is turn over of swans here; some days all the birds at the lakes seemed to be ringed, while on other occasions it’s a case of spot the ring! We are trying to find where and how far these birds go.”

To date 100 swans have been ringed at the Country Park with the aim of looking at movements both in the local and wider area, and whether individuals have preferences for certain sites at certain times of the year.

BTO Metal Ring by Rich Facey
BTO Metal Ring by Rich Facey

Ringing is already shedding light on the population movements of this species. Recoveries of some birds ringed at Cosmeston show local movements with birds moving within 5 to 10 kilometres of the Country Park. Others have spread their wings further, however, making it as far as Merthyr Mawr. But ringing has also begun to reveal a wider link with a swan ringed at Abbotsburry, Dorset, being recaught at Cosmeston – a movement of 100km.

James added “Although we are receiving records of ringed swans, these largely come from birds that have met a sticky end. What we ideally need is more sightings of live birds from across Glamorgan and further afield and are calling on local birders to help.”

Currently none of the Cosmeston Swan heard is fitted with DARVIC colour rings, only with a BTO metal ring. However, these are surprisingly easy to read in the field, especially through a pair of binoculars or ‘scope! If you do see a ringed swan then please record its number and let us know by reporting your sighting at http://blx1.bto.org/euring/lang/pages/recovery_form.jsp

This article was written by Rich Facey, Cardiff Bird Ringers.