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Thursday, 15 March 2018
We urgently need to monitor changes in breeding Woodcock numbers, given the recent population decline. Please do consider re-surveying your square or another site in 2018 and help us monitor this declining species. Please register or login using the buttons on the left to request a square or submit your 2018 counts.
Full results have been published for the 2013 breeding Woodcock survey (PDF), which estimated a population of 55,241 males, representing a decline of 29% since 2003. Summary details can be found on the Results page.
Woodcock is the only species of wading bird in Britain and Ireland that is adapted to breed in woodland, both broad-leaved and coniferous. Its plumage is superbly camouflaged to blend in with dead leaf litter and ground vegetation, where it may roost or make its nest; remaining motionless unless approached at very close quarters.
The breeding distribution covers much of Britain and Ireland, however, a considerable reduction in range has been indicated by the 2008-11 Breeding Atlas, since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas (Sharrock 1976) and a reduction in abundance, as shown by the results of
annual roding counts between 2003 and 2012 (PDF, 390.23 KB). In 2015, it was upgraded to Red listed (previously Amber listed) as a bird of conservation concern, due to the decline in breeding numbers and range.
The nocturnal habits and cryptic nature of this species makes it difficult to monitor the breeding population using our traditional survey methods, such as the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). However, a
special survey method for Woodcock (PDF, 96.91 KB)has been devised, which uses the counts of the territorial roding flights, undertaken by males at dusk and dawn, to estimate the number of individual males present.
breeding Woodcock Survey was undertaken in 2003 (PDF, 278.53 KB)estimated a breeding population of 78,000 males in Britain. Thus providing a baseline against which to assess future population change. During winter, it is estimated that up to 1.5 million individuals may be present in Britain and Ireland; mostly originating from northern Europe and western Russia.
The results of the annual breeding season counts run by BTO and GWCT, will be crucial for monitoring future changes to the breeding population.
Posted by AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE at 10:21
Currently non-native species are being introduced to countries at an unprecedented rate. These species can have severe detrimental effects on native biodiversity, human health and the economy. Due to population growth, increases in trade and tourism and global warming the likelihood of non-native species arriving and establishing in the UK will be higher in the future. A new study by BTO investigates whether it is possible to predict which non-native species are likely to establish in the UK based on the climate in their native range, thereby enabling early preventative action to be taken.
Invasive species can have serious effects in their new home turf; they can be economically expensive, potentially cause health hazards, and they can have a large impact on the native biodiversity. Predicting whether invasive species are likely to colonise the UK is therefore an important priority. This study compared the suitability of the climate in the UK against the native range of 167 potentially invasive, or already established non-native bird species to see which species would be able to expand their range into the UK.
Climate parameters that were used included temperature, precipitation and moisture. Values were used for both the current climate and the projected future climate. Results predicted that in the future, the UK climate will be suitable for more non-native species. Currently the UK climate was deemed suitable for 69 out of the 167 species included, but only 44 of those species actually currently occur in the UK. The results also showed that 85% of species that have colonised the UK successfully were found in climatically unsuitable areas. Many of these were usually found in areas that were wetter than their native range.
In conclusion, there was no overall support that climate suitability is a reliable predictor of non-native bird species’ ranges, as there are many other contributing factors. Non-native populations are highly dependent on when and where introductions take place. Additionally, local availability of resources and competition with native flora and fauna may prevent establishment. Similarly, some birds which may not be climatically suited to the UK may be able to evolve rapidly to adjust to a different climate, or human influence (such as feeding) may provide them with the resources they need to survive. Regular surveying will be necessary to determine the effect climate change has on bird populations, and on where they may go in future.
Posted by AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE at 10:20
Population changes for most of the UK's common breeding birds are monitored through transect counts for the Breeding Bird Survey. Colonial species are covered relatively poorly by BBS, however, because breeding is concentrated into such small areas.
Heronries are the places where Grey Herons, Little Egrets and sometimes other waterbirds gather to nest. Nesting often persists for many decades at the same location and becomes very well known to birdwatchers. Grey Herons in particular are monitored efficiently and accurately by counting 'apparently occupied nests' in their heronries.
The BTO's Heronries Census has gathered nest counts annually since 1928 at an increasing proportion of the UK's heronries. We aim to count as many heronries as possible each year and to ensure that newly established sites are quickly discovered and brought into the programme of annual counts.
The main species covered is Grey Heron but Little Egret is fully included, as are rarer species of colonial waterbirds such as Cattle Egrets (which nested in the UK for the first time in 2008). Nest counts of Cormorants are also collected, especially where they are nesting alongside herons. Data are shared with county recorders and for rare species with the Rare Breeding Birds Panel.
The long history of the Heronries Census has been interspersed with periodic Heronries Surveys which have expanded upon its coverage in particular years. Heronries Surveys (of varying aims and scope) were undertaken in 1928, 1954, 1964, 1985 and 2003. The count data from all these surveys are integrated fully with the Heronries Census database. We are undertaking another Heronries Survey in 2018.
How to take part
You can view our vacant site map for heronries to see if there are any known vacant heronries in your area and contact the Regional Organiser to express an interest in the survey. We may not know about all heronries, so if you find a colony of nesting Grey Herons or other waterbirds and suspect it may not be known to the Heronries Census, please report it to us using the vacant site map. You can also contact us to make a general enquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you have contacted the Regional Organiser (RO) and agree to cover a colony, they will be able to allocate it to you so that you can input, view and edit your Heronries Census data online. Read more information on taking part. Note that if you are not yet registered for BTO online surveys you will need to register before the RO can allocate a heronries site to you.
Posted by AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE at 10:19
The return of breeding Peregrines to former haunts, and the colonisation of urban sites such as industrial buildings and cathedrals, has not gone unnoticed by birdwatchers. It is only now, however, with the publication of the results from the latest national Peregrine survey, that we can put figures on the changing fortunes of this stunning bird of prey.
The Peregrine breeding population in the UK and Isle of Man has been surveyed at intervals of 10 years since 1961/62. The first four surveys documented the recovery of the Peregrine population from the ‘crash’ of the 1960s (when numbers fell to less than half of the pre-war population) to the highest levels since recording began. The new national survey, carried out in 2014, sought to secure a new national population estimate and, in particular, to improve our knowledge of the species in lowland areas not traditionally regarded as being part of the Peregrine’s breeding range.
The 2014 survey, co-ordinated by the BTO in partnership with many other raptor monitoring individuals and organisations, was made possible by the hard work of hundreds of volunteers. These fieldworkers surveyed a combination of known sites and randomly selected survey squares to secure evidence of occupation and breeding by Peregrines. The population estimate derived from the survey puts the UK Peregrine population at 1,769 breeding pairs, an increase of 22% on the previous survey (carried out in 2002).
Most of the increase is accounted for by population growth in lowland England, with breeding Peregrines continuing to occupy new sites. Most of the inland breeding pairs utilise large cliffs, smaller crags or quarries, but an increasing proportion of pairs occupy man-made structures such as buildings, bridges, pylons and communication masks.
Examination of the regional results reveals contrasting fortunes in Scotland, where there the population has declined overall. Worryingly, Peregrine populations are not doing well in the upland SPAs (Special Protection Areas) established to protect them, a pattern evident in both Scotland and northern England. Further losses of Peregrines from such areas might not pose a grave threat to the UK population, but could be important at a regional level. Possible factors associated with the poor performance of upland Peregrine populations may include prey abundance and availability, and illegal killing associated particularly with management of upland gamebirds for shooting, but also with recreational breeding and racing of domestic pigeons. Other factors may have affected Peregrine numbers at a local level; these include avoidance of Golden Eagles, oiling by Fulmars and exposure to a wide range of environmental pollutants.
The findings of this survey provide an opportunity to investigate the effects of these and other issues, with complementary data sets – such as Bird Atlas 2007-11 or the RSPB’s data on upland land use – potentially of great value here.
Posted by AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE at 10:17
Feed the birds? Scientists highlight risks of disease at garden bird feeders
Wild birds are at risk of a number of serious diseases at our garden bird feeders, according to a collaborative study led by scientists from international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
The study found that while there are multiple benefits of additional food resources for wild birds, particularly during the harsher winter months, garden feeding can also promote the transmission of some diseases – not least by encouraging birds to repeatedly congregate in the same location, often bringing them into regular contact with other species they wouldn’t otherwise interact with so closely in the wider environment. Risks can be increased if hygiene at feeding stations is poor, allowing stale food, food waste and droppings to accumulate.
The research, conducted in partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Fera Science Ltd, analysed more than 25 years’ worth of data on the occurrence of wild bird health threats, focusing on protozoal (finch trichomonosis), viral (Paridae pox) and bacterial (passerine salmonellosis) diseases. Members of the public contributed their observations via national ‘citizen science’ projects, highlighting the ongoing importance of these surveys in helping scientists track the evolving health threats facing garden wildlife.
Commenting on the study, lead author Dr Becki Lawson from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said: “Our study shows how three of the most common diseases that affect British garden birds have changed both dramatically and unpredictably over the past decade, both in terms of the species they affect and their patterns of occurrence.
“Both finch trichomonosis and Paridae pox have emerged recently, causing disease epidemics affecting large numbers of birds, while passerine salmonellosis – previously a common condition – appears to have reduced to a very low level. These conditions have different means of transmission – so deepening our understanding of disease dynamics will help us develop best practice advice to ensure that feeding garden birds also helps to safeguard their health”.
The study makes a number of evidence-based recommendations to maximise the benefits but minimise the potential risks associated with feeding wild birds. When disease outbreaks do occur, people are encouraged to report their observations (e.g. lethargy or unusually fluffed-up plumage) to the Garden Wildlife Health (GWH) project; seek veterinary guidance; and consider a temporary halt to garden feeding in order to encourage birds to disperse, reducing the risk of further disease spread.
Commenting further, co-author Kate Risely, BTO Garden BirdWatch Organiser said: “We’re calling on everyone who feeds wild birds to be aware of their responsibilities for preventing disease. Simple steps we’d recommend include offering a variety of food from accredited sources; feeding in moderation, so that feeders are typically emptied every 1-2 days; the regular cleaning of bird feeders; and rotation of feeding sites to avoid accumulation of waste food or bird droppings.
Anyone can join the battle against wildlife disease by contributing vital data to the nationwide Garden Wildlife Health project, a collaboration between ZSL, BTO, Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Find out more, including further best-practice advice for minimising disease risks, and reporting sick garden wildlife, via this link:www.gardenwildlifehealth.org.
Posted by AN AMERICAN IN EUROPE at 10:15