Winter Bird Atlas – The First Results Are In

The first newsletter from the BTO reporting on the early findings from the Winter bird surveys has been published. The findings so far indicate an increase in the northern range of the Little Egret (although Winter sightings are mainly confined to the south of the country), an increase for the nuthatch to the north of England and south of Scotland, and a much expected eastern push for the buzzard which was mainly confined to Wales, Scotland and the west of England in the records collected for the last atlas (1981-1984).

The increase in the range of the buzzard is thought to be due to a reduction in the use of pesticides (this should also help the peregrine falcon) and less persecution from more enlightened farmers and gamekeepers.

For anyone interested in finding out more about the Bird Atlas and how they can help they can find more information on the BTO website.

My First Bird Atlas Survey

It was with some trepidation that we set out today to complete the first timed visit to one of the two tetrads that I signed up for. The trepidation was in part due to the dark clouds that were massing and partly because neither of us had done a survey before.

We had planned our route to take the full two hours and take in as many habitats as possible and I think we did pretty well; we managed to include housing estates (old and new), industrial estates, town centre, playing fields, churchyard, reservoir, scrubby fields and old railway track.

It took a bit of getting used to, trying to identify, count and record the birds and trying to decide if you had already seen that one. My initial worries about my bird knowledge were unfounded as it is about commonly seen birds and at this time of year I can recognise them most of the time.

Entering the data when we got back was easy and apparently the number of blackbirds (78) and house sparrows (60) that I saw were noteworthy. I have to say that the churchyard and the old railway track were teeming with blackbirds, which seems pretty representative of Dav this year. Other things that I noted were the almost complete absence of robins (I only saw 7 in the entire tetrad) and wrens, and some areas where we tend to see birds week in week out were empty (some might say almost desolate) particularly of finches.

Another result that suprised us was that the number of birds that we saw in older housing estates with established gardens was lower than in the newer housing estates. Oh yes, we also saw only one song thrush, but I did see my first redwings.

My other tetrad covers more farmland and part of the canal so there should be some different results there.