North Cotswold Ornithological Society
   Home      Recording our birds

The NCOS is a committed fieldwork organisation. Our main activity is running surveys aimed at understanding the status and distribution of birds in our region. The surveys consist of winter distribution, breeding and monitoring of scarce species. Details are below. The results are set out in the Annual Report. The methodology is simple the only requirement is to be able to recognise the birds of the area by sight and call. If you are interested in learning more, come along to a field meeting and talk to us or contact us. 

The recording can be divided into 4 categories: 

1. Casual records 

2. Random Square Surveys (summer and winter) 

3. Scarce species and 

4. Monitoring general population trends 

Some members also participate in the BTO Nest Records scheme

1. Casual Records


As members of NCOS and as (most of us anyway) we are residents in the area we are interested in knowing what's about and what others have seen. We therefore collect members’ records on a monthly basis and report the findings in the monthly Newsletter (available to members). These records are of general interest, they are not in a format that would permit analysis of trends, although in later years searches might be interesting to show presence or absence in a particular area and they do, of course, also record migration dates, flock sizes, etc. Our Recorder does not have the time to compile exhaustive monthly lists and there is insufficient space to record every single sighting, so what goes in the Newsletter is a summary of the month’s more interesting sightings.

2. Random Square Surveys


These surveys are carried out for the purpose of monitoring general populations. We do two surveys: one in winter and one in summer. The results provide a snapshot of what is where. Over the years the data also allow an analysis of distribution trends. The results given in the Annual Report. Members are allocated a 1km square at random and record the species they find there on one morning. The winter surveys are carried out in November and February, the summer ones in May and then later in the season towards the end of June or early July to pick up breeding of later arrivals.

3. Scarce Species


The Cotswolds hold a number of species of conservation concern in our area. In addition there are other species that are scarce. These deserve a more systematic approach to recording and monitoring.

4. Monitoring trends


None of these activities will pick up short term changes in status for some of our currently common birds, but it is important to try and understand how populations of the commoner species are changing. To address that we occasionally run an empirical "status survey" where members are invited to let us have their thoughts on changes – do they feel that certain species are increasing, decreasing, remaining the same. It’s also an excuse for a meeting in an informal atmosphere and a chance for members to get together.

5. BTO Nest Records Scheme


In addition to the surveys, some NCOS members also contribute data for the BTO Nest Record Scheme. This involves noting the contents (eggs or nestlings) of nests visited during the breeding season. Nest records are an essential component of the BTO Integrated Population Monitoring programme. Between 2004 and 2011 NCOS contributed over 400 nest records for 27 different species. In any given year about 50 of these come from a long-running nest box scheme at Little Witcombe. These are particularly valuable because they should reveal any significant changes from year to year in the timing of breeding by common species (Blue Tit and Great Tit).