An excellent talk from Ed Drewitt on Urban Peregrines last night at our AGM. Also a chance to meet various Forest of Dean volunteers from the RSPB’s Peregrine site at Symond’s Yat – thanks for making the long trip, and all crammed into a single car!
You looking at my nest? You’ll need a Schedule 1 licence Photo: Dave Pearce
Our own (‘our own’…!) urban Peregrines in Cheltenham are progressing well this year with four eggs laid in early April. We will be watching closely for developments in the nest over the next few weeks, and putting video clips on this website.
Recording what happens in nests gives a whole new view of birds that you don’t get from simply spotting them. Date of laying, clutch size and nestling survival rates give an insight into a bird’s breeding biology, and also shed light on the environment around it.
It’s even better if you happen to have a huge database stretching back many years to compare with. The British Trust for Ornithology’s Nest Recording Scheme is 75 years old this year (NCOS has been contributing to it as a group for 10 years). As well as looking at how different species are doing at present, it means the team is able to look back and chart timelines. UK Peregrines, for instance, declined through the 1950s and 1960s: they laid the same number of eggs as before, but fewer hatched. This led to the examination of the nests and eggs, and the discovery of thinner eggshells, and then to the link with pesticides in eggshells. They recovered later (same number of eggs but more hatched) and started moving into urban areas around the millenium.
Anyone can record nests, whether in the countryside or in your back garden nestbox, and this is the time of year to get involved. Check out NRS News: this is the 2013 breeding season – why not contribute to the 2014 version?
The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), organised by the British Trust for Ornithology, is the most important survey for monitoring the fortunes of our more common breeding birds. All over the country, thousands of volunteers survey “their” 1km square every spring, recording all the birds they encounter. These randomly-selected squares are surveyed every year and this constant effort provides a huge and valuable set of data from which population trends can be calculated, providing important feedback on the state of the environment. Currently, about 70 people survey squares in Gloucestershire.
Why not join this happy band?…..if you enjoy doing a NCOS summer or winter survey, you will love BBS! You need to be reasonably confident that you can recognise common birds by sight, call and song. You survey your square twice – once in April / early May, and again in late May /June. Most observers also visit their square in March to walk the course and record some details about the habitat – is it woodland, farmland, urban etc? Each visit might take about one and a half hours. Almost all observers submit their sightings online, but you can fill in paper forms if you wish.
Currently there are fourteen available, unallocated squares in the NCOS area, listed below. Have a look on a map to locate them, and if you taking on one of them or finding out more, please contact me on Gordonkirk (at) aol.com. It may be necessary to seek permission from landowners in order to survey some squares (those marked with an asterix below are probably in that category, but don’t let this put you off – most landowners are happy to agree to this, and it is always great to survey otherwise inaccessible areas); I may be able to assist, and can certainly provide a BTO letter of introduction. There is a BBS training session on Sunday 6th April (9am -12noon) at Frampton on Severn, designed to introduce new observers to the survey (and each other!) – again, contact me if you would like to attend. It’s free but I need to know numbers.
|| NW of Cheltenham
|| N of Bisley
|| NW of Cirencester, just off the A417
|| Baunton Downs
|| NE of Cirencester
|| SE of Winchcombe
|| SE of Aston Somerville
|| W of Northleach
|| N of Snowshill
|| N of Ablington
|| NW of Fairford
|| NE of Fairford
|| NE of Blockley
|| SW of Moreton-in-Marsh
Most of you will know that the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is the leading bird research organisation in the UK, combining the scientific expertise of a small group of professional staff with the enthusiasm of a large team of volunteer birders across the country – one of the best examples of ‘citizen science’ that you will find. Gordon Kirk – one such volunteer birder and also an NCOS member – is the BTO’s new regional representative for Gloucestershire and is now the first point of contact for all BTO matters in the county. As many NCOS members participate in BTO surveys and take an interest in the wider work of the BTO, Gordon will be contributing occasional posts to this blog. He says that some will be blatant attempts to get people out in the field to look out for birds, while others will be less demanding. As we are approaching the key spring/summer surveying period, his first post falls into the first category dealing with the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) ( and details of training on 14 April) and this year’s survey of breeding Woodcock which gets underway next month.
For more information about getting involved with these surveys – or any other BTO matters – contact Gordon Kirk, the BTO’s Regional Representative for Gloucestershire via the contact us page on the website.
Over to Gordon …………………
BTO Surveys for the 2013 breeding season
Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)
The BBS is the cornerstone of the BTO’s long-standing work to monitor bird populations, and involves visiting a 1km square two or three times during the breeding season to record birds; you need to be reasonably confident that you can identify common birds by song as well as by sight. Several new volunteers have signed up for BBS this spring, so we have a record number of 1km squares allocated in the county. Therefore BTO will soon be releasing some more randomly-chosen squares, which will be available for surveying this spring and summer. So why not join the increasing band of BBS volunteers? Details of what is involved can be found on the BTO site.
A free BBS training event is being held from 9am – 12 noon on Sunday 14th April, at Frampton on Severn Village Hall, where there will be a walk to do a ‘dummy’ survey as well as further information and the opportunity to ask questions and meet fellow observers.
Breeding Woodcock survey
The recent atlas surveys raised concern about Britain’s breeding Woodcock population, suggesting that the range may have contracted – which if true will almost certainly also mean that numbers in the core areas have decreased. However, the methodology for the atlas fieldwork was not well suited for monitoring Woodcock, which is of course a crepuscular and nocturnal species. So a new national survey is taking place this year to monitor numbers and compare them with those found in the last survey in 2003. Nineteen squares in Gloucestershire have been identified by BTO for surveying, and most of these have already been allocated, in many cases to the same observers who surveyed them in 2003. But there are a few left, and also anyone can nominate an additional 1km square for surveying, so why not see if a woodland near you holds any ‘roding’ Woodcock? The survey involves three visits around dusk, and rather than walking around you simply choose a fixed point with good visibility and record any Woodcock activity, as well as making a note about the habitat and any deer activity that you see. Details on the BTO site