WHAT SHOULD WBRC DO ABOUT BIRD RECORDS?
Whether or nor, or how, or what, should the WBRC do about recording birds? Within the WBRC we have discussed this matter several times with no real conclusion or even consensus being reached.
The West Midland Bird Club keeps records of Worcestershire birds and Andy Warr is currently the County Recorder. Careful records are kept, generally of the rarer and more unusual species, and these records and others are used to produce very good annual reports.
There are various BTO surveys including the long running Common Bird Census which has been developed into the Breeding Birds Survey. This annual survey is the main source of information used to follow national, and to some extent regional, population changes. There are currently 52 1 km squares in Worcestershire covered by this scheme. There are also annual surveys of wetland breeding birds. BTO have also produced both breeding and wintering atlases from to time to time, and the field work for the next will start in a few year’s time. The main aim of the atlases is to monitor national changes in distribution based on 10km squares.
Interestingly, special efforts have been made to improve the state of rare breeding birds (especially wetland birds) and in some cases there is the unusual situation of rare bird increasing while common birds decline, although the numbers and scale or much smaller for rare birds.
The annual surveys of breeding birds are the main sources of information on “commoner” birds used to prepare the lists of birds of conservation concern - the red and amber lists. Red lists contain birds which have shown a decline in numbers (and sometimes range) of over 50% in last 25 years. The amber list is of 25% declines over the last 25 years.
In recent times the main requests for bird information reaching the WBRC (from WWT, DEFRA, FWAG) have been related to Whole Farm Stewardship Schemes - the usual question is are red or amber listed species present near a particular farm which is entering a stewardship scheme. WBRC is quite unable to answer these questions as there is no data available unless by chance the farm lies in a BTO BBS 1x1 km square.
WBRC receives an increasing number of requests for species information relating to ecological assessments prior to developments, usually asking if protected species occur in the area. There may be information on file for Great-crested newts but there is none on birds of conservation concern. It seem to me that responses to requests for species data should include breeding birds listed as of conservation concern.
In discussing “the bird problem” at WBRC Board meetings and Worcestershire Recorders Committee meetings there is some agreement that it would be useful to have data available on certain red and amber listed birds but there is one great stumbling block. The main concern is that WBRC does not have the capability to deal with an inflow of large amounts of bird data. There is nobody available to process and computerise the records and there are higher priorities of work that need to be done.
Simply put, if WBRC initiated a scheme to collect breeding season data on some of the birds on the red and amber lists there is nobody to manage and especially to input the data onto a computerised data base so that it could be used. What can be done? We should be pleased to hear views from readers and particularly of offers of help!
DATA THAT MIGHT BE COLLECTED
For the listed species recorded during the breeding season (April to mid-July) one suggestion is that each species record should consist of 6-figure grid reference, date and observer (and possibly nearest name on 1:25000 OS map). Less precise data is probably of lesser value within the context described. An alternative approach might to target a few of the less common species on the lists, for instance asking for Willow Tit and Snipe records would not generate much data whereas yellowhammer and skylark would! However these last two have undergone massive decline and forthcoming changes in farming practice might reverse the trends. Perhaps we can leave it to national BTO schemes to reveal such change and concentrate on discovering where pockets of the relatively scarce species occur.
Of the 40 species currently listed the ones most relevant in Worcestershire are:
Lesser spotted woodpecker
The following are probably still too commonHouse sparrow
The following are probably too scarce
AMBER LIST SPECIES
There are 121 species on this list. The following are probably most relevant to Worcestershire:Barn owl
Other possibly relevant are:Green woodpecker
The widely available series “The State of the UK’s Birds” annual publications give a good overview of changes in bird populations. The associated “The population status of birds in the UK: Birds of conservation concern 2002-2007” is a useful summary and contains he red and amber lists. The BTO web site is also a very good source of information on population trends.
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