BTO Surveys

By Harry Green, BTO Regional Representative

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Foot & Mouth Disease has seriously curtailed survey work because many BTO surveys are based on random selection of blocks of countryside and all rural areas have been out of bounds with rights of way closed to help prevent the spread of disease.

Fieldwork was suspended for winter projects:

Winter Farmland Birds Survey
Crops for wintering birds
Organic farms and birds project.

The proposed national 2001 surveys of breeding peregrines and waders breeding in wet meadows have both been postponed until next year.

The complete two-visit fieldwork for the on-going Breeding Birds Survey (BBS) is only possible in a few of our 50 1xkm squares - in urban Worcester and south Birmingham, and in the depths of Wyre Forest. There is some hope that one late visit (between mid-May and end June) may be possible but to date (12th May) there is no sign of footpaths opening and there appears to be considerable resistance to any path opening. The same problem is effecting the two Worcestershire sites for the sister Waterways Breeding Birds Survey.

Waders Breeding in Wet Meadows 2002

This is a repeat of the survey carried out in 1982. The aim is to assess changes in breeding wader numbers on wet grassland in the last 20 years, thereby indicating changes in the quality of this important habitat. The primary objective is to survey the same sites as in 1982. In addition to also survey any new wet grasslands have appeared since then. Most of the Worcestershire sites are on the Avon and Severn flood plains, with a few in the Teme valley and near Kidderminster.

Surveyors will be provided with a map showing the boundaries of the site and it is important to cover all of that area to produce a result comparable with 1982. The survey method is to visit the area on three occasions between mid-April and the end of June, with the visits about two weeks apart. Ideal dates are first between 14th to 30th April, second between 1st to 21st May, and third between 22nd May and 24th June. Each part of the area is to be visited and waders seen marked on the map using the codes given in the survey instructions. Although the prime targets are waders, surveyors are asked to count ducks and note and yellow wagtails or meadow pipits.

Full instructions and recording forms are provided.

Surveyors are needed! If you would like to take part in this survey please contact me quite soon.

Nightingales - Records Wanted

The results of the BTO 1999 survey have been reported previously in Worcestershire Record and show that we have fewer nightingales than in the past and that these are mainly in the south of the county with a cluster of breeding birds in SO84 around Croome, and at Langdale Wood near the Three Counties Show Ground. Worcestershire is of course on the NW boundary of the birds’ range: it is much commoner in SE England and Europe. Nationally the 1999 survey showed a general retraction in range towards the south and east with few birds beyond a line joining South Yorkshire and Somerset. The reasons for the decline are not known but there has been a great loss of habitat such as coppiced woodland and especially scrub. Patches of scrub and old over-grown scrubby hedges are now scarce and many scrub species of plants and animals are declining.

Recent research by BTO has shown that ideal nightingale scrub consists of dense young thicket with thickly vegetated, often with tall grass, edges. Shading-out of other plants under the scrub leaves an almost cave-like structure. The birds feed on the open ground under the scrub, searching amongst leaf-litter for invertebrate food. Hawthorn and blackthorn are the main scrub species

There is a possibility that ways will be found to encourage landowners to create scrub habitat suitable for nightingales, perhaps through Countryside Stewardship and Forestry Schemes. Nightingales tend to return to breed at the same sites each year providing the habitat remains suitable, and there is some suggestion that young males may be attracted to the general area where older birds are already established. Therefore it seems sensible to start to create habitat in the districts where nightingales still occur. With this in mind it would be useful to receive any records for singing nightingales in 2001 or later especially in south Worcestershire and north Gloucestershire

If you fancy spending a few days or nights systematically scouting round in that area and listening for nightingales I should be very pleased to hear from you. Please contact me by phone, letter or e-mail. Contact details on page 1.

The BTO have prepared a useful leaflet Creating and Managing Habitat for nightingales and information is also available on the BTO web site

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