Harry Green BTO Regional Representative in Worcestershire 

Following on from the dreadful year of Foot & Mouth Disease 2001 which completely disrupted fieldwork, 2002 has been a reasonably good year.  Most of the Breeding Bird Survey 1 km squares were surveyed, the Waders in Wet Meadows survey was completed with considerable extension into a complete survey of the Avon and Severn flood plains.  Several Water Bird Breeding Surveys were done.   In all a lot of good data was collected in Worcestershire.  Very many thanks to all volunteer surveyors who plodded lonely transects, some in virtually bird-free farmland.


10 km Square name 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002


A summary of the national results of the BBS is available as BTO Research Report No 295 The Breeding Birds Survey 2001 by MJ Raven, DG Noble & SR Bailie. It is issued free to all surveyors and is available from BTO for £5. The results are also incorporated The State of the UK Birds 2001 which combines a wide range of information from BTO surveys and other sources and shows national trends for many breeding birds. These analyses produce the red and amber conservation alert warnings if declines are discovered. Species designated Red Alert have declined by over 50% in the last 25 years and the two most astonishing additions to this list are starling and house sparrow. This is readily available on the BTO web site at Another very useful paper is The population status of birds in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Mann: an analysis of conservation concern 2002-1007 by Gregory RD et al (many authors) 2002 British Birds 95:410-448.

BBS 2003.

New surveyors will be required for a few 1 km squares and I should be very pleased to hear from anyone who would like to "do a square". Please contact me if you would like more information on the survey methods and time commitment required of the surveyor. Clear instructions are provided to surveyors. Basically there are two survey visits and the birds are recorded along selected transect routes on the forms provided. Information on habitat is also collected. As things stand at the moment possible squares may be SP0746 (South Littleton), SP0042 (near Elmley Castle), SO9848 (near Wyre), SP0347 (Lenchwick). The squares are of course randomly chosen and there may be others.

SO93 SO9837 GRM no yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO86 SO9861 Heath yes yes yes yes no no no FMD yes
SO96 SO9467 Rick yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO85 SO8152 Step yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO97 SO9878 Hold no no no no yes yes yes yes yes
SO66 SO6665 Grun yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO93 SO9735 Whe yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO93 SO9334 Whe yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO66 SO6067 Coat yes yes yes yes yes yes yes½ FMD yes
SP04 SP0746 Cott yes yes yes yes yes½ yes yes½ FMD no
SO93 SO9630 Cram yes no yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO93 SO9237 Will yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD no
SP04 SP0243 Hodg yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO97 SO9476 Drap no yes yes No yes yes yesx3 FMD yes
SO85 SO8354 Jone yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
SO74 SO7444 Birk yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SP04 SP0042 Hodg yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD No
SO77 SO7475 Winn yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
SO84 SO8745 Hods yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO86 SO8462 Gane yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO77 SO7374 JMart yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
SO84 SO8642 Lowe yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO77 SO7472 Evan no yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO77 SO7077 Robe yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO84 SO8549 Step yes yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO66 SO6566 Grun - yes no no yes yes yes FMD yes
SO97 SO9877 Hold - no no no yes yes yes yes yes
SO94 SO9844 Pep - yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO86 SO8865 Mick - yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO95 SO9454 Farm - yes yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO94 SO9647 Pepl - - yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO97 SO9971 Hold - - no no yes yes yes FMD yes
SO97 SO9278 Hold - - yes no yes yes yes FMD yes
SO95 SO9057 Week - - yes yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO94 SO9840 Rank - - yes yes yes no yes½ FMD yes
SO84 SO8249 LBut - - yes yes no yes yes FMD yes
SO94 SO9848 Swan - - - yes yes no yes FMD yes
SO75 SO7653 Dunc - - - yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO66 SO6160 Mick - - - yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO76 SO7461 Mile - - - yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO66 SO6061 Mick - - - yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SP04 SP0347 Cott - - - yes yes½ yes yes FMD no
S087 SO8976 Summ - - - yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO84 SO8947 Hero - - - yes yes yes yes FMD yes
SO83 SO8935 Morg - - - - no yes yes FMD yes
SO77 SO7674 JMart - - - - yes yes yes yes yes
SO84 SO8847 ButP - - - - no yes yes FMD yes
SO77 SO7778 JMart - - - - yes½ no yes yes yes
SO87 SO8877 Need - - - - yes½ yes yes FMD yes



There are five WBBS's running in Worcestershire: two on the River Teme, one on the Worcester-Birmingham Canal at Worcester, another on the canal near Alvechurch, and one on Dowles Brook in Wyre Forest. This survey is uses similar transect methodology to the BBS and most of the sites have been randomly selected using 1 km squares. Nationally the survey provides data on many water birds which might otherwise be less frequently encountered by the BBS. There is an expectation that this survey will be expanded so there may be more sites requiring surveyors in the future. The 1 km squares surveyed in Worcestershire are SO7778 (Dowles Brook), SO6466 and SO7454 (Teme) SO8757 (Worcester canal), SP0270 (canal at Alvechurch).

The WBS is an older survey which began in 1974 on selected waterways. It is a mapping method similar to that used for the old Common Bird Census (CBC) and provides very detailed information on waterbirds. As far as I am aware there is one survey running in the county - along the Dowles Brook, undertaken by Michael Harrison.


This survey was originally planned for 2001 but postponed by FMD until 2002. It is a repeat of the 1982 survey and aimed at assessing changes in breeding wader numbers on wet grassland over the last 20 years. The method was to visit the 1982 sites as defined on maps on three occasions in April, May and early June. Waders seen were recorded together with habitat information, records of some species of ducks and two passerines: yellow wagtail and Meadow Pipit. For me, organising this survey was a bit of a nightmare as it covered many areas scattered along the rivers Avon, Severn and Teme flood plains, others along the Stour, and other wetland sites away from the river valleys. Fortunately I was saved by the cavalry in the form of Mike Smart who undertook an even more detailed survey (under contract) than provided by the BTO sites along the Severn and Avon, including work in Gloucestershire (where he is BTO Regional Rep). Mike walked vast distances and spoke to many landowners and hopefully an account of his work will appear in Worcestershire Record April 2003.

Additionally volunteers covered the Kidderminster Marshes (S Micklewright), Upton Warren and Feckenham (A Warr), Larford near Stourport (D Scott), sites along the Teme and other West Worcestershire sites (R Bishop and B Draper) The Teme sites were disappointing with no waders. Upton Warren provided Little Ringed Plovers, Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank. Larford lapwings and meadow pipits. Wilden Marsh Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Snipe. Stourvale Marsh Kidderminster Lapwing and snipe.

The national survey is mainly aimed and cataloguing the changes in wader numbers breeding in wet grassland since 1982 and the results are expected a show a considerable decline in most species. The results for the Severn and Avon flood plains will also be fed into wide-ranging conservation and land management projects aimed at re-wetting large areas.


This three year survey was expected to finish 2001-2002 winter but much of last winter's survey work was disrupted by FMD. The detailed field by field part of the survey will therefore continue 2002-2003 winter although the associated Winter Walks and Random Records part of the survey have now finished. Nationally the survey has accumulated data from 18,000 farmed fields with 70,000 bird sightings! Analysis of this data plus that from the coming winter will give good factual information on the use of different field types, crops, farm management and field boundary types by birds.

Undoubtedly this is an important survey but it has proved to be less popular to volunteer surveyors than many others. Volunteer surveyors are not keen on tramping fields largely without birds in cold wet winter weather! The survey is based on farmed land with 1 km squares mainly selected from the BBS squares. We have covered ten squares in Worcestershire so at least some information from this district is going into the national pot.


This very-long running national survey (the longest continuous bird survey in the world!) is of course continuing with annual counts of nests at many heronries. We have two in Worcestershire by the river Severn - one north and one south of Worcester. The survey in Worcestershire is undertaken by Shaun Micklewright. Nationally the coverage by annual counts is patchy and every so often BTO has organised a more complete survey aiming to count all heronries on a national scale including more remote places such a rocky coasts and islands. The last major census was in 1985. 2003 is the 75th year of the annual counts and has been chosen for a new complete census of all heronries in UK. Herons have done well in recent years. Less persecution, more protection and a run of mild winters have helped, and there has been a considerable improvement in river quality. The 2003 census could show herons at an all time high. However, there are concerns about more insidious pollution: there have been well-documented cases of herons producing significant numbers of deformed young in some seasons, without, as yet, any explanation. Within the heron food chain fish have been affected by low levels of contraceptive chemicals in cleaned-up sewage, and in more remotely sited fish farms herons are eating fish containing antibiotics. The value of detailed surveys of herons, at the top of an aquatic food chain, is that changes in their population levels may reveal serious un-seen pollution problems. Monitoring herons could lead to better care as it did for the used of certain farm pesticides 40 years ago.

Locally we are unaware of any other than our two main heronries near Worcester, but there may be others with just a few nests, or even solitary nesters we do not know about. Full details of the methodology for the 2003 survey are not yet available but the survey will probably fall into three parts:

Counts of known and newly reported heronries
A search of random squares for missed sites
Detailed study of sample of sites throughout the breeding season.

I should be very pleased to hear of any nesting herons away from the main sites either in the past few years or next year. Herons do of course start nesting very early in the New Year, often during February and March. If you would like to help please contact me.


BTO distribution atlases have provided periodic review of distribution, abundance and population sizes of all bird species. Their scientific and conservation value has been immense. The last Breeding Bird Atlas covered 1988-91, and a winter atlas covered 1981-84. The BTO is now starting to plan a new atlas to cover both breeding and wintering birds commencing around 2007 and ending in 2011. Whether those of us involved with all the earlier atlases will see the finished product this time is a question best not thought about! Provisional planning is suggesting that the breeding season work will run from April to July and winter work from November to February. Pilot field work will probably start in about 2005. Readers and birders now know what they will be doing at the end of this decade! Your holidays should only be booked August-October or in February and March!


Although 2002 was not an official BTO survey year we are very keen to keep track of Nightingales in Worcestershire. To this end a Press Release was sent out and from this and other publicity a few records were received. I am not sure that all records came my way so if anyone has additional records I would be please to receive them.

Records from:
Old railway line south of Broadway (Peasebrook Farm, Broadway Sewage Works, Little Buckland) 4 or 5 singing birds
Wormington Brake: one.
Castle Morton Common: one bird
Langdale Wood: three.
Croome park/old airfield: one.
Drakes Broughton (Dufty Coppice, Mill Lane): probably four
Marsh Common, Baughton: only one
Strensham Islands/waterworks: two
Upton on Severn: one
Stourport on Severn: one
Evesham: two reports of birds singing near the river Avon in centre of Evesham

Most of these records are from well-known sites. There does seem to have been more birds along the old railway near Broadway. Much of this contains scrub and a closer look along a considerable length of it north and south of Broadway could prove interesting in 2003. The records from Evesham are unusual and need following up in 2003. Birds N of Stourport could be associated with the record of a bird which sand near Burlish Top in previous years. There have apparently been fewer records from the Croome area in 2002 but this could simply be because no-one listened!

Thus, there are about 20-25 records for 2002 and if this is correct the documented decline has continued. (see earlier numbers of Worcestershire Record)
The results and analysis of the national 1999 survey have now been published (Wilson AM et al 2002). The authors' summary of the survey is as follows. 3000 sites surveyed in 1980 were surveyed again by volunteers between mid April and early June 1999. 135 randomly selected tetrads were also surveyed to gauge the success of the volunteer survey. The main survey located 4565 singing males, and the random tetrad results suggested that a further 32% of birds occurred away from the surveyed sites, indicating a probable national population of about 6700 males. A higher proportion (46.7%) of nightingales were found in scrub in 1999 compared with the 1976 survey (28.4%). Overall, the survey indicated that similar numbers of nightingales were found in both the 1980 and 1999 surveys although earlier surveys probably under estimated numbers. However, the range has contracted markedly over the last few decades and numbers outside the core areas in SE England are low. Changes in habitat quality and an increasing deer population have caused decreases on a local scale by removal of suitable woodland under-storey. Changes in climate on the breeding grounds and general changes in global climate and suitability of habitat in African wintering grounds are also likely to be important in altering the English breeding population . Models of future climatic change in Britain predict that numbers and range of nightingales should increase in the next few decades as warming occurs but this is also dependent on countryside management and the impact of leisure activities on suitable habitat.

Although the overall trend in the mean April to June temperature in central England has gradually increased since 1900 the increase has been irregular in pattern. For instance, temperature peaked in the 1940s, decreased between the early 1960s and mid 1980s, and has increased again since then. Nightingale population changes appear to follow this pattern, but because the present period of amelioration has been relatively short, perhaps population numbers and range have not yet responded to improved conditions. However, wet cool weather in spring , despite warmer overall conditions, may be unsatisfactory for nightingales. What is apparent is that we should continue to monitor nightingales in Worcestershire because, if expansion of range occurs, we shall probably be some of the first to see it - if suitable breeding habitat is available. Nightingales require suitably structured scrub both outside and in woods. High numbers of deer may prevent it developing in woods, and present agriculture is not scrub-friendly, although farm Stewardship Schemes may result in some suitable hedges.

WILSON, AM, HENDERSON ACB & FULLER RJ 2002. Status of nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos in Britain at the end of the 20th century with particular reference to climate change. Bird Study 49, 193-204.

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