Seabird 2000

By Richard Harbird, County Bird Recorder

Spring is here, and with it comes three new surveys for Worcestershire bird-watchers to consider. It may come as a surprise that the most relevant to the County is to make counts of breeding seabirds on the countyís seabird cliffs.

No I havenít gone bonkers.

The seabirds are Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and the cliffs.... the buildings of Worcester, Kidderrninster, and Evesham. The gravel islands at Bredons Hardwick can also lay claim to a few pairs. Are there any breeding anywhere else ? If you think there are, please tell me about them. Actually another species, Herring Gull, also bred in Worcester last year.

In fact, the survey has come at rather an opportune time, because the information about the colonization of our urban areas by these species has gone on almost without comment over the last decade. Its time we worked out how many there are.

I have in my possession a horrifyingly detailed form designed by the RSPB, which took me five minutes to read and half an hour to understand. However, once I had filtered out all the other species the form is designed to cater for, it basically comes down to counting Gulls by using two methods:

  1. Standing on the top of the tallest building you can find and scanning about looking for incubating Gulls.
  2. Counting the number of flying adults and dividing by two.

The habitat survey should be mercifully uncomplicated. The word rooftop should just about cover it.

The recommended period for the survey is late May to mid-June.

In fact, there is a third seabird in the county I have not mentioned. Common Terns breed at Upton Warren of course. However, the stalwarts of that fantastic Trust reserve have got those boys sorted out, so Iíll just let them get on with it.

If anyone is interested in taking part in the exercise, I will be very pleased to hear from you.

The other two surveys taking place nationally concern Honey Buzzards and Red Kites.

Concerning the former, a very enthusiastic Welshman called Steve Roberts rang me up and refused to accept my protestations that we didnít have any Honey Buzzards in the county. There have only been six accepted records in the last 200 years I whined pitifully. They breed in most of the counties around you, there have got to be some boyo, he said. Well I hope he is right. The weekends to find out are apparently 22nd-23rd May, 27th/28th May, and 3rd/4th June. The survey is the responsibility of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, so if we do find any, the details will have to be treated in strictest confidence.

Obviously this presents something of a double booking problem with the seabird survey, but if anyone has a burning desire to stare for up to four hours across large tracts of woodland, (and feels confident they can tell a Honey Buzzard from a Common Buzzard) again please let me know.

As far as Red Kites are concerned, all that is required is the reporting of any Red Kites seen in the county between March and July 2000. Iíve already heard of four, and its only April. English Nature, Scottish National Heritage, the Welsh Kite Trust, and the RSPB are organizing the survey. Get in touch with me if you see any, and Iíll pass the records on.

Finally, a word of caution: Bird watching is an inexact science. Not for us specimens to be examined under the microscope, or plants growing in the same spot over a number of years. The last two species are both category A rarities in Worcestershire, so Iím afraid any records must be backed up by a written description showing how the bird was separated from the nearest confusion species, i.e. Common Buzzard.

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